Crankbaits are a great tool for catching bass. Crankbaits themselves come in many different styles, sizes, and actions, all specifically designed to work at particular depths and in certain places. Our resident guide Shawn Chapin takes a look at the best crankbaits on the market today for bass.
Best Crankbaits for Bass: Shawn’s Top Picks Across Each Category
In this article, we are going to take a look at the various types of crankbaits: shallow diving, medium diving, and deep dying, along with specialty crankbaits. We are also going to look at how to fish with crankbaits and how they can be used to land some huge bass!
Best Shallow Diving Crankbait
If you want the ultimate shallow diving sub-surface crankbait, look no further. The XPS has a great action that consists of a very tight wobble thanks to its stubby square bill that gives the impression of a fleeing baitfish, enticing bass to strike.
The XPS features a realistic baitfish shape to mimic prey and comes in a wide variety of eye-catching color patterns, along with realistic 3-D eyes and an extra loud rattle chamber design.
It also has a unique finish that is designed to replicate the natural colorization process of real fish, standing out and becoming much more pronounced in direct sunlight while being somewhat less intense under the surface.
The XPS is finished off with Eagle Claw Lazer sharp hooks, including a T-shaped belly hook to increase your hooking percentage.
Best Medium Diving Crankbait
A classic crankbait from one of the world's most renowned lure manufacturers, the Rapala DT series is a staple of the fishing and crankbait world that may never go away.
The DT series is known for diving faster and staying in the strike zone for a longer period of time than the competitors, giving it a serious leg up as a crankbait for bass.
The blank for each lure is chosen from the top 7% of the select basswood that is the calling card of Rapala, and with its drop belly design and precision internal weighting has some of the best action on the market for any crankbait.
The DT series is exceptional for long-distance casts when compared to other crankbaits of the same size and weight, and it features different lip designs depending on the lure's depth rating.
Best Deep Diving Crankbait
The deep-diving variant of the famous flicker shad is a bass-catching monster. When wielded by an adept bass angler, this thing can drag some trophy bass out of the depths.
The flicker shad perfectly mimics, you guessed it, a shad, one of the favorite dinner choices of bass, and its action entices them to eat alongside its appealing appearance.
The Flicker Shad comes in a variety of shapes, weights, and sizes and comes with premium wide gap treble hooks for exceptional to improve your hooking ratio.
Best Speciality Crankbait
The Rapala Ripstop is definitely a crankbait that belongs in the Unique Category. It's a slashbait, jerkbait, and crankbait, all in one single lure package.
The unique rear lip of the bait helps stop a bait dead in its tracks on the pause, eliminating all forward drift on the pause and creating a serious reaction action for the bass with a slight wobble added in for good measure.
There is no wrong way to fish this thing, crank it, jerk it, rip it, pop it; the choice is yours.
Other Top Crankbaits Reviewed
The Rippin Rap is a lipless design crankbait similar to rattle trap designs popular in the bass fishing world and also has a deeper belly design that is unique from traditional rattle traps. This bait really shines when you rip it or straight retrieve it, and it is also very effective for vertical jigging as well When this bait is ripped vertically, it flutters to the bottom, thanks to its skinny-sided design.
The Scamp is one heck of an aggressive shallow water crankbait. It has a square bill design that is fairly unique in construction. The bill is an airfoil carbon bill that is thinner, stronger, and has less flex than other lips on the market.
The body is made of ABS plastic, making it incredibly durable, and the body features a drop belly shape and features excellent color patterns.
Balsa has been know throughout the history of lure building for being incredibly bouyant and providing a lifelike and impressive action for crankbaits, the Bagley balsa B is no different when it comes to providing great action during their 50 years of existence as a lure company.
Featuring a square bill and a short and fat drop belly style body, the Balsa B has a great wobbling swimming action that thumps, putting off tons of vibration.
