Outfit Matches & Misfits – Squarebill crankbaits

Outfit Matches & Misfits – Squarebill crankbaits

Apr 2, 2012

Outfit Matches and Misfits: Technique – Squarebill crankbait fishing

Why Kevin Short is big on short rods for target crankin’!

By Mike Pehanich

Each time I’ve caught up with Bassmaster Elite Series pro Kevin Short over the past two seasons, he has been basking in the glow of a Bassmaster tournament victory. In 2010, Kevin won the Bassmaster Elite Series event at Pickwick Lake. This past fall, he was fresh off a Bassmaster Central Open win at Table Rock Lake, a 3-1/2 hour drive from his home in Mayflower, Arkansas.

Both victories were the result of crankin’ shallow wood with squarebill crankbaits. See movie below!

Bassmaster Elite Series angler Kevin Short went to a 6-6 St. Croix crankbait rod at Pickwick Lake to work squarebills under and around cypress limbs and stumps

For the record, Kevin’s squarebill was the WEC E1 from WEC Custom Lures, a division of Zoom Baits.

“I fished it around laydowns and big limbs in the back of creek arms,” said Short after his Open win. “Nothing goes through wood like the E1 does.”

Typically, Short uses a 7-foot medium power, moderate action St. Croix Premier glass rod (recently discontinued) for his shallow cranking.

“That’s the rod I have always used. But the week before the Pickwick event (May 2010), I changed to a 6-6 (St. Croix) Premier Glass rod,” he explained. “That helped tremendously in making short little roll casts around those cypress trees. Using a shorter rod for target cranking was something I had wanted to play with for awhile, and I just hadn’t done it.  But I feel it made a big difference, because I was able to make nice precise casts. A lot of times I was throwing the bait only 10 or 15 feet from the boat. I didn’t need a long rod for long distance. Also, that fiberglass blank has a lot of give. That was important hooking those bigger fish close to the boat. At no time was I afraid I was going to lose a fish because the rod was too stiff. It’s a medium moderate action rod, and it is really, really soft. It’s a great rod for throwing small crankbaits short distances.”


Note: For the 2012 season, St. Croix has moved its glass rods into its popular – and popularly priced – Mojo series.

“They made the 7-0 into a 7-4 medium moderate Crankster and created an entirely new blank for the 7-8 medium heavy moderate rod Big Crankster,” explains Short.

But Kevin is holding onto his 6-6 Premier glass rod. In his words, it is “basically a target rod,” and he doesn’t expect to replace it before summer 2012.

“St. Croix is building a 6-foot, 10-inch Mojo crankin’ rod for the 2012 line,” he explains. “It is basically the same blank used for the 7-4 rod but with six inches cut off the handle. That helps target casting dramatically! But it’s the same action as the 7-4 with less space between the butt and the reel seat…It will be great whenever I am throwing a crankbait at something or just throwing along ledges.”

Completing the crankin’ outfit: Reel and line

Kevin Short matches his St. Croix crankin’ rods with a 6.4:1 Lew’s Tournament Pro Speed Spool Baitcasting Reel.

“If I’m fishing really big crankbaits or the water is cold, I drop to a 5.4:1 gear ratio,” says Short.

His line of choice is Vicious Pro Elite Fluorocarbon in 14- to 17-pound test.

“Fluorocarbon, being denser, allows me to feel the bait’s vibration better,” says Short. “You get the slow reaction you want with a glass rod, but you also get dull sensitivity. You get some of that feel back, however, with the fluorocarbon line.”

Short says that he occasionally will use monofilament (17-pound Vicious Ultracast) if he is casting a very shallow bank or when he finds that bass are less aggressive and not taking the bait well. “Those are the only times I use monofilament for fishing crankbaits,” he says.

Remember the cypress stumps at Pickwick Lake and Kevin Short’s guidelines for downsizing your crankbait rod when target casting to cover.

A “Short” Reminder

1)   A shorter, flexible rod will enable more accurate casting at short to medium distances than a long rod.

2)   A flexible “forgiving” rod absorbs the sudden pressure of thrusts, jumps and runs, which is extremely helpful in landing fish when you are using a crankbait or any large or heavy lure with multiple treble hooks.

Small Waters Tip: Take another look at that old fiberglass rod in your garage before you junk it or sell it for a buck at this spring’s garage sale. It just may serve a valuable crankin’ purpose until you can afford to upgrade to better crankin’ tools. I keep a moderate action composite rod that I bought on sale for $14 as a backup in case any of my good crankin’ or topwater rods should break or “disappear.” It’s also a good backup for certain topwater applications. Zell Rowland told Small Waters Fishing recently that a lot of pros still keep old fiberglass rods in their boat to fill a similar backup role. — MP

 The “Outfit Matches and Misfits” series offers the most comprehensive analysis of how to match rod, reel and line to specific technique, lure and circumstance. For more crankbait features and videos, check out:

Crankbait Tackle Logic with Dan Johnston, St Croix Rod: Part I – Selection Criteria, common mistakes, rod length

Crankbait Tackle Logic with Dan Johnston, St Croix Rod: Part II – Lipless and Squarebill crankin’


One comment

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