The rule of thumb for pre­spawn, coldwater bass is to fish slow. But like every other rule, this one is made to be broken, and bass pro Kevin VanDam does so with a lipless rattling crankbait.

VanDam concentrates on points and submerged grassbeds, as well as 45-degree banks and flats adjacent to creek-channel bends. Early in the season, he’s a big fan of crayfish patterns, particularly those that are bright orange-and-red in stained water and green-and-brown in clear water. VanDam prefers to fish a lipless rattling crankbait in one of those color combinations at a fast clip.

According to VanDam, Strike King’s 1⁄2-ounce Diamond Shad runs deeper than other lipless rattlers, which is an advantage in cold water during the prespawn. With 8-pound monofilament, he’s able to run his unmodified lure down about 7 feet. Rather than using a deliberate stop-and-go retrieve, which many anglers employ now, VanDam keeps the nose of his bait quickly tap-­dancing over the bottom.

The faster retrieve covers more water, he points out, increasing the odds of running the rattler through the strike zone of a bass. In the cold water, VanDam notes that the fish’s strike zone is going to be significantly smaller. “If you get the lure in its face, the bass just has to bite,” says VanDam. “It can’t help itself.”


From the April 2012 issue of Field & Stream_