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Square Bill Crankbaits: A Classic Winner
By: Jimmy Vanden Berg
For: Team Rippin’ Lips
Kevin Van Dam just locked up his record tying fourth Bassmaster Classic championship and second consecutive. He credits the use of a shallow running square bill crankbait for his 2011 championship. KVD was using the new Strike King KVD 1.5 and 2.5 square bills. In 2010 Kevin Short won the Elite series event on Pickwick using a square bill as well. Short used a Peeper’s WEC E1 to win that event. These two anglers did not just go out and start throwing square bills around aimlessly, they knew the intricacies of these baits and were targeting specific things. So what is it about these baits and the technique these anglers used? Lets look a little closer at these baits, techniques and tackle that will help you put more fish in the livewell.

Baits
First, let’s look at the actual design and make up of a square bill crankbait and what it’s intended to do. We’re going to discuss the Strike King 1.5 and 2.5, since its one of my favorites and KVD just used it to win the 2011 Classic.

The Strike King KVD square bills come in two different sizes, a 1.5 and 2.5. They also come in a variety of different colors. As an angler it’s imperative that you match the size and color of the bait to the forage present in the body of water you’re fishing. If you’re fishing a system where bluegill are the predominant forage use a bluegill color, if its shad use shad. You must also take into consideration water clarity, if the water is clear, 18 inches or more of visibility, you’ll want to use more natural patterns. As the water becomes more stained you’ll want to switch to brighter patterns such Chartreuse Sexy shad, chartreuse will catch fish by simply casting it out and reeling it back to the boat, however, square bills are desiand black or firetiger.

Square bill crankbaits gned to hit and deflect off of cover. This attribute is what makes these baits so special. Both KVD and Kevin Short won their respective events by deflecting their baits off wood, this is where the square bill shines. These crankbaits have a large square bill which allows them to hit and deflect off wood, rocks, etc., without getting hung up. The other great characteristic about the Strike King KVD square bills is they have a built in wandering or hunting action. What I mean by that is they don’t run in a perfectly straight line they will kick from side to side searching for cover to come into contact with.

Technique

When most anglers get around shallow cover, whether its laydowns, stumps, rocks, docks, etc., most anglers throw a jig, creature baits or some other kind of soft plastic. I don’t want to give the perception that those aren’t effective, because they are. In fact I will usually use a square bill in concert with either a jig or soft plastic creature bait when fishing shallow cover. However, since most guys throw a jig or soft plastic bait in this cover these bass have seen the same baits over and over and to a large extent are conditioned to those baits. Most guys are unwilling to throw a square bill into a stump field or laydown because they assume they will get hung up constantly. These baits are designed to be fished in these type of environments and while you will experience occasional hang ups the risks are well worth the rewards. Targeting and deflecting off shallow wood is how both KVD and Kevin Short won their events. When the square bill deflects off cover it produces an erratic action and that triggers bass into striking. To maximize the fish catching potential of any square bill you have to be willing to throw it into cover and areas where most guys wouldn’t dare throw a bait with two treble hooks. The more you practice working it through cover and the feel it gives off when you hit objects the more productive and efficient you will become with this technique. It can be frustrating when first experimenting/learning this technique because you may get hung up, but stay persistent and add this technique to your repertoire and I guarantee it will increase your fish catch.

An example from Team Rippin’ Lips fishing experience is from a lake Jason and I fish on a regular basis here in Michigan. This particular body of water is a small dammed up lake in South West Michigan. It has a small section of bank with some laydowns and other cover that is in 1-3ft of water but it also has a large flat that has scattered clumps of stumps that hold concentrations of fish. The flat that contains the stumps is anywhere from 3-6 feet deep. The visible shoreline cover is an easy target for the square bill and holds fish throughout the year. Since that cover is visible every other angler fishes it as well. We have found more fish and better quality fish holding on the scattered stumps on the flat. In the past these scattered stumps were more difficult to find. Thanks to our Humminbird 997 with side imaging one pass over the flat and we can mark all the scattered stumps on our GPS and come back through and target those specific areas. There’s no doubt you could catch fish blind casting throughout the entire flat but by pinpointing where those stumps are, we maximize our efficiency and concentrate on the areas that contain the largest number of fish. Another key when you locate these areas is to make repetitive casts to the stumps, constantly striking the wood and hitting it from multiple angles. Very often Jason and I will circle around a particular stump field and make 20 -30 casts to the same general area, knowing fish are there and we just need to trigger them into striking.

