2021 Guide to the Best Crankbaits for Bass Fishing Tips

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Crankbaits are a staple of tournament fisherman and hobbyist alike world wide, but I’ll be the first to admit, bass fishing in 2021 can be intimidating. You walk into any fishing supply store and look around and it is not hard to get confused on all the options, even for an expert angler. There are so many baits, lines, reels, rods, combos, and the list just goes on and on. To understand crankbait fishing and what you should be gearing towards, let’s take a deep dive into the best crankbaits for bass fishing and other tips to help you succeed in landing a monster bass!

  • A crankbait is a hard bait, either containing a lip or is lipless, first designed around 1915.
  • Crankbaits will either float on water until retrieved, at which time they dive into the water, or they sink initially and retrieve back to your rod tip.
  • Most crankbaits have two eyes on the bottom of the bait, though some will only have one. These eyes have treble hooks attached to them. These treble hooks are excellent for successfully landing a fish.
  • Crankbaits that contain a bill, will have a ring similar to that of a keychain. This is where you tie your line. The slip ring allows the bait to perform its action in the water, moving side to side rapidly.
  • A crankbait with a bill will be short, medium, or long. The size of the bill determines how deep the crankbait will dive with the proper gear.
  • Crankbaits are best presented when using fluorocarbon line because fluorocarbon sinks. Braided line has its uses when throwing a crankbait but understand that braided line floats, which will cause the crankbait to rise on retrieve much faster.
  • Some crankbaits do not contain a lip and have weights inside of them.
  • Crankbaits come in different sizes, shapes, and more importantly, colors.

The Best Crankbaits for Bass Fishing

SHALLOW DIVING & SQUAREBILL CRANKBAITS

squarebill crankbaits for bass fishing

Shallow diving crankbaits dive 1-3 feet into the water. These baits have a small lip on them and sit closer to the surface. Depending on the bait you are throwing, you will usually see a particular shape on the top water, causing ripples in the shape of a “V”, while retrieving. I have had a good amount of success using shallow water cranks when I see schools of bait fish close to the surface, especially if I see fish coming up and feeding on them. Smallmouth bass tend to like shallow water crankbaits as well.

MEDIUM DIVING CRANKBAITS

medium diving crankbaits for bass fishing

Medium Diving crankbaits are usually for 3-7 feet of water and sit around 3/8 oz or heavier. If you imagine looking at a bank from the front of a boat, 5 feet off the bank, the water is 3 feet deep and drops off as it gets closer to the boat, forming a ledge between your boat the water’s edge, then you are imagining a good setting to throw a medium diving crank bait. Throw towards the bank, as you crank it will dive deeper, running over the ledge, where bass like to hang out.

DEEP DIVING CRANKBAITS

Deep Diving Crankbaits for Bass Fishing

Deep diving crankbaits are usually a larger bait. Being a larger bait, it requires a hefty rod setup, however it is not absolutely necessary, but suggested. A deep diving crankbait can target 8-25 foot of water. Whether its largemouth suspended around 12-15 feet, or Smallmouth in 20 foot of water hanging out. Deep diving crankbaits are a hidden gem in my opinion.

Most anglers are going to fish crankbaits 10 foot and shallower. The fish who are hanging out in those depths get used to that action and it doesn’t give a surprise reaction, causing a reactionary bite on some fish. However, the fish hanging out in 15-25 feet of water do not see this action as often. This causes the fish who hang out in deeper water to give you a reactionary bite. I have great success with this. Obviously, the area and how it is fished, is going to matter here.

LIPLESS CRANKBAITS

lipless crankbaits for bass fishing

The next type of crankbait I want to talk about is the lipless crankbait. These baits are sometimes called, “rattle baits”. This is because lipless cranks will not contain a lip, which on the lipped crankbaits causes the floating crankbait to dive in the water, but instead have weights inside of them. These baits sink on your initial cast. The lip ring for tying your line to the bait is located on the top of the bait, instead of on the lip. The weights on the inside of the crankbaits, often referred to as BBs, rattle as you retrieve the bait, which causes a different kind of presentation to obtain a reactionary bite. Lipless crankbaits are usually retrieved more rapidly and aggressively.

