Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, it’s common knowledge that fall is prime time to catch fish on a squarebill crankbait. The bass move shallow, and start to feed on bait fish as the temperatures start to fall from their summer highs. In most of the country that means they start to feed heavily on shad, in others it might be yellow perch or blue back herring. Whatever your bait fish of choice is for your bass, if you find them, you’ll also find the bass. This is the time of year when it can be outstanding, but during the first part of the transition from summer to fall the fish are spread out, split between deep and shallow. This can make it very hard to find the fish, but when you do you’ll be duly rewarded.
Fall is predominately a moving bait time, that’s why i’m going to focus on fishing with the Skirmish Baits M9 squarebill crankbait. Not to say that there are not times when fishing a jig or soft plastic bait slowly on the bottom in the fall isn’t productive, it’s just that more often than not the bass are chasing bait fish which presents you with a great opportunity to fish a squarebill crankbait. The Skirmish Baits M9 crankbait has a hunting action, which means on a straight retrieve when not making contact with the bottom the bait will “hunt for center” and this is a big key to what makes this bait great in open water situations. Fish look for the bait fish that is weak or injured, and that’s exactly what the hunting action gives the M9. Make no mistake I try to bounce the M9 off cover whenever possible, but the hunting action gives you a lot of bonus fish, that bite the bait when you’re retrieving in open water or right by the boat.
I am not one to tell anyone they have to use the same gear to throw a square bill as I do to be successful, but i will share with you what i like to use. I like a high speed reel, a 7:1 gear ratio or so. Most of your bites with a squarebill crankbait are going to be reaction bites and more often than not speed helps achieve this. A medium retrieve with a 7:1 gear ratio reel is easier on you than using a slower reel and wearing yourself out trying to crank it quickly.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have your drag set properly. When fishing a squarebill crankbait, if a bass eats the bait right at the boat you not only need to have your drag set properly, but you also need to hone the skill of thumbing the spool. When a big fish eats the bait at the boat, or even if they just decide they are not through fighting when they get to the boat while i’m trying to land them, I am very quick to push the button and use my thumb on the spool to control the line more consistently than the drag system can. This is an advanced technique but if you can master it you’ll be ready when big fish bite and land more of them.
I like a quality 100% fluorocarbon line for squarebill cranking, and the size depends on the situation. 90% of the time I am either throwing 10 or 12 lb line, and the difference is how deep i want the bait to run. I can get another foot at least out of the 10 lb line vs. the 12 lb line. So it depends on how shallow the fish are which one i am going to go with.
I like a medium action composite rod at least 7 feet long. A composite rod is constructed with fiberglass near the tip, but the backbone part of the rod is graphite. This gives you a very soft tip but enough backbone to fight large fish. I just want the rod to load up when the fish bites, i don’t need to feel the bite per say. When a bass bites my crankbait I don’t ever set the hook, i just let the fish load up then sweep the rod to make sure you’ve given the treble hooks a decent pull into the fish’s mouth.
The Skirmish Baits M9 Squarebill Crankbait is available in many colors that mimic a variety of bait fish. Our most popular color is “Batey Shad Green” which is a very good color to mimic shad in most lakes. This pattern has a few features that make it more than just another shad pattern. The first key is that the bait has a very good contrast between the back/shoulders and belly. This is important because fish often key on the “flash” created as the bait rolls on it’s axis. I always try to maintain that contrast in my patterns whatever they are supposed to mimic because in my opinion it is one of the most crucial parts of a paint job. The next key to the pattern is the area around the “kill spot” being light. i believe this area also has to have a high contrast so they can really key on on the “kill spot” on a moving bait. I would say that at least half of my personal lures are some variation of Batey Shad.
What color would I throw if the water is too dirty for Batey Shad? I would suggest unless the water is super dirty staying with some form of shad imitation in the fall if your lake has them. Something like “Citrus Shad” or “Splatterback” while still representing shad or baitfish are still brighter colors that work well in dirty water.
I ran into a situation this Summer where the fish in a small lake that i fish a lot had gotten conditioned to my normal colors of crankbaits. I thought that bite had died, but inadvertently i figured out while testing some new colors that I just needed to do something unorthodox to get them excited about my crankbaits again. It turned out that even though I was fishing in stained to muddy water, I was able to get more bites on “Blue Force”, “Bleeding Specter Minnow” and “Specter Shad” which are all very subtle and mostly clear patterns that I would not have thrown in these water conditions if I hadn’t stumbled upon it. Some of the biggest bass that I caught this summer were in dirty water on an almost clear bait.
There is no one specific type of cover or bank that fish hold on in the fall, basically as I said in the beginning just find the bait fish and you’ll find the bass. The wind blows the plankton and the bait fish and shad will follow, so almost any ambush areas on a windy bank can be a potential hot spot. Points, flats, rocky banks, stump fields, fallen timber, and boat docks can all be great areas to fish your squarebill crankbait in fall just to name a few.
I realize this article just scratches the surface on squarebill cranking, but hopefully you’ll find something interesting and useful to use when you venture onto the lake this fall. Don’t forget to try a Skirmish Baits M9 squarebill if you do, and if you catch some fish send us a picture we’d love to share it in our gallery and on our Facebook Page.
If you would like to try an M9 or any of our baits, use the code “dwain10” to save 10% off your order during checkout.