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Fall 2017

When, Where and How to Fish a Crankbait and Jerkbait With Bill Lowen

By Fall 2017

When the bite is on, knowing when to use each type of lure can increase your success throughout the year. Jerkbaits, flat-sided and square bill crankbaits all have their time and place and each can outperform the others at times. Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bill Lowen has a method for choosing each and it depends on water clarity, time of year and what cover he is fishing.

Water Clarity
The first factor to consider is the water clarity according to Lowen. With jerkbaits being a highly visual technique, clear water is his preferred choice. “Jerkbaits work great in clear water and a bait like a crankbait will do better when the water is dirty. That’s not to say each wouldn’t work in both situations, but I prefer crankbaits when the water is off-color,” he says.

Time of Year
The water temperature and time of year are another deciding factors for when Lowen chooses one reaction bait over another. “Early in a year, I like a bait with a tighter wiggle because the water is colder. The Ima Shaker or a flat-sided balsa bait from PH Customs is my go to,” he says and adds he switches gears as the water warms. “Once the water is a little warmer I like a more round bait like the Ima Square Bill because it has a more aggressive action.”
Square bill crankbaits, with their wide, aggressive action are ideal for water temperature in the 50’s and above according to Lowen. “They have that active grinding and scooting action that is great when the fish are more active,” he says.
Jerkbaits shine early in the year when the water is cold. Lowen reaches for a Flit 120 early in the year and says that the time of year is often cold and windy and a jerkbait is easy to fish in those conditions. “The low 40’s up to the low 50’s water temperature is perfect for a jerkbait. I like the Flit first thing in the spring and then again in the fall. It has a wide slashing and darting action and also works great later in the year and when fishing for smallmouth,” he says. He says a jerkbait is a perfect pre-spawn pattern and he will fish them right up until the bass are in full on spawn-mode.

Location and Approach
In addition to water clarity and temperature, the type of water Lowen is faced with plays a role in deciding which bait to use. “Jerkbaits work great on main lake and secondary points, those 45-degree banks and places where the rock or bluff transitions,” says Lowen who feels that boat positioning is crucial. “I like to stay two cast lengths away from the bank. If you are one cast length away you might be right above where the fish are, especially if they are suspended or sitting on the first break.”
Both flat-sided and square bill crankbaits shine in shallow water when there is cover present. He will typically fish both in the same areas but will move shallower with a square bill. “Early in the year I like to fish the flat-sided bait around the last deep water inside of a pocket or around a channel swing,” he says and like jerkbaits he feels like boat positioning can help land more bass. “The ideal thing is to fish parallel to the bank so you can keep the bait in the strike zone longer.”

As mentioned earlier, he fishes the square bill in the same fashion but will move shallower and key on the first flat after a channel swing or first flat with deep water nearby.

Jerk and Crank Gear
When fishing the crankbaits, Lowen likes a CastAway Skeleton V2 crank rod that is 7’ and has a parabolic bend. “I also use a slower retrieve reel a 5.1:1 Lews BB1Z so I don’t overwork the bait and will spool it with 12-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon,” he says.
His jerkbait rod is different than many prefer. “The rod I use is actually a spinnerbait model, a 6’10” CastAway Skeleton V2. It has a softer tip but has a good backbone and I feel like I lose less fish,” he adds. He likes a Lew’s Team Pro Magnesium Speed Spool in the 6.8:1 ratio and 8 or 10-pound fluorocarbon. “The faster retrieve allows you to work the bait with the rod and reel up the slack quickly,” says Lowen.

Another way to increase your success with jerkbaits and crankbaits is to select the right retrieve for the conditions. Lowen also varies his approach based on the bait and where he is fishing.
“The flat-sided crankbait excels once you hit the bottom and are grinding it along. I also do what I call ‘floating’ it through rocks where I reel it as slow as I can to keep it in contact with the bottom,” he says and adds that the properties of the bait work for this technique. “The Ima Shaker doesn’t have near the buoyancy as a square bill so you can keep it closer to the bottom.”
Lowen says Jerkbaits are best with a “twitch, twitch, pause” retrieve and the only change he makes is how long he pauses the bait. “Sometimes you have to wait for 10 or even 30-seconds before you twitch it again. It is hard to do, but sometimes that is the only way to get bit,” he says and feels that water temperature is the biggest factor here. As a general rule of thumb, the colder the water, the longer the pause. To help the bait suspend, he will also add Storm SuspendDots and Strips. “I like to add two on the front bill and two before the back hook to keep it suspending for those long periods.”

When it comes to a square bill, Lowen says making contact with cover is the key. Anything in the water is fair game and the deflection properties of the Ima Square Bill make it ideal for banging into cover.

