By Tom Redington
It’s no secret that lipless crankbaits are killer lures for prespawn bass. Amazingly, these obnoxiously colored and sounding lures have been catching big bass for decades, especially on grass lakes like Fork, Sam Rayburn, and Toledo Bend. While lipless cranks produce a lot of strikes, they are notorious for fish swatting at them, following them, and worst of all, coming unhooked while fighting bass. To help correct these problems, following are a few tips on how to land more bites from one of my all-time favorite fishing techniques.
Efficiency: Lipless cranks excel at both catching actively feeding fish and triggering inactive fish to bite, especially when ticking or ripped free from grass. Simply put, the more water you cover with them in a day, the more bass you’ll put your bait in front of and the more bites you’ll get. It’s not simply a matter of the number of total casts in a day though. A retrieve that comes back to the boat with grass all over your bait is a wasted cast, and it hurts your efficiency. Rigging correctly to consistently tear the bait cleanly from submerged vegetation is imperative to maximize your success.
Rod: Fiberglass rods maximize your landing percentage with lipless cranks because the slow bend allows bass to take the bait deeper and keeps them buttoned up when barely hooked. While I love the Dobyns 705CB GLASS for open water, the slow action of glass rods won’t rip cranks cleanly from grass as well as graphite. Furthermore, fiberglass has less feel, so your lipless crank is often substantially tangled in grass before you sense it, compounding the problem; therefore, I throw an 8’ Dobyns 804CB graphite cranking rod. This rod has a mod-fast tip action but a stout butt section—enough tip to let bass take the bait and keep them hooked, but plenty of power to rip baits free of hydrilla with a sharp wrist snap. Since lipless crank fishing is somewhat physically demanding, I also like the fact that this rod is well balanced and light, allowing me to fish it all day. Finally, the 8’ length allows for ultra long casts to cover huge amounts of water. Longer rods also move more line and keep steady pressure on fish, resulting in less lost fish than shorter rods. I recommend at least a 7’ rod, and this well balanced 8’ Dobyns rod feels like a 7’ rod in your hand but lands way more fish. If you’re out at the lake, you can check out this rod at the Lake Fork Tackle Pro Shop in Emory.
Line: In open water, 12 to 20 lb FluoroHybrid Pro line matched with a fiberglass rod is a great setup. Fishing around grass though, braided line’s no stretch saws through grass and rips baits right out. Remembering that a bait fouled with grass is a wasted cast, being able to rip it free is key. I prefer 50 lb braided line with a 3’ to 5’ section of 17lb to 25 lb FluoroHybrid Pro tied to the end of it as a leader. I think bass are sometimes wary of the highly visible braided line, so the FHP leader’s low visibility of fluorocarbon allows me to get a few extra bites.
Hooks: In the past, lipless crank hooks were uniformly poor and always needed to be changed. While premium baits like Lucky Crafts come with very good hooks, I prefer to switch them out to the new wide gap style trebles, such as Gamakatsu EWG trebles or Mustad’s new KVD Elite Triple Grip. These firmly grip bass and keep them on your line much better than standard round bend trebles.
Baits: If the bass are just slapping at your bait or if most are coming in foul hooked, try switching up your lure. Often, a color change will not only generate more strikes, but the fish will be hooked deep inside the mouth. If that doesn’t work, keep in mind that each lipless crank’s profile, action, and sound are different. For instance, some of my favorite baits like the Lucky Craft LV300S, LV500, and LVR D-10 all look about the same in the package. All 3 of these models are about 3” long and weigh ¾ oz. The LV500 is one of my staple baits, running deep with a tight wobble and brass and glass rattles making a high-pitched noise. The LVR D-10 has a smoother action, is louder than a bomb, and rides up higher in the water column, often working better in thicker grass or if the fish are more sluggish. If the fish are really pressured, the LV300S is totally different, with no rattles and a wider wobble that most lipless cranks, giving those conditioned lunkers a totally different presentation. Keep switching up baits until the fish start eating it well.
Follow up baits: If you quickly catch multiple fish on a lipless crankbait in a small area, you can bet there are more fish there. After the bite slows, clean up the area with a weightless Texas rigged Lake Fork Trophy Lures Magic Shad or Hyper Stick. The slow dying fall of these baits will trigger fish that won’t chase the hard baits. For a true lunker, pitch a ½ oz MPack Jig with a Hyper Freak or Fork Craw trailer to the weed edge, isolated weed clumps, and any timber in the area. The jig will penetrate the thickest cover, often where the biggest bass in the school reside.
Hopefully these tips help you land a few more bass this spring. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at 214-683-9572 or e-mail me through my website, HYPERLINK “http://www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com” www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com.
Tom Redington is a full time bass guide on Lake Fork & a FLW Tour pro. He is sponsored by Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Dobyns Rods, Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Diamond Sports Marine, Lucky Craft, Costa Sunglasses, & Minn Kota.