Smash Early-Fall Bass On Shallow Cranks


Exciting news! Some of the best bass fishing is underway with autumn’s arrival. While many lures put fish in the boat, few are as good in early fall as shallow-running crankbaits. Here’s what you need to know about this reliable pattern for catching smallmouth and largemouth bass.


Timing The Bite

When cool overnight temperatures arrive and tree leaves are changing colours, it’s time to start cranking the shallows. For smallmouth and largemouth, early fall represents a last hoorah for gorging on abundant forage in the shallows. Bass are often active and eagerly pounce on cranks.


More good news is that by late summer, many shallow aquatic plants have died-back or wilted. This results in more open-water areas conducive for crankin’.


All-Star Shallow Cranks

Catching bass on crankbaits isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Having different lures helps tailor tactics to what bass like best. Do this by experimenting with running depth, lure action, rattling versus silent models, and so on. Here are some reliable baits with running depths of 3 to 6 feet.


The BX Brat Series is a good place to start. All three sizes have a modified V-bill and balsa wood core encased in a hard copolymer shell. BX Brats are great for hitting and deflecting off of cover, which is a reliable way to elicit reaction strikes.



The Jabber Jaw’s popularity is red hot right now. It has metal cheeks and a chattering bill that moves side to side on the retrieve, producing an erratic swim and a distinct, clicking noise.



The DT Series crankbaits are, quite literally, money makers, having helped bass pros cash tournament cheques for decades. The rattling DT04 and DT06 are long-casting, quick-diving and feature an irresistible swimming action.



The legendary Storm Wiggle Wart is another must. This bait is great when bass prefer a loud rattle presentation with a lively rolling action and a pronounced tail kick. This bait is a good choice in stained water.



Last but not least is the new OG Slim 6. Born in the garage of professional angler, Ott DeFoe, the non-rattling OG Slim is a flat-sided balsa bait. It has a more conservative action than the above lures. And, like the noisier Jabber Jaw, bass haven’t had time to get accustomed to the OG Slim - and that translates to more bites. Even though new to the series, Rapala pros have already used this baits to cash big tournament cheques.




In early autumn, largemouth and smallmouth stalk the shallows for baitfish, crayfish and, in some waterbodies, gobies. Tailor crankbait colour selection accordingly. Have white and silver baitfish patterns, but also browns and darker greens to mimic craws and gobies.


Don’t forget loud patterns, like Firetiger and Chartreuse Shad. These bright finishes can stimulate strikes, especially from smallmouth.


Where To Crank Shallow

Start with shorelines. Docks, laydowns, sunken logs and rocky points are all prime for shallow crankbaits. Be on the lookout for distinct vegetation edges. These open lanes make it easy to swim a crankbait without excessive hangups.


Smallmouth and largemouth often cruise shallow flats mixed with sand, rock and vegetation. Cast to spots where the flat’s uniformity is disrupted by structure or cover variances.


Tributaries also deserve attention. Several baitfish species migrate into rivers in autumn. Explore these zones, casting a crank to anything looking fishy.


Retrieve Tips

Anglers only need to keep a few things in mind to catch a whack of bass on crankbaits in early fall. First, cover water. This helps contact as many fish as possible.


Second, don’t be shy fishing quickly to appeal to aggressive fish. Speed also elicits strikes from neutral bass.


Third, make the crankbait hit structure and cover. The erratic behaviour of a squarebill deflecting off riprap, a log, dock post or other object is a sight few bass can resist.


Fourth, experiment with the retrieve. Add brief bursts and short stops using the reel handle. Occasional rod twitches are another way to make a lure appear like panicking, vulnerable prey to bass.


Lastly, let the bass tell you what they want, then adjust accordingly. Try different lures and retrieve styles. Then, when a bass bites, repeat what worked and refine as needed.


Crankin’ Combo

Fishing shallow running crankbaits is best done with a technique-specific rod. Options include the 7’1” Omen Black (OB3C71C), 7’ Fate Black (FTB3C7C) and 7’1” Envy Black (EB2C71C). These rods are a good length and have responsive tips suitable for making accurate casts to shallow targets. The above crankin’ rods have moderate action blanks, which provide shock absorption to keep treble hooks pinned and get fish in the boat.



Sufix Advance Monofilament is a great line for the above tactics. It casts exceptionally well and is abrasion resistant. Advance Fluorocarbon is another option. Fluorocarbon can make a crank dive a little deeper. With both lines, 12-pound test is suitable for most scenarios.



As summer fades into autumn, savvy anglers use shallow-running crankbaits to catch a ton of smallmouth and largemouth bass feeding-up in the shallows. Why not give the technique a try this fall? Trust us, you’ll like the results.