Color Choices
With so many great jerkbait colors available, it can become complicated deciding which to use. For Lowen, it simply comes down to water clarity, “I like the clear translucent colors in clear water and if the water has a little color I switch to solid colors or something with chrome or gold flash.”
Lowen also has a range of colors that he goes through as the season progresses. This has to do with both the water clarity he is faced with as well as the forage the bass are keying on. “I always start off early in the year with an orange or red pattern and then progress to the brighter chartreuse patterns. After that I move to the fluorescent craw patterns and then finally move to the shad patterns,” shares Lowen. This applies to both his flat-sided baits as well as his square bills.
Bill Lowen is a wealth of fishing knowledge and when it comes to shallow crankbaits and jerkbaits, he has seen it all. His approach to deciding which to use and when comes from years of experience as a professional angler and his approach is something that will help you land more bass.


Girl Power on the Thunderbird By Rose O’Brien

By Fall 2017

Fishing is my passion, and being a woman makes it even more special. When I first started, I was nervous about being on a boat full of men, but not anymore. I have grown use to it. The men quickly learn that I am a serious fisher lady. The ones who know me don’t doubt me, but it is fun to show them I actually know how to fish.
Rick Redmon and Mike Oreb planned an overnight fishing trip on the Thunderbird with some of the KC Anglers and Team 57 fishing clubs. We all met at the landing and waited for our trip to begin. As usual, some of the guys couldn’t wait to fish, so they fished at the landing while we waited. They caught some small bass. Our chariot arrived and our adventure began.
That night, most of us got our gear ready for the morning while the boat got bait and began it’s journey to San Clemente. Ricardo Zepeda always helps me to set my drag and get my tackle together, so in the morning I don’t have to worry about it. Captain Andrew Viola was the night driver and drove us to the island safely.
When we reached Clemente, I woke up not ready to fish, so I poured myself a cup of coffee and began to walk around the boat talking to the other anglers while they fished. No one was catching anything. I was chatting with Alex Tarpinian and drinking coffee when suddenly, the yellowtail started to bite. I looked at Alex and said, “It’s on. Let’s fish!” I grabbed my dropper loop setup and dropped my line in the water and as soon as it hit the bottom I was on. A yellowtail took me from the stern to the bow, and that’s where Captain Jeff Markland gaffed it. It was a beautiful 32lb. yellowtail. Several other anglers caught yellows while I was catching mine. The morning was off to a good start.
Oscar Ochoa was the hot stick on this trip. Every time I turned around, he was on a fish. He caught about 7 yellowtail and a variety of other fish. He could do no wrong. Joseph Wilson caught 3 yellows, and Brian Kelly, one of the deckhands, passed a yellowtail he hooked to Sydney Deturk. Watching her face while the fish was fighting was an awesome sight. Unfortunately, the fish won, but that happens. On her own, she managed to get a few bass. Another lady angler, hooked up to a yellowtail and it took her all the way around the boat. We all cheered her on as she reeled it in. All 3 ladies had a fish under their belt. Girl Power.
Our bait choices were either sardine or squid. I hate picking up squid. Their tentacles give me the creeps. Ricardo always laughs at me as I attempt to grab one and drop it when it tries to grab me. Sometimes I get it on the hook and other times he hooks it on for me. I guess that’s one of the perks of being a female. Putting on a sardine is as easy as pie. It’s those crazy squid that get me.
We drove around San Clemente looking for fish and we stopped several times. One time, we found some bass. George Schewardz hooked up to a beautiful calico that gave him quite a fight. It was definitely a keeper. I caught a couple bass on a Hookup Bait, but none were as big as George’s.
At one stop, Roger Zarate caught a nice yellowtail. I thought I had competition for jackpot since his was so big, but mine ended up being bigger. All of the KC Anglers and Team 57 caught a yellowtail. The boat total was 42 yellows with a decent calico bite, plus other random fish caught.
The trip was a success and everyone was happy with their catch. The crew always gives 100% and helps other anglers when they need it. I am pleased to say I won jackpot with my 32lb. yellowtail caught on a Moon’s custom rod 7.5 ft. Super Seeker with an Accurate Boss Xtreme 400 loaded with 65lb. spectra and 40lb. mono. Having a passion for a male dominated sport has never deterred me when it comes to fishing. I think other ladies should try it out. They might find that they love it as much as I do, and I would be willing to help them out anyway I can. Tails up!