Equipment

For me the rod is the most important component of this set up. You want a shorter rod then you would use for other cranking techniques. Very often you’re trying to put the square bill in tight areas and the shorter rod helps with casting accuracy. I use the 6’8” Quantum Tour KVD. The other great thing about this rod is it is a composite rod which consists of graphite and glass. It has a soft tip which allows the bass to inhale the bait before loading up and it allows it to work through cover more efficiently. Jason uses a 7” Wright & McGill Skeet Reese Signature Series S-Glass crankbait rod, which also works because of its length and action.

For a reel I use a Quantum Kevin Van Dam Tour baitcasting reel. I use the 6.6:1 gear ratio reel because it allows me to speed up if necessary and slow down depending on what the fish want that particular day. This reel is also extremely smooth and allows me to make pinpoint casts and quiet entries into the water. A quiet entry is important because often I’m fishing this in 3 feet or less and a loud entry can spook the fish.

Your line is also a critical part of this set up. Jason and I both use Trilene 100% fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon is invisible underwater, has little stretch and is more abrasion resistant then monofilament. If you are going to be banging you crankbait into wood, rocks, dock pilings, etc., you need a line that can stand up to that abuse. Fluorocarbon will outlast and outperform mono in this category. Line size depends on the depth I am trying to reach. I will use anywhere from 12lbs -17lbs. If I want my square bill to run a little deeper I will go to 12lbs if I need my bait to run a little higher in the water column because of depth of cover or where the fish are holding I will move up to as high as 17lbs line.

If you haven’t tried this technique, give it a go. It will help you catch more and bigger fish. Rippn Lips Tackle has the KVD 1.5 and 2.5’s in stock but they won’t last long. Anytime the Classic is won on a particular bait it’s always hard to get your hands on it, but it gets even tougher when KVD is the one who won with that bait. Rippn Lips Tackle is selling them for $5.69 which is cheaper then Bass Pro Shops or any other company on the internet. Do yourself a favor and scoop some of these fish catching baits up before their gone. Hope these tips help you out on the water and remember to keep Rippin’ Lips!
"VBerg"


Fishing The Lindy Rig
BY: Bill Lodi

 

The Lindy Rig is a very basic type of presentation for catching fish, ecspecially walleye.

What a lindy rig consists of is a sinker, leader of line, 2 way barrel swivel, and a hook. The types of sinkers that are generally used are walking, Texas bass casting, egg, and bottom bouncer. The hook can be a multitude of sizes, shapes, and colors. From a basic #2 Aberdeen hook, to a floating jig head. It can be trolled, drifted, dragged, and casted out of the boat or from shore. What I like to do when  using a Lindy Rig, is to expand and change the presentation. When using the Rig as a search “lure”, I will start off with a 3/8 oz. walking sinker, and instead of using a swivel, I’ll pinch on a tiny split shot to hold my leader length. Which will  usually be about  20-28 inches, and I’ll use a black/silver or black/gold Rapala Floating minnow.  Drop the trolling motor in, and slow troll along. This technique has paid big dividends, while slow trolling along deep weed lines in search of active fish.

