How To Fish Square Bill Crankbaits for Bigger Bass - Line, Rod, Retrieves

Crankbait Fishing Techniques and Tips
Learn all about square bill crankbait fishing in this instructional video. Detailed information to help you become a better angler.

The Rig....

Bait - Booyah Flex II -  

Hook - Gamakatsu Treble Round Bend Hook -  

Snap - DuoLock snaps size 1 - 

The Gear...

Rod -  Okuma crankbait rod: 

Reel - Helios Air reel:

Line - Seaguar Invizx Fluorocarbon Line - 

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Glenn: There we go. That's a better one. There we go… There we go.

There we go, got him on a square bill that's all tangled up in this net. Can you see that square bill right there? There we go, square bill net and all. Good fish.

Hey, folks, Glenn May here at And today, I wanna talk to you about squarebill crankbaits, how to fish those. They've become very, very popular over the past few years and for good reason, they catch a lot of fish. They're great for fishing in cover especially. They work themselves through without getting hung up as much as you would other crankbaits with different styles of bills. So let's talk a little bit about them. First of all, I wanna talk about the gear you use, and how to rig them up, and then, we're gonna talk about how to fish 'em.

So let's talk about the gear first of all. Here I've got a medium-power, fast-action rod, and what that translates to is you've got quite a bit of bend in here, good amount of parabolic action. A lot of give to it. And you want that in a rod, because when you gotta fish on, these hooks aren't huge. So when a fish is on, if your rod is too stiff, the fish has leverage against that and can actually rip the hooks free from its face. So, you wanna make sure that you've got a rod that's got a lot of give to it. Plus, a rod that's got give, it makes it easier to cast. It can load up, it can cast these lighter. These aren't very big baits. And load up these baits, and cast 'em really far. As you can see, it's got a nice squarebill to it.

This is a seven-foot Helios, by Okuma. Helios rod, in case you guys are wondering that is. Paired with that, I have a Helios Air reel. It's a 7.3:1 gear ratio, and I'm using it today because I'm reeling it back pretty fast. But when you're throwing it thick in cover, you actually wanna nurse your way through that cover nice and slow. So a slower gear ratio is fine with those. Anything say...some people go down to about 4.7:1 gear ratio. Perfectly acceptable if you're throwing in real heavy cover, because you're not gonna bring it back really fast. You actually need to slow it down, and work your way through all that cover. So a slower gear ratio is a good choice then. Here I'm throwing in open cover over tops of weed, so I'm fishing it back faster, so I'm using a faster reel.

Paramount, whatever reel you use is a good drag system. You want a nice, smooth drag. When that fish takes off and runs, yeah, that rod needs to give, so that the fish doesn't pull the hooks loose, but you also need the drag to be able to pull, nice and smooth, and to slow that fish down, give him some breaks without being jerk, jerk, jerk. If it's jerking like that, then it's just, every time it's pulling those hooks a little bit more and more free. So you need a nice smooth drag. Check that, whatever reel you decide to get.

Paired with that, I'm using 12-pound fluorocarbon line, in this instance. Again, I'm throwing in open water over weeds, so, 12-pound is perfect. Fluorocarbon has got that sensitivity I need. It's got the abrasion resistance. I can throw it over weeds. I can throw it over rocks. I can throw it over wood, and the fluorocarbon is gonna hold up and I'm gonna get that sensitivity. Plus, it's dense to it, it has a little weight to it. It helps get that bait down to the level it's supposed to run at.

Monofilament, by comparison, is a little more bouyant. It doesn't let that bait get down, and it has a little bend in the line when you're fishing it. So there's more line between you and the bait, so it's less sensitive. Braid is also really buoyant. It's even more so, has quite a bit of a bend between you and that lure. It doesn't allow that lure to get down as far. Braid also, isn't as abrasion resistance in rock, you get a lot of frays, nicks in it, and it can break off. If you're throwing into heavy bushes and cover, that might be the exception where I may use Braid. But even then, all as I do is I heavy up. I'll start using, maybe 17-pound, 15, 17-pound fluorocarbon. I won't go to braid, still, for the same exact reasons.

Keri: There we go. It's a largemouth. It is a largemouth. Not a super-big guy but...

Glenn: Square bill.

Keri: Square bill. Here he comes. All right, I guess I need pliers because now, I have to remove said hooks from said fish. And said fish has hooks all over said face.

Glenn: With the bait, what kind of modifications do I make? Well, it depends on the brand of the bait. Most baits these days come with super sharp hooks, but I check 'em all anyway. Right out of the package, I make sure that they're sharp. I drag it across my fingernail and I want it to dig into that fingernail. If it doesn't do that, then it's not sharp enough and I'll sharpen it. Right out of the package, hasn't even got wet yet, and I'll sharpen it. But most hooks come sharp enough today so I don't need to replace 'em.

