As the stellar bass fishing action of the spring months comes to an end, the transition between spring and summer can be a frustrating and, quite honestly, disheartening time for anglers. The bass are constantly moving, theyâre hard to pinpoint and the unpredictable weather patterns donât do us any favors, either.
Thankfully, however, lipless crankbaits serve as a major source of hope throughout this awkward time of year. These age-old lures may not look very fancy, but Elite Series pro Shaw Grigsby believes theyâre a tremendous equalizer when youâre fighting the battle against stubborn summer bass.
Throughout his career, he has frequently relied on 5 lipless cranking hotspots that many anglers tend to overlook. Regardless of the fishery or the mood of the bass, these areas have bailed him out of some tough situations and even led to some monstrous 30-pound limits.
Before we discuss the particular locations, letâs quickly delve into a few important variables that will help you maximize your success with these lures.
- Depth control
- Size selection
- Primary colors
- Optimal locations
Depth control and versatility
As the name implies, lipless crankbaits lack the diving bills found on the front of traditional diving crankbaits. This important omission allows anglers to target both shallow and deep water by utilizing simple retrieve variations.
âOnce the bass are done spawning, a lipless crankbait becomes a major player throughout the entire summer,â Grigsby said. âBass become hugely focused on shad as theyâre refueling and recovering from a rigorous spawning season and these lures are incredible shad imitators. More importantly, however, a lipless bait gives you the ability to control your depth easily without constantly switching lures.â
While standard crankbaits can be productive this season, their diving bills can significantly limit an anglerâs ability to cover multiple depth zones in a single cast. Because these crankbaits are designed to run at specific depths, efficiency can become an issueâespecially when the bass are scattered throughout the water column.
âWhen bass are making their way from their spawning grounds, thereâs a good chance youâll find them in a variety of depth zones,â Grigsby said. âWith a lipless crankbait, I can target shallow fish in just a few feet of water and motor down the bank and cast to âem in 15 or 20 feet of water. Depth control and versatility are huge factors this time of year.â
In order to control the depth of his lipless crankbait, Grigsby relies on three particular retrieves.
- Slow your rollâ Much like heâd slow-roll a spinnerbait in shallow water, Grigsby most often begins his lipless crankbait approach with a slow retrieve. Heâll include intermittent twitches and jerks to add realism to his presentation and attract reaction strikes from otherwise lethargic bass. Because these lures sink, the point at which he engages his reel is critical. In shallow water, he begins reeling right before his lure hits the water. Conversely, he often lets the lure fall for a few seconds before engaging his reel when targeting deeper depths.
- Yo-yo itâ âIâve caught some of my biggest fish yo-yoing a lipless crankbait off the bottom,â Grigsby said. âThey absolutely cannot stand it. Iâll make a long cast, let it sink to the bottom on a controlled-slack line, tighten my line and pull or rip it towards the boat. Iâm using the rod to move the lureâthe reel is simply there to eat up my slack. As it falls back to the bottom, itâs important to follow your slack downward with your rod tip because most of your big bites come on the fall. If your rod is too high when that fish hits it on a slack line, youâll be out of position for a solid hookset.â
- Tick the coverâ Although lipless crankbaits arenât equipped with a bill to aid in deflection, their nose-down swimming action makes them surprisingly snag-resistant after a bit of practice. Anytime heâs targeting submerged vegetation or even hard cover, Grigsby makes an effort to quickly retrieve the lure while barely ticking it submerged cover. This can certainly be effective for big largemouth, but heâs also enjoyed consistent success while targeting smallmouth bass with this retrieve.
Simple size selection process
To a non-angler, buying fishing tackle may seem like a fairly simple endeavor. But to âfish headsâ like us, itâs anything but easy. With endless models from which to choose, it can actually become a bit overwhelming. Can a bass really tell the difference between a 2-inch lure and a 2 1/4-inch lure? Theyâre not really that smart, are they?
