My favorite set-up for throwing a square bill is going to be, first, a rod that has a lot of bend but still has enough power to get the fish away from the cover. Lately, I have fallen in love with the Halo Crankin’ II series rods, and the 7’ or the 7’4” model is an absolute perfect match for these baits. I pair my Halo rod with a Bruin ELS 5.3:1 reel.
There was a time that I felt like I had been left out to dry as many anglers were resorting to technology to locate offshore bass, especially during the summer months. And, while that trend has continued, and more anglers are venturing offshore than ever before, it has really taken some pressure off the shallower fish. The fact is, there is a group of bass that stay shallow all year! In the summer months (and every other month) there are fish hanging around shallow cover, whether it’s grass, wood, or rocks; and, over the years I’ve learned that you can really simplify your approach to catching these bass to two setups.
Square Bill Crankbait
My first experience with a square bill crankbait was in a small local tournament on the Chattahoochee River. The Strike King KVD 1.5 had just been released and I decided I would try it out. The first fish of the morning was a 6 pounder, and a limit of 2 pounders quickly followed. This would be the first time that I would cash a check in a local derby, and it would solidify my love for a square bill for years to come.
The key to eliciting strikes with a square bill is to not be shy about retrieving it at high speeds or about putting in or near heavy cover. Most bites come as it ricochets off a piece of wood or a rock. Will you lose a few lures? Absolutely! But that only goes to show that you are putting the bait in the right places! This really allows you to cover water quickly in an attempt to locate fish and develop a pattern of where they might be hiding.
Pitchin’ and Flippin’
Over the years, these techniques have been my bread and butter anytime that I need to find fish. As the days get hotter, the bass seek out shade in the thickest of cover and there is no better way to do combat with them than with a heavy rod and big line.
The beauty of pitchin’ is that it serves as a great way to cover water, hitting all the high percentage areas along the shoreline quickly. Not only that, after I have picked off any active fish with a square bill, it is a phenomenal way to go back through an area more thoroughly to clean them up. Especially in the middle of the day when the sun is high, you can really key in on small areas of shade around laydowns, docks, or under overhanging bushes. There are very few places that are unreachable with this technique, and the more accurate you can be with your presentation, the more likely you are able to pick off fish that others have missed.
My bait choices are simple. I will switch it up between a Strike King Rage Tail Structure Bug and Strike King Rage Craw until the fish tell me which one to commit to. Some days they want the more subtle, enticing bug to fall in front of them; and some days they prefer the action of a Rage Craw. I always start with a 3/8 oz tungsten weight and work up from there to a ½ or ¾ oz weight. In most situations I am running 17-pound fluorocarbon but will opt for heavy braid if I am around a lot of grass. For my rod, I really like the Halo XDIII 7’6” with a heavy action attached to a Bruin ELS 8.1:1 reel.
This year do not let the offshore guys have all the fun. I can guarantee that there are still plenty of shallow fish where you live, and this 1, 2 punch is a proven way to put those fish in the boat.