How to Fish With a Crankbait? A Quick Guide!

How to Fish With a Crankbait

Among the variety of lures, crankbaits have a special place.

Many anglers use them in all seasons and these lures are highly effective, if you know how to properly use them.

To successfully fish with the crankbait you will have to choose the right one, including type, color and diving depth. Additionally, you must learn how to maneuver the lure, especially around covers and obstacles.

If you want to learn how to fish with a crankbait, I will provide basic information, in the following chapters:



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What Is A Crankbait Lure? And What Types Do We Know?

Crankbaits are artificial lures used to catch predatory fish species. These lures are constructed in a way to dive under water. Many of them have a plastic lip that enables that dive; however, lipless options are also available. These lures can dive below the surface or at depths up to 20 feet (6 meters) and more.

Therefore, crankbaits are divided into categories (different types) which describe their features.

Usually, the lip size and shape determine the depth. Because of the rounded shape and a lip, these lures can dive extremely fast and imitate the sudden movement of baitfish.

How to Fish With Crankbait

Shallow diving crankbaits

These lures work best in shallow water where covers and weeds are present. They can be easily maneuvered around rocks, docks and similar obstacles.

Working this lure around covers is actually not that hard, and hitting obstacles is not a problem.

Although the hooks are present, it will rarely tangle, and hitting an obstacle could actually attract fish, because of the unpredictable, but natural, movement.

These should be worked at higher speeds. The lure body will cause the lure to deflect from obstacles and hooks will not have a chance to get stuck.

However, the technique has to be practiced.

Medium diving crankbaits

These are, as the name suggests, crankbaits that dive to medium depths.

These are great for depths around 10 feet (3 meters), but they can also be used in shallower water where they will reach the bottom.

When they come close to bottom, they cause disturbance ad that will attract fish. Same as the previous ones, these can also deflect from obstacles.

And if you make a short stop after you hit something, targeted fish could be very interested in your crankbait.

Deep diving crankbaits

These are great for deeper areas and fishing around deep cover ... 

Logic behind it is the same as with previous ones, but these are a bit harder to control, especially for a beginner. However, same as shallow and medium diving crankbaits, these are also highly effective.

How to Fish With Crankbait - Green Lure

What Kind of Fish Can you Catch with Crankbait?

Crankbaits are able to attract any predator.

These lures will cover very large area and trigger bites from nearby hungry fish. These are the most common species caught on crankbaits:


Using crankbaits is very popular among bass anglers, even in bass tournaments. Choose crankbaits that are able to dive a bit deeper than the water column is. This will result in deflections from the bottom and bass will be very intrigued.

The lighter the line, the deeper this lure will go.


For walleyes, you should try to find a crankbait that imitates the real appearance of baitfish. And the only way to find the best one is to have a few options available, because the same crankbaits can give different results in different locations.

Walleyes catch prey by coming from underneath, so you will have to position the crankbait slightly above the hungry walleye.


Using smaller crankbaits in shallow water is great for catching crappies in fall.

Crappies will come to the shallows to feed aggressively before winter, and you should have your shad-resembling crankbait ready. During this time, shallow diving crankbaits will be the best.

You can catch crappies during summer and in deeper areas too, by using deep diving crankbaits. However, in fall, it will be the best experience.


Crankbaits are great for attracting larger trout specimens. Minnow-resembling lures are going to give the best results.

To get the trout, you will have to reel in a calm and relatively slow pace, but every 6-7 turns, you should twitch the lure. This twitching motion makes the trout go crazy.


To catch pike, you will have to use crankbaits that resemble baitfish living in the same location.

This should be your guideline when it comes to color selection. Of course, in darker waters, choose brighter shade of a given color.

Even the big pike, especially when hungry in spring, will bite on smaller lures, and so will the smaller pike, so don’t use large ones and limit yourself to large pike only. Use heavier ones for moving water and lighter for still water.

How to Fish With Crankbait - Lipless

Summer, Winter or Fall? When and How to Fish With a Crankbait?

Being such a versatile bait, crankbait can be used in all seasons, except maybe for ice fishing.

Also, during winter, it is not the best option for fish which significantly reduce their activity.


Spring is a great time for crankbait fishing. Many species become very active and come to the shallows to feed. During spring, you can work the bait fast, use shallow diving models of bright colors as the fish will be very interested.


Fish feed a lot in summer and during this period, crankbaits will bring you success. At this time, use deep diving ones because most of the fish will go a bit deeper where the water temperature is not too high. Straight retrieve with pauses is the best option.


In fall, many species will aggressively prepare for winter, which includes feeding frenzy. Those species will come to the shallow areas again, and you can practice same technique as in spring. Fast retrieve will work the best, and you should use crankbaits which resemble real baitfish. The reason is that baitfish will behave in a similar way and your lure will look natural.


Practice slow and steady retrieve. Most fish species are slower and not feeding as aggressively. Chose models that produce wobble action, because in winter, you need as much attractive movements to make a fish bite. Lipless options are the best.

If I had to pick the best season for fishing with crankbaits, I would definitely say that fall is absolutely the best.

How to Fish With a Crankbait - Bass

What Color of Crankbait is Best to Use?

To learn how to fish with a crankbait, you will have to know how to choose a color.

As I already mentioned, choosing models that resemble real baitfish is always good.

The second thing you should take into consideration is the water color. Choose natural colors when the water is clear. When the water is a bit murky, choose those with brighter shades of the same colors. In murky waters you can use very bright, even unnatural colors.

