There is almost always a group of bass in shallow water no matter what time of year it is. One of the best ways to catch shallow bass is with a shallow crankbait or squarebill. FLW Tour pro Braxton Setzer shares his approach for each season when he picks up a crankbait.
Spring Shallow Bass
Shallow cranking is made for spring bass fishing. The bass are shallow as they spawn and the crankbait does a great job at catching them and helping you land big ones. “The biggest thing this time of year is finding the transition areas. Focusing on those 6-8 feet depths is a great starting point when I am cranking,” says the Alabama pro. He’ll focus on these depths and then move shallower as the bass push closer to shore.
Setzer relies on the Yo-Zuri 3DB squarebill and 3DS MR (medium runner) crankbaits. “They are both great and the 3DS MR is a real confidence bait because it seems to always catch them,” he shares. His color selection has to do with water clarity and will use Sexy Shad in clear water and a Hot Tiger color in dirtier water.
For his retrieve, he will keep the bait moving but not too fast. “The water is just starting to warm up so I keep that in mind and won’t burn it like I do in other seasons.”
Summer Shallow Bass
Summer is all about the bluegill spawn according to Setzer. “The fish that stay shallow are typically focused on feeding on bluegill. I cover water quickly and look for ambush places like laydowns, rocks, docks and anywhere that a bluegill would spawn,” he says. Shade is another key and he will seek it out during the brightest of conditions.
His bait of choice is usually the same squarebill he uses in the spring. When asked what makes this different from any other squarebill crankbait on the market he said it is all about the lip. “Most of the crankbaits have the same exact shape bill and they all act the same. The Yo-Zuri 3DB has a ‘tapered’ style of bill and it is actually wider than the bait.” He credits this for the bait to deflect more than others he has used.
Fall Shallow Bass
“The biggest thing this time of year is downsizing your bait to match the size of the baitfish. The bass will be keying on small shad or panfish,” he begins. These young of the year baitfish are plentiful and that is what the bass are targeting. His bait of choice is the downsized Yo-Zuri 3DS Crank MR in sexy shad or one of the holographic, prism finishes.
Another key this time of year is speed: both in how fast you retrieve your baits and how quickly you cover water. “I speed up my retrieve this time of year to get more reaction bites. The hard deflections off of cover are very important in the fall and a quick retrieve will get a better deflection.
When it comes to cover, Setzer searches the backs of creeks for any visible cover. Stumps and other cover are important places to look and he will often fish very shallow this time of year.
Winter Shallow Bass
When the water cools, Setzer puts away his squarebill and reaches for the Duel Hardcore Shad. “This crankbait is perfect for cold weather because it is a real subtle bait and that is what you need this time of year. It also has a really tight wobble which is another important thing when choosing a cold water crankbait,” he begins.
Slow and steady is his approach. With the cooler water fish are moving slow and looking for warmer water. One of the best places to find this warmer weather according to Setzer is around rocks. “They seem to migrate to any rock just because it will hold heat better.”
Rod/Reel/Line for Shallow Cranking
Your rod, reel and line can be just as important as the bait you decide to throw. For Setzer, he uses three different crankbait rods for the baits he mentioned. For line, he also varies it based on his bait selection.
Yo-Zuri 3DB squarebill
Setzer fishes this bait on a 7’2” Heavy Phenix M1 with either a 5.1:1 or 6.4:1 reel depending on how fast he is fishing it. For his line, he uses between 16 and 20-pound Yo-Zuri Top Knot fluorocarbon.
Yo-Zuri 3DS Crank MR
For this smaller crankbait, Setzer likes the Phenix X-11 cranking rod with a 5.1:1 reel and between 8 to 12-pound Top Knot fluorocarbon.
Duel Hardcore Shad
The small size and weight of this bait calls for spinning gear. Setzer uses a 7’2” Medium Phenix M1, quality spinning reel and 10-pound braided line with a 6 to 10-pound test fluorocarbon leader. He alternates leader length to adjust his diving depth and believes the brad to fluoro combination helps him cast the bait much further.
Shallow cranking is a technique that can be done just about anywhere and any time. By adjusting your approach, gear and bait selection you can keep a crankbait rigged up all year long.