Crankbait Fishing: An Expert Guide to Catching More Fish

Crankbait fishing is a dynamic and versatile technique that has proven its effectiveness in various fishing scenarios, from targeting elusive walleye and vibrant trout to the tenacious bass and crappie.

 This comprehensive guide delves into the intricate art of crankbait fishing, covering setups, techniques, and strategies for different species and seasons.

Crankbait Setup and Selection 

Crankbait fishing

Setting up for crankbait fishing is a critical step that directly impacts your success on the water. 

Whether targeting bass, walleye, crappie, or other species, a well-constructed crankbait setup enhances your chances of enticing strikes and reeling in your desired catch.

 In this concise guide, we’ll walk you through the core components of a crankbait setup to help you get started on the right track.

How to use a Crankbait:

The Right Rod and Reel Combo

Choose a medium to medium-heavy fishing rod with a fast or moderate-fast action.

 This rod type provides the necessary sensitivity to feel the subtle vibrations of your crankbait’s action while having enough backbone to handle the resistance during retrieves. 

Ensure your baitcasting reel has a gear ratio of 5.4:1 to 7.1:1 when you choose your rod. 

This gear ratio balances retrieving speed and power, allowing you to work your crankbait effectively through the water.

Selecting the Right Line 

The fluorocarbon line is popular for crankbait fishing due to its low visibility and sensitivity for a line with a pound-test rating that matches the expected size of your target species.

 Thinner diameter lines allow your crankbait to dive deeper, while heavier lines provide more strength for handling larger fish.

The Crankbait Itself

Choose a crankbait that suits the depth you intend to fish. Crankbaits have different lip sizes and angles, affecting their diving depth and action. 

Select a crankbait that mimics the local forage and the fish’s preferences, and ensure it matches the diving range of the water you’re fishing.

Proper Knots and Attachments

Use a strong and reliable knot to attach your crankbait to the line. 

The Palomar knot is a popular choice, offering excellent strength and reliability.

Ensure the knot is tied snugly against the eyelet to maintain the bait’s action and prevent unnatural movement.

Retrieval Techniques

Experiment with different retrieval techniques to find what triggers fish in your chosen fishing spot. 

Consider a mix of steady retrieves, occasional pauses, and subtle twitches to imitate injured prey and provoke strikes. 

A well-constructed crankbait setup can make a difference in your fishing success.

By carefully selecting your rod, reel, line, and crankbait and employing effective retrieval techniques, you’ll be well-equipped to entice strikes and land your target species. 

Practice and adaptation are key to refining your skills and becoming a proficient crankbait angler.

 So, gear up, head out, and let the rhythmic action of your crankbait lead you to unforgettable catches.

Crankbait reel

Rigging and Techniques

How to Rig a Crankbait

Rigging a crankbait correctly is a fundamental step influencing its action and effectiveness in the water. 

Follow these concise steps to ensure your crankbait is rigged properly for optimal performance and increased chances of enticing strikes.

  • Select a strong, secure knot for attaching your crankbait to the fishing line. The Palomar knot is a popular choice due to its reliability and strength.
  • Pass the fishing line through the crankbait’s front eyelet (the small hole on the nose).
  •  Ensure the line is fed from the top of the eyelet to the bottom.
  • Tie the Palomar knot by forming a loop with the tag end of the line. 
  • Pass the loop through the eyelet again and make an overhand knot. 
  • Gently tighten the knot, ensuring it’s snug against the eyelet without causing damage to the bait.
  • Trim any excess tag end of the line, leaving a small tail. 
  • This prevents the tail from interfering with the crankbait’s action.
  • Inspect the knot and connection to ensure it’s secure. Gently tug on the line to confirm that the crankbait is attached firmly. 
  • The bait should move freely and maintain its intended action.
  • Some crankbaits have adjustable hook hangers that allow you to alter the bait’s action. 
  • Experiment with different hook positions to balance action and hooking efficiency.
  • Your crankbait is now rigged and ready for action. 
  • Cast it into the water and vary your retrieval speed and patterns to imitate the movement of injured baitfish, attracting the attention of nearby fish.

Rigging a crankbait is a straightforward yet essential skill that can significantly impact your fishing success. 

By mastering the proper knot, threading the line correctly, and ensuring the bait’s action remains intact, you’ll be well-prepared to present your crankbait effectively and tempt fish into striking.

