Add ‘lipless’ to fall arsenal


Garrick Dixon

Once fall fishing moves out of the early funky period, bass anglers can enjoy some of the best action of the year.

We’re already experiencing some of that in the north. The water is cooling here and the shallow fishing is heating up with active bass chasing pods of bait.

As waters cool the bass move into flat pockets and shallower creeks in reservoirs. On natural lakes, they will move back on the same flats where they spawned in the spring.

There are a lot of ways to catch those fall fish, but the challenge an angler faces is trying to find them. There is a vast amount of water with a limited amount of cover. Cover isn’t as critical, though, as fish are focused more on forage and not relating to visible cover. In the South its shad; in the North it’s crawfish and bluegill.

One of my go-to baits, especially when I’m trying to locate fish, is a lipless crankbait. It’s not only efficient for covering areas quickly, but fall bass really respond to the tight action and sound it emits.

Windy flats can be some of the most productive, but that’s not always the case. You can trigger lipless crankbait bites in dead calm areas when the bass are feeding heavily.

That’s what I encountered while fishing in northern Michigan recently with sweepstakes winners. I saw groups of emerald shiners on my graph around a grass bed in 8 feet of water. I tried spinnerbaits and swimbaits – baits that can be effective this time of year – but couldn’t get a fish to commit. When we tied on Strike King’s Red Eye Shad the action was immediate. We caught them pretty good that day.

It’s another example of how the Red Eye triggers bites when other baits don’t.

There are various ways to fish lipless baits in the fall but the most popular is to cast it out and wind it back. That can be effective, but I prefer a pull-and-drop or yo-yo presentation, especially when fishing deeper than a few feet.

The advantage to the Red Eye over most lipless crankbaits is it stays balanced when you let it fall. Instead of falling to the side, it remains upright and has a slow, seductive wobble, just like the flutter of a dying baitfish. I will burn it a few feet, let it fall, and then burn it again.

The Red Eye comes in the standard model that contains several rattling BBs. It’s also offered in a Tungsten Two-Tap that offers a knocking noise that is different. The Two-Tap is heavier and runs deeper, therefore it’s excellent for yo-yoing over a little deeper water.

Red Eyes are made in 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 ounce, but the 1/2 is my favorite. However, if the water is less than a couple of feet and the baitfish are small, I will go to the 1/4. Now, if the fish are big and the water is deeper, I like the 3/4.

I will use shad colors when fishing reservoirs but will switch to a bluegill or crawfish color on northern natural lakes.

Keep in mind that line size can help you control depths. I fish mine mostly on 17-pound fluorocarbon but will go to 10 pound if I want to get deeper quicker. I fish it on Quantum’s KVD 7-foot cranking rod and will use the rod length to help control depth; if it’s shallow, I hold the rod higher; if deeper, I hold the rod down.

Remember the lipless crankbait when setting up your rods for fall fishing in the coming weeks.

And don’t forget that it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on You can also find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.