Complete Guide to Fishing Lipless Crankbaits
What is a Lipless Crankbait
Lipless crankbaits are thin, flat-sided shad profiled baits that produce a tight wobble action. Unlike other crankbaits that float and have to rely on their lip/bill to dive down, lipless crankbaits don’t have a bill. Instead, lipless crankbaits are sinking baits. This makes them very versatile as they can be fished at any depth by speeding up or slowing down your retrieve.
They typically have two small treble hooks underneath their bodies. Lipless crankbaits are sometimes referred to as rattlebaits, traps, or vibe cranks due to the beads in their bodies that produce a rattle or knocker sound. Although most baits have rattles a few lipless crankbaits are silent and do not have rattles.
When to Use a Lipless Crankbait
The best time of the year to fish a lipless crankbait is during the spring and fall. During these times bass are feeding heavily on baitfish, trying to bulk up for spawn and winter.
How to Fish a Lipless Crankbait
Lipless crankbaits can be fished in many different ways and at just about any depth due to their sinking body. They produce a wobbling action as it is retrieved. The amount of vibration lipless crankbaits produce is based on the speed at which they are retrieved. Due to this, you will oftentimes see pros vary their retrieval speeds to draw in reaction baits. By speeding up your retrieve or by twitching your rod you can imitate a baitfish darting away from prey.
Depending on the situation there are two styles to fish a lipless crankbait, below we will go over both.
Fishing a steady retrieve is the most common method anglers use when fishing a lipless. This method allows you to fish fast and cover a lot of water until you develop a pattern.
When covering water you will want both slow and fast sinking baits in the tacklebox. For steeper banks, you will want a faster sinking lipless to get down deeper without having to slow down your retrieve.
For fishing mid-column or shallow water, you will need a lipless with a slower sinking rate to stay up in the water column.
Hopping Lipless Crankbaits Along Bottom
Hopping bottom is an often ignored way to fish a lipless crankbait. Until you try it you wouldn’t believe that it would work, but it does, and it’s extremely effective.
Cast along the bank and let the bait sink to the bottom. Once you hit bottom slowly fish it like you would for a jig. Pop your rod to hop the bait up and let it fall back to the bottom. On the hop, the rattles in the bait will produce a lot of noise that draws in bass.
When hopping bottom you want to use a bait that has a lot of weight for its size profile. The heavier weight helps the bait crash back down when hopping it. This quick action on the fall is what draws in reaction strikes. A bait that slowly glides down won’t work for this technique.
Lipless Crankbait Diving Depths
Lipless crankbaits are sinking baits that can be effectively fished at any depth. To target deeper water, slow your retrieve down to allow the bait to sink deeper. When fishing shallow water you need to speed up your retrieve to keep the bait up.
Where to Fish a Lipless Crank
- Submerged Vegetation
- Hard Bottom
The most common place to fish lipless crankbaits is around grass and vegetation. Casting along grass lines or using a slow sinking lipless crank is great for staying up shallow above grass.
For specific lure recommendations please read our in-depth lipless crankbait buyers guide.
Best Weights for Lipless Crankbaits
With the exception of the LV-500 and Jackall TN, most lipless crankbaits’ weight corresponds to their size. A medium-sized lipless crank is 1/2 oz, this is the most common weight I use. If I’m successful and want to target larger fish I move up to a bigger profile 3/4 oz bait.
The larger 3/4 oz lipless crankbaits jump up in hook size too. They use size 2 hooks which are much stronger and greatly increase your odds of successfully landing a hooked fish.
Choosing the Right Color Lipless Crankbait
Color is an important factor when choosing a lipless bait. There are three basic colors you want in the tackle box, ghost, flashy, and bold. Ghost colors are where I always start, these will be your natural-looking baits. Your bold colors can be craw colors, solid white, or chartreuse.
Having these three color styles will allow you to effectively fish a lipless crank in any situation.
Lipless Crankbait Setup
Lipless crankbaits often get flack for having a terrible hookup ratio. This myth comes from anglers not using the proper gear for lipless cranks. Lipless cranks have small hooks for their weight. So they can be easier for bass to throw when they jump and thrash around.
With proper gear, you can cut this down significantly. What you are looking for is a rod on the softer side, just strong enough to get the hooks in. You want the rod to bend all the way down to keep those hooks pinned while you work the fish in.
With a rod that can absorb all the fight of the fish, you will rarely lose them.
For those on a budget, you want a medium power rod.