A look inside of Grigsbyâs lipless crankbait selection would likely surprise you. Although youâd expect to find endless shapes and sizes in a professional anglerâs arsenal, his Strike King Red Eye Shad collection focuses on three particular sizes.
- 1/4-ounceâ âA 1/4-ounce Red Eye Shad is our smallest size,â Grigsby said. âAnd while itâs not necessarily my first choice throughout the summer, Iâll certainly use it when Iâm on a fishery thatâs not necessarily known for its trophy quality. If Iâm around a lot of small fish, I wonât hesitate to break it out and go to work. Itâs important to realize, however, that it does have its place on big fish lakes. If Iâm battling high barometric pressure and post-frontal conditions, Iâll downsize to a 1/4-ounce lipless and catch some really nice fish.â
- 1/2-ounceâ The annual shad spawn is always a major focus for pro anglers throughout the late-spring and early summer months. According to Grigsby, thereâs no better size than a 1/2-ounce Red Eye Shad when targeting these potential jackpots. Additionally, he believes this size to be an excellent starting point for anglers new to the technique. If youâre having trouble deciding on a âperfectâ size, itâs a happy medium in most situations.
- 3/4-ounceâ âA 3/4-ounce lipless crankbait is absolutely my favorite size,â Grigsby said. âItâs exactly 3 inches long and it can catch some definite pigs. Most of the forage is fairly large and healthy in the warmer months, so this size is a great imitation as the water continues to warm. Donât think, however, that youâre sacrifice quantity when throwing this larger model. While the big ones really fall for it, youâll catch plenty of 2-pounders as well.â
Color patterns that produce
Much like choosing lipless crankbait sizes, color selection can also seem a bit daunting at times. But to continue with Grigsbyâs theory of simplicity, he believes these 4 color patterns to be most productive this time of year.
- Chrome Sexy Shadâ âThis is probably the color with which Iâll most often start,â Grigsby said. âEveryone needs a good shad pattern and I like this one because it looks very similar to both threadfin and gizzard shad. It has a bunch of flash and that added bit of chartreuse makes it equally effective in off-color water as well.â
- Chartreuseâ It might look a little strange at first glance, but Grigsby swears by a chartreuse lipless crankbait, especially when he thinks the bass are feeding heavily on panfish. Itâs also a good choice when youâre fishing dirty water after the heavy rainstorms of summer.
- Redâ âYou gotta have a red one,â Grigsby said. âThereâs just no way around it. Most lakes I visit in the late-spring and summerâespecially ones with a lot of grassâare incredible places to use this color. Itâs not just a Texas thing like many people think. As long as you have grass, youâll catch âem on a red-colored lipless.â
- Sexy Blueback HerringââIf you fish both blueback and threadfin lakes, this is a great color choice that will work great between the two,â Grigsby said. âWhile it was designed to look like a blueback herring, it can also serve as your number one shad color. This is another one of those great starting colors, so if you canât decide what color to use, start with this one.â
Hotspot No. 1: Depth changes adjacent to spawning flats
A bassâ natural post-spawn progression is almost identical to its prespawn journeyâexcept in reverse order. When the big females conclude their spawning activities, theyâll use the first depth change adjacent to a spawning flat to both recover and feed.
Grigsby starts by locating a probable springtime spawning flat. Heâll then move towards open water and locate the first depth change.
âWhen I find these âfirst dropsâ, as I call them, I generally postition my boat in deeper water,â Grigsby said. âSo if it drops from 5 to 15 feet, my boat will be sitting in 15 feet of water where the bottom begins to flatten out and Iâll cast into the shallow water while keeping constant bottom contact. But donât hesitate to reverse that. Although it can cause more hang-ups as youâre pulling the lure towards shallower water, this can allow you to cover a larger depth range. Essentially, youâre ambushing those finicky females by putting your lipless bait in every available depth zone along that flat.â
Hotspot No. 2: Points
Throughout the spring and summer months, thereâs often a lot of talkâand debateârevolving around targeting secondary and primary points. While Grigsby wholeheartedly believes points to be high-percentage targets, he doesnât discriminate between the two types.
