WE ALL know the cult following spinnerbaits have developed over the years with bass anglers. This is largely due to the lure’s versatility; they can be worked at any depth and at any speed the angler requires.
Soft plastics also fall into the versatile category, but there is another form of lure that doesn’t immediately spring to mind, though it should, when talking versatility – the lipless crankbait.
Lipless crankbaits, or ‘rattlers’ as they are also known, are wonderfully versatile lures that deserve a place in every thinking angler’s tacklebox. These lures can be worked at any depth with any speed, depending on your fishing situation. They can be jigged vertically to suspending fish, ripped across the top of the weeds, worked slowly along the fringe of the same weed or hopped along the depths to bottom-hugging fish.
Lipless crankbaits are made in two main forms – ‘sinking rattling’ and ‘sinking silent’. Some have loud rattles, some have soft rattles, some have no rattles at all. There’s also every imaginable variety in between, with suspending lipless crankbaits that rattle, suspending ones that don’t rattle and even some floating ones.
These lures are moulded in two halves, and during construction a heavy weight is fitted into the nose of the lure and as many as 10 steel or brass balls are inserted into the hollow cavity in the belly of the lure. Once the two halves are fused together, the towing point is attached to the top of the lure. It is this construction that gives the lure its amazing versatility. The weight in the front helps the lure to sink with a nose-down position and the towing point on the top gives the lure its shimmying action when retrieved.
Some of the more popular models include C’ultiva, Team Daiwa, Ecogear, Jackall Brothers and Halco.
Some manufactures choose to leave the rattles out during the construction process, and the end result is a lure that looks and behaves exactly like a normal lipless crankbait except that it runs silently. A silent lure is just the trick when fish are a little spooky or shy. When the fish are in this kind of mood, any violent rattling action puts them off even more.
The River 2 Sea range of silent lipless crankbaits are readily available in Australia, and to a lesser extent the Yo-Zuri Live Vibe can be sourced from some tackle retailers.
Lipless crankbaits are a wonderful prospecting lures – you can tie one on when arriving at a new fishing location and be reasonably confident of catching fish. By locating suitable structure the lure can be cast accordingly and retrieved with an appropriate action to suit the structure.
For shallow sunken weed, a cast can be made over the bed and retrieved at speed over the top of the weed. By paying close attention to where the lure fouls up, more casts can be made over the same area with slower, stop-start retrieves to get the lure down deeper into pockets of open water between the weed beds.
Once you’ve located the fringe or front of the weed bed you can slow your retrieve to get the lure right down to any fish that may be suspending deep at the base of the weed. After you’ve worked the lure around these depths, a steady retrieve up from the bottom with plenty of pauses and twitches of the rod tip can pick up fish that are hanging mid-water.
Also, a rattler can be cast across an area that may be holding numbers of scattered fish hugging the bottom in open water. To target these fish, make a long cast across an area and let the lure sink to the bottom. Then commence a steady, slow retrieve to keep the lure in the strike zone for as long as possible.
When soft plastics or ice jigs just aren’t doing as well as they should on suspending fish, try lowering a lipless crankbait into the school. Results can be amazing when working these lures in the same manner you would jig a plastic. Try though, to be in direct contact with the lure at all times. If the lure is allowed to freefall too far, the line can become tangled around the trebles, affecting the lure’s action.
Generally, the more shallow the fish are holding, the better. Lipless crankbaits don’t sink as fast as their lead-laden cousins and are best used on fish holding at around 10-15 feet.
I prefer to use baitcasting equipment when fishing with lipless crankbaits. A medium to fast action rod of around two metres with a rating somewhere between 2kg and 6kg is sufficient.
Alternatively, threadline outfits of similar proportions are useful when casting the smaller of these lures, such as the Eco Gear VT55s.
When targeting bass and other natives, I like to use 20lb (9kg) line, braid if possible. Braid gives the extra sensitivity needed to detect weed and bumps from fish. As usual, a rod length of 15-20lb (7-9kg) mono is added before the lure is attached via a good quality snap.
I strongly recommend using a good snap swivel. With some of these lures costing upwards of $20, it’s important (to the hip pocket!) to give the best possible chance of retrieval when the lure gets snagged and the Tackle Back has to be put to use.
Just as spinnerbaits, jigs and conventional lures are open to modifications, so is the lipless crankbait. Some may argue that taking a brand new lure out of its packaging and punching it full of holes or sticking lead to it is pointless. This may be true, but it doesn’t satisfy that typical Aussie male thirst to better something that may be lacking.
If you are reasonably confident with the use of a cordless drill, one great modification you can make to most rattlers is to turn them into silent lures. I have a whole compartment in my tackle box full of silent lures that I doctored myself.
By drilling a small hole into the top of the lure and injecting a very small amount of epoxy, the rattles can be glued together. Care must be taken not to affect the lure’s action by having all of the rattles glued to one side; if this happens the lure is rendered all but useless. Generally, if the lure is gently shaken before the glue is added all of the rattles will nestle in together in the belly of the lure.
Also, you can play around with the amount of rattles inside each lure. By drilling a hole in the underside of the lure some of the ball bearings can be removed, giving you a more subtle rattle noise.
When you’ve finished making your modifications, seal the hole with an appropriate waterproof sealing compound.
Lipless crankbaits are great lures to use, and certainly a lot of fun. Whether you’re targeting native fish in impoundments or flathead and jacks in the estuaries, there is sure to be a situation that lends itself to lipless crankbaiting. Be sure to pick some up next time you are at your local tackle store, and I’m sure you’ll be bitten by the bug!Reads: 2072