No-lips catch staging fish

No-lips catch staging fish

Mar 18, 2012

Wake up pre-spawn largemouth with lipless crankbaits

By Mike Pehanich

Location, location, location!

That’s the primary theme in the early season when bass are awakening from their winter hangover and have their first thoughts of spring love.

And the rattle of a lipless crankbait is often the alarm clock that gets them going!

Work a lipless crankbait along the bottom on points flats and along dropoffs, ditches and holding areas that lead the way to prime spawning areas in spring, suggests “Big Water Adventures” TV-host Mark Davis.

See exclusive Small Waters Fishing video below!

Our baits of choice when we tried to dredge up frost-bitten bass caught between late winter and the pre-spawn on the lakes of Great Southern Outdoors were XCalibur Xr Rattle Baits in Foxy Shad and chrome and blue colors from ½-ounce  models to the one-ounce XR100.

A lipless crankbait like this XCalibur XR worked over slowly along the bottom or with a lift- and-drop or stop-and-go retrieve can wake up sluggish bass, sometimes even after a severe cold front.

Lipless crankbaits are great search baits in the early season. They enable you to cover water fast when bass are up and on the move and to locate bass on broad flats and key structure along seasonal migration routes to spawning areas.

They also help to pinpoint grass beds and isolated cover.

Vary your retrieve for best results. Under coldwater conditions, alternate between a slow crawl just above bottom, a lift and drop (yo-yo) retrieve, and a stop-and- go retrieve until you are able to dial in on the bass’s mood


KVD agrees

Just as we found at GSO, Kevin VanDam prefers “a slow clip” along the bottom in this early season, occasionally pulling the lure and then letting it fall and flutter. During the Bassmaster Classic  on Lay Lake in 2010, he mixed in a hard rip-and-drop presentation with his Strike King Redeye Shad.

KVD revealed that he has caught bass in 34-degree waters on his home lakes in Michigan. “There’s no water too cold for a lipless crankbait,” he claims.

Try this when the cold stops bass in their tracks

Three years ago, Davis and I hit a vicious February cold front that froze the bathroom pipes at Rex Pritchett’s Great Southern Outdoors lodge in Union Springs, Alabama. The 25-degree morning temperatures and 25-mph winds stopped cold  the fairly aggressive pre-spawn bite on a broad feeding flat — and had us questioning our sanity as well!

But back we came, and Davis dialed in a hot afternoon bite on fish he found huddled in an eight-foot ditch adjacent to the flat. We fished XCalibur Xr 75 Rattlebaits on 8-pound line and spinning gear to keep the baits as close to bottom as possible during our slow-crank retrieve .We hauled in 25 bass on the technique before calling it a day.

For more information on lipless crankbait fishing and the XCalibur Xr Rattlebaits, see “Xr to the Rxcue

For more lipless crankbait tips and a broad look at a wide range of lipless crankbaits, look for “Lipless crank baits” under the “Tackle & Techniques” menu.





  1. Hey There. I found your blog the usage of msn. That is an extremely well written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to learn more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely comeback.

    • Bass fishing tips for Lake Guntersville (Alabama) in mid-October?For those that are not faaliimr with it, Lake Guntersville is located in northern Alabama on the Tennessee River. It is the fifth largest man-made lake in the world, at about 65,000 square acres. I visit Lake Guntersville several times each year during the spring and summer to go bass fishing with friends but generally not in the late-fall or winter. Do you have any tips for bass fishing the lake or Tennessee river in mid-October or November? Suggestions on where to fish (type of structure, creek/tributary, GPS coordinates, etc)? How about what to fish with or your most effective tactics? Our group for this next trip will have two boats with trailers, so we can put in just about anywhere in the lake. I’ve never fished the dam either and was thinking about giving that a try?

      • I love to fish wind-blown flats in fall on lakes that have a good shad population. Try topwater lures, lipless crank baits, crankbaits. Be ready to pitch jigs. Swimming giant worms works well on G’ville, at least earlier in the season. And don’t leave home without an Alabama rig and jigs with soft plastics that resemble shad. — Mike Pehanich, Small Waters Fishing


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