Shake, Rattle, and Bounce

The same moves that attract bass to lipless crankbaits in open water also work when doing the bottom hop.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Most anglers know that a lipless, rattling crankbait, retrieved at a lively pace, covers water faster than any other lure and automatically hooks any takers. It is an unbeatable fish finder whenever bass hold near the surface, especially over submerged weeds.

But what most anglers don't know is that bouncing lipless crankbaits over the bottom is a lethal ploy when bass retreat to deep water. This technique, however, requires more skill and attention than a simple steady retrieve. You must work the lipless rattler with the rod tip, essentially playing tag with the bottom, which must be relatively clean with few snags. You also must sense when a bass strikes -- usually as the lure falls -- and respond with a timely hookset.

Bouncing takes full advantage of the lipless rattler's attributes. The lure's fast sink rate lets you fish it deeper than any other crankbait. Its tight wiggle provokes bass when ripped off the bottom, while the internal BBs grate on a bass' nerves when the bait swims and bounces, provoking jolting strikes. And throughout the retrieve, the lure's lifelike profile convinces bass they are looking at the real deal.

Structures that lend themselves to rattle bouncing include points, dropoffs, roadbeds, and flats. If you've pinpointed a specific target, such as a sunken bridge or a group of boulders, vertical jigging is the best approach.

To jig vertically, first position the boat directly over the bass and let the lipless rattler sink straight down to the bottom. Then repeatedly raise the rod tip and let the lure flutter back down. Try everything from slow lifts of only 6 inches to sharp rips that snatch the lure up 4 feet at a pop. This is the same technique used with metal jigging spoons. The difference is the lipless rattler presents a livelier, noisier, and more natural-looking temptation.

To cover larger structures, such as expansive flats and humps where bass scatter to feed, make long casts and impart a bottom-hopping retrieve. Since bass on flats don't provide specific targets, the speed afforded by rattle bouncing lets you systematically fan your casts with optimum efficiency. If any bass are on the prowl, the odds are good you'll run the bait past them. The commotion generated by bottom bouncing also pulls bass several feet, increasing the lure's potency.

Long casts will increase bottom coverage. Thanks to its compact shape, a lipless rattler takes off like a rocket, especially when matched with a fiberglass 6 1/2- to 7-foot medium-action rod. A limp 12-pound-test monofilament allows for a fairly fast sink rate yet is strong enough to subdue heavyweight bass in open water. Drop down to 10-pound-test when fishing deeper than 20 feet. Thinner line slices through the water more easily, affording a faster sink rate.

Bouncing a lipless rattler over a dropoff, the most basic and consistent of all structures, charms bass with something they're not accustomed to seeing. Any time you give bass a different look, you're more likely to arouse their curiosity.

Hold the boat over the deep side of a dropoff, and bounce the lure downhill. If that doesn't initiate a response, position the boat over the shallow edge of the drop, cast into the deeper water, and bounce the rattler uphill. The latter method helps the lure maintain more positive bottom contact and often triggers strikes when the traditional downhill retrieve fails to get action.