*Rivers*
When fishing in rivers, the Lindy Rig is my first choice of presentation. The Wisconsin River in the Dells is where I learned and perfected this rig. Key areas to look for in a river have “dead” water or “boils” on the surface. These are called “eddies”. These are areas that under the water, on the river bottom have some type of structure that diverts the water and creates a “boil“ or a “slack” water area. Big boulders, logs, and wing dams all divert the current over and around them. These places are fish magnets, because the walleyes can wait behind them in fairly current less water, and ambush an easy meal.
What I like to do is to locate an “eddie” and anchor above it so I am almost even with the slack water. I will start out with a 3/8 ounce walking sinker and a #2 octopus style hook with a medium fathead minnow. Cast the rig out and make sure it hits bottom. Close the bail and reel up the slack line. A lot of times you will have a fish hit it as soon as it hits the bottom. If there is no hit,  slowly start dragging the rig back to the boat. Every so often jig and jerk it a little to entice a strike, which they can’t resist, and works most of the time. Sometimes a walleye hit will feel like “dead” weight on the end of your line. If you can’t tell that it’s a fish, pull your rod just a little harder towards yourself and lightly jig it. This seems to get the eyes’ mad, and they will pull back and let you know that they are there. Set the hook hard and get the net!

In the Summer months this technique works well using a hald of a night crawler or a leech, especially in the evening and after dark hours. Also using a glow in the dark “Phelps” soft floating jig head made by the Northland company can entice more strikes for you. These soft jig heads work wonders because they make the walleyes think that they actually have a meal in their mouth, because they are soft and crushable.

  I hope you learned a little something from this short "how-to" article. Now it’s up to you to go out and catch some fish.

 Good Luck and Safe boating.

 


Trophy Bass in Wisconsin
By: Bill Lodi

When people think of a trophy Largemouth Bass, they pretty much assume that it should be in the magic"10 pound and above club". When you hear of someone catching that 10 pound trophy, you have a vision of what lake that fish may have come from. Southern state lakes always seem to jump in your mind first. Lake Castaic, Okeechobee, Pickwick, Lanier, Table Rock, Dale Hollow, and the hundreds of others that I don't have space to mention here, but you get the idea are the ones people think of first.

Well, "up" here in the Midwestern states, we also have a vision of what lakes a trophy bass may have come from, when that someone you know catches a 6 pound trophy. In Wisconsin, you have many prime waters that have great potential for trophy bass. In southern Wisconsin, some of the best ones are, Lake Geneva, Delavan, Lauderdale Chain, Whitewater, Eagle, Beulah, Okauchee, Pewaukee, Pine, Phantom, Big Cedar, and Big Muskego just to name a few. In Central and Western Wisconsin you have Lake Mendota, Monona, Kegonsa, Rock, Castle Rock, Petenwell, Wisconsin, Montello, Buffalo, Puckaway, Winnebago chain, Long, Arbutus, Onalaska, DuBay, and the list goes on and on. In northern Wisconsin there are a ton of lakes that can be listed, but a special few deserve mentioning. Manitowish Chain, Big St. Germain, Buckatabon, Caldron Falls Flowage, Little Arbor Vitae, Rice, Big McKenzie, Bone, Day, and Deer lakes to name a handful of the best ones. We also can't forget Lake Ripley where the state record 11 lb.3oz. Largemouth was caught in 1940, and guess what? The record is still standing today! Will that 60 year record ever be broken? I am sure it will, but time will tell. Lake Michigan, where this years 2000 Bassmasters Classic was held, out of Chicago Illinois, is another prime huge body of water. Who would have guessed that the Bassmasters Classic would be held on Lake Michigan? I never thought I would see that happen. And what a mess of great bass the pro's brought in. Wow! Sturgeon and Chequamegon Bay's are two other big named hotspots for trophy bass. Wisconsin's Rivers also boast some of the best quality bass fishing around. The Menomonee, Peshtigo, Wisconsin, Fox, Wolf, Black, and the Mighty Mississippi are a few of the best rivers to bag a trophy 6 pound bass.
Now that you have a list of lakes that have the potential for a trophy bass, here are some of the key structure areas to look for when fishing those lakes. Keep in mind that bass have specific travel routes that they use throughout the day. Bass also tend to feed at specific times of the day, but that can change with changing weather patterns, cold fronts, water clarity, fishing pressure, food availability, and so on. So keep that in mind when pursuing them.

