Crankbaits for bass fishing are excellent tools throughout much of the year. It’s no mistake these billed beauties are responsible for hundreds of tour-level wins—they often catch bass when other techniques fail. Choosing the most effective shallow water colors, however, can be a bit intimidating at times.
Understanding a few key factors will help you avoid spending hundreds of dollars on wacky crankbait colors.
- Forage—Spend some time surveying your favorite lake and getting a feel for the most prevalent bass forage. Don’t worry—it doesn’t take a biology degree to obtain a basic understanding. If you’re a bank angler, simply walk around the edges of the pond or lake with a pair of polarized sunglasses. If you fish from a boat, spend some time trolling shallow bays and pockets. Without much effort, you’ll likely see bluegill or shad positioned around shallow cover. You can even flip a few rocks over near the bank and look for crawfish. Crawfish colors change depending on several environmental factors, so if you figure out the predominant color of your fishery’s crawfish, you can precisely choose the perfect crankbait for that body of water.
- Water clarity—In clear water situations, you’ll have your best luck with natural-colored, translucent crankbaits. The bass can see very well in this environment, so it’s important to make your crankbait blend in with its surroundings. Conversely, dirty water calls for brighter crankbait colors. The bass’ eyesight is significantly hindered in murky water, making it imperative to use a color they can see and chase easily.
- Sky conditions—Don’t ignore the sky when fishing shallow crankbaits. Under cloudy skies, opaque, or solid, colors perform very well due to the decreased light penetration. The bass need to be able to track your crankbait in order to attack it, which is why you’ll experience a lot of “slaps” on translucent crankbaits in these conditions. Sunny skies lead to more light penetration, which increases both clarity and the effectiveness of more translucent colors.
These are our five favorite shallow crankbait colors. Will other colors still produce? Absolutely, but throughout our experience these colors have remained a solid staple in our bass fishing arsenal. Consider this list an excellent starting point from which you can expand as you become more familiar to your local bass’ preferences.
Sometimes you just can’t beat the natural presentation of a shad-colored crankbait, which makes this pattern great starting point for your shallow cranking endeavors. I tend to reach for this color in clear water situations, primarily in the early fall when shad are just beginning their shallow water migration and in the early spring as big bass are filling their bellies in preparation for the spawn. Not to say this color won’t produce in other times of the year, but these two situations are when it really shines.
You’ll have a lot of success using this color in and around known shad hangouts such as primary points, secondary points and expansive flats. It’s hard to go wrong with this color, so we believe every angler should have a few shad-colored crankbaits handy.
When the water muddies up a firetiger crankbait is really tough to beat. While still preserving many natural shad qualities, the bright colors in a firetiger crankbait allow the bass to get a much better bead on the bait, resulting in more bites and more big fish.
You can also enjoy some great success using this color in clear water when bluegill are spawning. Many companies’ versions of firetiger are a bit more toned-down and closely resemble these big bass magnets. We’ve have had some monster days throwing this color around bream beds in clear water.
This is a color that is getting more and more popular by the day. When shad get loaded in specific areas, rootbeer chartreuse-colored crankbaits shine. If you’re noticing big balls of shad in the area you’re fishing, do yourself a favor and rig one up. When the bass have millions of live shad on which to gorge, it’s always important to differentiate your crankbait to make it stand out. Whether the water is muddy or clear, fish will annihilate this color.
I especially love to throw this color in lightly stained water, as the brown back and bright sides provide great contrast that will attract even the most sluggish bass. I’ve fished all over the country, and this is one of the most productive colors I have ever used.
As the bream bed throughout the late spring and early summer months, bluegill-colored crankbaits are often all that’s necessary to catch your biggest bass of the year. Cover a lot of water with this bait while constantly keeping an eye out for any visible bream beds. When I do find the bream beds, I make long casts past the bed and swim it through. I also like to focus on any available cover surrounding these bream beds such as docks, laydowns and grass lines because big bass will often hide in these areas while waiting for the perfect time to attack.
Bream-colored crankbaits are also a phenomenal choice around mayfly hatches. As bream stuff themselves on falling mayflies, bass are never far behind. For the best results, knock the mayflies off of the overhanging bushes with a snag resistant lure, such as a topwater frog, and quickly make casts around the area with a bream-colored crank. Hold on to your rod, because some bona fide tanks love to hang out around mayfly hatches.
In the spring, especially throughout the pre-spawn period, crawfish-colored crankbaits are widely known to be big bass magnets. I like to target staging areas with a hard bottom composition while constantly knocking the crankbait off of any hard cover such as rocks and pea gravel. This is a perfect emulation of the “clicking” sound a crawfish makes as it meanders about searching for food.
While this color is a proven pre-spawn fish catcher, it is also a perfect choice during full moon phases. Crawfish are most active during a full moon, coming out of their dark dwellings to actively search for food for much longer periods of time. In these situations, I make long, parallel casts to shallow rip rap while banging the crankbait off of key irregularities such as big boulders. Many anglers tend to throw shad-colored crankbaits on rip rap, so using a crawfish color will catch a lot of fish that other fishermen miss.
Bass are fairly simple creatures and we all have a bad habit of trying to make them smarter than they really are. If you’re looking to improve your chances with crankbaits, these colors will provide an excellent platform for you to build more confidence.