How-To Buddy Gross’ prespawn crankbait tacklebox Posted on March 10, 2023 Photography by Craig Lamb Captions by Craig Lamb Buddy Gross grew up fishing on Chickamauga Lake, and what he learned paved the way for a successful career as a Bassmaster Elite Series pro. Gross has proven his skills elsewhere, winning two Elite Series titles, one of those in early spring in the grassy habitat of Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes. Gross is an expert at locating late winter and prespawn bass. He chose the crankbaits in this tacklebox specifically for intercepting migrating largemouth as they transition along creek channels toward the spawning areas. Gross went full disclosure with the selections, as he does not have a crankbait sponsor. “Crankbaits really shine in the prespawn, because of their versatility,” Gross said. “Most of all, they cover a lot of water, can be cast far to cover water, and deflect off cover for reaction strikes.” Of no surprise, red is a go-to color for crawfish fed upon by bass in his home water of the Tennessee River impoundments. Jackall TN/70 (Spawn Tiger)Bait details: A Tungsten Mouth System on the outside lip keeps the bait upright when striking bottom, creating greater vibration and sound that carries greater distances. Another key attribute is a unique balance system that provides balance for slow retrieves that are ideal for subtle presentations during late winter/early spring. Why he likes it: “I use a yo-yo action, allowing the bait to nose-dive into shell beds or hard bottom,” Gross said. “That tungsten lip carries sound a long way, and it gives out a very unique, strike-appealing noise that attracts bass from a distance.” For that reason, Gross favors the bait on hard bottoms to maximize the sound-emitting qualities of the lure, and especially in his preferred water temperature range of 60 degrees. SPRO Aruku Shad 75 (Delta Craw) Bait details: A defining nose-down position during retrieve makes the lure look like a feeding shad moving along the bottom. Why he likes it: “I like it for the faster fall for a reaction strike as the bass become more active feeders during prespawn,” Gross said. “It’s a bait that you can yo-yo off the bottom or move it quick when needing to cover water.” XCalibur Lipless Crankbaits (Rayburn Red)Bait details: Gross is a collector of the various lipless crankbaits in this out-of-production series for their unique action and sound, which differs from available production models. Why he likes it: “This is what I like to throw around grass because it stays higher in the water column, and I can keep it above the grassline,” Gross said. “It has a slower fall, tight wiggle and you can pop it free out of the grass.” SPRO Little John MD 50 (Fire Craw)Bait details: Designed by fellow Elite pro John Crews, the MD 50 is a medium diver with a longer dive bill that reduces hang-ups by making the lure flip over branches. A tungsten weight transfer system helps the lure swim true through open water without tracking to the side. Why he likes it: “I like to parallel channel swing banks with wood and grass, because it runs so true and straight,” he said. “It deflects really well off cover, and hits that key prespawn depth zone for migrating fish.” Adding to the benefits is the weight transfer system when throwing the bait on windy days. Rapala DT 10 (Demon)Bait details: The DT dives it to a preset depth (10 feet for the DT 10), while the buoyant balsa body prolongs time in the strike zone, which is especially productive over grass. Why he likes it: “I throw it on calmer days when you need a more subtle approach without a rattling crankbait,” Gross said. “The balsa stands out when you fish it above grass; you can keep it just over the tops for a reaction bite.” Gross always has this balsa go-to tied on when he wants a subtle presentation. Evergreen CR-8 (Ayu)Bait details: The lure is equipped with a large weight transfer system for casting distance, while a unique weight transfer system produces a pronounced wobble to maximize reaction strikes. Why he likes it: “It’s a premium bait and is very versatile for rock, wood and grass, with or without wind,” Gross said. “More than anything, the weight transfer system lets you throw it a country mile.” SPRO Rock Crawler 55 (Spring Craw) Bait details: A wide wobble action is the appeal of this late winter/early spring go-to lure that dives in the key 9- to 14-foot early spring strike zone. Why he likes it: “Like the name implies, it’s designed for deflecting off rocky bottoms, and the sound carries a long way when you are trying to intercept moving bass.” Gross favors the lure for stained water, and especially in creeks with recent runoff that runs warmer and provides ambush points.