An old lure style gets some new attention

Posted on: May 23, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

SquarebillSquare bill crankbaits are great for targeting bass in shallow water, regardless of the time of year.

The name – square bill – sounds reminiscent of some kind of exotic duck.

But it’s a style of crankbait.

They’ve been around forever, said Texas bass fishing pro James Niggemeyer. In the last few years they’ve received some renewed attention, however.

The reason, he said, is simple.

“It’s just a very versatile kind of crankbait. No matter the time of year, you’re going to have fish in shallow water. And a square bill crankbait is a great search tool for finding them,” Niggemeyer said.

Credit their shape.

Their square bill, paired with a bulbous body that promotes a wide wobble, brings the lure over, around and through cover that would ensnare other crankbaits, Niggemeyer said. It’s almost weedless, despite its array of treble hooks.

The effective angler takes advantage of that.

“You want to get it right in there and bounce it off stuff,” Niggemeyer said. “I like to run it into things. I like to run it into rock, run it into woods. I want it to ricochet as it’s coming through stuff. That change of direction is what’s going to draw strikes.”

You’ll know if you’re fishing one correctly not just by the bass on the end of your line, but by the look of your square bill, agreed Bill Lortz.

A tournament angler and operator of NY North Country Bassin’ guide service in Rochester, N.Y., he fishes square bills a lot in early season, in water no deeper than four feet. By year’s end, if he’s worked his lures right, they’ll be knicked and dinged, with the edges of the bill chipped or even rounded off.

“The whole thing with these is, you want to get them grinding down on the bottom. You want it to dig in. That’s what’s going to draw strikes,” he said.

Niggemeyer chooses square bills and determines how to fish them with certain factors in mind.

Some have rattles. He prefers those without.

He goes with bright colors, like chartreuse, in dirty water, and more natural colors in clear water.

In cold water he’ll bring one back to the boat with a slower retrieve; in warmer water, he’ll burn it, jerk it, stop it, then start over again, all to provide erratic action.

“A lot of times, that’s what’s going to attract bites from those fish,” Niggemeyer said.

Tournament pro Mike Delvisco of Tennessee agreed. When one of his square bills hits something like a stump, he lets it sit for moment before he starts reeling again.

“You always want that bait to be doing something different. You’re not just casting it out and reeling it in,” he said.

Letting a square bill sit for a second after bouncing off of something, almost like it’s stunned, often makes it irresistible to bass.

“That bait stops right in his face,” Delvisco said. “When that happens, that fish has no choice but to come up and eat that bait. He can’t help it.”

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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Bob Frye is a storyteller with a passion for all things outdoors. He hunts, he fishes, he hikes, he camps, he paddles, backpacks and snowshoes depending on the season. If he’s not an expert at anything, it’s because he’s passionate to try a little bit of everything.