Not every crankbait has to dive deep or dig the bottom to be productive.
In fact, some of my favorite lures for catching big bass run near the surface and have become excellent substitutes for spinnerbaits.
I’m talking about the genre of super-shallow crankbaits – lures that bulge the water like a spinnerbait and never get deeper than 2 feet. They have short, angled lips that allow them to dive – but not too far – and internal rattles that call fish to the bait.
Mann’s was one of the first to introduce these baits with the 1-Minus Series that includes fat-bodied baits of various sizes. Most other crankbait companies offer similar versions, too.
I really like fishing the shallow plugs around cover in clear water. A spinnerbait would normally be my first choice, but sometimes clear-water bass aren’t as eager to hit a spinnerbait as they are a crankbait. That’s when subtle colors, shad colors or even some of the translucent colors are the best choices.
Shallow runners are good lures for fishing over grass or through bushes. If bass swirl at my spinnerbait, buzzbait or topwater lure and miss, they often will come back and hit that crankbait.
The shallow runners also are great baits to fish around boat docks where fish tend to suspend in shady sections. Tubes and small worms are more popular choices for fishing under docks, but when the fish are suspended on a sunny day in spring or fall, you need something that stays in the strike zone longer. I like to crash the 1-Minus along the sides of the dock, or when possible, pitch it beneath the dock and wake it out to the boat.
The same strategy works when bass are suspended in flooded bushes in early spring. If the bass have seen a lot of spinnerbaits, try a super-shallow runner and you’ll catch fish that other anglers aren’t getting.
Mann’s offers several sizes, with the Baby 1-Minus being the most popular. For me, the Mid 1-Minus, which is a size between the largest 1-Minus and the Baby 1-Minus, works best in a variety of situations. The key is to match the hatch, just as you should with other types of lures. If the baitfish are running large, opt for the larger version. But if the bait is small, downsize your lure.
One of the drawbacks to the smaller sizes is you can’t put big hooks on them because they will tangle. The Baby 1-Minus comes with No. 6 trebles, but I prefer No. 4s because they increase my hooking/landing ratio.
Until recently, the No. 4s didn’t work because they tangled too much. However, a friend showed me a neat trick that solves that problem. I’ve found it works on other crankbaits as well. He removes the rear treble hook from the back of a Baby 1-Minus and then slides on a rubber O-ring that he has taken from a spinnerbait. He then puts a No. 4 treble onto the crankbait and pulls the O-ring over the split ring and eyelet to keep the hook from swinging under the body and tangling with the front hook.
You don’t need a lot of skill to fish the super-shallow crankbait either. It’s a simple matter of casting and winding it in, although it helps to vary your retrieve speed when the standard retrieve isn’t working.
As I do with most crankbait fishing, I use a medium or medium-heavy rod with a fairly soft tip and 14- or 17-pound line on a baitcasting reel.
The next time you’re fishing ultra-shallow water and the fish won’t take a spinnerbait, give an ultra-shallow crankbait a try. You may find it’s a valuable tool that catches fish when more traditional tactics aren’t working.