Bill Lowen doesn’t like to talk about it on tour, but one of the best ways to fish a crankbait is not to burn it, or retrieve it a moderate pace, or even take it for a slow stroll. When pressured fish want a hard bait, but won’t bite when it’s just proceeding forward steadily, he likes to “worm” it through the cover that normally just sees jigs and soft plastics.
It’s not a new technique – and he said that it remains popular on the Ohio River and other highly pressured waterways – but much of the country has never heard of it or tried it and that makes it prime for tough-to-catch largemouths, smallmouths and spots relating to cover.
As with any presentation, “it’s one of those things you have to let the fish tell you to do,” Lowen said. “When I know they’re there and can’t get them to bite it any other way, I slow way down. I get a slow speed reel, something like 5.4:1, and bring it back as slowly as I can reel while still feeling the bait and making contact with the cover. I like to get it down in the cover, whether that be rock or wood, and then slow it down as much as I can.”
In rocky cover, that typically just consists of a glacial retrieve. In wood, particularly laydowns, he uses his rod tip to guide the lure through the branches. For this purpose he almost exclusively uses a flat-sided bait, notably the Ima Shaker. “It’s not as buoyant as a Square Bill,” he said. “And it has a rounded nose. If you reel it really fast it might hang up, but if you just creep it along it’s amazing how easily it will crawl through the thick stuff.” When you think you’re going slow enough, try to slow it down even more.
The release from cover is often the triggering mechanism for strikes: “It’s just a really cool action, almost something I can’t describe,” he said. “When you reel it up to the cover and then just slowly ‘worm’ it through, it kind of springs up off the cover. It’s not something that happens if you reel it fast. When it pops up like that, I pause it, and that’s usually when the strikes will come. It’s the weirdest bite you will ever get. You lose all contact with the bait and it kind of gets pushed toward you and then the rod loads up.” Luckily, they tend to get the Shaker in the back of their throats, and even if they don’t its super-sharp hooks will nab even a tentative biter.
He uses 12 lb. fluorocarbon almost exclusively for this technique. Not only does it provide necessary sensitivity to let you feel the cover and also those weird bites, but it keeps the bait down in the strike zone for what seems like an eternity, even if it’s barely moving forward.
Bill had recent success with this pattern at the Table Rock Event.