 Remember, attention to detail and practice will refine your rigging technique, making you a more skilled and confident angler.

Crankbait rod and reel combo

Crankbait Strategies by Season

Spring Crankbait Fishing

As the waters warm, fish become more active, making spring an excellent time for crankbait fishing. 

Target shallower areas near spawning grounds and use vibrant, natural-colored crankbaits.

 Slow-rolling your retrieve can be particularly effective during this season. Spring brings new life to the water, and with it comes the perfect opportunity for crankbait fishing.

 As temperatures rise and fish become more active, here are some quick tips to make spring crankbait fishing a success:

Shallow Divers Shine: For shallow diving crankbaits that match the fish’s preferred depths in early spring. 

These baits are perfect for enticing strikes in shallower waters.

Natural Colors Rule: Choose crankbaits with natural color patterns that imitate local prey. 

Think shad, perch, and crawfish shades to mimic the emerging spring forage.

Vary Retrieval Speeds: Experiment with retrieval speeds to find what triggers bites. In colder waters, a slower retrieve with pauses can tempt hesitant fish.

Transitional Zones: Target areas where shallow meets deep, like drop-offs and points. 

These zones provide a buffet of prey for hungry fish on the move.

Sunny Spots Attract: Fish bask in the sunlight on sunny days for warmth. Focus your efforts on these well-lit areas to increase your chances of success.

Adapt and Learn: Spring weather and fish behavior can be unpredictable. Stay adaptable, observe, and adjust your techniques accordingly.

With these insights in mind, gear up and confidently hit the water.

 Spring crankbait fishing is about embracing the season’s changes and capitalizing on the increased fish activity. 

Enjoy the thrill of the chase and the satisfaction of reeling in your early-season catches.

Summer Crankbait Fishing

In summer, fish move deeper to find cooler waters. Choose deeper-diving crankbaits and fish around structures like submerged trees and rock formations. Adjust your retrieval speed to match the activity level of the fish. 

When the sun’s intensity rises, so does the excitement of summer crankbait fishing. 

As fish seek refuge in deeper waters, adapt your approach to the season’s demands with these quick tips:

Dive Deeper: For deeper diving, crankbaits match fish depths in the warmer months. Reach those cooler, deeper zones where fish seek comfort.

Bold and Bright: Choose vibrant and high-contrast colors to counter the bright summer sunlight. These colors stand out and provoke strikes even in the sun’s glare.

Early Birds and Night Owls: Fish during early mornings or late evenings when temperatures are milder. These times often see increased fish activity.

Structure Hunting: Target underwater structures such as drop-offs, humps, and submerged trees. Fish retreat to these sanctuaries in the heat of the day.

Varied Retrieve: Experiment with erratic retrieves to mimic the movements of distressed baitfish. Sudden stops and starts can provoke predator instincts.

Stay Hydrated and Sun-Smart: Summer can be scorching, so stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun’s rays while enjoying your fishing adventure.

Summer crankbait fishing is a dance between adapting to fish behavior and savoring the thrill of the fight. 

Embrace the heat, explore new depths, and reel in those hard-fighting summer predators.

Crankbait Fishing in Winter

Coldwater conditions require a more subtle approach. For slower, more methodical retrieves, select smaller crankbaits that resemble winter forage. Fish near drop-offs or areas with varying depths. 

Don’t hang up your crankbaits as winter’s chill settles over the water.

 Coldwater fishing offers unique challenges and rewards. Here’s a quick guide to help you navigate winter crankbait fishing:

Downsize Your Crankbaits: For smaller crankbaits that match the smaller prey fish in cold waters. Subtle movements can be more appealing to lethargic fish.

Slow It Down: Fish metabolism slows in the cold. A slow, deliberate retrieve mimics the struggles of sluggish prey and can trigger strikes.

Choose Natural Colors: Stick to natural color patterns that resemble winter prey. Subdued hues like silver, white, and brown are excellent choices.

Fish Shallow Sunlight: In the winter, fish may venture to shallower areas warmed by sunlight. Focus your efforts there during milder parts of the day.

Erratic Jerks: Use sporadic jerks during your retrieve to mimic a wounded or struggling baitfish. This erratic movement can entice fish into biting.

Be Prepared: Dress warmly and have cold-weather gear on hand. Winter fishing requires comfort to stay focused and patient.

