Bass Fishing photo

When water temperatures range from about 40 to 55 degrees, bass will snatch a speeding shallow-running crankbait, yet ignore just about anything else retrieved at the same pace. These crankbaits let you quickly probe lots of water to locate largemouths that have moved from deep winter haunts to shallow prespawn staging cover, including submerged wood, rocky banks, and early-season grassbeds. This illustrated guide tells you how to choose the right shallow-running crankbait for each type of cover and how to make it irresistible to the spring lunkers lurking there. All you have to do is follow the instructions and keep the net handy.

SHALLOW WOOD COVER, especially if it’s close to the deeper water of a creek channel or other dropoff, is a prime place to find feasting prespawn bass. Tie a fat-bodied craw-colored crank to 17- to 20-pound-test line and cast it to logs, stumps, and cypress knees. Run the crankbait along the length of downed trees, bumping it into limbs, branches, and roots. Be ready for a strike when the lure ricochets off the cover. If your crank hangs up, lower your rod to put some slack in the line; the lure should float toward the surface. Bass may need a little extra coaxing at this time of year, so make repeated casts to a promising piece of cover, particularly on its sunny side.

Prespawn bass commonly stack up along natural rock or riprap banks. To catch them, position your boat over 8 to 10 feet of water along a rocky shore and cast a shallow-running crank with a wide, rounded bill at a 45-degree angle toward shore so it lands within inches of the bank. Then retrieve the bait at a slow to medium clip. Be sure to bounce it off the rocks and work it all the way back to the boat. The bass may hit anywhere from 3 to 10 feet deep.

Concentrate on grass in the deeper ends of reservoirs where clearer, stabler water conditions tend to keep bass biting this month. Use a depthfinder to locate submerged vegetation in the lower reaches of creek arms. Work the edges of the weedbeds, as well as the stretches of thinner grass extending from them. The border between new green grass and dead grass can also be very productive; identify such spots by purposely snagging some growth with your bait so that you can inspect it.

Target vegetation that tops out between 4 and 7 feet beneath the surface. Work a slim-bodied crank deep enough to tick the grass, ripping the lure through to spark strikes.

COLOR: Throughout much of the country, prespawn bass are keyed in to crayfish. Make sure your red, orange, and brown cranks are the first ones out of the box.

BILL: A short, square shape protects a bait’s hooks from snags in woody cover. For a lure that will dive in to and deflect off of rocks and riprap, choose a wide, rounded bill that angles slightly downward from the nose of the bait. To rip through submerged grass, go with a narrow, rounded bill.

BODY: Bass around stumps and blow-downs seem to prefer the wide-wobbling action of a fat body combined with a square bill. A medium-size body gives a medium wobble, best for bass in rocky cover. A tight-wobbling, thin body helps your bait maneuver quickly through the tops of weeds.

HOOKS: Sluggish early-spring bass can be light biters. Your crankbait should have premium, sharp, round-bend hooks to cut down on missed strikes. Replace inferior hooks if necessary, sharpen dull ones, and check the points often as you fish.