In part 2 of our in-depth look at fishing lures, we are going to talk about crankbaits. Crankbaits are part of a broad family of lures called plugs. Plugs are generally floating lures made out of wood or plastic. They can be long and slender such as minnows and rapalas, or fatter bodied like crankbaits or divers. Basically, though, the idea is a floating lure that imitates baitfish or prey (such as frogs), features 2 or more treble hooks, and can dive down based on the weight of the lure.
A crankbait is a specific type of plug lure that is made to resemble small baitfish that dive down and are shorter and fatter bodied than minnows, for example. These lures are designed to target predators or fish who feed on baitfish for the primary source of food. Most crankbaits have a bill on the front designed to add weight and help the crankbait dive down. The size and weight of this bill will determine how deep the lure dives. There are also lipless lures that are designed with a rattle to help attract aggressive fish. Bass, Pike, Walleye, Salmon, and trout are just a few of the fish who respond well to crankbaits.
Crankbaits are made in a multitude of colors designed to mimic the different baitfish. Figuring out which color is best for a particular body of water may require some experimentation or—better yet, investigation to try and see what baitfish the predators are targeting. If bluegills are prevalent, choose crankbaits with blue and silver. If shad are the main baitfish in a lake then silver with a black spine may be your best bet. While fishing in murkier waters I have had a lot of success with brighter yellow or red crankbaits. The brighter colors make it easier for the fish I’m targeting to see from further away.
The design of the crankbait is such that the speed of the retrieve is going to determine the depth at which the crankbait “dives”. A slow retrieve will pretty much hug the surface. A crankbait with a long and heavy bill that is fished with a fast retrieve will hug the bottom.
Finally, the shape of the crankbait and bill will affect how the lure moves through the water. A narrow lure with a round bill will move smoothly as it dives down. A wider crankbait with a more squared bill will wobble as it is retrieved.
Crankbaits are one of my favorite lures for targeting predators. The ability to dive allows you to get to some of the bigger fish that may be hiding deep in structure. They are also just fun to fish with. Having a large smallmouth bass attack your lure on a short pause in the retrieve is exhilarating—to say the least.