October 29, 2021
In this three-part series, Elite bass pro Paul Mueller discusses the different situations, phases of fall turnover and different lakes where a crankbait will succeed. A crankbait, in general, is very easy to use, but it can require a technical approach. It's an important tool like anything else, and depending on the water, cover, and how deep the fish are, choosing the correct shallow-, medium- or deep-diving crankbait can make or break your fishing trip.
When the lakes turn over in the fall, the fishing can become challenging. Mueller knows that the key to success during the transition is covering water and focusing on baits that get fish to react. One of the best baits is a crankbait. Crankbaits come in all shapes, sizes and colors with different designs that give the baits unique actions, wobbles—and they deflect and come through cover differently. In this part, Mueller takes us through his selection of shallow running crankbaits and how and where they are affective.
Mueller generalizes shallow crankbaits to dive to 6 feet of water. In lakes that are shallower overall, the turnover period does not last as long, and the fish often make a home in shallow grass. Vegetation acts as a natural filter and makes the water in more stable. Bass will seek inside edges of grass lines to not only feel comfortable, but to also ambush prey. Areas with wood and rock, or areas with hard bottom are good places to begin—and a squarebill can be fished around and through multiple types of cover effectively, even ripped out of grass and bounced off rock and trees.
For lakes with shallow depths or where the grass doesn’t quite top out, a shallow crankbait is a really affective method for catching fall bass. Unlike milfoil, coontail and eel grass, cabbage will withstand colder temperatures and maintain its growth height. Locating areas with vegetation mixed with rock and grass is a sure way to tackle the fall transition.
“In lakes with grass, a plastic bait is more consistent than balsa. When you get around wood or rock, balsa is the best,” Mueller explained. “The action of balsa baits in unmatched, and cannot be duplicated with plastic.
“However, when its windy, you are fishing the baits faster to cover more water, it’s a pure reaction type bite. When its calm, you want it to deflect from cover, and wooden baits are more of a finesse type of crank. There is something about balsa during low-wind days you cannot duplicate with plastic.”
Here are some of Mueller’s favorite shallow-running crankbaits.
-IMA Bill Lowen
Running depth: 0 to 2 feet
“This bait is my go-to in natural lakes with lots of vegetation. It dives to 2 feet, but you can fish it shallower by increasing the line size. Fishing the IMA Bill Lowen series bait on top of grass is very effective.
Deps Evoke 1.2
Running Depth: 2 to 3 1/2 feet
“This bait features a smaller profile and dives no more than 3 1/2 feet. The Deps Evoke 1.2 has a shorter bill, its similar to a squarebill and it comes through all types of cover. It is one of those baits that really fits that range well.”
PH Customs Mag Hunter
Running Depth: 2 to 4 feet
“If I am around shallow wood, in that 2 to 4-foot range, not super shallow but a little deeper, anywhere with laydowns, cypress trees, or stumps, the PH Customs MAG Hunter is my favorite bait. It has a bigger profile and absolutely will not get snagged. It is a balsa bait with the right body design and a bill to get through cover like nothing else. Usually in this scenario, the fish have picked a good piece of cover and it takes several casts to the same target to get a bite. Nothing can accomplish that like a balsa, and this is a phenomenal bait for it.”
PH Customs Matt Herren 2.0
Running Depth: 3 to 6 feet
“In areas with a good mix of grass and rock, maybe it’s a flat with a point that comes out and is 3 to 6 feet on top, you need to be hitting rock with the crankbait and I like to run parallel with the grass. This bait will run in that depth range and has a great action while deflecting off rock. The key is to not hit the grass in this case.
Deps Evoke 2.0
Running Depth: 5 to 7 feet
“The 2.0 Evoke is probably the deepest of the shallow type baits, and it could be also utilized in that medium range. Diving around 5 to 7 feet, I love this bait around a little deeper submerged grass and also rock and wood near those grass edges.”
For shallow crankbaits, Mueller keeps it simple and ops for a Dobyns 735CB paired with a Lews BB1 Pro 6.4:1 and varies the line based on each bait. The 735CB boasts enough backbone to get a good hook set and rip baits out of grass, but its soft enough to get the fish hooked when they barely eat it. With graphite, you are tempted to react sooner. The fiberglass offers a slight delay and the fish gets the bait and stay hooked.
“I will usually use 14-pound Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon, but if I am fishing shallower, I switch up to 20-pound. The bait will dive as recommended with 14-pound line so that a good baseline.”