Just For the Halibut, By Shawn Arnold

By Fall 2017

Some people go to Alaska and catch a 100 plus pound halibut on their first trip out. Some people go to Alaska and don’t know a rod from a reel and catch a 100 pound plus halibut. Some people who think they know how to fish and have over 40 days on the water in Alaska have NEVER caught a 100 pound plus halibut. That last person would be me. Or used to be me. My previous best was about 90 pounds which is a nice fish. And I have caught more 40 to 60- pound halibut than I can count. Still that elusive 100 -pound fish had alluded me.
My last visit with Big Blue Charters this past June produced my first 100 plus pound halibut. It was 67 inches long and the guide book says it should be 145 pounds. I was told that it was anywhere between 130 and 160. I am going with 145. That works for me.
Big Blue Charters have caught numerous halibut well over 300 pounds over the years and my halibut made Captain Mike Keating shrug his shoulders like no big deal but that fish was one for the books for me. It was caught on an Avet reel and a Whopper Stopper built rod. One of the benefits of fishing with Big Blue Charters is that you know you will be using quality equipment and you don’t have to lug your own stuff on the plane. That way hopefully your luggage going home will be boxes of flash frozen filets from the tasty fish that inhabit the waters of Sitka.
Another advantage of fishing with Big Blue Charters are their very comfy BAMF boats that have an inside cabin that seat 7 or 8 on the way to the fishing grounds. Also, this year they upgraded their sonar with some of the most up to date products available from Simrad. Mike Keating was like a kid in a candy store playing with it and marking spots. He was really excited about mastering it this summer and knowing to the “T” where all his good fishing spots are.
One of the great misconceptions I have found over the years about catching big halibut from people that have never caught a big halibut is that they don’t fight. That it is comparable to bringing up a door or cement filled boot. Nothing could be further from the truth. The one I caught peeled line as soon as he was hooked. Then about ½ way up he decided he did not want to come up quite yet so made a beeline to the bottom where our battle had started. So after 5 minutes of bringing him up and about a one- minute run back down I started all over again. He made one more short run all the while shaking his head violently trying to shake free. After 20 minutes or so I was able to get him to the surface where Captains Keating and Graham then did the dirty work and subdued him.
While that was a great fight, I think I even had a better one. This was one of the most unique catches that I had ever encountered. When I caught my first halibut it was with a big circle hook and about a fistful of bait. That rig was made for halibut. A little bit later I dropped down a herring using a salmon rod. The herring was rigged with two hooks. One hook through the nose/mouth area and one through the dorsal fin. I was fishing the bottom hoping for a lingcod or yelloweye when I hooked a fish. Right at that time Ed Robison had a big halibut on and he was tangled with Raymond McCullough. I tried getting out of the way by going on the other side of the boat and to get my rod around the motor I put the reel in free spool with my thumb on it. As I got to the other side of the boat and put the drag back on my fish felt much heavier. In fact, I claimed that this one was bigger than the 145 pounder. I was struggling with this one, especially on the salmon rod. It was bent in half and my line was being taken again and the rod was bent in half. After about 25 minutes I got color and Mike said sarcastically “All that work for that thing?” It was about a 70- pound halibut. The funny thing is the 70- pound fish was covering the 45 -pound halibut that was on the other hook. Our guess is while I put it in free spool and walked around the boat, one of the halibut bit the other hook. So, two nice halibut on one 6” herring with two hooks in it. Captain Graham said he has never seen that before and neither had I.
Even if I had not caught the personal best halibut that day it still would have been one of my best fishing days ever. Part of fishing is having fun and fishing with Captains Jesse Graham and Mike Keating of Big Blue Charters, Ed Robison of Whopper Stoppers, Raymond McCullough and Vinny Peters an ex-deckhand for Big Blue Charters is fun. The days we were fishing were non- charter days so we just had a bunch of guys having fun. In fact, the only person who could have made it more fun was Big Blue Charters deckhand Emmitt Andersen. This outstanding young man had to miss the fishing though as he is part of the Sitka High School baseball team playing in the state finals that week that made a Hoosiers (reference 1980’s film about Indiana basketball) like run in winning the Alaska state baseball championship over a much larger and highly touted Anchorage high school. Congrats Emmitt.
Ed of Whopper Stoppers builds some of the finest rods available and his booth is always jam-packed at the Fred Hall show. Ed is a good guy and a good guy to fish with. Since this was a trip of friends there was lots of ribbing going on. LOTS. Any mistake was magnified. Ed took it all in like it was no big deal.
Raymond is a trip. I would like to thank him for taking the target off my back. It is usually me who takes the brunt of the ribbing on this Alaska trip but Raymond changed that dynamic. It would be hard to find a more energetic, fun and quirky guy. He farmed a few salmon the first day and took quite a bit of ribbing but just smiled through it all. Who ever had just caught a fish, Raymond would go out his way to high 5 them. The next day before we went out fishing Mike and I stopped at a grocery store and bought some strawberries and gave them to Raymond and asked if he grew them on his farm. He just laughed. Raymond ended up with the last laugh though as he pulled in the largest salmon of the trip that day.
The three days of fishing produced numerous halibut in the 30 to 70 range, some large lingcod that we had to release and some we kept that fit the slot limit and limits of yelloweye and black bass each day. And while the salmon fishing was a little slower than normal (plus we farmed a few) we spent more time targeting bottom fish than normal. Captain Keating is one of the best and most determined captains I know and as always put us on the fish. Fishing with Big Blue Charters is always a highlight for me and I am already looking forward to next year. Hopefully when I go no one will give me a basket of strawberries.
For more information about Big Blue Charters or to find out what dates are available for next year contact them at 907-747-5161 or check out their website at