Crankbaits are one of the most popular hard body lures in North American angling today. They have proven to be successful with plenty of different species like bass, walleye, and bluegill. But it can be difficult to sort through the hundreds of different brands and colors available on the market to find one that suits your requirements.
I have put together a buyer’s guide of all of the important differences you will find when researching crankbaits such as the depth, weight, color, hook quality, and size.
After that, I have found the best crankbaits available on the market for the most popular fish species like trout, crappie, and pike. I have fished with hundreds of different lures across many years of angling and have put together this list of my favorites.
Table of Contents
Quick Summary – Best Crankbait
Crankbait Buyer’s Guide
We have put together some of the most important criteria for selecting the perfect crankbait for your needs. This really depends on the type of fish you are targeting and even the time of year. Fish often shelter in different depths with changing water temperatures, and you will need to have a good understanding of what depth you need to target before selecting a lure.
What is a Crankbait?
A crankbait is a hard-plastic fishing lure that mimics the swimming action of a baitfish. They normally have a bill that controls their depth but is also available in the lipless form. As you crank the reel and retrieve the lure the bill causes the lures to drag underwater. Crankbaits are generally buoyant and float to the surface, hence the name that the lure is only an effective bait when cranking the reel and retrieving the lure.
What is the Difference between a Crankbait and a Jerkbait?
Crankbaits and jerkbaits are both hard body lures but a jerkbait tends to have a longer, slimmer body with 3 x treble hooks while a crankbait only has 2 x hooks.
Jerkbaits are often used in winter months and crankbaits are used in summer months, however, this is just a rule of thumb, not a hard and fast rule.
Jerkbaits are used with a jerking, twitchy action, while crankbaits are used in a more regular, consistent fashion.
When to Use a Crankbait?
Crankbait can be used on most fish that prey on smaller baitfish. They are most often used in freshwater lakes and rivers and are generally too small to use on saltwater big game fish.
Some of the most popular fish species you will catch using a crankbait include:
They will not be as effective on fish that prey on insects or flies.
There is also a rule of thumb that crankbaits are used in summer and jerkbaits are used in winter.
How to Use a Crankbait?
A crankbait is no different from any other lure. Cast it to your target location and retrieve it, allowing the bill to pull the lure underwater to the target depth. Generally, they are retrieved at a steady, regular rate.
A high-speed spinning reel or baitcasting reel is recommended as it allows you to retrieve the crankbait and get it deeper without needing to wind too fast. We recommend a high-speed reel with a 6:1 ratio.
The key to having success with a crankbait is to understand your target fish. Knowing the depth they are feeding or sheltering, the color and size of their natural prey, and then selecting an appropriate crankbait will go a long way to catching more fish.
The physical size of your lure can be a deterrent for fish to strike. A rule of thumb is to mimic the size of the baitfish that your target species will be feeding on. You don’t want to have a lure that is bigger than the fish you are fishing for.
It is always amazing how big a lure a small fish will try to eat though.
- Short – 1-3 inches
- Medium – 4-6 inches
- Long – 7-9 inches
The preferred crankbait size for popular fish species are:
- Largemouth Bass – 2-5 inches
- Smallmouth Bass – 2-5 inches
- Walleye – 3-6 inches
- Pike – 4-9 inches
- Crappie – 1-3 inches
Crankbaits are naturally buoyant and will float until they are retrieved when the bill forces them underwater to their advertised depth.
But there is a practice to add weight to the crankbait so that it sinks. This allows you to get the lure deeper and retrieve it slower. It can also help to cast the lure further.
If you are casting at some deep timber and want the lure to sink to the preferred depth before you start the retrieve then you may want to consider adding weight.
The color of the crankbait you select can play a big role in determining whether a fish bites or not. There are two theories of color selection:
- Select a color that mimics the local baitfish that your target fish are already feeding on
- Select a bright color that stands out from murky water and will attract the fish’s attention
We highly recommend having multiple different colors available in your tackle box at any time so that you can change colors if the fish don’t appear to be interested in your first color.
