Yo-Yoing Lipless Cranks

Bucks Falcon Mercury

9/13/2011 – Story and Photos by Dan O’Sullivan

The last couple of days we’ve discussed some ideas for catching bass in the late summer and early fall. We’ve discussed baitfish movement; how they begin to move up in the water column and move towards the backs of creeks and tributaries.

We talked about bottom bouncing tactics for when the bite gets tough, and we discussed the way that bass will find schools of shad near the surface and create boils on the surface. When those situations occur, anglers can either fish a Shaky Head on the bottom, or a topwater bait on the surface.

But, what happens when they are in between levels? Not on the bottom, not schooling on the surface; how should you catch them?
This time of the year, one of the best baits for capitalizing on fish that are not completely committed to the shallows and not staying totally deep is a lipless crankbait.

Most people know that a lipless crankbait is a lure for the early spring. The rattling, noisy retrieve of a lipless bait around clumps of grass on staging areas and flats outside of spawning coves can be absolute destroyers on bass, and big ones too.

Folsom HooksetHowever, to limit them to the spring is a mistake. Lipless baits shine in the fall and the early winter as well. When the water begins to cool and shad move towards the creeks, bass sit in wait and pick off those that die off and fall from the schools. The later in the fall we get, the more this situation occurs.
This is when a lipless crankbait shines.

Why Lipless?
Because most anglers’ reference manuals list the spring as the best time for lipless crankbaits, they assume that a steady, fast retrieve is the best way to fish these baits. Sure, there are days in the fall that a steady winding retrieve will trigger strikes, but for the most part, lipless baits are the perfect imitators of dying shad.

Part of the reason they can be so effective is because they can be used in a variety of ways. To limit them to a steady retrieve is truly underestimating their power. The primary retrieve this time of year can be a lift and drop retrieve known as “yo-yoing”

How and Where?
Imagine the action of one of your childhood toys; the yo-yo. With the string tied around your finger, the yo-yo would fall to the bottom of the string then spin back towards your hand with a subtle snap of the hand. Applying a similar action to a lipless crankbait creates the look of a struggling baitfish in the water.

Lipless HookupYo-yoing is fairly easy to accomplish. Simply make a long cast with your bait of choice and allow the lure to sink to the bottom. Once it touches down, lift the rod tip from a 9:00 position in front of you, to an 11:00 position above you. While you are lifting the rod, you will feel the bait vibrate as you would on a standard retrieve; but, once you reach the top of the retrieve, you allow the bait to fall on a slack line until it hits bottom; repeat until you reach the boat.

The best places to try this technique are anywhere that bass have followed schools of shad. It can be in the backs of creeks, in canals, in coves or on main lake points as they begin moving into the creeks. The yo-yoing technique can be excellent in just about any depth of water from a couple of feet, all the way to deep structure.

Type of Equipment
This is not the type of technique that requires a finesse approach, so baitcasting tackle and fairly stout lines are usually preferred. Some anglers prefer to use composite, graphite / glass mixtures in their rods, while others prefer straight S-Glass material for the give while fighting bass on a reaction bait.

At any rate, the rod should be at least 7’ long which would allow for making long casts, and having the ability to quickly pick up line and set the hook on the bite. Rods should have steady backbone, but should have plenty of tip for absorbing shock and making accurate casts.

Because strike occur on the fall most of the time, having a reel that will pick up the slack quickly is crucial. Choosing a reel with a 7.0:1 or higher retrieve can be a big difference. What that means is that the spool spins seven times for every one turn of the reel handle; the higher the ratio, the faster the reel.

Filling the spool with 15-pound-test fluorocarbon line at a minimum is expected, unless you are fishing around a lot of grass, then going to 30-pound-test braided line is good for ripping the hooks free from the aquatic weeds.

Lure Choices
The industry standard for lipless crankbaits is still the Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap, this is the first lure of its type, followed by the Cotton Cordell Spot. While these lures have set the standard, and are still in production today, technology and ingenuity have produced some other lures that work extremely well.

The Lucky Craft LV500 has become extremely popular because of its heavy size for its compact body. The LV500 has the overall body size of a standard 1/2-ounce bait, but weighs 3/4-ounce. The heavier weight of the LV 500 gives it a faster fall, which makes it excellent in situations where bass require a faster rate of fall.

Fishing Clear Lake
The Strike King Red Eye Shad is an excellent bait for this approach because it is designed to have sort of a side to side shimmy when it falls. The upright, wiggling action is highly effective at creating strikes when the lure falls.

Like the Red Eye Shad, River2Sea’s Tungsten Vibe also has a unique wiggling action on the fall, but, because of its weight forward design that incorporates a tungsten face on the exterior on the bait, it also stands up on the bottom like a shad rooting into the lakebed.

One other final bait worth mentioning is the one knocker family from XCalibur. Instead of the high pitch rattles associated with this category of lures, the one knocker sound has a single, low frequency rattle that clunks back and forth on the retrieve. This particular lure may not always get as many bites as the traditional sounds, but it does seem to attract better than average quality strikes.

It is also important to use super sharp treble hooks when using the yo-yoing technique because bass slap at the lure so much. Choosing premium treble hooks like the Lazer TroKar TK300 and TK310 Wide Gap style trebles will dramatically increase hook to land ratios.