Illustration by Robert L. Prince
It’s February, and your home lake is just a few degrees shy of freezing. Most bass fishermen would opt to drag a finesse jig slowly across the bottom in water this cold, but California pro Chris Zaldain scores lunkers now on shallow-diving crankbaits. “Female bass are gobbling large crayfish now, bulking up big-time prior to their spring spawn,” Zaldain says. Here’s how to catch them.
Zaldain relies on a squat, shallow-running square-billed crank like the Strike King KVD 1.5 (above), which dives 3 to 6 feet, for this late-winter approach. The lure’s short, rectangular lip allows it to deflect off cover such as submerged logs, stumps, and rocks without hanging up. Since the lake is usually murky to muddy now due to runoff from seasonal rains, Zaldain favors bright colors. “You need 15- to 20-pound line with squarebills since you’re constantly grinding them off abrasive cover,” Zaldain says.
Go for Broke
This is most certainly not your grandfather’s bass fishing method. “I call it kamikaze-style cranking,” Zaldain says. “You want to cast the lure directly at shallow cover, then grind it down hard against the wood or rocks with the reel handle so the plug roots erratically around the gnarly stuff, then suddenly deflects off it, like a frightened crawdad.” Zaldain uses his rod to steer the lure smack into key bass-holding locations—the juncture of a tree trunk and a major limb, the shady side of a stump, or a patch of rocks lining a shallow ditch.