While winter might slow the pace, it doesn’t have to stop your fishing. Adapt your approach to the season’s demands, and you might unlock the secret to coldwater success with your trusty crankbaits.

Crankbait Strategies by Species

Crankbait for Walleye

Crankbait for Walleye

Walleye are known for their selective feeding habits. Use natural-colored crankbaits in sizes that mimic their prey. 

Target depths where walleye are known to congregate and focus on low-light periods for increased success.

Size Matters: For smaller crankbaits that match the size of walleye prey, such as small minnows. A realistic size can trigger more strikes.

Natural Imitation: Choose crankbaits in colors that mimic the local forage, like perch or shad patterns. Walleye are experts at spotting realistic prey.

Low-Light Luxury: Walleye are more active during low-light periods, so dawn, dusk, and overcast days are prime times to target them.

Target Structures: Focus on areas with submerged structures, drop-offs, and rocky bottoms. These are favorite haunts for walleye seeking cover and prey.

Vary Retrieval Speeds: Experiment with different retrieval speeds to find what tempts the walleye. A slow, erratic retrieve often yields excellent results.

Sharp Hooks are Key: Ensure your crankbaits have sharp, strong hooks. Walleye have bony mouths that can be tricky to hook, so sharp hooks improve your chances.

Crankbait for Trout

Crankbait for Trout

Trout are often found in clear, cold waters. Choose smaller crankbaits with metallic finishes that imitate their natural diet. Vary your retrieval speed to trigger their predatory instincts.

Size to Match the Prey: For smaller crankbaits that mimic the size of trout’s natural prey, such as small minnows or insects. A realistic size is essential.

Go Natural with Colors: Choose natural color patterns that imitate local forage, like minnows, fry, or aquatic insects. Realism is the name of the game.

Play with Retrieval Speeds: Experiment with different retrieval speeds to find the sweet spot that triggers trout bites. Varying speeds can mimic different prey behaviors.

Target Structure and Currents: Focus on areas with structure, such as rocks, logs, and undercut banks, where trout often lie in wait for passing prey.

Early and Late Excursions: Dawn and dusk are prime times to catch trout, as they become more active during low-light periods. Overcast days are also excellent.

Use Crankbaits with Rattles: Crankbaits with built-in rattles can attract trout with visual and auditory stimuli, increasing their interest in your offering.

Crankbait Bass Fishing

Crankbait Bass Fishing

Crankbaits are a staple in bass fishing. Experiment with different sizes, colors, and diving depths to find the bass’s response to that day for larger crankbaits with rattles when fishing in deeper waters to attract attention.

How to use a Crankbait for bass: 

Select the Right Crankbait: Choose one that matches the water depth and conditions. Shallow divers for shallows and deep divers for deeper waters.

Target Structure: Cast near underwater structures such as rocks, logs, and weed edges where bass often hide to ambush prey.

Retrieve Techniques: Experiment with various retrieval speeds and patterns. A steady retrieve, occasional pauses, or erratic jerks can mimic injured prey.

Stay Alert: Watch for changes in your line’s movement or tension. Bass often strike while the crankbait is in motion, so be ready to set the hook.

Vary Depths: Adjust your crankbait’s diving depth to match where the bass are holding. Crankbaits with adjustable lip angles are ideal for this purpose.

Use Color Wisely: Select colors that mimic local prey. Natural hues in clear water and brighter shades in murky conditions can attract more bites.

Time It Right: Bass are more active during low-light periods like dawn and dusk. Plan your fishing trips around these times for optimal results.

Be Patient and Persistent: Crankbait fishing requires patience. Keep casting, adjusting your technique, and exploring different areas until you succeed.

With these strategies in your angling arsenal, you’ll be well-prepared to harness the power of crankbaits and reel in those impressive bass catches. 

Remember that practice and adaptability are key to becoming a skilled crankbait angler. So gear up, head out, and let your crankbait dance entice that bass to bite.

Crankbait fishing for crappie

Crappies, with their fussy feeding habits and elusive nature, can be challenging and rewarding. 

Crankbait fishing for crappie offers a unique approach that can yield impressive results. 

Downsize for Success: For smaller crankbaits that match the size of the crappie’s preferred prey, like tiny minnows or insects. A subtle presentation works wonders.

Natural Color Choice: Choose natural color patterns that resemble crappies’ forage, such as silver, white, or shad hues. Subdued colors can be effective.

