Crankbaits are one of the best baits for fishing both in freshwater as well as saltwater. They can be used for all kinds of fish species such as Large and Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Northern Pike and Pickerel, Channel and Flathead Catfish, Dorado and Tuna, and so much more.
They are a great bait for fishermen just starting out or for extremely experienced anglers. They come in all colors and sizes. and are great for catching your next record-breaking fish. They do that often and do it well.
Cranking, (the art of fishing with a crankbait or plug) is arguably one of the most exciting experiences in the sport of fishing as a whole. They are effective all around the world as well as in all temperatures of water, on most species of predator gamefish.
They can be cast out and retrieved to entice reaction strikes or you can troll them to cover more water quickly. The crankbait is an old design with a tried and true fish catching reputation. It is a reaction lure and it really packs a punch.
That means that it is designed to irritate fish into striking. We don’t recommend that you take this type of lure out of your tackle box.
In fact, we recommend that you have at least one tied onto your rod every day of every season. If you can dedicate some time to the learning curve about how to fish with a crankbait properly, you can put so many more fish in the boat.
What Gear Should I Throw These On?
The setup you need to get started throwing harder, diving, reaction baits is fairly simple. Referred to by many as a cranking setup, the components that you choose to use are not only important but are fairly specific in nature. Having the right components in your hands that are specific to the lures you want to throw will help you be much more efficient.
A medium to a medium-heavy rod is essential to fishing hard reaction baits effectively. They have a ton of backbone and that tip produces just enough sensitivity to feel when you get a bite but more than enough to reel in huge catches from very far away.
A good fisherman will also choose to go for using a baitcasting rod over the more commonly used spinning variety.
A quality baitcasting reel is almost as essential as having a good rod. You want a reel that is easy to manage, and one that is a little bit slower. We recommend a gear ratio of 6.3:1. The slower moving reel will allow you to fish at drastically different speeds. You can always reel in faster to take in more line or you can reel in slower in colder water with a reel like this.
Fluorocarbon fishing line is the line of choice for any type of cranking. Unlike braid or monofilament, it sinks. It allows your deep divers to swim a little bit deeper and it has superior abrasion resistance which is what you will be needing for your traditional lures.
Monofilament is useful if you have suspending baits or if you want a little more forgiveness on your hooksets. Make sure it is around 14-pound test in both cases as it offers everything you need it to do. 14-pound test is a little light in some cases. Just make sure to set the drag right and you should be fine.
Picking the Right Crank For You
Picking the right lure is crucially important to the success of the angler. There are many different factors and features to consider before tying one on.
Different features will often produce different results. Depending on where you live, the species of fish in your area, the size of fish you catch, and many other things, your catch rate can go up and down.
Even the weather can affect your fishing trip. Remember to try and have all things considered first, so you can choose a lure that optimally fits the current situation.
1) Color Pattern Options
Before we determine the color that we need to use, we must first look at the water to determine the conditions. Is the water clarity clear as crystal or clear as mud? If it is clear, we wanna use a more natural looking color pattern like Shad, Bluegill, Crappie, and Crayfish colors.
We want the color to closely match what the predators are naturally feeding on. That would usually translate to things like Chrome, Sexy Shad, Baby Bluegill, Baby Bass, Shiner, Rainbow Trout, Round Goby, and similar paint jobs.
If we are fishing in slightly stained water, we will want to use less natural colors that are very bright in appearance and highly visible. Think Firetigers, Chartreuse, oranges, yellows, and very bright greens. To visualize why, think of road workers that wear high visibility vests.
You can see them very well even in dim lighting. This is exactly why it matters. If you are night fishing or have managed to encounter some water that resembles chocolate milk in appearance, this is where you want to avoid any color altogether and throw jet black, navy blue, and dark brown. These do a better job of creating a silhouette in the water. They are easily seen in dirtier water.
2) Lure Shape and Why It Matters
The shape of the lure you decide to throw is a very notable feature. The shape of the bait not only plays a role and how it behaves but it also how it appears in the water. They come in many different shapes to choose from. Your most common shapes tend to imitate small fish for the most part.
Even so, there are many other ones. Some are shaped like crayfish, some are shaped like Grasshoppers and crickets, some have a longer foiled out body comparable to jerkbaits, and some are even jointed in the middle.
The shape of the lure is an important one because different shapes displace a different amount of water in a different way. That can make a lure more or less irritating to the fish. This can cause you to get more or fewer strikes on any given day.
