How to fish crankbaits is not a mystery. Although, you see pros and tv fishermen rave about them. You, however, do not have their success. A crankbait is like any other lure. You must know how, where, and when to use them. The reason there are so many different lures is that different conditions require a different approach.
All lures work in different conditions and crankbaits are not an exception. You will need to learn how to use different types of crankbaits. The same as the other lures in your tackle box, through experience and practice.
Crankbaits wobble or wiggle on the retrieve. It is the designed action along with mimicking baitfish. The crankbait comes in various body shapes, sizes, and lip designs to achieve a different action or depth. Also, they come with other options like rattles or jointed. All of these elements have an effect on a lure and how it will perform. Having an idea of how the design affects a lure will help with choosing the correct lure.
Fish crankbaits in different colors. One usually outperforms the other colors. Bass can be finicky at times with colors.
Which Crankbaits to Fish
There is not an easy answer to this subject. The depth, type of cover, fish’s activity, and a host of other factors affect the lure needs to be used. The use of rattles will often help but sometimes will alienate fish that are spooked or wary. The wider-lipped baits will wobble and subsequently narrow lipped baits wiggle.
Which one does the fish want under specific conditions? What depth of water is the fish located in? You must have a bait that gets to that depth also known as the strike zone. There are some general guidelines that are a good starting point.
The water depth is the easiest adjustment to make with a crankbait. The square bill is a shallow runner, long bills are for deeper water. The length and angle also determine the depth. The longest bill will go the deepest as a rule and have less angle.
The square bills tend to be shorter and with a steeper angle. Then there are lures with various angles and lengths in between. The multiple choices are a benefit.
The Bodies Effect on Crankbaits
The bill does affect action but so does body shape. The fatter and rounder bodies have more roll and wobble. The narrow or flat-sided crankbait will have less roll and tend to wiggle. A fast retrieve on some crankbaits will make them run too erratic and too slow will diminish the action and depth.
You do want some erratic action but too much of anything is usually a bad thing. An erratic action is the hunting or searching a bait does along with wobble or wiggle. The erratic action is common to round bodies.
How to Fish Different Crankbaits
Since there are so many options a few ideas might be helpful. These are some suggested starting guidelines for the variations in crankbaits. Always make adjustments to fine-tune your technique as what works today may not work tomorrow.
Square Bill Fat Body
When the water is warm and shallow. During pre-spawn conditions or when fish school together. When the fish are more active. These lures will ricochet off of many types of cover and structure. The fish will often hit after a ricochet. Fish these crankbaits in cover.
Long Billed Fat Body
These are for deeper water so choose the correct depth running crankbait. When water is warm, pre-spawn, or when fish are schooling. When the fish are more active. The ricochet rule applies so hit the cover.
Square Billed Narrow Body
When the water is colder and shallow, post-spawn, and isolated fish. When the bite is difficult give this style try.
Long Billed Narrow Body
When fishing colder and deeper water, post-spawn, and isolated fish. Choose the correct depth lure for where the fish are located. When the bite is tough this is a better option usually.
The weather, water clarity, and other conditions will affect the bite. Choose the color based on confidence, water clarity and color, and native baitfish populations. What color works in one region may or may not in another area or body of water.
You will need a selection of colors and sizes with crankbaits. The majority of bass will go after 1.5 to 2.5-inch crankbaits. If you seek larger gamefish a larger lure may be a better choice. Size and color is a choice each angler must make for themselves.
A crankbait is often a good choice when searching for active fish. Fish crankbaits at a medium to fast retrieve. The various conditions will dictate the speed. They will go through most cover and ricochet off of wood and rocks. In weeds, any lure has the potential to snag and grab weeds. Use common sense in the weeds, a crankbait may not be the best technique to use.
Fish crankbaits in suitable cover. One tip is if you do not lose a few once in a while. The chances are you are not catching fish. You must gamble on whether or not on losing a lure in cover. The fish are in cover and lures go in after them.
Fish Lipless Crankbaits
There is another crankbait option for anglers. It is the lipless crankbait. The shape of the body and a line tie on the top create the action. The lipless version will have weight added, often it is BBs that will rattle inside the body. The weight makes them sink, thus achieving the desired depth. The retrieve rate has an effect also.
In deepwater a heavier lure with a slower retrieve can reach 30 or more feet. This is good for species that inhabit deeper water. The lipless crankbait can be used shallow and slow if it is a small lighter model. A walleye angler will have a few of these in their box. Some bass anglers may not see a need for this lure. If you do fish deeper water a few are likely a good option for you.
What Tackle is Best to Fish Crankbaits
The manufacturers of fishing equipment make rods for every situation and lure presentations. What you need is a rod where you can feel what the crankbait is doing. A good rod will feel ricochets and action. When weeds or grass or another foreign object grabs a lure you should be able to identify that also.
You probably own a rod that will meet these requirements, if not buy one. The reel is something you likely have also. The reels with a middle range ratio of 5:6 to 7.0:1 will work well. You are not burning bucktails or spinnerbaits. It is not mandatory to have a reel in this range. Although, using crankbaits will be tiring with the wrong reel.
The most important tackle with crankbait fishing is the line. A thin diameter line that sinks will allow you to get deeper with the lure. As a result, fluorocarbon lines fit this aspect the best. You must tie the knots correctly with fluorocarbon or they will fail. This is why some anglers do not use the line or complain about losing fish due to knot failure.
If you are not comfortable with fluorocarbon. Try using braid with a mono leader until you have the confidence to use fluorocarbon. An 8-12 pound test line is all you will need for most species of fish. If you are targeting larger fish stay with the smallest diameter possible for the species.
This is a basic guideline to help learn crankbait fishing. There are many nuances to using this type of lure. As you gain experience, the lures will perform better leading to a better catch rate.
Keeping fishing simple for tight lines and bragging rights