For over 50 years, the lipless crankbait has become a lure that’s sure to be found in every freshwater angler’s tackle box. There are countless brands and models of lipless on the market, with new ones coming out all the time. Yet they are all recognizable as they follow the classic shape and cut of the original lipless archetype.
With all the versions out there, we have countless options in terms of colors, sizes, swimming actions, with rattling, silent, suspending and snagless models to cover any angling situation. Indeed this is one of the most versatile lure types in how you can use them – slow, fast, falling, whipping, ripping grass, vertical jigging, even ice fishing! No other crankbait style is as versatile as the lipless.
With lipless, we can cover any of the six stages (prespawn, spawn, post-spawn, summer, fall, winter) at any time of year and tempt any kind of species we find in our rivers, lakes and reservoirs. I rely on lipless twelve months of the year for fishing in my usual reservoirs in Spain. Please let me explain a little as to how I use them in every season.
In the winter months from December to March, I use a fast-sinking version which is extra heavy to find fish as deep as possible. When I come to an area where I know (or hope) the fish are, I position the boat close to shore and cast as far as I can in the direction of deep, open water. I let the lipless sink until it hits the bottom (the line will go slack) and then start “bottom jumping” using short jumps always close to the bottom, as if it was a jig, but with a much stronger, built-in vibration that equates to more attraction power. I work the entire area without moving the boat by fan-casting at all angles from 45 degrees below to 45 degrees above the boat – bottom jumping the entire deeper area until the lure gets closer to the boat, in about 12-15 feet of water, which is when to reel it in to make another cast at another angle into deeper water where ice cold winter fish are hugging the bottom.
From April through June, I continue using the lipless, but drastically change the way I fish it. The fish have relocated very close to the shoreline now, and their activity level has skyrocketed due to the warm-up of the water and the spawning urge. Due to this, they exhibit greater aggression toward our lures. This allows us to fish faster and to make a greater number of casts, having more chances to get aggressive bites. This is the key to success at this time of year, and I model my approach after one of the best bass angler of all times, Kevin VanDam, by casting as far as possible (lipless are great for that) and making the most casts possible, to maximize my chances of getting bites.
During these months, I prefer rather small sizes of lipless because in Europe this is the spawning season for bass and other species, and the shore is full of small fry this time of year. Try natural colors that mimic small fry (bluegill, baby bass, etc.). Also, if an area has abundant vegetation, brush or flooded trees, where we would snag a lipless with the standard two treble hooks, we can use a snagless version. Instead of having two trebles, a snagless lipless has a factory-installed double hook in the belly without any tail hook. The side walls of the body protect the points of the hook when you reel it, and because of this, you snag it less. It also allows us to flip it right into brush, or drop it down through branches, tight to the trunk of a flooded tree.
Summer and Fall
From July to November, bass can be in any area from 1 to 25 feet deep – and almost always actively looking for food. So I will rely on two techniques to cover all possible locations for bass that are spread out and could be anywhere. First, bottom bouncing (as with a jig which is a slow presentation) and second, speed reeling. Based on the fish’s heightened metabolism, it’s often best to reel as quickly as one can, again in order to make the maximum number of casts, covering the most water possible.
Now I choose larger sizes, 3 to 5 inches long, and if possible, fast-sinking versions. The snagless style lipless is very useful for these months, allowing you to cover all types of situations without wasting time with unnecessary snags. I do not give too much importance to lure color during summer and fall, I do well with all.
Rod, Reel and Line
Tackle is one of the most important factors for me when using lipless lures. For small sizes up to 2 inches that are fitted with two treble hooks, I use a 7’ 0” Medium Light Fast action rod with a 6:3:1 ratio reel full of 15lb braid plus a 12lb fluorocarbon leader. With this rod I can control the lure at all times and I am able to land a good fish smoothly, minimizing the risk of losing the bass, thanks to the dampening effect of the rod. For larger lipless sizes, including fast-sinking and snagless versions, I use a 6’6” Medium Heavy Extra Fast action rod with a 7:9:1 ratio reel full of 20lb braid plus 15lb fluorocarbon leader. I prefer a shorter, more powerful rod to handle large lipless because the action I use is very similar to jigging when I’m using the bottom jumping technique, and I feel I can handle any potential problem situation when I use this rod – it’s essentially power fishing.
Now that I have shared all my techniques and insights on this issue, I have to tell you that, without a doubt, it’s my favorite lure for freshwater fishing.
One last thing I would like to debunk is a great myth that the lipless crankbait only works well during windy conditions. Of course, it’s great in the wind, but I have caught lunkers on lipless many days without any wind. Indeed I have caught more big bass using lipless on wind-free days, and so I have huge, total confidence in this lure on every trip I take.
Until I write you again, keep a lipless wet, and try some of these techniques because they can pay off for you.