Shallow humps, extended flat points, and tapered bars outside of spawning pockets are all great target choices when bass are post-spawn in late spring. But here’s the thing: It’s not easy to comb these expansive areas with a search bait that you are confident is going to appeal to bigger fish. Some techniques like dragging Carolina rigs and football head jigs are effective if the fish are concentrated and numerous, but if the big ones are scattered, it’s important to use a bait that covers some ground and deflects off key cover for reactions. Swimbaits are up to the task, but generally speaking, the water has to be clear for them to knock it out of the park. Heavy spinnerbaits work well too, but the bass’s level of aggression has to be pretty high to make a full day out of throwing big spinning blades. Enter the shallow-running giant crankbait. This lure perfectly fits the bill for this late spring scenario, but the thing is, getting these deep-diver to work shallow usually requires some garage mods.
Years ago, I wrote a blog about basic dos and don’t for crank modifying, which you can read here (and I suggest you do before moving on). What’s important to understand before you start shaving the bill of that expensive deep-diver is that the body and bill of a crankbait are often designed to work together to achieve the action advertised on the package. That said, you have to modify a bill in slight increments. Never brashly start filing, or you will quickly render the bait utterly useless. Also remember that as long as your changes are congruent on both sides of the bill, and you smooth out the really rough or squared-off edges, the odds of your mods working are much better. To help me be as precise as possible, I like a heavy-duty vise for holding the bait rock steady as I tinker. I use a Dremel with several different bits to cut and trim crankbait bills, and I fine-tune them with an over-the-counter callus trimmer and various grit grades of sandpaper.
To avoid becoming lost in a sea of mods, don’t feel the need to tweak 20 baits. I advise taking your best deep diving lures on a given body of water and modifying 3 silent versions and 3 rattling versions per year. If your mods work, you can modify more; if they don’t, you haven’t invested a huge amount of time into making them. Just be sure that before you even take the first cast, you have your plug knocker near by to for retrieval should one of the baits you worked so hard on get hung.
If modifying your stock bills doesn’t get you where you want to be, you can also remove them completely (I use Dremel saw) any buy short, shallow-running aftermarket bills from suppliers like Jann’s Netcraft. The trick to a full bill replacement, however, is to be as particular as a fine artist, and to test, and retest, and retest some more. Your ultimate objective is to create large crankbaits that will run 7 feet or less effectively, and in fairness, honing the process that creates these baits can take years. To put it in perspective, I have about a dozen of these modified baits that I cherish. It took me a dozen years to get them built just right, I’ve thrown out more than a dozen failures, and lost a dozen more to stubborn structure. Of course, I can also think of more than a dozen times they put me one-up on the competition in the right late spring conditions.