The bait comes in 8 eye catching colors and give credence to the saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
This is one heck of a great lipless crankbait design. the magic man can be burned a blistering speeds to great effect. At the same time, it can be brought in at a crawl with a slow and enticing wobble.
When you pause the bait it won't spin or tumble like other brands, but falls with a shimmy that entices fish to strike.
The color options of the magic man are pretty extensive as well, so you will have zero issues finding something that will work on any body of water.
This crankbait is perfect. It works in the 4-6 feet depth range and excels at working in and around cover. The unique kick-out lip is designed to roll the bait up and out of cover with nothing more than slow and constant pressure.
Made of reliable, durable plastic, this thing can take a beating from structures like branches and submerged timber, and it features Xcalibur Tx3 treble hooks for reliable hookups.
Types of Crankbaits
There is a wide variety of crankbaits on the market, and all are designed to work at specific depths of the water column. Some excel at certain styles of presentation and action as well due to differences in lip design, weight, buoyancy, and swimming action.
Shallow Diving Crankbaits
Shallow diving crankbaits can be great when the bass are pushed up by docks and on shallow flats, but they are also great for working about tall weeds where a medium diving crankbait simply can’t be fished due to fouling the hooks.
Other great areas to fish shallow diving crankbaits would be around timber, where deeper diving crankbaits would snag up, and shallow rocks.
Shallow diving crankbaits are great in the spring when fish are pushed up shallow during pre or post-spawn conditions and even in the early fall when fish push up shallow to feed on baitfish.
Medium Diving Crankbaits
Medium diving crankbaits are used in the summer and fall for the most part, but in certain times and conditions can be productive in the spring when the big female bass are transitioning to shallow water spawning areas.
As water temperatures continue to climb in late spring, many fish species start moving to their deeper summer homes and will stay there for a good amount of the summer, while you can still find shallow fish all year long, there is definitely a great mid-depth summer pattern that will emerge as well. These initial drop-off areas are where the medium diving crankbait will really shine.
Medium crankbaits are great when worked around submergent structure like humps, points, brush or rock piles, deeper flats adjacent to cover, drop-offs, and deeper holes in rivers.
Deep Diving Crankbaits
Deep diving crankbaits excel at reaching deeper structure of 10 feet or more to put a lure presentation directly into the strike zone for as long of a period of time as possible, and can and will excel at the more niche deep water bass fishing situations like suspended fish holding off and around deep structure.
Along with suspended water, deep diving crankbaits work great on the same types of structure that medium crankbaits work well around, such as humps, points, and rock piles, albeit deeper in the water column.
You can also run deep diving crankbaits for bass that are on shallower structure than the maximum diving depth, allowing your crankbait to bounce and contact the bottom or rocks, stumps, and timber can be a massive reaction trigger for bass that may have otherwise not eaten your bait.
Square Bill Crankbaits
Square bill crankbaits are commonly found on shallow running crankbaits but can be found on some deeper diving crankbaits for bass fishing as well.
Square billed crankbaits generally have a tight and “snappy” swimming action compared to wide and round style lips; they give the illusion of speed even when cranked at a moderate retrieve.
Round Bill Crankbaits
Round bill crankbaits are more commonly used in deeper diving crankbaits but are also fairly popular lip designs for shallow running crankbaits as well. Round bill crankbaits have more of a wobbling, rolling action and swing wider than a square bill design.
Lipless crankbaits as the name suggests, lack a lip of any sort. This lack of lip gives lipless crankbaits (also known as rattle baits) a few critical advantages.
the biggest advantage of lipless crankbaits is that they can be worked at any depth by simply counting them down in depth. They can be used in ultra shallow water, but they aren’t best suited to that task.
Another advantage of a rattle bait is that you can vertical jig them right below the boat, this can be a great tactic for other species like walleye, but I see no reason why you couldn’t find a pattern catching deep water or suspended bass on them doing a vertical jigging presentation.