âPoints give the bass quick and easy access to deep water,â Grigsby said. âAnd current washes current across the point, which serves as a virtual buffet for hungry post-spawners. But I focus more on points adjacent to spawning flats, which can be both secondary and primary points, so I donât get too hung-up on their categorization.â
When fishing these points, he suggests staying in deeper water while casting towards the shallower water found on top of the point. Because bass tend to move up and down on these points throughout the day, Grigsby believes this approach is an effective way to tell the most operative depth on a given day.
âAnother cool way to figure out with depth range to target on points is to pay close attention to your electronics after you launch your boat,â Grigsby said. âI immediately turn on my Lowrance GenIII Touch unit and identify where the baitfish are. When you find them in a certain zone, thatâs where you need to concentrate your efforts all day long. If you put your lipless crankbait in the same depth zone as the bait, youâll catch âem.â
Hotspot No. 3: Drains and ditches in flats
It doesnât often take much to attract a bass and thatâs certainly the key with this particular lipless hotspot. If youâre able to find a small drainâalso referred to as a ditchâin some sort of shallow-water flat, thereâs a great chance of finding a big concentration of bass.
âMan, these bass will get into some of the tiniest ditches and absolutely stack up,â Grigsby said. âTheyâre highways to and from shallow water, but theyâre also emergency exits. We often forget that bass are big-time prey to birds such as eagles and ospreys, so when they see one of those dudes hovering over their heads, theyâll jump in these ditches and use âem as an escape route.â
Hotspot No. 4: Riprap
Riprap is often an overlooked sanctuary for late-spring and summer bass and immediately following the post-spawn period, these rock-filled banks are made even better by early morning shad spawns.
Furthermore, riprap banks are frequently found on bridges and causeways, which act as natural funnel points to and from deep water. In other words, if a bridge intersects a particular creek, bass have no choice but to pass through these areas when migrating. As you can guess, this can lead to incredible numbers of bass and excellent fishing action.
âYou hear a lot of anglers talking about squarebill crankbaits on riprap,â Grigsby said. âBut I actually really like lipless crankbaits in these areas, too. You do, however, have to be on top of your game to ensure you donât get snagged. If you have to take a long time to switch hands before you engage your reel, your lure will be in the rocks before you even start your retrieve. The key is very similar to buzzbait fishingâyou need to start your retrieve when that lipless is about 6 inches from landing in the water so you can get it going above the rocks from the get-go.â
Hotspot No. 5: Grass lines
Just like Forrest Gump and Jenny, grass lines and lipless crankbaits go together like peas and carrots. Yes, itâs trueâwhere thereâs grass, youâll probably find bass. But more importantly, there are two things that make these grass edges particularly attractive to warm weather bass.
âItâs tempting to get dialed-in on hard cover such as rocks, concrete and boat docks when weâre looking for a shad spawn,â Grigsby said. âBut never overlook these grass lines because they can be absolutely rockinâ this time of year. Also, they serve as an all-important edge for bass as they travel throughout the day. Bass can be insecure little creatures, so they prefer to follow a natural edge as they move to and from deeper water.â
To maximize his efficiency when fishing these lines, Grigsby makes a concerted effort to parallel the edges with his lipless crankbait. Perpendicular casts will only put your lure in the strike zone for a few turns of the reel handle, while parallel casts ensure your bait stays in âthe zoneâ for as long as possible.
âLike we talked about earlier, this is when Iâm going to tick the grass with my lure,â Grigsby said. âIâll burn it across the tops of any irregular grass stalks and right as I feel it try to bury in that vegetation, Iâll quickly rip my rod tip upward to free the lure. This quick jerk is often when some of your best strikes occur.â
When the bass fishing action starts to slow in your area this season, donât get discouraged. Tie on a lipless crankbait, cover water and locate these hotspotsâyouâll be surprised by how much fun it can be.