Introducing The Crankbait
The crankbait is one of the most widely used and effective lures in existence. They commonly imitate swimming baitfish but can also feature insect or crustacean designs.
A plastic bill is placed under the nose, which causes these baits to dart side-to-side aggressively. While there are many useful bass lures, an experienced angler knows it's best to carry a set of crankbaits at all times.
Crankbaits enable anglers to cover water quickly and fish all levels of the water column. Deep-diving crankbaits will get down to deeper waters while floating varieties will keep your presentation on the surface.
See our guide to the best rod for deep diving crankbaits.
Most importantly, anglers mimic the action of a wounded baitfish by colliding crankbaits with obstacles. This is why crankbaits are referred to as "contact lures." The best fishermen spend time learning when and where to fish these lures and which crankbaits will give them the best results.
When to Fish Crankbaits
There are multiple situations when crankbaits will be the most effective. The first is when you haven't identified where the fish are in a body of water, and you're trying to cover as much water as possible.
Crankbaits are useful because they're a quick-retrieve style bait and can be fished through and around various obstacles.
Cover and Deep Water
Consider throwing a crankbait when you're fishing deeper waters, targeting bass in cover, or attempting to induce a reaction strike.
Some deep-diving crankbait varieties can reach depths up to 15ft, and all crankbaits are useful in heavy cover environments. Using a crankbait can help anglers understand the feeding patterns of the bass their targeting.
Common Beginner Mistakes
A common mistake inexperienced anglers will make is fishing crankbaits with a consistent retrieve. Instead, you should develop your own retrieve style. Consider alternating between short and rapid twitches of your rod tip with extended pauses.
When used properly, your crankbait will first have an erratic darting action and then completely stop and suspend in the water. This technique will make your bait appear to be an injured baitfish struggling to swim properly.
Consistency is key when developing a crankbait technique. Doing random retrievals will give you random results, and we want to teach you how to catch fish every time.
The first step tip we have is to match your retrieve style with the water temperature. If you're fishing in colder waters, largemouth or smallmouth bass will become lethargic. You'll need to slow down your retrieve to give the fish time to notice your bait.
If the water's warmer during the summer or when the sun is higher in the sky, speed up your crankbait retrieval. This will catch the attention of aggressive-feeding fish that impulsively strike baitfish darting away from them.
Our second piece of guidance is to give your bait an erratic action. Professional anglers seldomly use the consistent retrieve method with crankbaits.
How do you control the bait's action? Start by alternating between light taps of your rod tip and letting your bait go completely still in the water. If you haven't developed your own retrieves, try alternating between a 3-second pause and cranking your reel 4 to 5 times.
Drawing Contact Strikes
Crankbait fishing is supposed to be random and jarring. This effect is created by banging your crankbait against submerged obstacles in an attempt to trigger a reaction strike from a bass.
Bass will usually be hiding out next to solid objects and will strike if your bait acts injured or confused. Scan for areas to place your cast where you'll be able to hit at least two different objects on your retrieve.
Examples of submerged obstacles include rocks, driftwood, large sticks, stump roots, sand humps, weed mats, and submerged logs.
Strike King 10XD Deep Diving
The Strike King 10XD Deep Diving Crankbait is a premium deep-diving crankbait. This lure is well-built and features realistic baitfish patterning.
Strike King is a popular lure manufacturer that built a reputation for its attention to detail and designs. They continually outperform the competition.
The KVD Deep Square Bill has the ideal weight to enable both long and accurate casts. The balanced placement of the weight means it doesn't have to sacrifice performance or swimming action.
If you're interested in adding a superb deep-diving crankbait to your lure collection, check out Strike King's baits.
Rapala DT Series Bluegill Pattern
The Rapala DT Series Bluegill Pattern is a bulkier deep-diving crankbait. The additional size of this crankbait allows for casting of up to 150ft so that you can cover as much water as possible.
Since the body is made from balsa wood, you'll also get a durable lure capable of withstanding strikes from the bass of all sizes.
Rapala DT Colors
Our favorite color is the Bluegill Pattern. The Bluegill Pattern is the best crankbait for clear water fishing as the paintwork's realism increases the likelihood of strikes. The deep-diving effect means the DT Series will stay in the strike zone longer, increasing your hook-up ratios.
Rapala Original Floater
The most popular and widely-used floating crankbait is the Rapala Original Floater. This design was the original model that prompted Rapala's competitors to replicate this design.
