Take a look on any angler’s deck when bass are lurking in shallow water and it’s almost guaranteed that you will find at least one rod rigged with a squarebill crankbait. Why? Because these dynamic lures have proven to be consistent fish catchers on all levels of competitive and leisure fishing throughout the US and beyond.
Even an avid offshore structure fisherman like Bassmasters Elite Series pro, Jeff Kriet, respects the important role of a squarebill crankbait in shallow water situations.
“Squarebill crankbaits are a bait you always have to have on when shallow fish are located. They are a big money maker on the tour today,” said the Ardmore, Oklahoma-based Kriet.
Legendary lure designer, Jim Bagely, created the Bagely Balsa B back in the 1970’s. His goal was to produce a lure with a different action than previous crankbaits. Instead of a standard “swimming” motion straight back to the boat, which is characteristic of coffin-billed and standard crankbaits, Bagely’s squarebill had a unique “hunting” action. The unassuming 7/16-ounce wooden bait swam side to side in an erratic and random motion that would entice strikes from bass that were conditioned to spinnerbaits and plastic worms.
Another key element to Bagley’s design was the shape of the bill -- hence the name “squarebill” -- that enables the bait to deflect off cover without getting snagged. This feature allows anglers to throw this style of crankbait where previous models could not have been fished productively. The square bill essentially acts as a bumper on a car, protecting the hook points from underwater obstructions such as log jams, dock pilings and lay downs where bass hide.
Kriet says he prefers balsa baits when fishing around heavy wood or other thick cover. “Balsa is more buoyant than plastic, which makes the bait less likely to snag, and easier to pop free when you do get hung up,” he explained.
Today’s angler is faced with an array of squarebill crankbaits in hundreds of different designs, sizes, and colors. Each has different characteristics that make them all unique baits in terms of diving depth, body style, materials and color combinations. “They have become versatile baits with different sizes that can cover different water columns,” observed Kriet, a seven-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier.
So how can everyday anglers improve their success with a squarebill crankbait?
“Throw it in places most people won’t,” Kriet advises, adding that “Deflection is key, and the majority of your bites will come when you bounce it off a limb or something else.” With baits being as weedless as they are, he explained, it’s easier to bring them through laydowns, brushpiles and other shallow cover.
Both professionals and weekenders have proven that these shallow diving baits are fish catchers. Many top professionals on today’s tournament trails have won big bucks tossing these plugs around shallow cover, and with so many different types of squarebill crankbaits on the market, it is no wonder that these fish-catching machines have taken over the shelves of tackle stores and the tackle boxes of fishermen.