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Square Bill Crankbait Guide

Even with a common bill shape, different crankbaits have distinctive characteristics. We’ll look at six top square bill crankbaits and the best applications for each.

Not all square bill crankbaits are created equal.

That’s important to keep in mind when you are choosing a lure to tie on this time of year. We’re not talking about performance quality or durability (although those are important considerations). We’re talking about variances in shape, sound, size, swimming action and more that cause different lures in the same category to excel in different situations.

When we speak of square bills, we’re talking about shallow running crankbaits with diving bills that are flat in the front and that have corners, instead of being rounded in front and on the sides. As a category, square bills are considered the best crankbaits for working through shallow cover.

We talked with Ohio angler Frank Scalish about square bill crankbaits. As a lure designer, custom lure painter and former nationally touring bass pro, Scalish understands bass and bass lures like few other anglers, so he’s a great person to talk with about what makes different baits unique and the best applications for each.

Plowing Grass – Norman Fat Boy

The name says a lot. The Norman Fat Boy has a fat, round profile and is extra buoyant, which is valuable for floating out of cover. It swims with a very wide wobble, which causes it to push a lot of water and makes it extra good for banging through brush or rocks and especially for plowing through weeds.

“It’s the best square bill for pulling through grass,” Scalish said, noting that he’ll have one on anytime the cover includes a mix of wood and grass or rock and grass. During autumn, he especially likes to fish a Fat Boy on windy days, fishing cover along windblown banks, where plankton has been pushed and shad are therefore gathered.

Constructed from butyrate, the Fat Boy has a low-frequency rattle that sets it apart from many other crankbaits. It us 2 inches long, weighs 7/16-ounce and runs to about 4 feet.

Check out our Lurenet-exclusive Fat Boy colors, created by Scalish.

Square Bill Stealth – BOOYAH XCS

It might sound strange, but the BOOYAH XCS is somewhat of a finesse square bill. It is silent, with no rattles of any kind, and its action is tighter than that of a typical square bill crankbait. It still deflects well, because of this lip design, but it is much more subtle than most other baits in this category.

Scalish picks up the XCS when he wants a square bill crankbait but the water is extremely clear or an area has been getting heavy fishing, meaning fish have been seeing (and hearing) plenty of lures.

“You can get a lot of bites going behind someone with this bait when the bass get used to hearing rattles,” Scalish said.

The BOOYAH XCS Series comes in two sizes. The XCS100 is 2 5/16 inches long and weighs 1/2 ounce. The XCS200 is 2 3/4 inches long and weighs 5/8 ounce. Both dive to approximately 3 feet.

The Original – Cotton Cordell Big O

The Cotton Cordell Big O doesn’t quite have corners on its bill but tends to be categorized as a square bill crankbait. It was the original lure that defined this category of crankbait, and the bill shape, which is like those that have more defined corners, makes it outstanding for deflecting cover.

The Big O comes in 2-, 2 ¼ and 3-inch sizes, with everything except the size being identical in all three. The smaller two are extremely effective in smallmouth streams and great for grinding gravel bars and kicking of boulders to prompt strikes. The largest is most often used for largemouths.

Scalish is a huge fan of the middle size – the C77 Big O – and fishes it year-round anytime he finds baitfish and bass suspended about 5 feet beneath the surface. Because he’s targeting suspended fish, Scalish doesn’t normally plow a Big O through cover. He’s happy to tick an occasional rock top or branch – something that sometimes triggers strikes – but for the most part he swims it through open water.

“It’s a perfect-sized shad imitator,” Scalish said. “There’s just something about it that bass can’t resist. When the situation is right, I fish it a lot. It’s also a spotted bass killer”

Brush Specialist – Bomber Square A

Like the Norman Fat Boy, the Bomber Square A is substantially plump. It has a unique bill with two corners on each side, and it is outstanding for fishing through brush.

“It’s almost like a weedless bait when you fish it through wood,” Scalish said, noting that the Square A has long been his crankbait of choice for working through heavy timber.

The Square A comes in two sizes. The BO4SL is only 1 5/8 inches long and weights ¼ ounce. The BO5SL, which is the one Scalish ties on for cranking timber, is 2 inches long and weighs 3/8 ounce. Both stay shallow, with a maximum running depth of 3 feet.

Hunting Bites – Bandit Rack-It

The Bandit Rack-It is a fairly large square bill crankbait at 2.75 inches and has a molded-in, shaved lip that causes it to “hunt” in open water and to deflect cover well.

Hunting refers to the tendency of certain crankbaits to unpredictably veer to the side from time to time and quickly return to center. This variance in the swimming action triggers strikes, much like when a crankbait bumps cover, rolls sideways and gets attacked.

Like the Fat Boy, the Rack-It is made from butyrate, so the rattling is deeper and duller than the sound of most square bills. It’s loud, though, and outstanding for calling fish from deep in cover and for helping fish find it in dirty water.

The Rack-It also runs a bit deeper than most other square bill crankbaits, diving 4-5 feet with normal cast and retrieve presentations.

Almost Square – Bandit 100

The Bandit 100 is a classic shallow runner that has the same body size and shape as the deeper running Bandit 200 and 300.

This bait isn’t always categorized as a square bill. While its short diving bill certainly has corners and is flat in front, those corners are rounded, not pointed, and it gets used at least as much for cranking over clean bottoms as for fishing through cover.

That said, the Bandit 100’s “squarish” bill makes it a top performer in brush and sparse vegetation and for kicking off cover, such as stumps and dock supports. Many anglers like to fish a 100 in tandem with a 200, using the 100 to fish extra shallow cover and the 200 to work steeper banks or fish a bit off the bank.

The Bandit 100 It is 2 inches long and weighs ¼ ounce. It runs 2 to 5 feet deep.

Cranking Deeper Grass for Late Fall Bass