When faced with thick, shallow cover full of tree roots and snags, you might not immediately think of running a bunch of big treble hooks through the middle of it. You might also be surprised to know that this is one of my preferred techniques and one that was pivotal to my efforts on the recent Bassmaster Open event on Virginia’s James River.
Square-bill crankbaits are an incredibly effective weapon whether you’re fishing the weekend or a high-stress tournament. Despite how it might appear, they’re actually designed to deflect off brush, sticks, and tree roots, keeping those trebles safe and ready for a take. That deflection is actually what I think triggers such great reaction strikes from largemouth. It’s kind of like how you or I might respond to a mosquito in our face—you don’t think, you just swat at it. The loud, gaudy flash and vibration from one of these crankbaits makes bass strike out of reflex, including really big ones. Think of it like bumper car fishing—the more contact you can make, the better.
I leaned toward the mid-size cranks for this tournament, but I kept them rigged on a snap in order to experiment with different colors and sizes frequently to dial in what worked best. I was fishing with a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader to 50-pound braided mainline on a relatively short, medium-heavy power rod. I prefer a pretty fast gear ratio in my reel like 7 or 8 to 1 for shallow cranks to keep them moving quickly and consistently.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of fishing square-bills in the sticks for big largemouth, do yourself a favor. It’s simple and fun but can pay out big results.