Few presentations trigger bass strikes more effectively in shallow water than quickly retrieving a rod-thumping, wide-wobbling, shallow-diving crankbait. The lure looks so inviting that few fish can resist its appeal. Patrick Pierce, B.A.S.S. Central and Southern Tour bass pro from Jacksonville, Florida, uses shallow cranks as one of his primary tools to bring quality sacks to the scales during spring.
Typical spring water clarity is clear to stained, and in these conditions Patrick chooses flat-sided lures, such as the Tennessee Killer, Sisson Skinny P Shallow, or any of the Flat Shad shallow running baits. Under sunny conditions, he stays with natural shad colors, such as white with a grey, blue, or green back. On cloudy days, he opts for chartreuse/blue back (homer), chartreuse/brown back, or firetiger.
This time of year, a heavy rain can quickly muddy his destination lake. Patrick’s go-to baits in muddy or heavily stained water include round-bodied balsa baits with a square bill, such as a Lee Sisson Premium Balsa Shallow 1 or Shallow 2, Lucky Craft RC 1.5, or Flat Shad Baits OB2. In such low visibility he chooses chartreuse/black back, white/black back, or silver foil/black back colors. If the baitfish are unusually small, he uses a Bandit 200 in the same colors.
This is a power presentation, especially in off-color water, so he leaves his finesse tackle and light line stowed. When chunking shallow cranks, Patrick uses a 7-foot medium-heavy action St. Croix Premier Glass baitcasting rod paired with a 6:1 ratio Daiwa reel spooled with 15- or 17-pound test Vicious Fluorocarbon. Plan on retying your line frequently because fishing heavy cover punishes your line. The abrasion resistance of fluorocarbon helps, but line still gets damaged. You do not want weakened line when an 8-pounder jumps on your plug. Patrick believes in fluorocarbon lines.
“Braided line doesn’t have enough stretch, so you end up pulling the hooks out too often, and mono is acceptable, but stretches a little too much for my liking. Fluorocarbon line has the right amount of stretch for shallow cranking,” he said.
Patrick is generally looking for shallow wood, stumps, or rocks that provide good ambush points for bass. If those ambush points are near vegetation, all the better. Areas along a vegetated shoreline where the vegetation forms a point, cut, or any other irregularity are also worth a few casts. He fishes shallow crankbaits fast with short, accurate, underhand casts, trying to deflect the baits off cover. In vegetation, he likes to run the lure down into the weeds and rip it out to draw a reflex strike. He makes repeated casts to each piece of cover from multiple angles.
“Some days they eat your lure on the first cast, but other days it takes multiple casts to draw a strike. The key is to determine whether it is a day to put the trolling motor on high or slow down and thoroughly work the cover,” Patrick shared.
Experimenting with different baits and colors is essential. If you go more than 10 to 15 minutes without a bite, change something. Some days you have to match the hatch with natural colors and sizes, while on other days, the bright colors and larger “thumper” baits will draw more strikes.
A quality pair of polarized sunglasses will help you see underwater stumps and rocks that other anglers overlook. These subtle spots are generally the best, as they do not get pounded like the more obvious shoreline spots.
If you find a productive area but the bite slows, leave it alone for an hour or two, then come back. Shad can be very skittish, and you can spook them out of a pocket or into deeper water, turning off the bite. Give that area a little rest and it will often turn on the bite again.
As the water warms this spring, move shallow, tie on your shallow water crankbaits, and get some incredible reflex strikes. After you watch a 5-pound bass engulf your lure, you will want to add this power-fishing presentation to your arsenal.