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Complete Guide: Squarebill Crankbaits

Squarebill crankbaits are one of the best lures for catching bass in shallow water. Squarebills are designed to deflect off objects which causes reaction bites. Squarebills are slightly different from other crankbaits in that their bill is flat on the end, hence the name. The bill shape is what allows it to get through heavy cover without getting hung up. When the bill hits cover it will pivot the bait so it’s hooks don’t come in contact with the cover.

Squarebills do still get hung up from time to time so don’t get discouraged if you occasionally get hung up. If you arent getting hung up from time to time then you are likely not fishing in the right places. Don’t be afraid to cast into cover!

When to Throw a Squarebill

Squarebills are best to use during the pre-spawn through late summer. During this period many bass will be up shallow around cover. This perfect situation for throwing a squarebill.

Where and How to Fish a Squarebill

Squarebill crankbaits are one of the best lures for targeting water 8ft or less deep. They thrive in the following three scenarios:

1. Rocky Rip Rap Banks

When fishing a rip-rap bank you want to keep your cast parallel to the bank. This will ensure your bait stays in the target zone the entire length of your cast. You can do this by positioning your boat or kayak close to the bank as you work your way down it.

You want to knock your squarebill into rocks as much as you can, you want it to be erratic.

2. Wood Cover

When fishing a squarebill around wood you want it to knock into the branches as much as you can. The deflection is what will draw in reaction strikes. You can try different variations give your bait a short 1-second pause after deflecting.

3. Squarebill Grass Flats

Squarebills are great lures for targeting grass that is 3-4 feet below the water’s surface. A squarebill will stay right above the grass and will give a different action and presentation than chatterbaits or lipless crankbaits that bass typically sees around grass. Doing something different than what fish are use to seeing will help you catch a lot more bass.

When targeting grass flats I like to use a plastic squarebill and fish it fast, when it reaches the grass give your rod a quick lift to pop your lure out of the grass. This is a great technique for drawing in bass. Squarebills rely on deflection to produce reaction strikes and in grass there is nothing to deflect off of so you need to make the deflection yourself with a rod pop.

3 Types of Squarebill Retrieves

  1. Break it up – Let your squarebill hit bottom, stop, burn it quickly, twitch it, try to hit objects whether it be rocks or wood. You are looking to create erratic motion to draw in a reaction strike.
  2. Sweeping motion – Reel down until your lure gets to bottom then slowly sweep your rod to your side. Reel in slack line as you reset and bring your rod back towards the lure.

Balsa Vs Plastic Squarebill Crankbaits

Squarebill crankbaits are made from either balsa wood or plastic. Both have their advantages but to keep it simple I like to use balsa squarebills when fishing around wood cover. When targeting rock or grass I go with a plastic squarebill. Plastic baits tend to do better when fishing fast.

Balsa lures are more buoyant than their plastic counterparts. I like to use balsa squarebills when fishing shallow water with a consistent depth.

Which you choose depends on the angle of the bank you are fishing. If you are on flat banks that don’t have a lot of drops or angles then a balsa crankbait is your best bet. I move to plastic squarebills when fishing banks with an angle.

Choosing Squarebill Size – When to Use Each Profile

Squarebills come in a variety of sizes and each size and profile has a different application depending on the time of the year.

  • Large Squarebills are best during the pre-spawn when fish start to move up shallow. When water temperatures start to get in the mid-50s you will start to see bigger female bass moving up into the shallows. Larger squarebills are perfect in this situation. Other times I fish magnum squarebills is when conditions are extreme: heavy wind with rain and super muddy water.
  • Medium or standard size squarebills are the most versatile that I normally start with. These baits work well from pre-spawn all the way through fall.
  • Small squarebills are great late summer to mid-fall when fishing tends to be a bit tougher.

Best Line for Squarebill Crankbaits

The best line to use when squarebill fishing is 10-15lb fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon gives you the abrasion resistance required for fishing in cover and around rocks. It also gives you an almost invisible line presentation.  Manufacturers use 10lb line when measuring the diving depth of squarebills so it is the perfect size to use as a starting point. You up your line size up to 15lb if you are targeting heavier cover or are fishing an area known for bigger fish.

Squarebill Crankbaits Diving Depth

The diving depth provided by manufacturers often performs their tests with 10lb line. If you use a heavier line your bait will run a little more shallow than the advertised depth. A thicker line diameter will cause more drag in the water which will cause some additional lift.

SquarebillDiving Depth
Lucky Craft 1.53-4ft
Lucky Craft 2.53-4ft
River2Sea Biggie Poppa3-5ft
River2Sea Biggie Smalls2-4ft
Lucky Craft Fat BDS 34-6ft
6th Sense MiniMag3-7ft
Lucky Craft Fast BDS65ft
Megabass Super-Z Z-16ft
SPRO Fat John 502ft
Spro Little John 503-4ft
Evergreen CH-11ft

For specific squarebill recommendations please read our squarebill buyers guide.


How deep do squarebill crankbaits dive?

Squarebills dive anywhere from 1-7ft deep. This makes them ideal for targeting shallow water.

How to Rig a Squarebill Crankbaits?

The best way to rig a squarebill is with a palamer knot. It is the most efficient, strongest, and best knot for fishing a squarebill.