Bass Fishing with Shallow CrankBaits
As summer burns on here in Colorado, both figuratively and literally, largemouth bass fishing is heating up as well, and it’s one of my favorite times to go after the big brutes. One of my favorite techniques is casting shallow running crankbaits in productive areas and feeling a big bass attack the lure with great force. Here are some tips to help you catch more bass:
Warm Runoff If you fish a reservoir or lake that is fed by streams like I do, an afternoon thunderstorm can cause a rush of muddy runoff from the streams into a lake. This runoff brings with it bait that is washed downstream, and the water is generally warmer than the lake water, both of which will attract bass. Bass will not be able to see as well in the stained water, so they will hold to structure when it is available. Cast a short-lipped or lipless crankbait around stumps, large rocks, or logs. An influx of water will often create activity by crawfish as well, so I prefer a crawfish pattern in this situation.
A Downed Tree in the Water As I will describe in a minute a few other situations where people would say “Why on earth would I cast a $7 lure purposefully into a tree?”, there are a couple of tricks to prevent getting hung up. The first thing to do is cut the leading treble hooks off of both sets of hooks, this will decrease hang-ups. Secondly, on your retrieve keep your rod tip held high and in line with the retrieve, not off to either side, this will keep the lure tip down, hitting the tree. Once you feel the bump of the tree, the final technique is to immediately stop the retrieve and let the lure’s buoyancy lift it up from a potential snag, and then resume your retrieve.
For this situation, position your boat off the top of the tree and cast along the main trunk, then begin a slow retrieve. You can weave the lure to either side of the trunk with gentle side-to-side steering with the rod, but remember to keep the rod tip held high. If you are new to this technique, begin slowly until you get the feel of the lure hitting the tree, which also sends off vibrations that attract bass. Patterns which resemble small baitfish, like perch, bluegill, or even baby bass work well in this situation.
Brush Piles Using the tips mentioned above, a shallow running crankbait can be a deadly alternative to Texas-rigged worms or weedless jigs in snarly cover. You will want to work close to this type of structure, making short casts so you can have the most sensitivity in the feel of your lure. As soon as you feel the lure hit anything, pause and let the lure float above the obstruction, then begin your retrieve again. The same lure patterns work here as in the above situation.
Submerged Weed Beds Milfoil, hydrilla and coontail beds attract bass in warm water. Most people would fish a jig, worm, or spinner bait, but a shallow running crankbait works very well when fished just below the surface. Start on the edges of the weed beds, then cast toward an open pocket and swim the lure just below the surface and through the top of the weeds. Still cut off the leading treble hooks, and use a slow retrieve to have better control over the path of your lure. In this situation bass will often be looking for small bluegill and perch, so use an orange or tiger pattern bait.
Flat Sections On warm summer days bass will often hold in shallow flat areas with scattered stumps. These areas will usually have small channels that run through them, if only a few inches deeper than the main bottom of the lake. An environment like this will hold schools of bait fish, and a shallow running shad pattern ripped through with a fast retrieve will often produce a lot of bass. As with other techniques, when you hit a stump, pause the retrieve to let your lure escape the potential snag. Most patterns will work well in this case, especially since you are using a fast retrieve.
Rock Bluffs If you fish in a lake where there are bluffs of rocks rising above the water, these are excellent places to find fish. Over time, rocks fall into the water and because of the shade the bluff provides, those rocks develop a coating of algae, which attract bait fish. The fallen rocks and shade also create an ideal hunting ground for hungry bass as they have many opportunities for concealment in this type of environment. To fish an area like this most effectively, position your boat close to the base of the bluff and cast parallel to the bluff with a silver or gold colored lure on sunny days, or a craw fish or perch pattern on cloudy days. Bluffs which get shade during the day will be most productive.
Riprap Large rocks found along dam faces are not only good for smallmouth bass, but largemouth bass also like these areas, especially on a windy day when the wind is blowing against the dam. Wind blowing against a dam, or any bank for that matter, generates underwater currents which tend to trigger forage activity from the smallest bugs, to crawfish, and then bait fish, which attracts larger fish. A deep running crankbait, jigs and worms tend to get lodged between the rocks, but a shallow running crankbait can be bounced off of the rocks in the same manner as when fishing timber or brush piles. A craw fish or shad pattern works well in this situation.
Schooling Bass This is my absolute favorite condition; when schooling bass are chasing bait fish towards and around the surface. Usually the smaller bass will be towards the surface, and a shallow running crankbait will dive just a little deeper where the bigger ones lie. The bigger, smarter bass will let the smaller ones attack the bait fish, and wait just below the activity easily picking off wounded bait fish. In a situation like this I cast a lipless, slow-sinking crankbait or a Rapala Countdown and just let it sink slowly after it hits the water. If that doesn’t produce any strikes, I will switch to a shallow shad pattern.
Shallow running crankbaits tend to be light, so I prefer a spinning rod, but that is just my preference. The key is to use what you feel gives you the most control of your lure as well as a feel for what the lure is doing under water. If you can’t detect the lure hitting an obstacle, you will only get snags and be frustrated. And with the cost of crankbaits these days, no one wants to throw $7 into a brush pile and then paddle away. But with some practice, these are some fine areas to catch plenty of bass.