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Your Guide to Fishing Lipless Crankbaits for Spring Bass

Learn how to select the best rattle bait for spring bass fishing and how to use these proven performers to maximize your catch rate.

early spring bass on lipless crankbaitearly spring bass on lipless crankbait

“Another one?!” Jimmy Mason called out as he turned and saw my rod deeply bent. The previous cast had yielded a 6-pound Guntersville largemouth, and I was hooked into a 4-pounder. “Rayburn Red Hard Knocker, getting it done,” Mason said as he slid the net beneath another chunky bass.

Mason, a tournament pro and veteran guide on Guntersville, Wheeler, Wilson and Pickwick, had predicted that Hard Knockers and One Knockers would be the order of the day, with a lot of bass in pre-spawn mode and Guntersville’s abundant and diverse vegetation developing nicely.

Springtime ranks among the best times for fishing lipless crankbaits, also commonly called rattle baits, for bass. The narrow profile and tight action appeal to fish that are still a bit chilled, while the sound and vibration help bass find the bait. Because there is no lip to control the diving depth, lipless crankbaits can be fished at a broad range of depths, which is valuable as bass move up and down in the water column with spring’s volatile conditions.

We’ll examine where and how to fish lipless crankbaits effectively this time of year and how to pick the best bait to tie on any given day.

Locations & Presentations

early spring bass fishingearly spring bass fishing

An important disclaimer to a look at the best locations for fishing lipless crankbaits is that these baits work well in many types of areas are among the best lures for simply following banks and working shallow structure to cover water and locate active fish.

Prime areas early in the spring include pockets where the bass will spawn, the shallow ends of points that are adjacent to spawning pockets, stump-studded flats, shallow hard-bottom bars, and riprap banks. All are made even better with coontail, hydrilla, eelgrass or other submerged vegetation.

Presentation-wise, Mason mixes thing up early in a day to figure out how the bass want the lure, varying presentation speeds, depths worked and rod movements and paying careful attention to what prompts strikes.

Often the best way to fish a rattle bait is simply to cast it out and reel it back steadily, possibly slowing the pace through each retrieve to let the bait fall a bit deeper to match the bottom slope. Over vegetation, the ideal speed kicks the top of the grass but doesn’t slide down into it.

At times, the key to prompting strikes is to add sweeps of the rod or slight pauses, especially as the bait reaches key zones.

One of Mason’s favorite presentations is to stair-step his bait down a slope with lifts and drops of the rod. He likens it to working a plastic worm. The bait vibrates hard with each lift and flutters as it drops. Over grass, he’ll feel for the bait hitting the vegetation and lift it again each time it makes contact.

Picking the Right Lipless Crankbait

BOOYAH One KnockersBOOYAH One Knockers

The best lipless crankbait to tie on can differ from day to day. Primary variables include size, sound and color. Conditions and situations greatly aid the selection process. That said, fish preferences aren’t always predictable. Therefore, just as it’s valuable to experiment with presentations, it’s often a good idea to have a couple of lipless baits tied on and to mix things up to aid the patterning process.

  • SIZE – Without question, 1/2 ounce is the standard size for lipless crankbaits. It’s heavy enough make long casts and can be allowed to sink or fished quicky with the rod held high to keep it shallow. That said, at times a smaller or larger bait provides a better option. That could be a matter of matching smaller or larger forage or catering to the fish’s mood. More often it has to do with depth, with a 1/4-ouce bait used to stay extra shallow and a 3/4-ounce model chosen to work deeper without the need to slow retrieves too much.
  • SOUND – A BOOYAH Hard Knocker and One Knocker look the same, except for a distinguishing tail spot on every One Knocker. They also have the same tight wiggle. The primary difference is that while the Hard Knocker (like most lipless crankbaits) has multiple small rattles and makes a high-pitched rattling sound as it comes through the water, the One Knocker has single larger Tungsten ball that creates a dull thud each time the bait changes directions. Each sound has its days, but the One Knocker tends to work extra well anytime a lot of bass anglers are fishing with lipless crankbaits.
  • COLOR – Red-dominant color patterns like Rayburn Red and Toledo Gold dominate during early spring. As spring progresses other colors gain importance. Dark, flashy patterns, like Gold Shiner and Copper Shiner tend to excel on dark days and in tannic water. Regular producers for brighter days include Royalty, Blue Shiner and Bling.
  • MODEL – It’s worth noting that different lipless crankbait models simply fish differently, with subtle variances in posture, sink rate or swimming action. Among the best examples is a classic Cotton Cordell Super Spot vs a BOOYAH Hard Knocker. A 1/2-ounce Super Spot “fishes lighter” than a 1/2-ounce Hard Knocker. It has a slightly larger body and more buoyancy to counter the same amount of weight and is therefore far easier to keep shallow without the need to burn it. As another example, Mason usually chooses a One Knocker over a Hard Knocker for stair-stepping presentations over vegetation primarily because the One Knocker falls more nose down, which is better for keeping the bait from getting bogged down in the grass.

Beyond Early Spring

bass on Cotton Cordell Super Spotbass on Cotton Cordell Super Spot

Mason contends that most anglers (himself included) tend to abandon a lipless crankbait too early in the year. Largely because of other approaches Mason likes to employ at other times, he typically stops throwing his rattle baits until fall after the spawn. However, when he does have one tied on in late spring or summer or when someone else in his boat uses a lipless bait late in the season, he is reminded that these lures’ virtue doesn’t go away when the weather warms.

In truth, because a lipless crankbait can effectively imitate a crawfish or a shad and because it can be fished shallow or deep, it ranks among the most versatile lures around and can be fished in a broad range of situations and will produce fish. Mason has one friend who virtually always has a Hard Knocker tied on and who catches fish with it year ‘round.

Mason also noted that the spawn timing is substantially staggered on any given lake, so even if an angler prefers sticking with pre-spawn applications, some bass are in pre-spawn mode far later in the spring than most anglers realize.

Graffiti Craw Series 

The limited-run Graffiti Craw Series of the BOOYAH Hard Knocker and One Knocker colors take versatility to another level as the “oil slick” overspray reflects a spectrum of colors like baitfish scales while the bold black pattern delineation on each color screams crawfish.

Five distinct base colors – red, blue, chartreuse, olive and bone – are most prevalent in the nose, belly and tail of the baits and set apart each Graffiti Craw Series bait. Collectively, they provide great color options for a range of water colors and conditions and to match various kinds of forage.