3) Size Of Lures
Size counts in fishing. if you are aiming for bigger fish, you want to use a bigger size. This helps keep the little ones away. You may still occasionally get hit by a smaller individual now and again, but they usually bite much less consistently.
If you looking for a panfish and not your next record-breaking fish, then you will want to go for something smaller. We recommend lures that are 1 – 3 inches for the smaller fish, but 2 – 5 inches if you are after something a little bit bigger.
Normally, the size heavily influences what fish are caught on it. You likely will not hook Bluegill on giant Muskie plugs. That doesn’t mean that a small lure will not get hit by a huge fish. It certainly is possible. It happens. Just not as often. Know what species you are after and choose size wisely.
4) Lips and Bill Styles
The very first thing to consider after color and size is determined will be the style of the lip or bill. A few different styles exist and each one has their time and place in which they win and lose. The traditional style is usually the most popular. There is also the squarebill and then the not as common hybrid varieties.
Generally speaking, the longer the lip, the deeper it will dive. The traditionally rounded lips are usually used for a variety of fishing conditions and will catch fish just about anywhere you use them. The squarebill is king of the ping. The way that lip is designed makes it bounce off of structure quite easily.
They are designed to be fished in areas with a lot of rocks or wood near to the bottom and make excellent cold water reaction lures. The hybrid variety of bills are unique in appearance and provide a balanced medium between structure deflection and versatility that some anglers may want more.
The angle of the lip is also determinate about how fast it will get down to the proper depth. A more horizontal bill will get down to depth rather quickly and the more vertical ones will take longer to get to the right water level.
5) Suspending Vs. Non-Suspending
Suspending is the act of floating back to the surface while at rest. Certain models actually do suspend when you stop them. Suspending lures can be deadly to bigger fish as well those who are spooky.
A lot of the time when a fish is chasing a lure and it stops before floating upwards is when you will get hit. They love to hit them when they are starting to float. The most popular method of fishing a suspending model is to utilize the stop and go or a similar retrieve.
This is helpful in colder water when you need something a little more relaxed so the fish don’t flee. Lower metabolism is the essence of this method. It is also very effective in warmer waters too and draws strikes from aggressive fish as well.
6) To Rattle Or Not To Rattle
There is a lot of debate about rattles and whether or not they are better or not. You can be equally successful trying both rattles and silent lures pretty much everywhere. The rattle inside of a lure will often play a vital role in catching the attention of the fish all the while, keeping it interested.
Rattles tend to do what is called, “sound the dinner bell”. Although the fish do not really hit crankbaits because of hunger, certain situations will give you a lot more strikes than if you threw the same bait without noise.
Noisy and audible lures are best used when fish are aggressive such as during the warmer months in Summer and Spring as well as the pre-spawn stage. Ones without a rattle are the most effective in the Winter and Fall as well as post-spawn when they want something a lot less threatening. You will traditionally find that the most silent of lures have a squarebill or are generally shallow diving versions.
7) Wobble Patterns
The wobble pattern of a lure is a big one. Some have a very tight wobble while others have a very long and erratic wobble. The reason you would choose one over another is simple. To match the wants of the fish. A tighter wobble is usually more subtle and the more erratic wobbles are to irritate the most aggressive of fish.
Let it be known. The difference does matter and it matters a lot. The pattern of the wobble is heavily influenced by the design as well as the shape of the lure’s body, the lips angle, and size, and even if proper hooks are used on the lure itself.
A lot of the time, you will find that different brands and different lure manufacturers have a different wobble pattern even with the same type of bait. That is okay. It is just often up to you to use some, catch some fish, and choose which ones you like best.
8) Lipless Plugs
A lipless crankbait is a type of plug with flat sides and no lip. The main difference is the lack of a lip (obviously), but it also has a few more differences that distinguish it from the lipped versions. First of all, the line tie is on the top of the lure instead of the nose.
This makes the lure have a tighter, yet more aggressive action. Another difference is the way it sinks. The traditional lipped lure has a certain depth that the lip allows it to travel to. On the other hand, a lipless one sinks like a rock, straight to the bottom.
It is now up to the angler to control the depth it dives by using their rod tip. The absence of a lip also means a higher opportunity to snag up. You don’t want a lipless anywhere near something it could catch on. If it goes to the bottom and picks up a stray weed, you can often rip it free to entice a reaction out of willing fish.