- Bass Lure Colors: Chartreuse, Pink, Orange, Black, Blue, Purple
- Trout Lure Colors: Silver, Gold, White, Red
- Walleye Lure Colors: Silver, Black, Gold, Purple
- Catfish Lure Colors: Orange, Red
- Crappie Lure Colors: Chartreuse, Shad
- Pike Lure Colors: Black, Silver, Gold
- Bluegill Lure Colors: Blue, Pearl, Orange, Chartreuse
The depth that you are targeting will also impact the color you should choose.
If you have any popular colors for different fish species then please let us know by leaving a comment at the end of this article.
The depth you select really depends on the fish species you are targeting and the depth that they will be sheltering and feeding. This often changes depending on the time of year and the water temperature.
Walleye for example often shelter in 15-30 feet of water during the day and move to 6-10 feet during dawn and dusk to feed. You will need to select the right lure to suit your fishing requirements.
- Topwater – On the surface
- Shallow – 1-5 feet deep
- Medium – 5-12 feet deep
- Deep – 12-30 feet deep
It is always a good idea to have a variety of lures that go to different depths in your tackle bag. This will allow you to adjust your lure position as the fish move. It will also prevent you from spending all day fishing at the wrong depth.
The lure depth also impacts the color choice as different colors are more visible at different depths:
- Red and orange are eliminated first after the top 15-20 feet of water.
- Yellow and green persist down to 50-60 feet.
- Blue and violet will go down to 100 feet in clear water.
Crankbait Video Summary
The video below gives a good overview of crankbaits and some of the equipment you will need to use them.
How We Rate Products
I thoroughly review all products to measure their performance, durability, and value for money. This testing flows into an overall score that I give to all products. All metrics are scored out of 5.
Performance: The performance score is how well does this product fulfill its primary purpose on the water. Does it have all the features and optional extras you need to catch the target species?
Durability: Durability refers to how long the product will continue functioning. This is both the materials of construction, the quality of the workmanship, and the servicing requirements. There are also bonus points for manufacturers’ warranty.
Value for Money: The final aspect of the scoring system is the price or, more specifically, the value for money. Value for money is a comparison against the closest alternative products, both by the same manufacturer and other brands.
Overall Score: Finally, the average of the three scores in performance, durability, and value for money is used to give the overall score of each product reviewed.
8 Best Crankbaits
We have also put together a list of the top crankbaits for different fish species, such as bass, trout, walleye, and catfish. These have been selected using the above criteria and other user reviews.
1. Best Overall Crankbait – Truscend Fishing Lures
The truscend fishing lure is a must-have for beginner and experienced anglers alike. It comes in a variety of different colored packs, which helps you to put the favorite bait in front of that hungry fish.
The multi-jointed body makes it swim a lot more realistically than solid hard body crankbaits.
What I Like About It
A big criticism of most crankbaits is the poor-quality hooks they come with. This Truscend lure comes with high-quality mustad hooks that will do the job of catching big fish.
It is suitable for a wide range of both freshwater and saltwater fish species including bass, yellow perch, walleye, pike, muskie, roach, and trout.
Depth: 3-5 feet
2. Best Crankbait for Bass – Strike King Pro-Model 8XD Crankbait
If you are looking for a good crankbait for bass fishing, then look no further than the Strike King Pro-Model. This is a favorite of anglers all over North America.
What I Like About It
It is lightweight and easy to cast long distances. It can also dive deep to 20 feet so gives you plenty of variety in depths throughout the water column.
The variety of colors will help you to attract bass in all different environments and seasons. We strongly recommended getting different colors in your tackle box so that you can keep changing until you find the color that happens to attract bass today. You never know exactly what they will be looking for, so make sure you have options.
- Size: 5 1/2 inches long
- Weight: 1 1/3 ounces
- Depth: 20 feet
- Color Range: Wide range of 24 different and popular colors
3. Best Crankbait for Walleye – Rapala Original Floating
The best walleye crankbait available today is the same as it was years ago, the Rapala Original Floating Lure. This lure has stood the test of time and consistently puts bait in front of hungry fish.
