Get cranking with crankbait lures this spring, summer, and fall

Crankbait Dive Depths Diagram

For anglers seeking an all-around bass fishing lure with versatility in a variety of common freshwater and some saltwater conditions, a crankbait is an ideal choice.

Crankbaits come in a range of shapes and a wide variety of colors but share a common feature set. Crankbaits are a style of fishing lure that are usually hard plastic, have a lip or plastic bill hanging off the front that lets them float or sink vertically in the water, and are best used at long-distances where you throw them out into the water far away. A longer and bigger bill means that the lure will dive deeper.

Switch your motion and be aggressive in casting in challenging spots

Crankbait fishing is about getting a reaction from the fish, which means you have to focus on getting your lure to take action that’s unpredictable or different. Shallow baitfish rarely swim in a straight line—your goal is to get the crankbait to do something similar.

To achieve the right action and get your crankbait to the desired depth, cast it way out. The farther you cast it, the more efficient your retrieve becomes.

For best results, use a rod with a slow action rate. It’s hard to prove, but a lot of anglers live by the idea bass need a slow or medium action rod like a Bulldawg Rods medium action rod to give the fish time to inhale the bait before hookset. The extra breathing room will prevent head-shaking bass from tossing the lure.

As you crank the lure back to your boat or shore, make sure the crankbait bangs into something on the way and vary the speed. Let the fish tell you if they’re interested in chasing at high speed or trolling at a crawl.

Crankbaits are best used in contact with other debris, rocks, beds, docks, and other natural elements in the water. This also increases the rattling sound many crankbaits make and gives the crankbait an evasive motion that drives predator bass wild.

Doing the same motions over and over again is not something that will draw attention to your lure. Mix up your methods by jerking, reeling fast, reeling slow, twitching, and letting the lure bang up and down the water column and debris.

Don’t be afraid of the lure getting stuck in weeds or debris. The large treble hooks on crankbaits would otherwise get caught on debris, but the downward slope of the bill as the lure is in motion protect the hooks from getting stuck, like the bill on your hat protecting you from the sun. Throwing crankbaits into rocks and other cumbersome spots can also just result in the crankbait bouncing off.

Most crankbaits are naturally buoyant thanks to their light weights. Their relatively slow float speed means they look more like real prey, too and are a boon for professional fishermen. If it gets snagged, just let it float up with extra slack on the line and reel it back in for another cast.

Keep your rod angle in check

Take note of your rod angle when you are using a crankbait. You want the rod to bend about halfway down, not all the way or near the tip. The amount of rod bend tells you how fast the action is on the other end of the line. A rod that bends only near the top is fast action, whereas it gets slower as the rod bends further down toward the reel and handles.

The hook should not point upwards as this leads the top of your crankbait, which is absent of hooks, into the top of the fish’s mouth. This can end up pulling the lure away.

Another thing to remember is to avoid using rods that are too stiff. A rod with more flexibility prevents you from pulling lures away from fish.

Reach for contrasting, natural colors at the right time of year

Crankbaits work best in the spring, summer, and fall, except during the few weeks a year fish are spawning. Use medium-diving crankbaits when waters are about 50-60 degrees. As the season moves along and the fish start moving from the banks toward deeper waters, use a shad-colored crankbait.

Bass can find chasing lures in the summer an unrewarding task, but you can still catch big bass by using deep-diving crankbaits that go deep where the bass are.

When the colors match prey species which can be found in the area, it adds to reliability in terms of the fish you are trying to catch.

If the water is a bit muddy, or you’ve decided to fish during an overcast day, a crankbait with a pop of bright color – like a red craw – can help get a predator fish’s attention. Vibrating and noise-making crankbaits are another ideal choice in muddy or dark water. You don’t have to reach for the brightest color. But it should have contrast without looking out of place or unrealistic.

As you cast crankbaits on your first or next trip, consider these four. Like the Kitana hooks all Castaic crankbaits come with out of the box, these are professional grade and tournament ready. Generally, you’ll find Squarebills dive 0-5 feet, shallow divers 2-8 feet, medium divers 8-12 feet, and deep divers go down 12 feet.


Ranger - Red Craw
The Ranger – Red Craw

The Ranger

The Ranger crankbait made the list onto Outdoor Life’s best new crankbaits for 2018.

At $6.99, it comes at a price that won’t break the bank. This crankbait is able to dive down between 2 and 4 feet.

The Ranger hails from the well-known lakes region of Northeast Texas.


Chartreuse Blue
Castaic Cowboy – Chartreuse Blue

The Cowboy

The Castaic Cowboy comes from the Texas big lakes and is famous for catching big bass globally.

This crankbait measures 4 inches long and weighs 0.5 ounces. It is able to dive 2 to 6 feet, and can run through shallow cover with a quick wobbling action. This creates an irresistible sound for generating massive reaction strikes.


Backstabber Crankbait – Honey Mustard Craw Stabber

Squarebill Crankbait

The Backstabber Lures Squarebill crankbait is perfect for fishing shallow water speedily and successfully.


The spring and fall are the best seasons to use Squarebill crankbaits. This is because the crankbaits run at the best depth during these months to target the fish.

During springtime, you can search for shallow weed areas and rocky banks where bass stage before spawning. During fall, bass will look to devour bluegill and similar baitfish before the winter comes around. When the Squarebill has a visual resemblance to the food the bass is eating, you’re more likely to have a successful catch.


For advice on hard and soft swimbaits, see our ultimate guide to swimbaits.