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LIPLESS CRANKBAITS BEST CHOICE FOR COLD, LETHARGIC BASS

Posted 3/4/2010

Yamaha Pro Todd Faircloth's third place finish in the recent Bassmaster Classic® on Alabama's Lay Lake provides a good example of why lipless crankbaits rank as some of the most productive lures for bass fishermen to use when fish are cold and lethargic.

Each of the top five finishers in the Classic used the shallow-running, vibrating lures, boating more than 200 pounds of bass in water ranging from 42 to 48 degrees.

"Whenever the water is really cold and fish are lethargic, the best way to catch them is with a reaction-type strike, not a feeding strike," explains Faircloth, "and lipless crankbaits give you that opportunity. They're fairly small and they vibrate constantly so bass always know they're around."

All of the top five finishers fished in the same creek on Lay Lake because it was one of the few tributaries that contained a type of vegetation known as coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum), a dark green plant similar in appearance to hydrilla but which does not grow as tall off the bottom. Bass are attracted to it because the vegetation holds smaller fish they can feed on, as well as providing cover in which to hide.

"Lipless crankbaits are excellent lures for fishing around this type of vegetation, too," continues the Yamaha pro. "Because bass are holding in the grass, the best retrieve is one that brings your lure just over the top of it, but if you do get snagged, a quick jerk of your rod usually pulls it right out again.


"At the Classic, I fished water about five feet deep where the coontail grew just one to two feet above the bottom, so it was easy to control my lure. There are many different lipless crankbaits on the market, and I used one named the SebileTM Flatt Shad because its design is good for very slow reeling, which is what I needed to do in the cold water. This particular model does not rattle like many do, but even at slow speed it vibrated a lot."

If the water had been warmer, Faircloth would have used a faster retrieve, often even more effective for bringing reaction strikes from bass. At Sam Rayburn Reservoir near his Jasper, Texas home, ripping a lipless crankbait over the top of the hydrilla there has become a long-standing tradition.

In the cold water of Lay Lake, Faircloth also fished the Flatt Shad almost like a plastic worm, another advantage these types of lures offer. Pumping his rod to pull the lure off the bottom and then letting it fall back, the Yamaha Pro was able to create multiple falls that continually changed the lure's vibration. Such vibration changes are often what do trigger a reaction strike, especially when the bass are not active.

"I believe lipless crankbaits are effective down to about seven or eight feet," Faircloth explains. "If the water is deeper, a regular diving crankbait is usually more productive. Early in the year before the vegetation grows too thick, I'll use 15 to 17-lb. fluorocarbon line, but in heavier vegetation I strongly recommend fishermen use braided line because it cuts through the grass easier.

"I also prefer a very fast reel because it makes getting the lure out of the vegetation easier. My own choice is a fast 7.2:1 model because it takes up so much line. I normally have my rod at about the 10 o'clock position, and when I feel the crankbait hit the vegetation, I just raise the rod slightly and keep reeling so the lure climbs over it in a very natural movement."

The Yamaha pro prefers four different lure colors, depending on water clarity. In dingy and off-colored water, Faircloth likes a red lipless crankbait, and occasionally even has his lures custom painted; on Sam Rayburn, red is such a popular and productive color many anglers rarely use anything else.

"In clearer water, I often use chrome/blue back, gold, or chartreuse colors," Faircloth adds. "It also depends on the color of the forage the bass are feeding on. At Lay Lake, chrome with a blue back worked really well because of the abundance of gizzard shad."

Overall, concludes the Yamaha angler, lipless crankbaits rank among the very best lures to use now and in the coming weeks because of how they bring reaction strikes from sluggish fish in cold water. They can be retrieved with a variety of speeds and actions and easily reeled through vegetation where bass are likely to be, distinct characteristics Faircloth was able to use to his advantage during the Classic.