As the baitfish change in seasons or locations, you will have to change the crankbait color too. Having just one or two available colors will often lead to disappointment. As simple thing changing the color can significantly improve your success. Always have multiple options available.

When fish are less active, try not to shock them with extremely bright colors. Use those that stand out but not too much. Choosing brighter shades of natural baitfish colors and downsizing your lure is the key.

How to Fish With a Lipless Crankbait?

Lipless crankbaits are types of crankbaits that don’t have a lip.

Because the lip is missing, these are great for producing wobbling and vibrating action.

Lipless crankbaits are great for winter and tight wobbles will attract fish. These lures are also great for fishing in thick grass because they can move through it without ripping the grass and getting stuck.

Same as conventional models, these have two treble hooks too.

Lipless crankbaits usually have body shapes that enable great casting distances and can be worked very fast. That is great for covering large areas.

To fish with them you will have to cast to a desired spot, and start working them on a surface, or letting them sink to a desired depth. Straight retrieve will work great, but because there is no lip, diving action is impossible.

However, powerful vibrations will do the job. Most of them will sink, so use lines that either lower or increase that ability, depending on what you need.

Another technique is ripping and fluttering, which produces very strong vibrations. Sweep the rod fast and then reel the slack while you return it into the initial position. Repeat the process multiple times.

How To Use a Crankbait in Weeds?

Crankbaits are great for fishing around firm obstacles, but weeds can be tricky.

Hooks have a tendency to catch weed and rip it which causes the lure to become ineffective because of the impaired maneuvering ability.

As already mentioned, using lipless crankbaits is great for thick vegetation. Moving them across the grass is great to target species that lurk from the weedy covers.

Another option, especially popular in bass fishing, is using conventional crankbaits in light weeds. Bass will frequently lurk from weedy areas and try to ambush its prey.

Lip on a crankbait can actually be helpful in not so thick vegetation, because it will clear the way through the weeds.

Run it across the weed on top of it. Crankbait should hit the top of the weed. This may seem simple but it is actually a very demanding technique that requires a lot of practice. Be prepared that you will end up with a crankbait full of tangled weed until you learn to do it properly.

Use a crankbait that has a tendency to consistently back up on the pause. Reel slower and when you get to the weed, stop. Pause for a second and then pop the tip of your rod a few times. Then reel in the slack and repeat. To learn the technique, you will have to use more sensitive rods, moderate to fast action.

For complete crankbait beginners, try working the lure along the edge of a weedy area. Hiding fish can still lurk from covers and there is a chance it will grab the lure which is very close.

How to Fish With Crankbait - Weeds

No boat? No problem! Fish With a Crankbait from Shore!

A lot of anglers prefer trolling with crankbaits, but there is no reason not to use them from the shore.

This is another situation where lipless crankbait can come in handy. From the shore, you will cover a bit less water surface, especially if there is a lot of obstacles. And by using lipless ones, you control the depth completely.

For shallow diving crankbaits use longer rods and if you are a beginner, avoid thick weeds. Longer rod will give you better control around obstacles.

More experienced anglers can use medium diving crankbaits. Cast them far and choose a retrieving technique that suits you. These are also great to stir up the bottom in shallower areas.

Unfortunately, deep diving crankbaits are best to be used from boats, in an open and deep area.

Use sweeping motions and deflect from obstacles. This will trigger the majority of bites.

If the lure gets tangled, stop pulling and wait a few seconds. There is a chance it will move a bit and float away from the obstacle.

Avoid straight casting far away where you can’t see what is happening. Cast somehow parallel to the shore to cover the targeted, shallower, area where fish are hiding.

Locate transition areas, between weeds, flats, covers or any other different areas coming together. This is the place where the fish is lurking from.

Imitate the baitfish movement. Change the reeling speed and direction. Add some erratic movement. Practice with a straight retrieve, but when you start feeling comfortable, start adding up some movements.

How Fast to Reel When Fishing With a Crankbait?

To learn how to fish with a crankbait, you will have to learn how to reel properly, most importantly at what speed.

Beginners often try too fast or too slow ...

The retrieve speed depends on a retrieving technique.

In straight retrieve, you can go quite fast, cover large areas and explore. When you locate the fish, you can adjust the technique.

If you are making pauses in areas where the fish could hide, in front of underwater structures, you can reel both slow or fast in between, but not as fast as you would in the straight retrieve.

When fishing in deeper waters, try up and down movement. Control it with the rod tip and proper reel in between. This should be the slowest technique of all.

If moving too fast, fish will not have the opportunity to increase interest in the lure. So instead of going up and down the whole lake, cast to the same place a few times and then go to another location. This is especially important if the targeted fish specie is a big, fat, lazy bass.

Fishing to quickly is one of the most frequent mistakes that recreational anglers make.

How to Fish With Crankbait - Fast


Now you know how to fish with crankbait, at least in theory. If you want to become very good at it, it will take a lot of time, patience and practice.

However, it is definitely worth the effort. These versatile baits work in almost all conditions and locations. Professional anglers love crankbaits too.

Use the techniques and advices stated in this article as a base on which you will build up your knowledge and experience about crankbaits.

And one mor tip in the end, avoid “robot movement”. You will use lures that resemble real baitfish, in locations where baitfish spend time, and your movement has to be as natural as possible. Anglers make this mistake not just in straight retrieve. They sometimes do the same twitches all the time. Make erratic and unpredictable movements.

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