Crankbait Rods

crankbait rods

We have discussed what a crankbait is and the major types of crankbaits. Now, let’s talk about the kind of setup to throw these baits. Before I do that, I want to preface this with a disclaimer. It is not necessary to have all of these rods and reels in your arsenal to use crankbaits for bass fishing. I would be lying if I said I haven’t used the total opposite of what I am about to tell you to catch a large amount of fish on a crank bait. The weekend angler is not going to have 15 rod and reel combos, all specific for a particular bait.

I will also tell you I have seen tournaments won with deep diving crankbaits being thrown on a short rod with a Walmart special reel and braided line, that looked to be 10 years old. However, consistency and performance is key if you are looking to improve your hook-ups when out on the lake or river.

If you look online or at your local tackle shop at rods, you will see a plethora of different labels describing the type of rod. Spinning rod, casting rod, Medium, Heavy, Moderate, and that list too, goes on and on. I am going to break this down for crankbaits here.

The best overall cranking rod, if you only want to buy one, is going to be a 7-8 foot, Medium-Heavy, moderate speed rod. However, if you want two of them, get a 6’6 rod as well. That 6’6 rod will work better for you when throwing smaller, lighter crankbaits.
So what does a Medium Heavy, Moderate speed rod mean? Why do I want a 7-8 foot rod? Let’s break it down.

CRANBAIT ROD LENGTH

Your 7-8 foot rod is going to allow you to cast that crankbait further and more accurate, while your 6’6 rod is going to allow you to cast those smaller crankbaits more efficiently.

CRANKBAIT ROD POWER

Medium – Heavy is the power of the rod. Think of power as the strength of the rod’s backbone. How much power does it take to get that rod to bend? In this case, medium – heavy power. You can even go with a Heavy rod for deep-diving crankbaits that tend to create more resistance.

CRANKBAIT ROD ACTION

Moderate and moderate – fast means how fast does that backbone’s bend become engaged. In this case, we are looking at Moderate speed.

Medium rods are going to perform better when paired with a shallow or medium diving crankbait. Heavier deep diving crankbaits, or when fishing in heavier cover you will need to rip through, Medium – Heavy rods are going to perform better.

Moderate to Moderate – Fast action helps control the lure. Imagine a running back coming out of the back field and hitting a hole up the middle. The running back bounces off of two defenders and gets a first down. This is why you want moderate to moderate – fast rod. It will allow your crank bait to bounce off of potential snags.

When to Fish Crankbaits for Bass

When to Fish Crankbaits for Bass Fishing

Fishing crankbaits for bass can be beneficial anytime of the year. What is important is figuring out what depth the fish are in and fishing the proper crankbait and action for that depth. Your retrieval, stop and go, powering through, fast, or slow is also highly important. Top it off with a strong color choice that is matched up with the bait fish and brightness of the day, you will have success. Here are some tips for fishing in the four different seasons.

SPRING

Fishing shallow crankbaits can be successful here in the shallow sections of water where grass is just starting to really grow.

SUMMER

Deeper water in the heat of summer has proven to be a go to, utilizing deep diving crank baits. Fish tend to go deeper when the water warms up, or find shape. Fishing at deeper depths when covering ground during this time of year is essential to finding fish.

FALL

The fall season has larger shad. Try running a slightly larger shad colored crankbait in the back of coves and creeks.

WINTER

Fish are more lethargic this time of year due to the water temperatures. Try a lipless crankbait here with a rattle to try and encourage more reactionary bites.

Final Thoughts

Crankbaits for bass fishing have been around since about 1915. As you can imagine, so much has changed since then. One thing you can bet on, the first crankbait prototype caught fish over 100 years ago. Confidence is key when fishing. Utilize this information to give you and extra edge the next you are on the water, but remember, at the end of the day, as my Grandpa always says, “You never know until you throw!”
Get to Crankin’!

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