Pro Pointers–Mark Menendez on Squarebills

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story by Mark Menendez – photos by Dan O’Sullivan

The squarebill crankbait is a very early design of a crankbait. It has survived through decades and is the favorite style bait for those anglers that love to crank in shallow water. The recent popularity of this bait can be linked to recent high profiles tournament wins such as my Strike Lure Company teammate Kevin VanDam in the 2011 Bassmaster Classic.

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This style of crankbait has several important characteristics. The body is usually round and thick. It has a bill that protrudes from the chin of the bait. The angle of the bill will dictate the amount of wobble. These two characteristics lend a distinctive vibration to this bait. The amount of water that is moved by a squarebill crankbait makes it a fantastic choice in stained to muddy water. The overall package is very weedless. This allows the angler the opportunity to cast it in and around heavy cover.

The original squarebill crankbaits were hand carved wooden works of art. These baits are still made by craftsmen working with wood today. There is a certain romance to these baits with bass fishermen. All crankbaits that are made of wood are like people – No two baits are alike.

These baits have a finite amount of casts per lure, and If a “special” lure is found, it must be guarded from abuse to make it last. Technology has made the wooden bait a virtual thing of the past. Manufacturers now have the ability to make near perfect clones in every unit. The plastic square bills have very similar actions as their wooden cousins, but they are also much more durable than the wooden versions. What this means is that the angler can get very aggressive with presentations around cover.

Because largemouth bass are ambush predators they tend to hide and attack their food as it passes by them while they are in hiding. This makes them extremely vulnerable to a squarebill bait cast around cover. The most important trait the squarebill possesses is its ability to defect or bounce off of cover, and it is at that instant the bass will strike.

Avoid the common mistakes made by most anglers is not making enough casts to an individual piece of cover. By repetitive casting, the angler is giving the bass a chance to be drawn to the bait from within the cover.

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Another strike producing approach is the changing the angle of the cast to an object, and it can pay huge dividends. Always make an additional cast to a piece of cover after catching a fish. Bass are social creatures, meaning they like to hang around with other fish. If the angler will condition their mind to make an additional cast after catching a fish on the squarebill, many additional bass can be caught behind the first fish.

Tackle selection is very important when fishing squarebill baits. Six to seven foot rods with light tips are needed to make the appropriate presentations. The rod will need to have strong backbone to lead the fish from the cover once hooked. Glass rods like a Power Tackle Crankbait rod are great choices. A glass rod will allow the fish the ability to engulf the bait before the angler truly feels the strike. Fiberglass does not transmit the strike as fast as graphite, so the angler will not feel the strike for a fraction of a second and this allows the bass to be hooked better because the angler doesn’t pull the bait away from the fish.

Heavy line is needed with this technique, line tests of 15 to 25 pounds are the standard. The squarebill can be made to do certain things with larger line sizes. Because the heavy line has a larger diameter, it creates drag as the lure is retrieved, and will restrict the depth of the crankbait. Lighter lines with smaller diameter will allow the bait to seek deeper depths. Fluorocarbon line is a great choice for tossing squarebills due to its abrasion resistance and its low stretch will also make for better deflections.

Bait casting reels are the standard when using a squarebill crankbait. A Lew’s Speed Spool Tournament MG in a 6.4:1 retrieve is the perfect style of reel. Accuracy is of the utmost importance when utilizing the squarebill crankbait around heavy cover.

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Color choices are very simple when shallow cranking. Allow the most prevalent food source to dictate the color you choose. White sided baits like Strike King’s “Sexy Shad” color are very similar to the color of a shad, while chartreuse with a back black is a proven color in stained water conditions. This color mimics a bluegill and is the color that captured the 2011 Bassmaster Classic. VanDam cranked a Strike King KVD 1.5 crankbait around submerged stumps in the Louisiana Delta to “deflect” his way to the title.

Cranking a squarebill crankbait is a very productive and straight forward technique. Follow these guidelines to crank heavy cover bass to your boat.

Mark Menendez is a three time champion on the Bassmaster Tournament trail. You can follow him atMarkmenendez.com, his fan page on Facebook, or on Twitter.