Throughout the very end of winter and early spring, it’s tough to beat a medium-depth crankbait. As the days become longer and the water gets warmer, I’ve caught some absolutely giant bass utilizing crankbaits with an erratic action. After a long, cold winter, prespawn bass are ready to gorge themselves and an aggressive swimming action does an excellent job at triggering vicious reaction strikes.
While many anglers prefer flat-sided models earlier in the year, I always have a Bandit 200 Series Crankbait tied on. Throughout my many years of experience, I’ve found it to be effective not only on lakes, but river systems as well.
Subtle profile fools big, early season bass
The Bandit 200 Series Crankbait isn’t a particularly large lure—it measures only two inches long but as I discussed earlier, it puts off a ton of commotion throughout the retrieve. A lot of the forage you’ll find this time of year will be relatively small, making this crankbait’s subtle profile especially effective.
While many smaller crankbaits can be difficult to cast, I’ve always been impressed by the castability of the Bandit 200. Regardless of the rod or reel, I’m able to sling it anywhere it needs to go without any backlashes, helicoptering or line twist. This time of year is all about covering water efficiently, so using a crankbait that you can cast easily is important when looking for tightly packed schools of bass.
Runs true right out of the package
A lot of crankbaits these days require constant babysitting and tuning throughout the fishing day—whenever you hit a rock, dock or stump, you better have a pair of pliers handy because it probably won’t run straight.
The Bandit 200, however, runs straight as an arrow right out of the package. After a long cast, you’ll notice its unique hunting action throughout the retrieve, but it always returns to its centerline without tracking to either side. When the bass are especially aggressive after a warming trend, I have a lot of success burning this crankbait as fast as I possibly can. I’m able to do this because it won’t spin-out or get off track at high retrieve speeds.
Outstanding in heavy cover
You never have to fear fishing heavy cover when using the Bandit 200. It has a fairly tight wobble, but its deflection properties are outstanding for a medium-depth crankbait.
When fishing around the thick stuff, I rarely have hang-ups with this crankbait when utilizing a stop-and-go retrieve method. It floats slowly when paused, so a quick pause after a collision with shallow cover will allow the lure to find its way through any obstructions—not to mention, these quick pauses are an awesome way to get big bites.
The belly hook of this crankbait also rides very nicely under the midsection of the lure. Some crankbait shapes don’t allow the belly hook to tuck itself under the bait, which results in a lot of annoying snags throughout the day. The unique shape of the Bandit 200, however, hides the hook very well from shallow cover.
Due to this crankbait’s reasonable $5.39 price point, you may be tempted to question its durability and longevity. I’m here to tell you, however, that it’s made incredibly well and holds up excellently to abuse.
Whether you’re targeting wood, rock or weeds, you’ll have a hard time knocking the paint off of the Bandit 200. Some of my 200s have caught hundreds of fish and they have very minimal hook rash, chips or scratches. The bill is also solidly connected to the body of the bait, so you don’t have to worry about any type of premature separation or loss of structural integrity.
The Bandit 200 gave me the trip of a lifetime
In the early spring I love to parallel southward-facing rip rap, steep channel swing banks near the mouths of spawning coves and shallow points with deep water near them. These three locations are perfect staging areas for bass.
A few years ago I took an early spring trip with some buddies to Sam Rayburn and conditions set up perfect for the Bandit 200. The water was in the mid-50s, super-high and there was a ton of junk in the water just off the shore. The grass had just started to show itself offshore but I had a hunch the fish were between the grass and the blow downs near the shore.
As most of us do this time of year I started fishing with a lipless bait running through the tops of the grass. I caught several fish using this technique but most of those fish were small and scattered. After a short time off the bank I began to cast the Bandit 200 in the Louisiana Shad color at downed trees lake and dead heads that had washed offshore. I immediately began catching a better grade of bass. Most fish were positioned in four to five feet of water and were positioned tightly on wood. It seemed the sun was heating up these logs and egg laden prespawners were positioning themselves near spawning areas almost by the minute.
Because the water was so high and there were so many targets, it was difficult to pinpoint the best locations but deciding on solitary trees and root wads was the key. I caught several in the 4-pound class along a section of trees but moving quickly and changing casting angles on each one proved to be the most effective presentation.
On one bank I noticed a solitary willow bush just a bit further off the bank in eight feet of water. It was a solitary bush with leaves starting to sprout but had nothing else around it. I put the trolling motor on high and buzzed out to it. The first cast with the Bandit 200 I caught a 10-pound, 2-ounce beauty and the second cast on the back side of that same bush landed a 7-pound, 8-ounce bass. Both fish were caught on the pause after the bait was cast past the cover and cranked down into the tree and paused. On that single tree I caught six keeper bass.
Establishing that pattern with a Bandit 200 allowed me to have an absolutely unforgettable day of bass fishing.
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, early season crankbait that catches big bass, look no further. The Bandit 200 has a subtle profile, runs true out of the package, works well in heavy cover and was responsible for one of the best days of fishing in my life.