Deciding which lure to choose can be difficult and confusing to say the least. That is why Texas Kayak Fisher has decided to start a new series of articles called "Which One?". These articles will focus on similar lures, but with subtle differences such as color, size, weight and action. To start off the series we will look at lipless vs. square bill crank baits. Hope you enjoy.
Crank baits are possibly one of the most important lures a bass fisherman can bring along. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and allow you to search a lot of water extremely fast. Which one should you choose though? This depends on three major characteristics for the lure: size, color, and action, and two major characteristics for the water you are fishing: clarity and structure. Lets start off by looking at water clarity.
Depending on time of year, location, and recent weather water clarity can vary. To make things simple, we will only consider three types of water clarity: clear, stained, and murky.
Obviously, in clear water fish can see much better as can humans. This means that your presentation has to be that much better and more realistic. How do you do this? The main thing you want to do is try and downsize your lures and make the colors more translucent. The translucent lures allows light and some background to show through the lure making it look like a more natural object in the water, and after all fish do blend into their environment so having the translucent lure allows the environment to blend into the lure. The Yo-Zuri Rattl'n Vibe is a great choice if you are wanting to throw a lipless crank bait and the Strike King Square Bill Crank Bait in the Sexy Ghost Minnow is also a great choice for a true square bill crank bait. Both of these lures are small and are translucent thus fitting into the clear water category, however, a lipless and square bill crankbait will perform differently and this needs to be taken into consideration.
I have caught fish on both lipless and square bill crank baits in clear water, but overall the lipless seems to work a little better. The removal of an actual "bill" could help to make a more realistic profile and a sleeker design, thus working more efficiently in clearer water. However, if there is a lot of logs and structure, I without a doubt will be throwing a square bill like the Strike King.
With this said, you should use the lipless crank bait if you can maneuver through the structure, but if not go ahead and through a smaller sized square bill crank bait.
Stained and Murky
For overall fishing success, I have found that stained water is optimal. The fish can't see quite as good as in clear water and the lure selection becomes slightly more easy. As was stated earlier, clear water requires a more natural, translucent, and smaller lure. However, stained and murky water needs a darker, bigger, louder, and more noticeable lure. This can be achieved by simply getting a larger lure, bright colors for stained water and very dark colors for murky water, and by making your overall presentation a little more obnoxious if that is the correct term to use here. The Strike King Square Bill Crank Bait is still a great lure, but you will want to go for the larger and more vibrant variation. The lipless is also a great option still, but once again go for a slightly larger and more flashy variation.
Structure is kind of the overriding variable in this case, because even though one type of lure may be better than the other it may not even be able to go where the bass are. Lipless crank baits are actually pretty good at going over logs and some rocks here and there, but a much better option for structure is the square bill crank bait. You can throw a square bill in pretty much anything you want excluding weeds, and even then you can rip through some of them if it isn't too densely filled with weeds.
One of the great things about bass fishing is the skill that is required to make certain casts. It is not very easy to make a cast land in a one square foot area with overhanging trees and structure all around, and a good cast isn't any good without an appropriate lure. If you feel like you are in this type of situation I would probably tie on a square bill crank bait. Overall both the lipless and the square bill will cast pretty well as they are pretty streamlined and will not be affected too much by the wind. Do be careful with some of these bigger lures though as they can cast very far on a good cast - sometimes right into a tree.
It is also important to recognize the action of the two lures here. A lipless crank bait will sink, whereas a square bill crank bait will float. This being said, if you are trying to make a cast where it is important that your lure doesn't sink into structure below, the square bill is the better option. On the other hand, if you want your lure to sink below a little deeper, the lipless is much better.
The Bottom Line
So which one is better? This isn't a clear cut answer, but if you could only have one lure to have in your tackle box I would say it should be a square bill crank bait, most likely in a larger size with a chartreuse coloration. The reason for this is because the capability to cast almost anywhere besides heavy grass and weeds. When a square bill comes off of a log or bounces off the bottom of a rock bottom river it is almost impossible for a fish to resist. The square bill seems to be a more versatile lure to me and for that reason I would select it as the winner of this match up of "Which One?".