Bill Lowen can slow down and fish a Carolina Rig, drag a tube, or jiggle a dropshot, but given the choice he’d rather keep moving…FAST. While he’s willing to pick apart a defined area, running and gunning come naturally to him, and when fish are aggressive he’s in his element, and almost always ends up in the check line at tournament’s end.
Lowen designed the IMA Square Bill crankbait to be effective at just about any speed, including being “wormed” snaglessly through fallen timber or retrieved at a steady moderate clip, but he’s happiest when he can burn it. Several times a year he gets an opportunity to do just that when chasing northern smallmouths.
“The great thing about the Square Bill is that when you burn it over the flats for smallmouths, it won’t blow out or roll over,” he explained. Earlier this spring on Michigan’s Lake St. Clair Lowen found smallmouths on grass flats with isolated rocks. A soft plastic was too slow to locate and entice the scattered fish, and a spinnerbait or normally-retrieved crankbait wouldn’t tempt them. It took a warp speed Square Bill to get them fired up and keep them fired up.
“Smallmouths are known for eating baits that go fast, but there are almost none on the market that you can burn without them blowing out,” he advised. With the Square Bill, he gives it everything he can with a 7:1 gear ratio Abu Garcia Revo and hasn’t had the first problem. He’s excited to try out the new Revo Rocket, a 9:1 burner that will enable him to cover even more water in less time. He expects it’ll force uncommitted bronzebacks to make a decision to eat his bait.
Whether he’s burning it or finessing the Square Bill through cover, in either case Lowen relies on the same rod, a Castaway 7’ graphite medium heavy that throws the lure a country mile and but doesn’t have the limp noodle feel of some glass rods. “I’m not a big fan of composite rods for this technique,” he explained. “This is more like spinnerbait fishing than typical crankbait fishing.”
Cranking an ima Square Bill can produce nice smallmouths.
While a non-stop, fast-as-you-can-go retrieve is often the best, Lowen always experiments to see if a particular cadence produces more or bigger fish, or perhaps hooks them better. Fortunately, the lure does a lot of the work on its own. “Once I play around and dial it in, you can pattern fish on it,” he said. “But the lure hunts so much on its own that you really don’t have to apply any action. Basically all I’ll usually do is give it a split-second pause, barely stop turning the reel, and that’s usually enough.”
He likes this presentation best when it’s sunny and windy, with water clarity of at least 3 to 4 feet. Since the smallies like bright colors, his go-to patterns are Lowen’s Hush Hush (the color he used at St. Clair) and Bone, although anything with a bit of chartreuse in it is likely to garner strikes when conditions are right. He fishes the lure straight out of the package – “It’s the perfect profile size, and those smallmouths are so fast and the bait is so small, that they usually swallow the whole thing.”