Fishing Tips


Posted 2/28/2011

There is something about a crankbait in the late winter and early spring that bass just can’t resist. Hands down, these lures, either the diving models or the lipless versions, need to be a major part of your pre-spawn tackle because these bass are definitely catchable.”

It’s a winter day in February, and Yamaha Pro Cliff Pace is holding court in his boat in the middle of a Mississippi lake as he shows off his supply of crankbaits for the trip; he probably has 40 to 50 of them with him. That’s not surprising, as Pace is known among his Bassmaster® Elite contemporaries as one of the best crankbaiters on the pro tour, especially at this time of year.

“The type and style of crankbait I use depends on the type of water and cover I’m fishing,” continues Pace. “The key is making sure you’re casting one that will reach the depth of water the bass are using, and even while these are the very same lures I also use during the summer and fall, the primary difference is how I use them.

“In cold water like we’re experiencing now, the most important part of crankbaiting is using a very slow retrieve, even a stop-and-go retrieve. Working a crankbait like this, you can make lethargic bass strike purely out of reflex, something that’s extremely difficult to do with any other type of lure, even a spinnerbait.”

During warm weather, for example, the Yamaha Pro will usually speed up his crankbait after feeling it come over a stump, but now in colder water he will actually stop his retrieve on the same stump, then very slowly wind it back.

“Anytime I fish a crankbait, regardless of the season, I also want that lure to hit the cover,” Pace continues. “The reason is because when the lure deflects, it changes its vibration and rhythm, and much of the time, that’s what generates the reaction strike.”

When he’s fishing around submerged vegetation like milfoil or hydrilla, Pace usually prefers fishing a lipless crankbait, although the lures certainly are not restricted to lakes with vegetation. He regularly uses them in water without any greenery at all.

“The reason lipless crankbaits are so effective is because they can be fished down in the vegetation, and when you rip them free, they come out without collecting a wad of grass on them,” he explains. “The bass settle into the vegetation, almost as if they have their own little nests, and if you happen to rip your lure in front of one, the fish instinctively strikes it.

“You can’t do that with a diving crankbait, because it will collect a lot of the vegetation and lose all its action. A bass can’t even find it. I do fish diving crankbaits around the edges of grassbeds, but they’re always the flat-sided models that don’t collect as much grass as the more rounded lures. They also have a different type of vibration that is really effective in colder water.”

When he’s fishing lipless crankbaits in lakes without any vegetation, Pace can still generate reflex-type strikes. He lets his lure sink to the bottom, jerks it up, and then lets it sink again. The unexpected change of direction and vibration is what triggers a strike.

“At this time of year, bass are beginning to stage in slightly deeper water near their spawning areas, positioning themselves in places where the temperature is stable and comfortable for them,” notes the Yamaha Pro. “All you have to do is think back to the 2010 Bassmaster Classic,® in which each of the top three finishers fished a lipless crankbait around stumps and clumps of vegetation for pre-spawn bass.

“Their basic retrieves were very, very slow, at times barely hopping the lure off the bottom, but they caught a lot of fish during some of the coldest weather of the year.”