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Complete Guide to Crankbaits

Crankbaits are one of the most popular choices for bass fishing. One reason they are so popular is because of how much water they can cover in a short amount of time. They are great for finding where fish are holding in unfamiliar waters.
They They come in all shapes and sizes and more colors than you can imagine. They are made out of either hard plastic or wood and are designed to mimic a swimming baitfish, crawfish, or other prey.

A unique aspect to crankbaits is their lip or bill on the front of the bait. This lip is designed to get the lure beneath the surface when you reel the bait in. The diving depth of the lure is determined by the size of the bill. The bigger and longer the bill the deeper the bait will dive. There are also crankbaits without bills known as “lipless crankbaits,” we will go more in depth into their differences below.

Types of Crankbaits


As the name implies squarebills feature a squared lip. The square lip helps the bait deflect and get through cover like wood laydowns, weeds, and rocks without getting snagged. The deflection is often what causes fish to strike. squarebills are shallow running baits, they generally run the 0 to 5 feet deep range. For these reasons squarebills are typically thrown in the spring and fall when bass move up more shallow for spawning or searching for food.

Recommended rattling squarebills: River2Sea Biggie (Abalone Shad, I Know It, TS Minnow, Cold Blooded), 6th Sense Crush 50 and 100 (Shad Burst, Threadfin Flash, Shad Greens, Craw Bomb).

Recommended silent squarebills: Lucky Craft 1.5 and 2.5 (Ghost Minnow, Golden Shiner, Chartreuse Shad, Spring Craw), 6th Sense Crush Silent 50 and 100 (Rayburn Ghost, Shad

Two Strike King 3XD in Delta Red and Chartreuse on a log

Treuse Scales, Shad Trance, Delta Craw).

Mid-Depth Crankbaits

Shallow and deep diving crankbaits are hugely popular in the bass fishing world but there is a whole world of other baits right in the middle that is often skipped over. The mid-depth diving crankbait  run in the 6 to 12 feet range and can be very effective in the fall and throughout the year. The benefit of these baits is their smaller size but unlike a square bill their bill is curved so their wobble is a lot tighter than a squarebill.

Recommended baits: Strike King 3XD, Norman Deep Baby N, Bomber Fat Free Shad 3/8 oz.

Deep Diving Crankbaits

Two Strike King 10XD crankbaits on log

Deep diving crankbaits are one of my favorite lures for the warm summer months. They can dive up to 25 feet deep and are perfect for targeting suspended bass. As the temperature starts to rise, bass will start schooling on offshore humps, rock ledges and points. A benefit of these baits is when you do catch a fish it is highly likely that they are part of a school and if you keep casting in the same area you can get that school fired up and you can put a lot of fish in the boat quickly.

Recommended deep divers: Strike King 6XD, Strike King 10XD,6th Sense Cloud 9 C20 and C25.

Lipless Crankbait

Two Lucky Craft LV 500 lipless crankbaits on rock

Lipless crankbaits are one of the best baits for spring bass fishing. Unlike their lipped counterpart, lipless crankbaits sink and their depth is controlled by the baits weight and the speed of your retrieve. During prespawn you can hop them on the bottom. Once grass starts growing up you can fish them through the grass or right above the grass line.

Learn more with these helpful resources:

Complete Lipless Crankbait Guide

Best Lipless Crankbaits – Lure Recommendations

Crankbait vs Jerkbait – How to Spot the Difference

Crankbaits have a thick body and two treble hooks. Jerkbaits have a long thin body with a small bill and three small treble hooks.

How to Fish a Crankbait

Like other power fishing lures, crankbaits are fished fast to cover a lot of water. Because crankbaits take some time to get to their designed depth you want to be able to cast as far as possible so the bait spends as much time as possible at your desired depth. It is also a good idea to reel faster at first to help get the bait down quickly. When fishing a crankbait keeping your rod tip low can help get a bit of extra depth.

A basic, steady retrieve will catch fish but adding in some slight modifications can increase your productivity. When fishing around cover try slowing or pausing the bait for a second giving inactive bass a chance to strike. In open water you can try a stop and go retrieve. The key to crankbait fishing is locating bass then paying attention to what is causing triggering the strike. Some days it will be a fast steady retrieve others might be a stop and go. If you can manage to find the pattern then you are in for a good day on the water.

Upgrading Crankbait Hooks

The hooks that come stock on most crankbaits are pretty bad and should be replaced. When replacing treble hooks make sure you put them on the correct way. The front treble should be attached so that one hook is facing the front of the bait and the other two can fold up flush with the bait. The back hook should be opposite so that the two hooks are facing the front and the last hook facing the back. This will help prevent snags and increase hookup ratio.

I like to use a red hook as the front hook of my crankbaits. Red hooks won’t get you more bites but it does help where the bass will hit the bait. As bass approach a bait they are looking for a place to strike and having a red hook gives them that last second target. Having the bass hit the front hook will give you a better chance of getting the second hook into them as they fight. Hooking a fish by the back hook leaves the bait out in front of them and makes it much easier for them to throw the bait.

Recommended hardware upgrades: Owner Hyperwire Split Rings (Size 4 and 5), Gamakatsu EWG, Owner ST-36

Maintaining and Tuning Crankbaits

After deflecting crankbaits off rock and hardcover for a couple seasons you will inevitably run into a bait that doesn’t track straight anymore. You can re-balance your crankbait by adjusting the eyelet that you tie onto.

If your bait tracks to the right, you need to bend the eyelet slightly to the left. If your bait tracks to the left, you need to bend the eyelet slightly to the right. You can use pliers to bend adjust the eyelet.

Make small adjustments and test to determine if more adjustments are needed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Crankbaits

Are Crankbaits Good for Bass?

Crankbaits are great when fishing for bass. They can be fished fast in order to cover a lot of water while you are searching for bass. The quick movement and action is one of the best for triggering bass to bite.

Do Crankbaits Have to Hit Bottom?

Crankbaits don’t have to hit bottom to be effective. They can also be used for targeting fish suspended off bottom. Deflecting off bottom is a great option though.

Do You Use a Weight With a Crankbait?

Weights are not needed when fishing a crankbait. Billed crankbaits are designed to dive to a certain depth. If you need to get extra depth out of a crankbait you can add a weight right above the connection knot. The extra weight will change the action of the crankbait.

Can You Use a Swivel With a Crankbait?

Swivels can be used with crankbaits to make it faster to switch between lures. Using a swivel will affect the action of your crankbait. It will also make your lure look a little less natural. This may or may not be an issue depending on water clarity and how finicky the fish are.

Do Crankbaits Float or Sink?

Billed crankbaits float when they aren’t moving but will dive when being reeled in. Lipless crankbaits sink on their own and require to be reeled in to control depth.

Are Crankbaits Topwater?

Crankbaits are not topwater lures. Billed crankbaits float but dive when reeled in. There are some that designed to dive very shallow and stay close to the surface but they aren’t considered topwater.

What Colors Are Best?

We have an in-depth guide on the best crankbait colors and when to use them.