Submergent Weedbeds
Submergent weedbeds go without saying. They hold more bass than any other type of structure. Hands down! Bass will either be cruising along, through, or sitting tight to submergent weedbeds. Weeds offer shade, food, and safety for the bass. They feel safe and secure when they are in the weeds. Up here in Wisconsin, unlike in the South, the number one predators of bass are Northern Pike and Musky. So a bass has to have that "cushion" of security feeling all of the time. Northern Pike and Musky are opportunistic feeders, which means they feed at any given moment, at any time of the day, and will try to eat fish that are as big as themselves. Bass have to always be on the lookout for predators.

The key types of submergent weeds and weedbeds to look for in Wisconsin's lakes are those containing Coontail, Cabbage, Eurasian Milfoil, Lily pads, and Wild Rice. The most active Bass will hold on the edges of these weedbeds and are the most easy to entice into striking. A good "search" technique for the weededges, is to run a spinnerbait or a crankbait parallel with the weedbed. If there are any active bass on that particular weededge, they should smack your lure without thinking twice about it.
For bass that are tucked into the weeds, a few of these good local Wisconsin techniques should produce those bass for you. "Jiggy-Worming" is one of my favorite ways to fool bass into hitting. The way to rig a Jiggy-Worm, is to take a basic walleye jig usually starting with a 1/8oz. or a 1/4oz. of lead, and preferably with a wide gap hook. Then I take a 6 inch Berkley Power Worm (any color), cut off the first 2 inches of the head, and then thread it all the way up to the head of the jig. That's it! You are now ready to fish with it. The way the Jiggy-Worm is fished is pretty simple. You cast out the jig and let it settle down into the weeds, close your bail on your reel. Next reel in all of the slack so your line is tight, and then you "pop" up or "snap up" your rod tip which "jumps" the jig out of the weeds. Reel in any slack and let it settle back down in the weeds on a tight line. Repeat the process until you get a fish on, or it comes next to the boat ready for a new cast. Bass can hardly resist this technique and many times will strike the jig on the first "pop" that you make.

Another hot technique in Wisconsin is to use a modified Carolina rig. Instead of using an egg sinker which slides on the line in a Carolina Rig, just pinch on a large split shot or two, 12-20 inches above your hook and fish it faster than a Carolina Rig. The choice of baits stays the same. The way you fish this rig is to cast it out and close the bail. Start reeling before you think it will get into the weeds. Just reel it in slow and give it a "pop" or "snap" every few reel turns. Don't let the sinker settle into the weeds or you will get hung up. This is a great way to catch bass that are schooled up tight to the weeds. Try these new techniques next time you are out and I am sure you will boat more bass.

Rock Piles
Another type of structure for bass are rock piles. Rocks attract bass because they feel secure when around them. Rock piles also hold various forms of food for the bass. Crayfish, worms, minnows, and baby panfish all use rock piles for cover and for feeding. The whole food chain can be found on rock piles. Active bass tend to slide up on top of the rock piles to feed. Less active bass will hang on the deeper edges of the rock pile. Active bass on rocks, can be caught using every technique that is available out there. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, Carolina Rigs, Spoons, Jig and pigs, and Jiggy-Worms, are some of the few techniques that will catch bass on rocks. Burning a crankbait over the top of the rock pile is a very productive way to find the more aggressive bass. While slow rolling a 1/2 oz. spinnerbait will entice the less aggressive bass on the deeper edges. Let's take a look at another type of structure that bass use commonly. Docks and Piers.

