Prowler Squarebill

Ryan Fontenot grips the lip of a chunky bass that fell for a Black Label Tackle Prowler Squarebill Balsa crankbait a few months ago at False River.

Pace’s balsa bait is made to attack the heart of where bass live

Cliff Pace deftly cast one of his newest balsa crankbaits, retrieved it across the densest part of wood cover and was rewarded with a bite from a nice bass he boated and released.

It was proof positive the Black Label Tackle Prowler Squarebill crankbait does just what its name suggests — invade the habitat to trigger pressured, finicky bass. The Petal, Miss., pro bass fisherman said that is the result he wanted when he designed the Prowler.

“That right there is what makes this bait,” Pace said. “I don’t have to throw it around the cover that the fish are in. If you look at the conditions we have today, it’s slick, flat, no wind. It’s not an ideal day to crank. These fish have buried up in this cover, but I can take this bait and … I’m not saying you’ll never get it hung. I’ve had to go get it a couple times today. But I get it hung up way less than just about any other squarebill I’ve ever fished with.”

The heart of cover

Pace said what the Prowler does enable him to do is throw it right in the heart of that cover, get it much closer to the fish, and getting them to continue to react to it or come to the edge of a tree or leave a stump and come 3- or 4-foot to get it.

“It has to come right over it,” he said. “I can just surprise them and it’s a bait they’re not used to seeing. You can see I threw it right in the meat of a tree. … That’s what makes that bait special. That’s what I love about this bait so much. I think you will too if you just give one a try.”

The 42-year-old Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour veteran and 2013 Bassmaster Classic champion built the Prowler for most of 2021 and released it that year around Thanksgiving. He started carving crankbaits in high school, but got serious in the mid-2010s with Black Label Tackle Balsa.

The Black Label Tackle Prowler Squarebill Balsa crankbait in an American shad color designed by former Bassmaster Classic champion Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss.

Since then his hand-carved crankbaits in various sizes, shapes and colors have taken the market by storm, particularly the Ricochet and Ricochet Jr., as well as the popular Little Cliffie, CBS 1 & 2, Slim and Slim DD, Hickster, Tease (topwater prop bait), Battle Toad (topwater plopper), Wreck and Peanut.

Wiggles through wood

Pace is probably most proud of the Prowler because it does something few if any crankbaits can do, and that’s crawl through wood structure. The crankbait’s special body design coupled with the polymer lexan lip allows it to wiggle its way through cover nearly unimpeded.

“I’ve been selling Prowlers for over a year. We introduced the Prowler around Thanksgiving 2021. It’s not a real old product for us in the grand scheme of things. It’s still relatively new,” Pace said the second week of 2023.

It ranks right up there with another of his favorites, the Ricochet models. There’s a time and place for either one of the Black Label Tackle Balsa crankbaits across the U.S., Pace said.

“I like the Prowler over the Ricochet Jr. when the water’s cleaner and I want a bait I can fish in real nasty wood cover,” he said.

“When you have the opportunity to throw one in what I say is “his house” you reduce the amount of time the fish has to look at and analyze the bait. That makes a difference. Instead of throwing it down the edge of the tree you can throw it in the heart of a tree.”

The Prowler weighs 3/8 ounces and measures 2 ¼ inches long. Armed with two black nickel Mustad TG76 treble hooks, it dives 3- to 5- feet.

Like his other crankbaits, it is hand-crafted and hand-painted in a 45-step process.

You can learn more by checking out a video Pace posted featuring the Prowler on his Facebook page in October, 2022.

For more information about the Black Label Tackle Prowler Squarebill Balsa crankbait and other Woodbait Country products, go to

About Don Shoopman 559 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.