Also, the split ring on the front, if you notice with this one, it's got an oval split ring. So, I'll tie directly to those, but if it's a round split ring, a lot of times, what happens is that knot will find its way between the wires and get right between 'em, and then that line will rub, and eventually, it will break right there where it connects to the split ring. So, I get rid of those and I'll use a snap, instead. Not a swivel snap, or a snap swivel, I use a snap. You don't need to use a swivel, all it does is it collects weeds, so don't use 'em, just a snap is fine. But I'll replace those round split rings with that. Other than that, that's just the modifications I make.

Oh, we got to get that camera out of the net.

Keri: Ya? You catch a fish, I'll be happy to get that camera out of the net.

Glenn: All right. You got yourself a deal. Okay, get the camera out the net.

Keri: Hey, look at that. Wow, crankbaits it is. They've gotta be crankbaits evidently.

Glenn: Come here. Oh, boy, I don't have you very good.

Keri: No you don't. I did get it out of there.

Glenn: Come here.

Keri: Nice job.

Glenn: There we go, all right

And the hook, it just fell right out.

Keri: Nice job.

Glenn: Square bill. I wanna talk a little bit about color now. Color is really location specific. We have a lot of perch in our neck of the woods, so this is a perch pattern that I love to use. It's got the yellow belly on it, orange-yellow belly. Perfect color for the lakes I fish in because that mimics the forage the best. Plus, it's a bright sunny day in really, really, super-clear water, so I try to go as natural as I can and don't go real flashy.

But, on sunny days, and the water is just a little bit dingy, then I'll go to a chrome with a black-back, or a chrome with a blue-back color that works really well. The wind's up on a sunny day, and the light penetration is breaking up just a little bit, great time to use chrome. 

If the light level is down or if I'm in water that's' really dingy, maybe a foot of visibility, then I'll go to like a gold-chrome color, or maybe even a really dark color, purple with black stripes. And I don't know why, but it works really well in those conditions or low light conditions. For me, at least it does. But that's about it. I don't go too crazy.

I know sexy shad, people like that color, use it, it works great in certain parts of the country. But you don't need 17 colors. Stick to the basics, and you'll be fine. Stick with the same sizes too. This is just a standard size color. You don't need to get really big or small. 

This one has a little bit of buoyant to it, so... and that's critical when you're fishing with square bills. You want a little bit of buoyancy to 'em because when you're fishing through that cover, especially wood, when you hit it, you pause and let it drift up a little bit. And that looks like it's wounded or stunned. Or you hit a log, or if you hit a rock or something, pause it, and it'll float up a little bit and it looks like an injured baitfish, that's a lot of times when you get a strike.

I like this one also because with the buoyancy in it, it has more erratic action. The idea with that square bill is when it hits objects, it deflects off at an erratic angle. Well, when it has some buoyancy to it, that amplifies that action, and that often triggers vicious, vicious strikes. So, I'm done talking about it. Let's go out and fish it, and show you some different ways how to fish it. Here we go.

Keri: Got another one?

Glenn: He smacked that. You can tell he wanted it.

Keri: Awesome, square bill fishing. He is pulling on it.

Glenn: He is pulling. Come here, dude. 

Keri: I haven't even seen him yet. I can't even tell you what he is. Oh, it's a nice largy.

Glenn: Come here.

Keri: Oh, it's a smallmouth.

Glenn: He's a smallmouth.

Keri: Nice smally, too.

Glenn: If I can get him in.

Keri: He does not want to come in. He takes one look at you, and he's like, "I'm done. I don't like you no more."

Glenn: Come here. Here we go.

Keri: Yeah, look at that one.

Glenn: It's a good-looking smally.

Keri: Nice looking smallmouth. Look at that.

Glenn: I'll take that.

Keri: Yeah, definitely.

Glenn: Okay, so the key characteristic with square bills is, hence its name, a square-looking bill, okay? So that gives it the ability to deflect off cover better than the rounded-bill baits. And there's a simple reason why for that. The rounded-bill baits, when it hits cover, what they do is when they hit it, the bait kinda curves off like this. It turns and then goes over the cover. The hooks can, therefore, get embedded. Say, for example, it's wood or tree or a branch or something like that, the hooks can get caught on that, because the bait will curve off of it. With a square bill, it's gonna get caught on that piece, the body will come up and it'll come off at a weird angle. It will deflect. Their body is gonna protect the hooks from getting embedded in the wood.

Now, it's not 100% foolproof, it's not 100% weedless, but they come through cover a lot better than round-bill baits. So, for that reason they're very popular for fishing in cover, in particular, wood cover.