Docks and Piers
A lot of people don't think of docks and piers as structure, but they are. Docks and piers hold bass for the same reasons weeds and rocks do. For safety. And also to get out of the sun. It's cooler under docks and piers. Bass prefer cooler water especially when the water temps climb into the high 80 degree marks. Bass will sit tight to docks and piers and wait for prey to swim by. The bass will ambush them and get an easy meal.

A fun way to fish for bass under docks and piers, is to use a pre-rigged worm. Pre-rigged worms come in an assortment of colors, scents, and sizes. A pre-rigged worm is a rubber worm that has 3 small, snell tied hooks imbedded in it's body. The line comes out of it's head and is tied into a loop. You then attach a snap swivel to the loop which allows the worm to spin freely in the water like a corkscrew. The way they are made is that they are poured into a mold, which has a slight bend in it. This is what makes the slight bend in the worm, which then makes the worm corkscrew in the water like it does. It's very deadly! Bass can't resist the corkscrewing action of a pre-rigged worm. On windy days, attach a split shot 12 inches above the worm. This helps in casting and also in detecting the hits. The best way to fish these pre-rigs is to skip them under the docks and piers. The farther back you can skip them, the better. Let it settle to the bottom, and then start reeling it in slowly. That's all there is to it. The actual hard part is learning how to skip them under the docks and piers. The best way is to have the worm almost touch your rod tip, and then crouch down low on your boat to make it easier to side cast it under there. Practice makes perfect.

Emergent vegetation
Vegetation is another key area to keep in mind when looking for bass. Lily pads, cattails, moss, and even Algae blooms are types of emergent vegetation. These topwater weeds provide cover and shade for the bass. Lily pads are a good example of providing shade and cover for bass. Lily pads are fun to fish, in that any time you have an opportunity to have a bass crash a surface bait is really exciting, and gets your heart pumping. Plastic rats, plastic frogs, Moss Boss's, Mister Twister's Prop Top, and other topwater lures work very well in emergent vegetation. Big bass will sometimes be in the middle of the weed piles or just on the edges of them.

Hopping a rubber frog from lily pad to lily pad is a great way to entice bass into striking. Algae blooms can be very difficult to fish because the algae clings to your line and lure, which can make the lure run untrue. After every cast it is a good idea to clean off the lure. But don't let that stop you from fishing during an algae bloom, some of my biggest bass have been caught during an algae bloom.

Wood
Whether it's a brush pile, submerged logs, stumps, or trees wood is a excellent key structure for bass, especially in the hot summer months. Wood also offers good cover and shade for bass. The most active fish will be found on the outer edges of the branches and tangles. Pitching jig and pigs, slow rolling small spinnerbaits, Jiggy-Worming, or tossing small weedless worms will work in the wood. Wood that has large branches and tangles tend to hold more fish than the ones that do not. Granted these are a lot more difficult to fish, but can be very well worth the extra effort. Use heavier line and try to get the fish out of there as quick as you can, so that they don't have a lot of time to tangle you up in there.

Summary
In Wisconsin, and in the entire Midwest region, the growing season is limited to 7 months a year for bass. Unlike in the Southern states where bass have almost 12 months to grow. The other 5 months in the Midwest, bass are under the ice in cold water, which stops all growing processes. Their bodies switch from the growing process, to just surviving the cold winter months. They become lethargic and only feed once every so often, unlike in the summer months where they will feed twice as much and grow twice as fast. That is why a 6 pound bass in Wisconsin is considered a true trophy. Trophy Bass are found all over the state of Wisconsin. Ten pound bass are out there, but are a very exclusive limited resource. A 6 pound trophy bass, in Wisconsin, is a more attainable goal, and is looked upon by fisherman as a true Midwest trophy. Try some of these techniques, and I'm sure the odds will increase in your favor of catching a 6 pound trophy bass.

See you on the water!
Bill

Bill has over 30 years experience as a Bass, Walleye, and Musky Fisherman. He hails from Wisconsin, Fished Pro Walleye Tournaents for years and wrote for several E-Zines and other fine publications in the past..