Keys to Early Season Lipless Crank Trophies
F iftten-time bassmaster Classic qualifier Todd Faircloth comes from East Texas, a region chock full of lakes filled with aquatic vegetation and big bass. That’s what makes it Ground Zero for lipless crankbait strategies.
Therefore, it should surprise no serious fan of bass fishing that the two biggest bass he’s landed came on a lipless crank—one at Toledo Bend in January, the other at Sam Rayburn in October. For consistent big fish action on this versatile lure, however, there’s consistently no better window than February and March.
“A lot of people say it’s a ‘dummy bait,’” he said. “Yes, it is good for the novice, but if you know a few tricks you can make it into something better.”
His number one suggestion if you’re chasing bigger than average fish is to upsize your lure. In the years that he successfully fished team tournaments with his father, one of them would throw a ½ ounce lure and the other would throw a ¾ ounce model.
“Time and time again, nine times out of 10, the ¾ ounce would catch bigger fish,” Faircloth said. “That’s not a coincidence.” Nevertheless, he’ll usually start with the smaller one when he’s searching, then go bigger when he locates a group of them.
Obviously, it’s easier to fish the ½ ounce model shallower, in the two to four foot range, and the ¾ deeper, typically in five to eight feet. However if pressed, he’s established a system to fish the heavier version in shallow water by increasing his line size, often all the way up to 25-pound test fluorocarbon.
No matter which size he uses, he prefers Strike King’s Red Eye Shad, which runs true and shimmies on the fall. However, he noted that at times he’ll switch from the standard rattling version to the silent or the new “Tungsten 2 Tap” models.
“It varies from day to day, but a lot of times if they’re really pressured, the silent version will get you a few more bites,” he said. It’ll still move a lot of water and have a large presence in the strike zone, but it won’t offer up the negative cue of sound to discourage reluctant bass.
He said that the most important lesson he learned fishing the grass-filled lakes of his home region is that “It’s essential for the bait to stay in touch with the cover. The strikes usually come when you rip the bait free from the grass,” he explained. “It’s a reflex reaction strike.”
Attaining the proper cadence and line angle forces the angler to walk a tightrope. Too fast and the often-lethargic fish won’t eat the lure. Too slow, and it’ll get bogged down in the grass and fouled up. Even if you don’t have grass, if you can deflect the lure off of a log or dock piling, it achieves the same effect.
Red lipless cranks are of course a Texas staple—actually, they’re deadly anywhere in the south. Faircloth has caught his share of monsters on them, but he doesn’t like to throw the same color as everybody else.
Although he tends to stick to crawfish patterns in the early part of the year, he’ll move to models that are more orange or chartreuse. His general rule of thumb is to go bold in dirtier water and more translucent in clearer water.
No matter which size or color he uses, Faircloth prefers an EWG or O’Shaughnessy style hook. “The fish have a lot of leverage to them with this style of lure,” he said. “These hooks tend to pin the bait to the fish so they don’t have so much leverage.”
Fortunately, fish tend not to jump in colder water, but the second he feels one coming toward the surface he’ll get his rod angle down low, and even kneel on the deck of his boat to keep them from trying any acrobatics. Most of all, if you want to avoid losing these fish, he advises that you “don’t rush it. A lot of people lose big fish because they rush the process.”
He fishes his Red Eye Shads on a CastAway Todd Faircloth Signature Series “Big T Shallow Cranker” (Model SKX-TFSC), a 7 foot, 2 inches medium-heavy stick rated for lures up to one ounce. It has a gradual bend that he believes keeps fish buttoned even during a long and arduous fight.
Atop the reel seat he mounts a Shimano Curado (7.2:1 gear ratio) spooled up with Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon, most often in 16-pound test, but as noted above he’ll go up to 25-pound test to get a big bait to stay shallow. The line’s thin diameter still allows his lure to wiggle and rattle without restrictions.
If you want to learn more of Todd Faircloth’s winning secrets, be sure to check out his full seminar video by subscribing to www.bassu.tv.
Email Pete Robbins at ContactUs@fishgame.com