Now, I don't have that right here. I wish I could demonstrate it to you. But, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna show you how you fish that through woody cover. First of all, what you wanna have is a bait that is buoyant, and that floats. This is why I've got the Booyah Flex II. It does float. There are some suspending and sinking models but for going through cover, you'll want the floating kind. The reason being is as you pick it through cover, when you hit something you'll wanna pause it, and give it the ability to float back up, and get away from that cover.

So, the key to fishing it through all that, you gotta kinda pick it through it. If I were throwing, say for example, a lay down or something like that, instead of just cranking it really fast like I normally would, here you just kinda wanna slowly pick it through that cover, real slowly. And when it hits that branch, you pause it, let it float up above that branch, and then start bringing it through again. Just pick it through, nice, slowly and carefully, and you won't get hung up. That bait is gonna float back up. As soon as you hit that branch, just let it come up and away, and that body is gonna protect those hooks from getting hung up onto it.

It's a great way of fishing cover with moving baits. And spinnerbaits are another way you can fish it, but crankbaits or square bills, work really well for this application. And that's what makes them so popular because other crankbaits are just not able to do it. So, when you're fishing that kinda cover, the key to it is fishing it really slow. 

However, there's lots of other ways to fish, a square bill. First of all, it's a small bait, right? It's really easy when you cast it out there, is to just reel it back in at a pretty fast pace. Don't do that. Most people fish 'em too fast. You wanna fish it at a slow to moderate pace. Why? Because the bigger fish hit it at that speed. So most of the time, most of the time, fish it nice and slow. See how slow I'm reeling it? This is a 7.3:1 reel. So I'm bringing it nice and slow. And that's how you wanna crank it, nice and easy. Now, it's gonna be easy for you to remember to do that the first few times you cast it. However, once you're 10, 15 minutes into it, 20 minutes into it, give yourself a gut check, and see if you're still reeling it slow. A lot of people start speeding up slowly without realizing it, and a few minutes later they're fishing it really fast.

So, cast it out there, and reel it back nice and slow to moderate speed, and keep checking yourself to make sure you're staying at that speed, and you're gonna catch larger fish.

That said, this bait works really well over submerged cover such as submerged milfoil, submerged hydrilla. And for that, you actually wanna fish a little bit fast, because you wanna get a reaction strike. The fish are buried up in those weeds, they just wanna see something go right by their heads really fast and they don't have a chance to examine it, they'll react to it. But for that, it's a little bit different. Yeah, you're reeling it back fast, but keep your rod tip up. 

There's two reasons for that. First of all, you keep your rod tip up, it's gonna stay over the top of those weeds. But when it ticks those weeds, or say, for example, there's a stump or a log or laydown in there in the middle of it, what happens when you have the rod tip up like that, it's gonna deflect and it's gonna bounce up away from it, away from that cover by keeping that rod tip up. So it's not gonna bury itself down in those weeds if it happens to get stuck. You guys know some of you who crankbaits, if you start catching weeds it'll bury itself right down into it, or burrow down into it. Keeping that rod tip up will prevent that from happening. So try that out.

Couple of other retrieves to do even in open water, is the stop-and-go retrieve. One of my favorites. You give it an erratic retrieve. So you're bringing it, you're reeling at this nice moderate speed, and then you just pause it, and then bringing in a couple more cranks of the handle, and pause it. And this, you wanna be erratic. So don't get into a pattern. You wanna like reel, reel, reel, stop, and let it pause for a really long time, then two cranks to the handle, pause, let it come back up. I'm actually digging into the cover I have down here so it's hard for me to show that, but just keep varying that. What you want is a definitely erratic retrieve.

What it does is it looks like a baitfish that's injured or disorientated. Bass are programmed by nature to attack injured baitfish. So, that's what you're trying to mimic there, just the stop and go retrieve. A straight, steady retrieve often catches fish, but if they're not biting that, that's the kinda retrieve you wanna have.

And then lastly with these is the sweep retrieve. It's a variance of that, but it's a little bit different. It kinda looks like a fleeing baitfish. Cast it out there, give it a few cranks down below, and then you wanna sweep it with a rod tip, and then pause. Reel up that slack, let it sit. If it's a buoyant crankbait like the one I have now, let it float back up a little bit, and then you sweep it again, and let it pause.

And just vary how far you sweep it and vary how long you let it pause, but a lot of times, it gets a strike while it's paused. So watch that line carefully, get ready to set the hook. Make sure you get your rod up here ready to set that hook, and then just pause it, and get that rod up here again, and wait, and wait, and wait, and sweep it again. Real effective way of fishing fishes, affecting... I can speak. It's a real effective way of fishing when the fish are a bit lethargic and they're not really willing to chase the bait down. That can work really well to elicit that strike.

So those are some of the different ways that I fish it. I hope that helps. For more tips and tricks, visit