Where To Fish Exposed Treble Lures
A noticeable feature about the cranking style of lures is the exposed treble hooks. Treble hooks are always nice to have in open water as you have six points of impact that can stick the fish on the strike to help you reel them in.
However, this can also get in the way sometimes. Having six very sharp points on the lure will drastically increase it’s snagging rate. A snag refers to the hook getting caught on an object other than a fish and not being able to reel it in because it is hung up.
They are very great lures and we highly recommend giving them a try, but if your local lake is full of weeds and trees, don’t bother. They will snag up too much of the time and lose too many baits. That does not mean that you should avoid using them in water that has some weeds.
If a lake or Pond has just a few weeds or cattails, retrieving them right beside them will often get you the strike. You can even retrieve them in heavy vegetation if you are careful and sure that you won’t snag up. If a hook manages to grab a piece of grass, ripping it free will often cause an aggressive strike.
When To Start Cranking
There is never a right or wrong time to throw on a frantic reaction lure of any kind. Many anglers tend to have this preconceived idea that you need to fish a jig with a craw trailer, a grub, a shaky head, a drop shot worm or soft plastic swimbaits to be the most successful.
For some that may hold true depending on many factors. But for most places in the country or the world for that matter, you can still catch more than enough on these harder baits. You should just be familiar with how to do it.
You can land just as many fish in the Winter and Fall then you can in Summer and Spring by making some minor adjustments to your presentation and retrieve. They are a year-round lure with absolutely no restrictions based on the time of year or weather conditions.
That makes some very versatile and very effective. I have found that the most effective times to start throwing them are in the pre-spawn stage or when the water hits 50 degrees or above. As the metabolism of the fish rises, they become more aggressive and much more tempted to take on anything that unwillingly treads their path.
How To Fish Crankbaits and Retrieve Them
A straight retrieve is the most basic and arguably the most effective method out there. To perform a straight retrieve, all you have to do is cast it out, flip the bail closed if you’re on a spinning reel, and start reeling in. That’s it.
No Bells or whistles that you need to be aware of. A straight retrieve is often enough to at least get bit once a day. It is effective pretty much every time of the year, on most fish. Ceratinly giving this one a try.
If you know for certain that the fish in your area or aggressive, you can always try burning it back to the bank or boat. Burning refers to a straight retrieve at the highest speed your real is capable of. Reeling in as fast as you can and will allow you to burn a lure.
This is very effective in warm water as well as on specific species such as Pike, Walleye, and Largemouth Bass. There’s always helpful to keep in mind that faster reels that take in more line per turn of the handle will bring in a lure much faster than a slower reel would. It is best used with the rattling ones opposed to the more quiet offerings.
The slow and steady approach to the straight retrieve is the exact opposite a burning it back in. Wild burning refers to going as fast as you can, the slow and steady means that you reel in a slow as your capable of doing. This technique is tried-and-true.
It will work with rattles as well, but anglers tend to find their most success on quiet lures for this one. This is often how many like to retrieve a squarebill and for good reason. It is hugely effective in the winter time as well as the fall even if a lake is half frozen. Most of the time you can also get a bigger fish to take a bite this way.
Pretty self-explanatory, the stop and go retrieve is exactly the way it sounds. A stop and go can be performed when you start to retrieve and then stop abruptly, before continuing your retrieve. The process is repeated along the entire distance of water.
It is most commonly used with suspending lures. Lures that suspend on the pause. You can still use this to fish every single type though. It works well for all of them.
To perform a yo-yo, you want to cast out the bait, start reeling in at a moderate pace, lift your rod tip, and lower it. The method is called a yo-yo because this is the exact speed you want to do it at. Whenever your rod tip gets low, continue reeling, and lift it back up.
It makes a tantalizing motion that finicky fish just can’t stand. It is best done with a lipless or suspending model. How much fishing line you take in per turn of the reel handle is really up to you. You can make it go fast and furious or slower. Let the fish tell you how they want it.
Get Out There And Start Cranking
Reaction baits of all kinds tend to work very well. At the peak of that very tall tower is the cranking category. They have accounted for so many fish caught in every season of the year, on multiple species.
They can be so versatile and so effective Figuring out how to fish with a crankbait will help you a ton, not only in catching fish, but it will also help you get a better feel for how fish behave.
If you are at a body of water and fish are just not feeding, try not to panic. Tie on one of these harder reaction lures and cast it out.
What has been your experience with these lures? Leave a comment below this post to let us know!