Original Floater Colors
The Firetiger pattern has always been the most effective, as the black and silver shading imitates the look of a shad swimming at high-speeds. Two retrieval speeds that work best with the Original Floater are "stop-and-go" or "twitch style."
Bomber Fat-Free Shad
The Bomber Fat-Free Shad Crankbait is a professional-grade crankbait used to win bass fishing tournaments worldwide. An issue with some crankbaits is that their hooks often get snagged in aquatic vegetation.
Bomber Lures has solved this issue by incorporating a kick-out paddle to reduce the chances of a hang-up. This bait's fast wobbling action combined with a rattle inside the bait produces vibration and sonic sound waves.
Strike King KVD 1.5 Shallow Square Bill
The Strike King KVD 1.5 Shallow Square Bill Crankbait is similar to other models, but it stays higher in the water column. This shallow-diving bait will only go 3-feet deep and is ideal for surface-feeding fish. Many anglers report the best luck fishing this bait in the early morning during the first months of the summer.
The KVD 1.5 model omits an internal rattler, making this crankbait less-intrusive and a better option for finicky bass. It's also one of the most versatile lures that perform well with any retrieval speed.
Bandit Crankbait Series
The Bandit Crankbait Series is also frequently used at the professional level. This bait dives to the prime strike-zone of 8ft and is the go-to crankbait when fishing a new body of water. This allows anglers to focus on their accuracy and search for submerged obstacles to target.
Bandit Swimming Action
The Bandit 100, 200, 300 Series baits all have a tight and rapid side-to-side swimming action that makes them appear "panicky" underwater. Anglers who haven't developed a retrieval technique will find this useful as it essentially has a built-in erratic swimming action.
Norman Lures "Little N"
The Norman Lures Little N Crankbait has been used to win some serious fishing tournaments, such as the Bassmaster Classic. It's a medium diver lure that gets to the 9-12 foot strike zoom quickly. This allows you to cover much more water and target bass with better accuracy.
Norman Lures produces some of the most vibrant and reflective chartreuse color patterns productive in dirty waters. Overall, this lure is the highest quality and best value medium-depth crankbait available.
Strike King Pro-Model 5XD
When you want to fish at the deepest strike zone, the Strike King Pro-Model 5XD is the go-to bait to use. It reaches depths of 15ft with minimal effort by the angler. This is due to its unique curved bill design.
Diving Speed & Casting
The well-balanced positioning of the weights means it will dive faster than any other crankbait on the market. It does all this without sacrificing casting distance as it can be thrown up to 160ft.
Berkley Flicker Shad Crankbait
The Berkley Flicker Shad Crankbait is a great option for anglers looking to start crankbait fishing without breaking the bank. While it's half the price as other baits on this list, it's still a quality product that will catch fish.
Water Temperatures & Action
It's not professional-grade, but it has a unique and tantalizing action. The Flicker Shad has a distinctive side-to-side slow-rolling effect that's ideal in colder waters. Not many baits provide the same physically injured baitfish effect as this one here.
Rebel Original Realistic Crawfish
Matching the hatch is always important when bass fishing. Traditional crankbaits are only effective when fish feed on shad, minnows, or other kinds of baitfish. During crawdad season, the Rebel Original Realistic Crawfish is by far the best crankbait option.
Rivers & Streams
The lure is designed backward to imitate a fleeing crawfish. You'll have the best luck casting this bait in rivers or streams where these crustaceans are commonly found.
Cotton Cordell Big-O
The Cotton Cordell Big-O is a timeless lure called the most successful smallmouth and largemouth bass crankbait in history. It's perfectly suited to deflect off logs, rocks, and stumps with ease as a short-billed styled bait.
A compact design makes it easier to maneuver and weave through tight places where the fish are likely hiding. This bait's shorter bill also gives it a tighter swimming action. When looking for a highly controllable crankbait, this is a great option.
Rebel Lures Crickhopper
Sometimes we envy the fly fishermen when the bass seem only to be feeding on insects. This is when the Rebel Lures Crickhopper Crankbait truly shines. Bass can often be difficult to predict, and you never know when they'll change their feeding habits.
Having a spare cricket lure is a great way to be prepared for any situation. The Crickhopper stays near the surface. It can be fished either as a topwater lure or shallow-diving crankbait, depending on retrieval speed.