that they can reach and the ability to hold them at these depths on stop-and-go retrieves.
Square bills will be the first category to explore.
They can target the mid-shallow depths, slightly deeper than spinnerbaits and vibrating jigs. When picking square bills, there are few things to pay attention to… rattle or not?
When fishing in dirty water conditions or in cover, I choose a square bill that comes equipped with rattles to help the bass find the bait. If fishing in clear water conditions, I will use a silent crankbait and just rely on the natural action and color of the bait to generate strikes.
Rattles can work in two ways. They can generate strikes for you or cost you strikes in clearwater conditions so be open to experimenting.
I have had times that I had a rattle crankbait tied on and grabbed this rod fishing in clearwater conditions. That day it was lights out. I could not keep the bass off this bait; but a day later, I could not generate a strike. So, as in all conditions be willing to experiment. The same will go for rattle baits (Traps). There will be days that you cannot keep them off a lipless and days you cannot buy a bite with one.
When I find pockets of bass with a lipless, I will follow this bite up with a jig. This is an extension of the bite. You will get the most active bass to hit the moving bait and you can come back and catch the non-aggressive bites with a jig.
Many times, this one-two bait options will take the bigger bass in the area that were reluctant to chase a crankbait but would bite a jig offering that falls next to them. Take the time to make one more pass with a jig to see what happens.
For both of the shallow and mid-depth cranking options I am generally using a Denali Attax 7’ glass cranking rod teamed with a Lew’s BB-1 5:1-1 ratio cranking reel that is spooled with 10- to 14-pound Sunline Crank FC. When in shallower water, I can hit targets when needed, and when casting in open areas, I can get the casting distance that I need out of my casts with this 7-foot rod option.
Make sure to check out the deeper part of the flats and drops. These targets hold the deeper bass that have spent their summer months in deeper water haunts. Many times, when bass make the treks back towards the shallows, they will hit the outside weed edge and make contact again with a food source. If this happens, they are content to stay put as more food will be coming to them when temperatures get cooler.
You will have to do your work to contact these bass and find out where they are holding. The best way to do this is with a crankbait. A crankbait allows you to cover water quick, then slow down once you have contacted them.
I always pick wide-wobble crankbaits for this pattern as these cranks tend to get through the weeds and shed them better. This results in fewer wasted casts and more fish in the day.
Two of these top baits are a Storm Magnum Wiggle Wart and a SPRO Fat Papa. Both crankbaits fall into the categories that I am looking for. It also matches my requirements of having a rattle as in the Mag Water and a silent bait as in the Fat Papa crankbait line.
Once rigged and ready, position the boat within a cast of the outside edge. Reel the crankbait down to tick the weeds with its descent.
If the bait gets hung on the weeds, rear back, like setting the hook. Most of the time, this will break the bait free from the weeds and get it back on its way again. This tends to be the time that most strikes happen. When the bait breaks free, it triggers the bass to think that their food is getting away and strike. Rarely, a bass will strike a free-swimming bait.
A follow up to a crankbait pattern is again a jig. Like before, a jig can target the less active bass in these areas.
Another option that can be used for bass sitting on weed edges and hard bottom situations is a Carolina-rig. For this, position the boat to be able to make cast parallel to the weedline and work the rig back to the boat. This angle keeps the bait in the strike zone longer, generating more strikes along the way.
When it comes to this deeper water tactic and my cranking equipment, I make a few changes I will move up to a 7’11” Denali Attax crankbait rod, teamed with a Lew’s BB-1 with 5-1:1 gear ratio reel, spooled with 15-pound Sunline Assassin FC. I use this for little less stretch in my line than I would get if I was using Sunline Crank FC. I make this change to get my crankbaits to jump off the weeds, creating more strikes in the process. Crank FC is a great cranking line to use in open water areas.
I also increase my rod length for casting distance reasons and to be able to move more line to break the bait free and swimming again. It is also easier to get a hook set at the end of my cast when the bait breaks free with the longer rod.
I hope these coldwater tactics help you put more bass in the boat as the main bite starts to wain down. You can still catch bass during this time of the year, but your process and locations may have to change a little. Keep an open mind when you hit the water and put the pieces of the puzzle together as you go. Having an open start will pay big dividends as you go. •