The Square Bill Crankbait Can Trigger Cold Water Reaction Strikes
Bass slow down when the water gets cold but they still need to eat. Being cold blooded bass don't need to feed as much when the water gets cold. This means that bites can be hard to come by when the water dips below 50 degrees but there is one presentation that can help you get more bites. The square bill crankbait has helped bass anglers catch more bass in many different situations and cold water is no exception. You won't get as many bites in cold water as you will in warm water but the square bill crankbait can increase bites by creating reactionary bites which is needed to trigger bites from bass that are not feeding.
The beauty of the square bill is its erratic action. The flow of water over the bill is not uniform causing a turbulence resulting in a darting action as the bait is constantly searching for its center, this is commonly referred to as hunting. This erratic action triggers an internal response within the bass that makes them lash out at the bait. You will know that your presentation triggered a reactionary bite by the hooks either barely hooking the bass or the bass being hooked outside its mouth.
The erratic or hunting nature of the square bill is enough to get a reaction bite but there is one more tactic that just might get even more and that is the deflection of the crankbait off of whatever cover you are fishing. The square bill has long been used to trigger reaction strikes from lethargic bass and the most successful anglers learned long ago to throw the bait into the thickest cover where bass like to ambush their prey. The square bill helps the crankbait to move through this cover without hanging up as it causes the bait to stick to the cover and then pop off deflecting one way or the other. It is this deflection that causes a seemingly uncontrollable reaction in the bass that puts another bass in the boat that otherwise may never have struck your bait.
When the bass have their nose shoved into the cover the square bill crankbait is perfect for hugging the cover and coming right into the tiny strike zone of cold water bass which expend little energy in chasing prey. This not only offers the bass an easy meal but it also creates a reactionary response as the bait suddenly appears in front of the bass. Reaction strikes are important in cold water and can mean many more strikes over the course of a day of fishing.
The equipment needed for square bill crankbaits is important to be successful in cold water or anytime reaction strikes are prevalent. A moderate action rod is crucial to putting more bass in the boat when your strikes are primarily reactionary. Fiberglass has been the material of choice for crankbait fishing but in the last couple years I have been introduced to the St. Croix Avid Series crankbait rod. This rod is made of graphite but with a moderate action and this combination makes the perfect crankbait rod. Fiberglass is just too limber for me and I feel it limits the ability to set the hooks effectively. You still want to be careful and not jerk really hard to prevent the hooks from ripping out but with the stiffer graphite the hooks automatically penetrate deeper when the bass strikes. The graphite is much more sensitive than glass as well and with practice you can even feel when a bass swipes at your bait.
Moderate action means that more of the rod bends under pressure creating a deep bend in the rod when the bass strikes. This action offers the angler two advantages. First it takes longer to load up which gives lethargic bass time to engulf the bait. The other important aspect of a moderate action rod is its ability to play the bass without ripping the treble hooks from its mouth during runs at the boat, or during the fight. There are many times, especially during a reaction strike, that the trebles are barely hooked into the bass and oftentimes they are on the outside of the mouth. The moderate action rod will help you land more bass in these situations.
The best reel for cold water cranking is a matter of choice. You might use a fast speed reel for every technique and I know many anglers that do. It is critical, most of the time, that you slow your retrieve drastically when fishing a crankbait in cold water. This is very possible even with a high speed reel by adjusting the speed in which you turn the handle. I decided long ago to take that part out of the equation for me because I find myself cranking too fast for the conditions and then wonder how long I had been scorching the crankbait in 48 degree water. I usually realize that I am cranking way too fast when I start wondering why I'm not getting anymore bites.
I now use a Lew's reel with 5.4:1 gear ratio. The Lew's is the smoothest reel I have ever cranked and they will cast a crankbait a mile. The slower speed reel helps me slow down without having to focus on how fast I'm turning the reel handle because no matter how fast I turn the handle the bait remains within an acceptable speed for the situation if that situation requires a slow retrieve. The Lew's 5.4 is perfect for this presentation.
There are so many lines on the market today that it can make your head swim. I am currently in the process of narrowing my personal choices just so I can make a selection quicker when needed. I love cold water cranking and line selection is simple, monofilament. Monofilament works great with the moderate action rod and provides some stretch. This stretch only adds to the whole set up and the importance of doing everything possible to keep those trebles where they belong. Line stretch along with a moderate action rod increases not only hook up ratio but more importantly the number of bass you put in the boat.
Cold Water Bassin'
slow down in the winter, that's no secret. They will move to deeper
water and can be a challenge to catch but bass must eat during the
winter and will move to shallow water during winter seeking warming
rays of sunlight and dying shad. Shad will begin to struggle as the
water temps fall and bass know that during this time shad become an
easy meal. This is a great time for throwing a suspending jerkbait
over main lake points where bass like to suspend within the water
column but throwing deep running crankbaits like the Strike King Pro
Model or the Rapala DT series in shallow water is a great wintertime
presentation for catching more bass when the water is cold. The great
thing about this presentation is it triggers reaction strikes from
bass that aren't seeking a meal.
deep running crankbait in shallow water may seem a little backwards
but it is a great way to catch cold water bass in the winter and
early spring. You want the crankbait to hit the bottom as quick as
possible on the retrieve and a crankbait that runs ten feet will hit
the bottom soon after the first turns of the reel handle in four feet
of water. Pulling the crankbait down with a long sweeping motion
works great too, and allows for a pause as you reel in the slack
line. These pauses are important but not as important as maintaining
bottom contact with your crankbait.
important to get your crankbait down quick, digging into and hitting
the structure and cover on the bottom. Long slow pulls provide a
built-in pause to the retrieve the slack line but it also helps you
feel the bottom. When the crankbait sticks to a rock or stump stop
the pull or retrieve. These pauses allow your bait to float up and
above the object so you can continue your retrieve. It is the
contact, with the objects below, that cause the bass to react and
strike at the crankbait and many times the bass will be hooked on the
outside of its mouth. This is how you know you are causing the bass
to react to your presentation and they are probably not feeding. This
will also let you know that you have the right combination to catch a
few cold water bass.