Squarebills for Springtime Bass


The Midwest is full of great springtime bass fishing opportunities. Whether you bass fish local lakes or ponds, rivers or reservoirs, there are plenty of areas to target in those places. Phil Piscitello breaks down how to use squarebills for springtime bass success.


The Squarebill Crankbait

One very effective technique that has been around many years is fishing squarebill crankbaits. A squarebill crankbait is one with the end of the bill shaped like a square, as opposed to the round bill crankbait. Another version of the squarebill is the coffin-shaped bill. The round bill crankbait is best used for bouncing the bottom to trigger strikes. The squarebill crankbait shines in situations where it deflects off of cover. It is great for running over shallow weed cover. It is especially effective when run around stumps and through wood cover. Fallen timber and laydowns are prime places to run a squarebill.


Don’t be scared

Although it has been around for many years, the average angler is still very tentative about throwing a treble-hook lure around wood cover where the fear of hanging up the lure is strong. The fact is that a squarebill crankbait is very effective running through heavy wood cover. When the squarebill contacts the wood cover, it deflects upward. By pausing your retrieve momentarily, and then resuming it, you can literally walk your bait through the wood cover, triggering strikes from big largemouth bass. 

Speed of your retrieve can also be a factor. Sometimes, a very slow retrieve, finessing the bait through the wood, is deadly. Other times, a fast, aggressive, bang-the-wood or bump-the-stump retrieve can really trigger aggressive strikes. 

The fact that bass don’t see many crankbaits run through wood cover will also put the odds in your favor. The average angler would rather fish a plastic worm, spinnerbait, or a jig through the wood cover, and these techniques will certainly put some nice fish in the boat. The squarebill however, can put some bonus fish in the boat that have seen many worms, spinnerbaits and jigs. 


Target Areas

Squarebill crankbaits also excel around boat docks and between boats in boat slips. Run the crankbait under the docks, hitting the dock posts and triggering strikes. This is another fun way to catch fish. Casting accuracy will definitely be key to putting lots of nice bass in the boat.

Weed flats hold lots of nice bass, especially in the springtime. Covering water is a great way to locate and catch active bass. The squarebill crankbait is a perfect tool for the job. You can run your bait right over the tops of the weeds, ticking them from time to time. If you hang in the weeds, give your rod a rip to blow off the weeds and trigger aggressive strikes.

Shallow riprap, gravel flats and rock and boulder areas can also be great areas to throw squarebill crankbaits. Crayfish-colored crankbaits can be especially productive and are deadly for smallmouth bass as well. Manmade cribs and spawning logs are also great places to throw squarebills, again due to the triggering effects of the deflection.

With the newer squarebill crankbaits on the market, you can also free swim them through the water column. The newer baits have a built-in hunting action that can also trigger aggressive strikes. Vary your speeds and also incorporate a stop-and-go action into your retrieve for maximum success.

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The squarebill crankbait is not new. They have been around for over 40 years. Sometimes, they get put on the back burner in place of newer techniques and baits. They eventually come around full circle and kind of get rediscovered. 

Some of the earlier squarebills were the popular Bomber, Hellbender and Mud Bug. There were also baits like the Bomber Model A, the Cotton Cordell Big O and the Rebel R. These were the earlier squarebills known as Alphabet Plugs. They are still available to this day and continue to put a bunch of nice fish in the boat. 

Today there are many excellent squarebills on the market. A lot of them are designed by some of the professional bass pros on the Elite and MLF circuits. The KVD 1.5 and 2.5 by Strike King, and others like Lucky Craft, Lucky Strike, Rapala, Jenko Fishing and Livingston Lures, just to name a few. Livingston even has a built-in battery and sound device that puts out various baitfish sounds to attract fish. 


Colors and size

The selection of colors is second to none, with various crayfish and shad colors, plus a rainbow of other color options, you have plenty to choose from. Sometimes, a different color not normally used can trigger additional strikes, especially from fish that are highly pressured. The best practice is to match-the-hatch wit whatever forage is abundant in the water you are fishing. Bass typically rely heavily on bluegills, shad, and crayfish, so start with these color patterns and then dial it in from there.

Then there is size. Companies like Strike King are coming out with larger sizes of crankbaits that are catching some really big bass. The Strike King 4.0 and large 8.0 are opening the eyes of many anglers. Folks are seeing firsthand how these bigger baits are not too big and can really put some nice fish in the boat. Believe it or not, they also still can catch those aggressive, small- to medium- size fish, proving that there is no such thing as too big. Sometimes, thinking outside the box can make for some great catches. 

So this spring, add some squarebill crankbaits to your bass fishing repertoire. Don’t be afraid to throw them in some snaggy spots and catch your biggest fish of the season in the strike zone!


Fishing squarebill crankbaits on the Fox River video

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