VanDam: Time to crank shallow

We're into that time of year when shad have moved into the backs of creeks on most reservoirs, and the bass are piling in there to fatten up.

 Baitfish are lured into the creeks by cooler water and nutrients being flushed into the system by fall rains. This creates an excellent feeding opportunity for the bass prior to winter and a great time to utilize shallow running crankbaits.

 Spinnerbaits and flipping techniques work well, too, but I think the crankbait is a better choice, especially when the water is relatively clear. You need to cover water quickly to find the bass. Crankbaits make that possible, and they best resemble the forage.

 Now, if the water is heavily stained, the vibration of the spinnerbait or well-placed jigs and plastics dropped into cover may work better.

 I prefer square-billed crankbaits now because of the erratic action they deliver. You can catch them on a variety of crankbaits, but the smaller, square-billed body baits are ideal when the bass bunch up in the shallows.

 I helped in the development of Strike King's new, KVD 1.5 and 2.5 square bills that have produced extremely well for me this fall. Both run 4 to 6 feet deep, depending on line size, although the 2.5 has a little bigger body profile. Both deliver a unique erratic action.

 The baits are weighted so that they constantly search slightly from side to side. The erratic action resembles an injured baitfish.

 In fact, we purposely built in some "instability" in the way the lures run so that they kick abruptly off rocks, stumps, or dock posts.

 When I head into a creek during the fall, I will have multiple rods rigged with different line sizes, baits and colors. The water tends to be a little more stained in the back than it is near the front of the creek, so I'm prepared for all conditions.

 For example, if the water is stained, the fish will be shallower and holding tighter to the cover, so I'll use heavier line and a bigger bodied bait, like the 2.5, in sexy shad colors. In clearer water, I prefer the smaller bodied 1.5 in natural colors.

 I want the bait hitting bottom or off cover, so the various line sizes helps me make the appropriate adjustments.

 When the fish are in the far backs of creeks, they can be extremely shallow. I cast the crankbait right up "into the dirt" and hold the rod tip high as I begin the retrieve. When the bait moves into deeper water, I'll lower the rod tip.

 Key spots are the edges of mud flats that drop into the channel. That's where you'll find hidden stumps that bass use to ambush shad.

 So, when you go to your favorite lake this fall, head into the creeks, look for shad activity, and cover water with a crankbait. If there's shad in the area, the bass will be there, and you can load the boat quickly.

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