Don’t Give Me No Lip – A Look at Lipless Crankbaits in Fall

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by Dan O’Sullivan

Lipless Crankbaits Work Well in Fall

Lipless Crankbaits Work Well in a Variety of Fall Conditions – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

As I sit here in Advanced Angler’s corporate headquarters shivering, I started thinking about everything that is happening this time of the year on the water.  Fall is in the air, and even here in my Northern California hometown the leaves are turning colors and starting to drop off the trees and blanket the yard with dying vegetation.

As much as I can, I try to avoid going out there to pick up all of those dying leaves.  So, what I think about instead is finding a suitable time wasti… I mean, something to invest myself in that will aid me in helping you all get better as anglers.  After all, our motto here at Advanced Angler is to Elevate Fishing to the Next Level.  So, while Christina is eagerly coaxing me to pick up leaves, I’ll just politely rely that I cannot, I must help our readers.

What a better way to take my mind off dying leaves than to think of dying shad.  After all, as the water temperatures drop shad will initially begin to migrate in the creeks and tributaries to feed, then as the surface temperature begins to cool more, they begin to die.

Either way, their motion creates opportunities for bass anglers.  One of the best lures to take advantage of them this time of the year is a lipless crankbait.

A lipless crankbait gives anglers something to fish in a variety of ways.  Early in the fall, when shad are moving quickly through the pockets, creeks and main tributaries, anglers can fish them one way.  Then, as the fall progresses towards winter, they can use them in an entirely different fashion.

Lipless cranks truly are a versatile lure, and not only will they produce numbers, but they will also produce giant stringers this time of the year.

Lipless Baits Ready to Rock

Lipless Baits Ready to Rock – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

Early Fall
You’ve no doubt seen the baitfish activity in the early fall.  After the first cold front passes through driving water temperatures down, shad begin to move toward the creeks.  It is during this period that you can see a variety of baitfish activity.

On one hand, you might see dark clouds of shad scurrying through the shallows feeding on plankton, and then on the other hand, you might see shad flickering on the surface, even jumping out of the water.  When this activity and bass waiting in ambush come together, the result can look like a crawdad boil on the surface.

Until that shad boil happens, anglers can target the areas that they see shad activity in and work on picking off bass that can make a difference.  The best way to do that is to cover water quickly, and with the casting and high speed retrieve abilities of lipless crankbaits, it makes them a perfect match.

In this instance burning a lipless crankbait can be an excellent way to create reaction strikes from bass.  You can accomplish this by making long casts on a 7′ to 7’6″ medium heavy crankbait rod and using a 6.4:1 to 7.1:1 retrieve speed reel, use a faster winding of the reel handle to make the lure scoot through the water column.

The Array of Lipless Baits

The Array of Lipless Baits – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

Fishing line can be a critical component of this retrieve.  Because you will be making the lure scoot through the water quickly, a line with some stretch will be important.  Is you are fishing shallow, then I recommend a quality monofilament line like Sunline Super Natural Monofilament or Berkley Trilene Big Game.  However, if you need to get the bait a little deeper, a fluorocarbon line is important, and Sunline’s Reaction FC will give you the density of fluorocarbon with some stretch to act more like a monofilament for those jarring strikes on the fast retrieve.

If grass is present, going to a standard fluorocarbon like Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon or Sunline Shooter or FC Sniper might be the best choice.  The reason for this is the lower stretch of fluorocarbon will help you more easily snap the lure free of grass to create a reaction strike.

Lures for this retrieve can vary.  I prefer lures that allow me to retrieve the bait higher in the water.  For shallower water, I prefer the Lucky Craft LV200, River2Sea’s Tungsten Vibe, the SPRO Aruku Shad or the Strike King Redeye Shad, a Bill Lewis Lures Rat-L-Trap or the Excalibur One Knocker lipless baits – all of them weigh in at around 1/2-ounce.  I carry all of these in my boat this time of the year because I like to play with the sounds to see which one the fish will respond to on a straight, fast retrieve.

If I want louder baits, then the Rat-L-Trap, the Redeye Shad are the choice.  For a little more subtle sound, then the LV200, the Tunsten Vibe, and and Aruku Shad are the choice, and the One Knocker gives a completely different sound altogether.

Later Fall
As the water turns colder in the later fall, shad begin to die off, and in doing so, the start to fall in the water column like leaves being blown from the trees. As they are struggling in the last seconds of their lives, they quiver and try to swim, but being unable to keep moving, they fall towards the bottom and become an easy meal for bass.

This is where I like to perform a ripped, or lift and hop retrieve with lipless baits.  This type of retrieve requires heavier baits, because you want to keep the baits nearer to the bottom, and allow them to fall in a way that triggers strikes.  Here I like a Lucky Craft LV 500, a larger River2Sea Tungsten Vibe 70 and the 3/4-ounce Strike King Redeye Shad.  The LV 500 weighs 3/4-ounce and falls very erratically, while the Redeye Shad and the Tungsten Vibe both wiggle on the fall, mimicking the dying nature of the shad this time of the year.

I typically use the same rod for this, although I tend towards those with a little bit stiffer action on the lift and drop technique because I want to snap the line vertically and let it fall on a slack line.  I always use a 7.1:1 retrieve reel for this technique because when bass strike on the fall, I need to gather the slack quickly to set the hook.  I prefer fluorocarbon line from 15 to 20-pound-tes depending on the depth of water.  Shallower water gets heavier line, and deeper water gets the smaller diameter.

A Closeup Look at the Array

A Closeup Look at the Array. From Left to Right Bill LewisRat-L-Trap, Excalibur XR-50 One Knocker, Strike King Redeye Shad, SPRO Aruku Shad, Lucky Craft LV500 and River2Sea Tungsten Vibe 70 – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

I tend to use the ripping retrieve in the middle part of the fall.  With this retrieve, I make a long cast point the rod tip at the bait and sharply sweep the rod backwards parallel to the surface of the water.  Again, I said ripping, not pulling.  You want the lure to fall on slack line, then once it hits bottom, make it come to life and lurch forward like it is trying to escape a predator.

The lift and fall retrieve is a vertical one.  Make your cast, allow the lure to hit bottom and snap the rod vertically overhead.  Then, keep a semi-slack line and allow the lure to fall.  Don’t keep the line too tight, or you will retard the wiggling action of the lure.  You will want to follow the lure to the bottom with your rod tip so that you can feel a strike on the fall.

Colors
Shad colors are key here I always have Ghost Minnow for ultraclear water, chrome sided baits for flash on sunny days in clear to stained water, and opaque, white, Chartreuse Shad or Sexy Shad baits for stained to dirty water.  I will always have some dark red crawdad, or red and orange crawdad colors around because there are times that you can mix it up after catching numerous bass on shad colors and get more fish to strike, or even one bigger bass to trigger on a crawdad color.  Experiment with the colors to find out which triggers the bass into striking on your favorite body of water and you might be able to tell people everywhere to stop giving you lip in the fall too.