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Ultimate Guide to Crankbait

By Big Bear July 14, 2020 0 comments

The Ultimate Guide To Crankbait Fishing

That may sound like a big claim, but if you find a section missing let us know. We will add it in.

What better way to start than with a brief history.  It started in 1915 when the first lures appeared with a diving lip.

The Creek Chub Wiggler was born.

So on to the first thing.  What really makes a lure a crankbait?

What Are Crankbait Lures?

Crankbait lures can be lipped or lipless. What… a what?

Oaky.  So the ‘lip’ of a crankbait is the small metal or plastic diving lip that protrudes from the front of the lure. This feature allows the lure to dive and wiggle as it is retrieved.  Lips can vary in size and design to provide different ‘action’ or the wiggling, and diving depth.

Lipless crankbaits are shaped such that the diving and wiggling action is created through the… well bow of the lure. Former Navy here… just means the front.  The attachment point for your line, tow point,  is on top and behind this feature.

Now, there are subsets and aliases of these two basic design points. Plugs, Jerkbaits, Swimbaits, Twitchbaits, Wobblers, Rattlebaits, ...

How To Use Crankbait

Well basically you tie it on (more later).

You cast.

You retrieve or reel it in.

You cook your fish.

Oh wait… the best part.  You get that hit, set the hook, and bring that hawg in.

This section is short because all the nuance is covered in the other titled sections below.

How Crankbait Works

You Cast.(casting could include retrieving by trolling, ie. casting from a boat, and letting the lure follow the boat as you drive slowly.)

What type of crankbait did you just cast?

Floating, Suspended, or Sinking…


Okay, basically each crankbait can have different buoyancy.  

What does that mean though?

Floating is design so that when you stop retrieval it… floats.  

Suspended are designed to go to a certain spot in the water column.. Depth..  

And sinking will sink to the bottom.  

They usually have ratings on the package showing water depth, or feet (ft) per second they will sink.  This allows you to judge how far it has sunk.

Now you will retrieve your crankbait. 

The crankbait lip will dig into the water driving the bait downward.  As you retrieve the lip will also cause the bait to wobble, or move in a back and forth fashion imitating a swimming fish.

The speed of retrieval will affect the depth it will dive to a bit also.

The shape and size of the lip will also affect this, yielding the categories of crankbait.

Just for fun let’s add one more category…

Shallow, Mid and Deep Diving.

Shallow Are Usually considered to dive between 0 and 6 ft of water. 

Mid is 6-12ft

Deep is 12ft+

How To Tie Crankbait Knots

Is the knot even a big deal?

From a sailor… YES.

The type of knot you tie can be the difference between life and death. Literally. It has cost divers, climbers and all sorts of people their lives.

Fortunately with fishing is is only likely to cost you your pride.  You may lose gear or fish from poor knot tying.

The type of knot matters because different lines perform differently, but in most all cases a knot is using friction, upon itself, to hold in place.  This can cause the line to cut itself if you simply go with the old addage of: 

Can’t tie a knot? 

Just tie alot!

So… let’s not …  haha.. Yeah.. you see what I did there.. Nevermind, back to knots.

Here are some of your common knots for fishing.

Palomar Knot:

Great line to lure connector. Even for larger lines used in deep sea fishing.

via 101knots

Improved Clinch:

The improvement to the knot I started using 35 years ago.

That’s pretty tried and true.

Loop knot:

This gives some free space for the lure to move around and have a more natural action.

How To Fish With Crankbait

Crankbait allows you to get a lot done.

Fish aggressively.

Cover lots of water.

They are designed to resemble smaller bait fish.   So when you are fishing them remember not to robot fish.  Don’t simply cast and retrieve cast and retrieve.  Bait fish are skittish.  The dart about and twist and turn rapidly… then sort of hover and stare at you.  Check them out neck time you see them around the boat or dock.

So that’s what you are mimicking.  So when you are retrieving you can bounce off rocks and create that flash that attracts your next toad.  So keep it interesting, for you and the fish.

Depth.  Once you begin your retrieve keep your rod tip low and get a nice fast start to get to depth quickly.

Ways to vary.

Adjust your speed.  A bit faster, a bit slower, a sudden stop.  These may get the bass to react and strike.

Tickle or Mow the Grass.  Often times my best bass have come when my bait is swimming along the tops of the lake grass.  On clear days it’s awesome to see your bait coming back and then suddenly from the depths of the grass a huge mouth engulfs it.

How to Retrieve Or Reel Crankbait

So.  This section was included but I think there is tons of crossover from the previous section.  

Try fast, try slow, try stops.  Try smooth and erratic.  There is not a simple way to retrieve crankbaits or any for that fact.

The one thing I will say again is.

Overcast your desired spot.

Start fast to get to depth.

How and When to Use Crankbait For Bass

I’ll start this dumb.  

How? Cast them out and reel them in.

When?  Always.

With the immense variety of options you can always use a crankbait for bass. Always? Yup.

Now the trick is that there are going to be seasonal differences depending on where they are feeding and living.

Spring-  Whats happening?  Winter is over, and the fish are moving to shallower waters to spawn.

Spawning takes lots of energy… they are eating more.

Bass spawn in shallow waters, but they like nearby deep areas where they are going to be catching more bait… right.. Catching.. Bait.. Hey. Laugh at me it’s cool.

I hear that bass are lazy in the spring and that a slow retrieve works better.  Start there, but don’t get stuck in tactic rut.

Test the top.  Get those shallow crank baits as the bass are moving into shallow water and are near the surface… that and there is really something magical about watching a topwater or shallow crank bait get devoured by a bass that ends up flying out of the water…  That really gets the heart beating and that spirit full.

Sight fishing?  Can you see where the bass are hanging out, spawning.  Like any mother the fish are in protection mode.  Give them something to protect the babies from… Better yet?  Leave them, I like bass, you like bass let them grow so we can catch them later.  Heck, help them.  Fish out of the area just a bit so that if there are any others that are hunting you can get them before they get those eggs.

Okay so now spawning is done and summer is coming.

All summer long I have luck off the dock from 4 to 30 ft water with crank bait.  Everything from those new little guys that are the whopping 4 inches and eat bait as big as them… to the bigger 8-10+ pounders. 

 The fish just seem to be so happy to eat, especially all the young fish that have hatched and are growing up to be tasty little morsels. 

So early morning around sun rise before more boaters get out and the sun is still low you’ll have a great time with some of those shallower divers near flats with drop offs. Or just cover more water off your favorite platform and find where they are.  

Late summer, with three casts in a row each was able to trigger a nice 12-14 inch largemouth in the same spot at about 6 ft.

A few hours later as the sun rose a deeper diver landed my buddy a nice 20 inch 8lbs largemouth.




The fish are stocking up for winter. 

Bigger fish are looking for bigger baits.

So.. give it to them! 

Switch to your larger crankbaits and.. If you can cast from deep to shallow. Boat or dock to shore.

This is the time those bigger bass will be coming back into more shallow water to feed on the smaller bait fish.

How and When to Use Crankbait For Crappie

Okay... crappie.  I am actually gonna keep this short.

It seems that no matter what I have gone fishing for with crankbait I also get several crappie.  These guys are a bit like me... they love to eat.  They eat most anything.  So crankbait have been a great way to keep my kids fishing.  Its active fishing, and they get bites.

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