Shallow Dives Rule: Focus on shallow diving crankbaits that work well in the zones where crappie often hunt. Crappies love hanging out in shallower waters.

Slow and Steady Retrieve: Keep your retrieve slow and steady. Crappies are known for their leisurely feeding style, and a calm presentation can entice bites.

Target Structures: Aim for areas with submerged structures, fallen trees, and brush piles. These hiding spots are where crappie often lie in wait for prey.

Experiment with Colors: If one color doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to switch it up. Crappies can be picky, so try different colors until you find the winning one.

With these insights, you’re well-prepared to unlock crappies’ appetite for crankbaits. 

Enjoy the challenge of luring these finicky fish and savor the satisfaction of mastering a technique that keeps you reeling in crappie catch after catch.

Using Crankbaits from Shore

Fishing with crankbaits from the shoreline can be rewarding, offering access to various habitats and species.

To make the most of your shore-based crankbait angling, follow these brief tips to optimize your technique and increase your chances of landing impressive catches. Here are how to fish a crankbait from shore:

1. Scout Promising Areas: Identify areas along the shoreline with features that attract fish, such as submerged structures, drop-offs, and vegetation. 

These spots provide hiding places for prey and attract predatory fish.

2. Choose the Right Crankbait: Select a crankbait that matches the water depth you’re fishing and the type of fish you’re targeting. Consider the diving depth, color, and size of the crankbait to match the local forage.

3. Perfect Your Casting: Cast parallel to the shoreline to cover different depths and increase your chances of encountering fish. 

Use accurate casts to place your crankbait close to structures where fish might be lurking.

4. Vary Your Retrieval: Experiment with different retrieval speeds, pauses, and twitches to imitate the movements of injured prey. Changing up your technique can trigger strikes from curious fish.

5. Explore Different Depths: Cast your crankbait at varying distances to explore different water depths.

 Adjust your retrieve to match the depth, enticing fish at different levels of the water column.

6. Observe Water Conditions: Pay attention to water clarity, temperature, and light conditions. 

Adjust your crankbait choice and presentation based on these factors to increase visibility and appeal to fish.

7. Focus on Structure Interaction: Work your crankbait around submerged structures such as rocks, fallen trees, and weed beds.

 Let the bait bump into and deflect off these structures to mimic the behavior of prey.

8. Be Patient and Persistent: Shore-based crankbait fishing requires patience. Continue casting, experimenting with retrieves, and exploring different areas. Persistence often pays off with rewarding catches.

9. Time It Right: Fish are more active during low-light periods like dawn and dusk. 

Plan your crankbait fishing trips around these times for optimal success.

10. Adapt and Learn: Every fishing spot is unique, and conditions can change. Adapt your approach based on feedback from fish behavior and bites, continuously refining your technique.

Choosing the Finest Fluorocarbon Line for Crankbaits

Crankbait fishing is an art that demands a holistic understanding of various components, from line selection to lure presentation.

 This article explores the intricacies of successful crankbait angling, including the best fluorocarbon line, knot techniques, crankbait lips, optimal colors, and specialized bass and walleye fishing strategies. 

Prepare to delve into a world where every detail counts towards reeling in that prized catch. 

Selecting the right line is paramount to optimizing your crankbait experience. 

The Fluorocarbon line offers distinct advantages due to its low visibility underwater, enhancing your chances of luring wary fish.

 Look for a fluorocarbon line with a high sensitivity to detect even the faintest of bites. 

Additionally, a best line for crankbait fishing with minimal stretch ensures immediate hooksets, translating your movements into direct action on the lure.

Mastering the Knots: Securing Crankbaits with Precision

Knots is crucial in keeping your crankbaits secure and enabling them to perform optimally. 

The Palomar knot is a reliable choice, providing strength and reliability.

 Ensuring your knot is snug against the eyelet helps maintain the bait’s action and accuracy during retrieval.

 A well-tied knot can differentiate between an expertly presented bait and a missed opportunity. 

In crankbait fishing, securing your bait with precision is a game-changer. Mastering the right knots ensures your lure’s action remains authentic and your connection remains steadfast.

 From the tried-and-true Palomar knot to the delicate balance of knot snugness, your knot expertise ensures that every cast is a step toward hooking that coveted catch.

Lipless Crankbaits: Unleashing Vibrant Action and Versatility

Lipless crankbaits are a special breed of fishing lures known for their unique design and enticing action. 