See here for our top 10 lipless crankbaits.
Minnow Body Crankbaits
Minnow body crankbaits can also be known by their common nickname of stickbaits. A great example of a minnow body style of crankbait would be the classic floating Rapala crankbait or the sinking countdown Rapala.
Most minnow body crankbaits have a narrow and small lip that gives the bait a tight wobble at high speeds.
See also: Crankbaits vs jerkbaits
Shad Body Crankbaits
Shad body crankbaits are round body baits, with many of them featuring a drop belly design. Instead of a taper like a minnow body, shad body designs can vary from one design and manufacturer to the other.
Shad body crankbaits can vary in lip design and feature either square bill or round bill lips. This variation in both lip design and body shape, along with other features like weighting and hook placement, means that actions can vary greatly.
jointed crankbaits have a time and place and are generally used in a straight retrieve capacity most of the time.
The joint in a jointed crankbait gives the lure a very “wiggle” like swimming action when straight retrieved. While not made to do some, you can jerk and twitch it, but that tactic is still more suited to straight body baits, and most anglers straight retrieve them, and even more, will troll them for other species predominantly.
Floating crankbaits are great for shallow water situations or when working around branches, timber, or thick vegetation.
the ability to rise to the surface means that you can use this to your advantage to trigger fish to strike. working it around cover and pausing the bait and allowing it to rise all the way to the surface, and leaving it to sit for a few moments can be a great way to trigger fish to eat and, at times, may be the only way.
Suspending crankbaits are more of a niche design, they are suspended at the depth they are paused at, without rising quickly like a floating lure and sinking like in deep style sinking crankbaits.
these baits are great for pausing, twitching, and ripping at specific depths or structures, and allow for long pauses in the strike zone.
Sinking Down Crankbaits
Color is a hot topic for many anglers and is also a topic that you will get different answers in regards to importance.
Despite what anglers think, there does seem to be a preference at certain times in terms of color, and one way to never go wrong is to match the forage in the body of water that you’re fishing.
Colors like shad patterns or natural baitfish patterns work well, but sometimes when fish aren’t very active, you may need to throw something bright and gawdy to catch their attention.
See here for more info on lure color selection.
How to Fish Crankbaits
The question of how to fish crankbaits is a complex topic and can be a whole post in itself, but the basics are pretty straightforward.
crankbaits can be great search lures to find active fish while covering water relatively quickly before slowing down to contact more fish on the spots with active fish.
they are also great at fishing slowly and in an erratic fashion to entice reaction strikes from less active or neutral fish.
one of the best things about fishing crankbaits is the ability to fish at specific and chosen depths to either be in the strike zone of suspended fish or to get close or contact fish-holding structure.
Best Crankbait Outfits
You can use either a baitcasting rod or a spinning rod for crankbaits, and you will find serious anglers who use either based on personal preference.
The best option for rod material is fiberglass. Fiberglass dampens the blow of the hookset and helps reduce the issue of pulling the small treble hooks out of the mouth of the bass.
Crankbait rods can vary from 6’6″ to 8′ in length and also can vary by what you want personally. [See our review of the best crankbait rods]
For reels, you will want to consider one with a slower retrieve and a gear ratio of around 5:1. The lower gear ratio helps you winch in hard-pulling crankbaits with ease.
You can never go wrong with fluorocarbon for bass fishing with crankbaits in most situations, but if you’re working through heavy vegetation, braided lines may be an option as well. You can get away with a line of around 10 pounds in tensile strength, but with braid, you can go much higher for similar sizes of diameter, and many anglers run 14 pounds when using fluorocarbon.
Final Word on the Best Crankbaits for Bass Fishing
It’s truly hard to pick one single crankbait to be the best, but it’s fairly safe to say that the top crankbaits on the market today are the ones that use truly unique and innovative features today. The reason for our top three choices are simple, innovation, and effectiveness in catching fish in a wide variety of conditions.
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