Unfortunately I haven’t had the boat in the water with a rod in my hand but once in the last three months. That’s about to change. With a chill in the air and lots of fall fishing ahead, I started thinking about which crankbaits I would like to throw. There are thousands of crankbaits out there now, all with subtle little differences. So I put a list together of my 5 favorite fall crankbaits.  Some of these I haven’t had a chance to use much, some I’ve been using for years, and all will be tied on at some point this fall when the conditions are right. Here’s a breakdown of the what, when and where I’ll be taking into consideration when fishing a crankbait this fall. 


Storm Arashi Flat

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Water Clarity: muddy, stained, 0 to 3 feet of visibility.
Depth: 5 to 7 feet
Structure: wood, rock
Lure Color: Mossy Chartreuse Craw, Red Craw, Rusty Craw
Water Temp: 72 degrees to 60 degrees
When: early fall

I like the Arashi Flat when fish are first starting to head back into creeks and pockets. Targeting fish around laydowns on transition banks, I like to use the Arashi Flat in areas with a lot of color in the water. The aggressive rattle in the Arashi paired with some of the vibrant colors make the bait easy to track down for the aggressive fish feeding up in the early fall. When there’s an overabundance of shad in an area, sometimes it’s better to go the other direction when it comes to the ‘match the hatch’ mindset. Going with a craw color or some other bright color that looks nothing like the bait in the area can be appealing to a fish looking for a little gravy to go with its biscuits.

The self-tuning line tie helps the Arashi Flat get back on track after deflecting off of wood. This is particularly important when fishing laydowns since you want to keep the bait right along side the tree as much as possible. The erratic action of the bait deflecting will trigger the strike, but if the crankbait deflects too much and runs up in the water column and takes 10 feet to correct itself, you’ve missed 10 feet of the strike zone.




Spro Fat Papa 55

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Water Clarity: stained, 3 to 5 feet of visibility.
Depth: 5 to 9 feet
Structure: wood, rock
Lure Color: Nasty Herring
Water Temp: 72 degrees to 50 degrees
When: fall

The Spro Fat Papa 55 has a little tighter wobble. Although this crankbait can be fished throughout the fall, I think I’ll like it best as the shad first start moving into the creeks in the early fall. The Fat Papa 55 has a rattle but it’s not as aggressive as that of the Arashi Flat, so I’ll lean towards water that is a little clearer and a little colder and I'll use more of a natural shad color.

These fish will want something that looks a little more realistic and a bait that isn't overly aggressive, so matching the hatch comes back into play. I’ve caught a lot of fish on the Fat Papa 70 as fish are coming and going off-shore, but I haven’t had the opportunity to throw the Fat Papa 55 a lot. Won’t be able to say that for long though. Knowing the quality of the Fat Papa 70 and the realistic paint schemes of the Spro lineup, I see the Fat Papa 55 as nothing more than a juicy little nugget of goodness that fish in the fall are going to love. With a smaller profile and the perfect depth range for fall fishing, the Fat Papa 55 is one bait I’ll have confidence in before I ever even tie it on.




Spro RK Crawler

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Water Clarity: clear, 3 to 10 feet of visibility.
Depth: 9 to 14 feet
Structure: rock
Lure Color: Green Craw
Water Temp: 60 degrees to 45 degrees
When: mid to late fall

The RkCrawler (Rock Crawler) was built with cold water in mind. Designed by Mike McClelland primarily for the spring, this bait also offers a great alternative for the fall time cranking enthusiast. With a color range focused on mimicking crawfish, the RkCrawler 55 doesn’t imitate shad or other bait fish like most crankbaits. It’s made to fish in clear water and present the darting action of crawfish trying to escape from a predator. As you reel the bait, it's actually impersonating a crawfish that is swimming backwards as it darts blindly from side to side hunting a crevice to tuck into. The RkCrawler has this same hunting action as the real deal.

No rattles, natural colors and the hunting action make this the perfect bait to target fish in rocky, clear-water situations. I like to go with this bait in areas with no shad or areas with an overabundance of shad. The sloping transition banks headed into creeks an pockets are a great place to start, focusing on areas where the rock changes from gravel to chunk or any other variation.




Jackall Bling 55

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Water Clarity: muddy to stained, 1 to 5 feet of visibility.
Depth: 3 to 5 feet
Structure: rock, wood
Lure Color: SG Threadfin, Chartreuse Shad
Water Temp: 72 degrees to 50 degrees
When: fall

The Jackall Bling has been in my arsenal for several years now. Probably the first flat-sided squarebill I ever bought. I like the Bling because you can fish it a little deeper than a traditional squarebill and it also has a little tighter wobble. Right at home swimming through shallow brush, laydowns and along rocky banks, the Bling is a great addition to the lineup for the fall. I’ll use it in stained water and muddy water mostly. Loud rattles help draw the fish in and the square microchip bill helps bang the bait around as it makes its way through the cover. 

But the coolest feature that sets the Bling apart has to be the ball bearing in the bait. It’s designed to shift from the front of the bait to the back when casting to make the bait more aerodynamic. The only problem with flat-sided crankbaits is they sometimes get the potato chip effect when trying to cast them. With this deal, the weight shifts to the back and the tail heads out first, ensuring the bait cuts through the air and casts much farther. This one has been a favorite of mine for several years now and one I'll fish throughout the fall.




Strike King KVD 1.5

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Water Clarity: muddy, 0 to 3 feet of visibility.
Depth: 0 to 3 feet
Structure: wood, rip rap
Lure Color: Black Back/Chartreuse
Water Temp: 72 degrees to 40 degrees
When: fall

The Strike King KVD 1.5 is just a good old standard go-to squarebill. It’s a workhorse in my boat. I love fishing squarebills and have sampled a lot of them. Straight out of the box, the KVD 1.5 is as good as any of them, especially for the price. This one is an all fall and really all year crankbait for me. Regardless of the water temp, I’ll beat and bang the 1.5 off of shallow wood and rock. And I like the water muddy.

A lot of people shy away from shallow, muddy water when it’s cold but the fish are still there. As the fall fades into winter you just have to be intentional in the way you fish a squarebill. The fish slow way down and you should too. As the water gets colder, the fish get lethargic. Bass are cold-blooded creatures so their environment regulates their internal systems. The colder the water, the slower their metabolism and other bodily functions operate. This causes the fish to need less energy and thus to eat less. Therefore bass won't chase baits or react aggressively to a bait beating and bang around or blowing by them. In late fall and all through the winter and early spring I’ll fish a squarebill around shallow stumps and rocks and creep it along just fast enough to keep the bait’s action true. A lot of times when you get a bite it’ll just feel like you’ve hooked a limb and the fish will ease towards the boat, in many cases hair-lipped. I’ve had fish refuse to fight and come straight to the net. They’re so lethargic that they'll have mud on their bellies where they were just sitting on the bottom and they didn’t fight hard enough on the way to the boat to wash the mud off. Pretty odd when you see it for the first time.



More from Shaye Baker   

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