Unlike traditional crankbaits, these lures lack the diving lip but make up for it with their versatility and exceptional vibration. Here’s a closer look at the charm of lipless crankbaits:

Vibration Magic: The absence of a lip allows lipless crankbaits to produce strong vibrations as they’re retrieved through the water.

This vibration mimics the movements of injured or distressed baitfish, attracting predators from a distance.

Sinking Action: Lipless crankbaits typically sink when paused, making them ideal for fishing at different depths and covering a variety of water columns.

Year-Round Allure: These lures shine in all seasons. From slow retrieves in cold waters to aggressive jerks in warmer months, lipless crankbaits adapt to changing fish behavior.

Weedless Wonders: Some models are designed to be fished through thick cover and vegetation, making them a go-to choice when targeting fish hiding in challenging environments.

Reaction Strikes: The erratic action and rattling noise of lipless crankbaits can trigger reaction strikes from bass, pike, walleye, and more.

 The combination of sight and sound is irresistible to predatory fish.

Retrieve Variability: Experiment with different retrieval speeds, pauses, and jerks to fine-tune your presentation.

 This versatility allows you to adapt to fish preferences on the spot.

Trolling Possibilities: Lipless crankbaits can be trolled effectively, allowing you to explore different water areas and locate actively feeding fish.

From the rattle in their belly to the pulsating vibration, lipless crankbaits offer a dynamic and exciting fishing experience. 

Unveiling the Perfect Color Palette for Bass Crankbaits

The color of your crankbait is more than just aesthetic it’s a vital factor influencing your success. 

Bass has distinct preferences based on water clarity and light conditions.

 Natural colors mimic prey in clearer waters, while vibrant or high-contrast colors can provoke aggressive strikes in murkier waters. 

Experiment with colors like shad, crawfish, and bluegill to match the local forage and stimulate bass into action.

Exploring the Allure of Crankbait Fishing Lures

Crankbait lures are a captivating blend of realism and action that triggers predatory instincts. 

Their lifelike appearance, combined with the rhythmic wobble, creates an irresistible allure for various fish species. Select lures with quality finishes and rattles for added attraction. 

Mastering the presentation—varying retrieval speed, pauses, and angles—can make even the most skeptical fish bite. 

Crankbait fishing lures are more than just tools; they’re masterpieces of angling artistry. These lures combine lifelike designs with captivating action that provokes predatory instincts by mimicking real prey movements.

From the intricate finishes to the rhythmic wobble, crankbaits possess an irresistible allure that draws in various game fish. 

These lures are your ticket to a thrilling and successful angling experience, whether after bass, walleye, or other species.

Casting Your Line into the Rapids: Crankbait River Fishing

Crankbait fishing isn’t confined to tranquil lakes; it thrives in the rushing waters of rivers too. In rivers, focus on eddies, current breaks, and submerged structures where fish find respite. 

Cast your crankbait upstream and allow it to sweep downstream, mimicking the natural movement of prey. 

Adjust the diving depth of your lure based on the river’s flow and depth variations.

Unveiling the Elegance of Crankbaits for Walleye Fishing

Crankbaits have become a staple in the walleye angler’s toolkit. For walleye, For smaller, natural-colored crankbaits that match their dietary preferences.

Retrieve your lure at varying speeds, experimenting with steady retrieves and sudden bursts of action to trigger the walleye’s predatory instincts.

Target transitional zones between shallow and deep waters for the best results.

Crankbait fishing


Crankbait fishing encapsulates the marriage of technique, technology, and artistry. 

Every detail contributes to your angling success, from the fluorocarbon line you spool to the intricacies of crankbait lips and color selections. 

Equip yourself with the knowledge to adapt to diverse conditions and fish behaviors, ensuring that each cast is a step closer to that exhilarating strike.

Unleash your prowess, and let the enchanting dance of your crankbait lead to remarkable catches on every outing.

 Crankbait fishing is an exciting and productive method that caters to various angling preferences. 

By understanding the nuances of crankbait selection, setup, and techniques across seasons and species, you can unlock the potential for memorable catches. 

Remember, patience and adaptability are key as you fine-tune your approach to match the conditions and preferences of the fish. 

So gear up, head out, and let the irresistible wiggle of a well-chosen crankbait entice fish to strike in any season.

See the Best Hook Size for Trout on our website.

Crankbait Fishing Video

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