Lipless Crankbaits – When and What Color To Use
Lipless Crankbaits are probably one of the most underrated baits in all of our arsenals. Which is crazy because they produce time and time again in such a wide variety of conditions.
In the fall of 2011 I was attending the Staff Non-Commissioned Officer’s Career Course in Quantico, Va. Every day after we’d adjourn I would head over to Lunga Reservoir on the other side of The Basic School. It was late fall and the weather got very cold, so the fishing had the potential to be pretty rough. Especially since I was locked onto the shore as I didn’t have a place to store my boat while attending the course so my old Bass Cat Pantera IV stayed at home in Virginia Beach. I only needed three rods with me to catch fish every time I went out though. A spinning rod with a wacky rigged stick worm, and two casting rods – one with a jerk bait and the other with a one-knocker lipless crank bait. Honestly, the hard baits out shined the wacky worm every time. One evening right before a sleet storm began I was about done out there when another Marine showed up and asked how I was doing. I told him I had caught a few and was having a decent evening in spite of the weather. He asked what I was throwing and showed him the one-knocker. In disbelief he said, “I would never have guessed they’d be chasing bait right now.” My only reply was, “They’re not… In fact I don’t think they want to eat at all, they’re reacting to it.”
You see, the point is when the fish get into a negative mood they’re really not going to eat much. In fact, they probably don’t even care if your bait is within 10 feet of them. However, they’re predators and they’ve been ingrained with instincts not to pass up a meal when the perfect opportunity presents itself. It’s not like they have a grocery store to go get their next meal, so they need to take an opportunity. So, be it taking advantage of a hapless prey that makes a very wrong move running into them or they’re swatting away the equivalent of a fly buzzing in their face; bass are going to react to a lipless (or any other crankbait) in their face almost every time. That’s one of the reasons why you see top anglers like Kevin Van Dam always using crankbaits. It’s not that they’re around fish chasing all the time, but it’s that they have mastered the ability to put the bait in the fish’s face in order to trigger a reaction strike – even from fish in a negative mood.
Now you know the value of why you want to use a lipless crank bait, when is the optimum time to actually apply its use?
Well that’s easy, when ever you think you’re around fish is a start. This time of year bait will begin to school in the middle of creeks. This will be an instance where you’ll find the fish chasing and get the feeding bite (which is A LOT more fun than grinding out reaction strikes all day). In this case your best conditions are high bluebird sunny skies, water temps in the mid to high 60’s, and I prefer to be in about 6-10 feet if there’s no grass. If there is grass, 4-8 feet is optimal. Next you want to exploit that bright sun and get the fish’s attention. So get the most reflective bait you can get. I’m really excited about the Disco Shad Magic Man from 13 Fishing because that thing is SUPER reflective and shoots the reflection in a ton of different directions like the scales on a real shad. If I was still in Florida I’d go with the Golden Retriever as a gold one knocking lipless crankbait in the grass down there is just KILLER. On overcast days I choose darker colors like Rayburn Red or the Rusty Bream, however if you’re still trying to get a whitish color the matte of the Regurgitated Shad is an excellent choice too.
Before you get out on the water make sure you are giving yourself the appropriate tools to get the bites you need on tough days. A one-knocking lipless crankbait is pretty much tied on one of my rods year round and will catch anything from suspended fish to fish holed up in grass. Give it a try and make those fish react to you, don’t wait on luck.