With spring in full swing throughout most of the country, anglers head to shallow waters in search of big bass. While finesse baits may catch them, springtime shallow-water cranking is one way to land the biggest fish. YakGear Brand Ambassador Tim Hotchkin gives us the details on how throwing crankbaits can produce impressive catches during the spring.
Hailing from northwest Arkansas, Hotchkin is now finding bass in the shallows, as the spawn is set to go.
“They are starting to spawn here. Bass in smaller bodies of water are moving up and on beds,” Hotchkin said. “Two weeks ago, at Table Rock, I found all the bass right up on the shoreline and I caught them all on a crankbait.”
While Hotchkin will adapt his presentations and fishing style when dictated by conditions, his love of fishing fast with a crankbait has given him great results in the spring.
“I think what it really comes down to is changing where you are targeting fish and changing up the style and depth of the crankbait you are using,” he said. “In early spring, with water temperatures in the low 50s, I was catching them on a Wiggle Wart crankbait.”
Hotchkin doesn’t really pay much attention to where bass are in the spawn cycle, but keys in on water temperature and methodically covers water until he finds his fish.
“For me, a lot of it is water temperature. I always start up close to shore and then work myself out. When they are closer to the spawn, I find them closer to shore,” he explained. “If I get bites close to shore, I know they are pushed up. Whenever it warms up and they start pulling off the bank, I still look for shallow flats because even though they are through spawning, they aren’t always necessarily out in deep water. You’ll still find them in that 7-foot-and-under range.”
Matching the crankbait color and size of the baitfish bass are feeding on is another key to locating quality fish. Big bass will hang around the perimeter of spawning shad, redear, perch, and bluegill in hopes of ambushing errant baitfish.
“Last year when the bluegill spawned, I downsized my crankbait and changed my color scheme to match the bluegill or redear,” Hotchkin said. “I would throw it adjacent to the beds and, many times, I would find those bass that are lurking around.”
Hotchkin also looks for structure such as stumps or moss beds that are sure to hold fish, and has advice for those who fish without a fish finder.
“If you don’t have electronics, take a minute and look along the shoreline for signs of cover,” he said. “I also use my paddle to judge water depth. Start with a squarebill, throw it parallel to the bank and work it back with a slow retrieve. Work a stretch of bank and then move further off until you find the gradual depth those fish are working in.”
Once a dedicated boat angler, Hotchkin ditched the boat a few years ago due to high fuel prices and limited access for boats in his local area. In addition, fishing from a kayak gives Hotchkin the ability to thoroughly work an area with his crankbait.
“It has amazed me how many fish I have caught being so close to the shore and being able to throw parallel to the bank,” he said. “A lot of boat guys wouldn’t get that close to shore because they are worried about damaging their outboard or trolling motor. Fishing from a kayak also allows me to get into places a boat can’t. I like fishing backwaters when I can find them and wouldn’t be able to get there in a bass boat.”
Whether fishing from a boat or a kayak, anglers can rely on a wide range of trusted techniques and patterns, but the fast-paced action of shallow-water cranking is one of the most exciting ways to get on springtime bass.
“Even though I adapt my fishing style if the conditions call, I consider myself a power fisherman,” Hotchkin said. “Plus, crankbait fishing is more fun.”