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Fishing with Kenny: The How and Why of Squarebill Crankbaits

By Katie Sloan
In Fishing with Kenny
Nov 30th, 2017

article by Kenny Covington

Think fishermen, be it the tournament angler or just someone who likes the purity of the sport, are always looking for the perfect lure. A lure that works no matter the time of year, weather condition, color of the water or where you might be fishing. The squarebill crankbait is just such a lure and while many people will use this bait, very few of them understand how effective this bait can be, no matter when or where it’s used.

My introduction to a squarebill crankbait was when Rick Clunn used a Poe’s lure to win the 1990 Classic on the James River. I remember buying those same lures thinking I would fill my boat up with the bass this lure could catch. It didn’t take long for reality to set in. I caught an occasional fish while using it but it wasn’t the “secret” to success that I thought it would be. Looking back, I had a really good lure, I just didn’t know how to fish it.

I didn’t realize how important deflection was on a lure retrieve. I was afraid to throw my lure in the places where I thought I might get hung up. I wasn’t aware of line sizes and the correct rod/reel set-ups. I didn’t know much about changing out factory-installed hooks for pre-sharpened ones. I was at the beginning of a learning process and since then, I sure have learned a lot.

Looking back, you can see how much things have changed. Tackle stores are full of plastic squarebill crankbaits manufactured by numerous lure companies. The wooden hand carved versions are still the most expensive, costing as much as $25 each. The average cost of the mass-produced versions are around $6 and most all have proven they will catch fish.

Squarebills come in several sizes with the smallest being just over an inch in length, while some of the bigger lures will measure close to four inches in length. All of them have a place, and the more you can learn how to apply each one, the more effective your squarebill fishing will be.

What size and when?

As a general rule the 2-2 ½ inch version is the “go to” choice of most fishermen. This particular size squarebill is the most popular and is generally the best-selling version, regardless of the manufacturer. It works year round and while the choice of colors can be overwhelming it’s best to keep them simple. For stained water in the late winter or early spring stick with crawfish colors or chartreuse patterns. Shad patterns are always effective in the late summer and throughout the fall months.

A good time to use the smaller squarebill is early in the fall when the bass are feeding on small baitfish. The smaller version can be extremely effective in clear water and also on heavily pressured fisheries. When using these smaller lures, keep your color choices simple by using a basic shad pattern, and in extremely clear water the “Ghost Minnow” color is always a great choice.

The larger version squarebills such as the Bagley BB III, the Luck E Strike Series 4 or the Strike King 4.0 are best in warmer water situations such as late spring and early summer. Bodies of water with continually stained-to-muddy water colors are usually where these lures shine. The biggest drawback of fishing the larger version is that these lures are prone to catch a larger size fish so you will sacrifice the number of strikes for a better quality fish.

What is the best rod/reel and line? 

If you ask any number of fishermen about their equipment you will get as many answers as the people you ask. There are no absolutes. I have found that rod, reel, and line play a role in the success I have when fishing squarebills.

For the smaller versions a 6’6 glass rod is a good choice. It makes throwing smaller lures much easier and their placements more accurate. When choosing your reels, try to keep your gear ratios the same. This keeps the retrieves in the same rhythm regardless of the lure you are throwing. As far as line, the smaller the squarebill the lighter line you will use, but there is no reason to go below 12 lb. test.

When throwing the medium size lures a seven-foot glass rod or medium heavy graphite rod usually work best. The longer rod will allow you to throw the baits farther but also give you more power on your hookset, controlling the fish once it is hooked. For this size squarebill, line size should be 17- 20 lb. test.

The larger squarebills are the hardest to match equipment wise. A seven-seven and a half foot medium heavy graphite rod is the best choice. The heavier rod makes hook penetration easier because the heavier rod allows the bigger hooks on the lure to penetrate. Line size should be 20 to 25 lb. These heavier lures require heavier tackle in order to fish them effectively.

Where should I throw a squarebill?

The understood rule of squarebill fishing is to throw it in the same places you would a spinnerbait. The heavier lines we referred to earlier will allow you to minimize the number of lures you lose regardless of the terrain you are fishing.

Laydowns, rocks, docks, submerged grass, and cypress trees are some of the more popular targets for using this particular technique but really the fish-catching possibilities are unlimited. The only bad place to try and fish a squarebill is simply the cast you refuse to try and make.

Well it looks like we have run out of space for another month. Please be careful this holiday season if you are on the water or hunting the woods. Catch one for me and I will see you next month!