The square bill crankbait is a very early design of a crankbait. It has survived through the decades and is the favorite style bait for those anglers that love to crank. The recent popularity of this bait can be linked to numerous recent high profiles tournament wins such as the 2011 Bassmaster Classic in particular.
This style of crankbait has several important characteristics. The body is usually round and thick. It has a bill that protrudes from the chin of the bait. The angle of the bill will dictate the amount of wobble. These two characteristics lend a distinctive vibration to this bait. The amount of water that is moved by a square bill crankbait makes it a fantastic choice in stained to muddy water. The overall package is very weedless. This allows the angler the opportunity to cast it in and around heavy cover.
Wood vs. Plastic
The original square bill crankbaits were wooden works of art. These baits are still made by craftsmen working with wood today. There is a certain romance to these baits with bass fishermen. All crankbaits that are made of wood are like people. No two baits are alike. They have a finite amount of casts per lure. If a “special” lure is found, it must be guarded from abuse to make it last. Technology has made the wooden bait a virtual thing of the past. Manufacturers now have the ability to make near perfect clones in every unit. The plastic square bills have the very same actions as their wooden cousins. They are also much more durable than the wooden versions. That means the angler can get very aggressive with presentations around cover.
Make Repeated Casts to Cover
Largemouth bass are ambush predators. They tend to hide and attack their food as it passes them by in hiding. This makes the bass vulnerable to a square bill cast to cover. The most important trait the square bill possesses is its ability to deflect or bounce off of cover. It is at that instant the bass will strike. A common mistake made by most anglers is not making enough casts to an individual piece of cover. By repetitive casting, this gives the bass a chance to be drawn to the bait from within the cover. Changing the angle of the cast to an object can pay huge dividends.
Always make at least one additional cast to a piece of cover after catching a fish. Bass are social creatures. They like to hang around with other fish. If the angler will condition their mind to make at least an additional cast after catching a fish on the square bill, many unexpected bass will be caught behind the first fish.
Rod, Reel, Line
Tackle selection is very important when fishing square bill baits. Six to seven foot rods with light tips are needed to make the appropriate presentations. The rod will need to have a strong backbone to lead the fish from the cover once hooked. Glass rods like a Lew’s Pro Series Crankbait rod are great choices. A glass rod will allow the fish the ability to engulf the bait before the angler feels the strike. Fiberglass does not transmit the strike as fast as graphite. The angler will not feel the strike until a fraction of a second later, allowing the bass to be hooked better.
Baitcasting reels are the standard when using a square bill crankbait. A Lew’s Speed Spool in a 6.4:1 retrieve is the perfect style of reel. Accuracy is of the utmost importance when utilizing the square bill crankbait around heavy cover.
Heavy line is needed with this technique. Line test of 15lb to 25lb Seaguar InvisX Fluorocarbon is the standard. The heavy line has a larger diameter. This will create drag as the lure is retrieved to restrict the depth of the crankbait. Thinner lines of smaller diameter will allow the bait to seek deeper depths. Fluorocarbon line is a great choice due to its abrasion resistance. It will also make for better deflections.
Color choices are very simple when shallow cranking. Allow the most prevalent food sources to dictate color.
Chartreuse with black back – Aa proven color in stained water conditions. This color mimics a bluegill. This is the color that captured the 2011 Bassmaster Classic. Kevin Vandam cranked a Strike King KVD 1.5 crankbait around stumps to “deflect” his way to the title.
White-sided patterns – For instance, Strike King’s “Sexy Shad” color are similar to the color of shad.
Cranking a square bill crankbait is a very productive and straight forward technique. Follow these guidelines to crank heavy cover bass into your boat.
Author Mark Menendez is a Bassmaster Elite Series angler sponsored by Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Outboards, Strike King, Tacklewarehouse.com, Lew’s, Seaguar, Linerite, Lowrance, Power Pole, Navionics, and Stay-N-Charge.
Square Bills for All Seasons
Square bills are universal baits. Anglers can be very successful with a square bill crankbait through all of the seasons.
Spring – As winter gives way to spring, a squarebill can be cranked along primary points and vertical banks to find pre-spawn bass. A larger sized bait will dive slightly deeper and represent a large gizzard shad. Bass are looking for that large meal and a three inch sized crank presents a good target.
Post spawn – After the spawn, post spawn bass are vulnerable to a square bill as it is retrieved around docks, laydowns and shallow points. These key pieces of cover will always be associated with large spawning areas. After the spawn, bass tend to suspend around these type of cover before heading out to main lake structure.
Summer – Hot summer will lead the angler to shallow water areas. It is a must to have a natural flowing water source. Bass will migrate to the flowing water as it will be cooler and holding more oxygen. Current breaks will give the bass an ambush point out of the current. Rocks, logs, and stumps may need multiple presentations to create a strike.
Fall – Fall is the season of the squarebill. Bass are scattered in the backs of creeks relating to shad. The smallest piece of cover may hold a fish. Smaller one inch model square bills will mimic bluegill, baby threadfin shad and other baitfish. Though the small lure may be viewed as a finesse technique, anglers still need the heavy line to pull bass from ambush cover.