How To Fish With A Crankbait For Largemouth Bass and Other Fish

If you can dedicate some time to the learning curve for how to fish with a crankbait properly,  you can put so many more fish in the boat more often and have an absolute ball doing it. 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 largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike, chain pickerel, channel catfish, flathead catfish, dorado, tuna, and so much more. They are a great bait for fishermen just starting out or for extremely experienced anglers to catch fish with.

They come in all colors and sizes. They are great for catching your next trophy fish. They do that often and do it well. Cranking is the practice of fishing with a crankbait or plug. It is one of the best techniques. It is also one of the most exciting experiences in the sport of bass fishing. They are effective all around the world as well as in all temperatures of water, on most species of predator game fish. They can be 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 success record.

It has a very lengthy fish catching reputation. The crankbait is a reaction lure and it really entices a an aggressive strike. 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. They are that good. Its why you see almost all of the professional bass fishermen using them all the time. They catch fish.

What Is The Best Crankbait Setup To Catch Largemouth?

The best crankbait setup you need to get started throwing  crankbaits 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. Having the wrong gear will cause you to get more headaches than catches. You can always catch a few smaller fish by tying one onto your favorite rod and reel setup but this likely will not win any tournaments for you.

Instead, you should use a setup that is geared more towards fishing a crankbait.  It just works better. You will catch more fish. We have compiled a basic list of how your setup needs to look before you are successful in that higher level of fishing. Keep in mind that these only cover what we have found to be effective in many places. Many things may influence your catch rate and as a result, we cannot guarantee that it will work in your area. Chances are high that it will work.

The Rod – A Medium To Medium-Heavy Action Rod

A medium to a medium-heavy rod is essential to fishing hard, reaction, baits effectively. With that, one that has a fast action tip will help you feel the bite and set the hook well.  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 especially if they plan on doing a lot of fishing this way. Spinning rods can be used without any issues.

Even so, baitcasting versions are a lot more common for this. Baitcasting rods allow you to bump the presentation off of things as well as use bigger plugs to reel in huge fish in the process. Believe it too. You will catch some monsters so be ready for it. You should consider spinning gear for very light crankbaits or very windy days. As for the length of the rod, It should be anywhere from 6 feet to 7 feet long. The variance here is just more or less the preference of the angler and doesn’t do much to affect efficiency, action, or anything else. A longer Rod will cast farther and a shorter one will cast more accurately.

The Reel – A Slower Baitcasting Reel

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. A good quality one is also for the win. Lower quality baitcasting reels made with lower quality parts do not last near as long as well as do not fight fish near as well. With baitcasting gear, you have to be careful because everything inside the reel works together. If just one thing slips or breaks on the inside, it will likely render your reel unusable. They normally have poorer braking systems and are unreliable.

The Line – Always A Quality Fluorocarbon

The 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 to suspend baits or if you want a little more forgiveness on your hooksets. The problem with it though is that monofilament floats and this is the exact opposite of what you want when trying to get your offering down there as deep as possible. Monofilament is also very prone to kinking when it moves over cover which can greatly reduce the strength integrity of your line’s pound test. Braid is another animal entirely. While it is neutrally buoyant and will not cause the baits to float, they also have the added problem associated with visibility. I have seen many use braids for this type of fishing and my experience has been that it works but not near as consistently. Make sure it is around a 14-pound test in both cases as it offers everything you need it to do. The 14-pound test line is a little light in some cases too. Just make sure to set the drag right on your reel 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. Try your best to match the hatch if you can. This will result in many more catches.

1. Color Pattern Options

Different colored crankbaits isolated on a white background.

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 fire tiger, chartreuse, oranges, yellows, and very bright greens. To visualize it better, imagine 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

A yellow and black crankbait isolated on a white background.

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. 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.Deep sea fisherman with a big fish he caught with a big lure in its mouth.

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 its time and place in which they win and lose. The traditional style is usually the most popular. There is also the square bill and then the 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 square bill 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. 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 square bill 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 a few things different. 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. Try to use models without a lip if you want a very tight, aggressive, wobble. They rock back and forth very evenly and this is unique.

A lipless crankbait in a shad pattern on an orange background.

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 With A Crankbait Successfully – Methods

  • Straight Retrieving

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 a bite once a day. It is effective pretty much every time of the year, on most fish. Certainly, give this one a try.

  • Burning It Back In

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 as opposed to the more quiet offerings.

  • Slow and Steady

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 square bill and for good reason. It is hugely effective in the wintertime 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.

  • Stop and Go

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.

  • The Yo-Yo Technique

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.

Why You Should Try Throwing Crankbaits

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. You may be amazed at how much success you have for the day.

What is your favorite way of fishing these? Favorite model? Something else you want to say? Leave a reply in a comment below this post so we can hear what you have to say. You can help others with your comments!


1 thought on “How To Fish With A Crankbait For Largemouth Bass and Other Fish”

  1. Dear David
    Thank you very much for your fantastic website. It is amazing that you show people where to start and what steps to make towards their amazing, healthy and relaxing hobby – fishing. I hope more people will know about your website and follow your guidance.
    Kind regards,


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