One of the most popular phrases in bass fishing is “reaction strike.” You’ll see it in fishing magazines, on websites, fishing shows and from other anglers. It refers to whenever you cause a bass to strike when it’s not actively feeding.
Perhaps the most recognizable current fan favorite for producing reaction strikes is the square billed crankbait. Unlike traditional crankbaits, which excel when fished high in the water column, square billed cranks work best when they’re fished around cover.
Here are three places you should be throwing square billed crankbait in order to maximize their effectiveness and the number of bass you catch.
Many anglers think treble hooks and wood don’t mix. These anglers are wrong. Unlike a standard crankbait, square bills are actually designed to deflect over wood and can be amazingly snag-free, even when fished in the thickest of laydowns—trees that have fallen into the water. The key to not getting snagged is to keep your rod tip high and delicately work the crank through the laydown as if you were fishing a finesse worm. If you get snagged, pause and pop your line; this usually frees the bait and can often times trigger a strike from nearby bass.
Aside from laydowns, rocks offer a fair amount of deflection for square billed crankbaits. Wherever you see rip rap—a shoreline made up of rocks—you’ll find bass hanging out in the nooks and crannies when they’re not feeding. They may not be enticed to bite a worm or jig, but when a square bill careens off the rock they’re sitting behind, they can’t resist. Here, keep your rod tip down and concentrate on grinding through the rocks. Bonus Tip: Pay attention to your hooks, as a few hours cranking rip rap can quickly dull them.
When bass are situated on weed lines in four to eight feet of water, it can be tempting to turn to a swimbait, spinnerbait or chatterbait to draw strikes. However, a square bill can be absolutely deadly in grass. Their shallow dive profile makes them adept at clipping the tops of the weeds and any time they get hung up, just give it a rip to pull them free. The deflection that occurs when a square bill rips free of the grass is enough to trigger even the most lethargic of bass.