What I Like About It
They don’t dive super deep but have one of the most natural-looking swimming actions around. There are also plenty of varieties with #11 being a common favorite.
This rapala lure has probably caught more walleye over the years than most other crankbaits combined.
4. Best Crankbait for Crappie – Sunlure Topwater
Sunlure makes these brilliant little lures for crappie. They come in packs of 10 and 20 so you can get a large variety of 10 different colors without spending a fortune. They are available in two sizes and weights, to help to mimic the baitfish.
What I Like About It
The colorful bodies will help to attract crappie even in low visibility conditions. The lure is made from hard plastic and has carbon steel treble hooks.
These are small lures for small fish so don’t be surprised when you see them.
5. Best Crankbait for Trout – Trout Magnet
This trout magnet crankbait is famous for being effective, and I would suggest it will be for you as well.
It contains rattles within the body to provide a noise attractant to let the trout know the bait is there.
What I Like About It
It is evenly waited to help it stay at a fixed level even when stopped. There are also some brilliant natural-looking colors that will help you either blend in or stand out with the baitfish.
It is useful for catching all species but it is particularly good on trout as previously mentioned.
- Size: 2 1/2 inches long
- Depth: 2-4 feet
6. Best Crankbait for Pike – Rapala Super Shad
Unlike most of the other lures we have shown here, this crankbait is made from durable wood. Its baitfish profile and color pattern make it almost indistinguishable underwater. The hardware and hooks are heavy-duty to make sure it doesn’t slip under a hungry fish bite.
What I Like About It
Each lure is hand-tuned and tank-tested before being shipped, so you know you will receive a crankbait that works. It is made with stainless steel through wire. It is built to withstand the bite and strike of big saltwater tarpon, so you know it will survive a pike battle.
This is a mid-depth lure bait. With all Rapala made lures you will have success for years to come with this model.
- Size: 5.5 inch
- Weight: 1 5/8 ounces
- Depth: 5-9 feet
7. Best Crankbait for Bluegill – Teeny Wee Crawfish
This Rebel Lures mimics a fleeing crawfish and is available in 9 brilliant colors. Teeny Wee is right, this is an ultralight and ultra-small lure that will help you to entice hungry bluegill into taking a bite. At around 1.5 inches long, this is a wee little crankbait.
What I Like About It
This has a distinctive quivering motion that will attract bluegill in clear waters and rivers. It also has a hard plastic body that can withstand the bites of fish for years to come.
These are popular with kayak fishing and can catch a variety of species including bass, trout, and sunfish. There are also two different models with different depths so you can adjust depending on where the fish are sheltering.
8. Best Crankbait for Catfish – wLure Minnow Crankbait
Including a free tackle box, this minnow crankbait will help you catch some good-sized catfish. There are over 24 different colors and styles so you can switch it up if the fish aren’t biting.
What I Like About It
These lures are also very low cost as they come directly from the manufacturer in China. I would suggest buying more than you need in case of poor quality, but at these prices, it is still good value. You can probably buy a whole box of these for the price of a single lure from other manufacturers.
And surprisingly they come with good quality, sharp hooks that you won’t need to replace.
- Size: 3 1/2 inches long
- Weight: 3/8 ounces
- Depth: Shallow
That brings us to the end. I hope you have found out some new information about lures, such as when to use them and when not to. You will also have seen some of the most popular crankbaits available on the market today. Having a variety of different sizes, depths, and color lures available in your tackle box will allow you to change things up until you find what the fish are hungry for today.
There is also plenty of information available to explain more about how crankbaits work and when to use them on the Vermont fishing website.
If you have experience with catching fish using crankbaits then we would love to hear your advice in the comments below. This will allow all anglers to learn and improve their skills. If you have any particular lures or colors that you have had success with in the past, then please pass along your recommendations. We are always looking for new lures to try.
Last update on 2022-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API