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Complete Guide to Fishing Lipless Crankbaits

What is a Lipless Crankbait

Lipless crankbaits are narrow, flat-sided shad profile baits. They produce a tight wobble action designed to imitate shade.

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.

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 sink. This makes them very versatile as they can be fished at any depth by speeding up or slowing down your retrieve.

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 – Most Effective Retrieves

Lipless crankbaits can be fished in many different ways and at just about any depth due to their sinking body. They produce a tight 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 help 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.

Covering Water

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.

Most Effective Lipless Retrieves

  • Medium-Fast – Standard lipless retrieve, easy for beginners. Simply reel in at a consistent medium to fast speed. Perfect when targeting vegetation. This retrieve relies on drawing reflex bites where bass are forced to make a split-second decision on whether to strike or not. I use this retrieve about 50% of the time when fishing a lipless crankbait.
  • Slow Roll – Ideal in colder water under 50 degrees or when fishing super deep in the summer. When slow-rolling a lipless you want to cast out and let your bait hit bottom. Once your bait hits bottom, start slow-rolling your retrieve while keeping your bait about 1ft above the bottom.
  • Yo-Yo / Hopping Bottom – Hopping bottom is my favorite retrieve for fishing a lipless crankbait. This technique is similar to the slow roll but you are allowing the bait to hit bottom between each yo-yo. The yo-yo action can be done by allowing the bait to hit bottom with your rod tip down and pointing towards your bait. Next, lift your rod tip up towards the sky then slowly lower it back into position. As you lower your rod back down reel up any slack line. This yo-yo action will make your lipless hop along the bottom. Most strikes will happen during the hop, about 70%. The remaining 30% will come on the fall so be ready to set the hook. This retrieve is perfect for coving large flats and points.
  • Super Fast Burn – A super-fast retrieve that keeps lipless crankbaits near the surface is one that I don’t use often but is perfect for super windy days.

Lipless Crankbait Diving Depths

Lipless crankbaits are sinking baits that can be effectively fished at any depth. You can more accurately target certain depths by watching your bait sink then counting down each cast. For example, if your bait sinks 2ft per second then you would need to countdown 5 seconds before starting your retrieve to target 10ft down.

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
  • Points

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.

Lure Selection

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.

Rod & Reel Recommendations:

Best: G Loomis IMX Pro 845 CBR paired with a Shimano Bantam 150 XG

Mid-Range: Megabass Levante Flat Size Special paired with a Shimano SLX MGL 70 HG

Budget: Dobyns Fury 705 CB paired with a Shimano SLX HG