(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
Arkansas pro Kevin Short makes no secret of his affection for square-bill crankbaits. They’ve produced most of his notable national wins. “I’ve made a whole lot of money throwing a crankbait, particularly a little square-bill.” While he uses a wide variety of them, the Zoom (WEC) E1 is especially dear to his heart and his wallet.
He likes them anytime fish are shallow and around cover, but he’s especially fond of square-bills when conditions are toughest during the summer.
“I’m talking about stinking hot, middle of the day, not a cloud in the sky, no wind and you’ve got sweat running down the back of your knees,” he said. Those are the type of conditions that pull shallow bass closest to cover.
No matter when you’re fishing a square-bill, you’ll have to choose between wood (usually balsa) and plastic. Short throws wooden baits around wood cover including docks, stumps and laydowns. Sometimes he’ll use plastic there when he wants a heavy rattle, but he noted that the hooks on a wooden bait make plenty of racket. Besides, “the wobble of the bait is more important than the sound of the bait in most situations.”
No matter which lure he’s using or what it’s made from, he’s “pretty particular” about the hooks that he puts on them. If the lure doesn’t come with quality trebles, or they’ve been dulled by use, he’ll replace them with short-shank Mustad 2x strong, 1x short models, essentially the same as the KVD trebles but with a round bend. At the first sign of dulling, he’ll replace them, and he’s learned to do it by hand, without split-ring pliers.
He recommends a uni knot and he cinches it down so it rests in the gap of the split ring, which allows it to “always run straight back to you.” Otherwise, the knot eventually works its way down to the line tie and the lure will start running off to the side. He uses Sunline Shooter approximately 90 percent of the time, and braid only occasionally, usually around grass. He’ll work mono into the rotation a little less than 10 percent of the time, usually when using a wake bait like a Baby One Minus or when he wants his square-bill to run a little bit shallower.
No matter what type he’s using, Short is very sensitive to the effect of line diameter on bait performance. Simply put, lighter line allows baits to run deeper and elicits more action. The difference between 14-pound and 22-pound Shooter is remarkably easy to feel, but he’ll rarely if ever go below 12-pound when fishing around the cover that these lures are built for.
He recognizes that different anglers might like their rods made of different materials. “I’ve always been a fiberglass or fiberglass-graphite composite guy,” he said, but then noted that many successful pros use sticks made entirely of graphite. No matter what the material, he said that “the action is the most important thing.” He wants a moderate, medium-action rod with a soft tip. That tip allows him to cast small baits, roll cast with accuracy, and prevents a fish surging at the boat from pulling free.
If you want to learn some of the other keys to Short’s cranking success, including the colors he relies upon and how he orients his replacement trebles, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.