Crankbait vs Jerkbait Differences and Comparison

When it comes to fishing lures, crankbaits and jerkbaits may just be the two most popular baits for any angler, especially for bass fishing. However, which is the best option for you and what differences are there between these two baits? Let’s find that out right away!

Simply put, both of these fishing lures are plastic hard baits. These are particularly handy when you are targeting fish species like walleyes and bass. They are known to mimic the forage eaten by fish.

What makes these lures so convenient is that you don't need extra tackle to get started. Tie on a crankbait or jerkbait, and you're ready to face a wide variety of waters, water depths and to target a wide variety of fish.

However, even while they seem similar, the reality is that both of them come with some major differences, as you will see below.

Hyper Chart Jerkbait Fishing Kanan lures
Hyper Chart Jerkbait
Flash Shad Jerk bait Kanan lures
Flash Shad Jerkbait
Dante VIB Bass Lipless Crankbait Kanan Lures
Baby Bass Crankbait
Cranky XL pumpkinseed crankbait with lip
Pumpkinseed Crankbait

Introduction to Crankbait vs Jerkbait bills also called lips

When it comes to their bill, you will see that both the crankbaits and jerkbaits usually have bills. These bills or lips determine for the most part what type of a wiggle action the lure has, as well as diving depth on retrieval.

But there are some differences between the two. What you need to note here is that the bill on a jerkbait is smaller when compared to the crankbait.

On top of that, the crankbait bill tends to be long and wide. It can dive up to 15 feet or sometimes even more. The jerkbait bill is, however, a typically just a bit larger than fingernail. Yes, there are some major differences in this regard.

Types of bills

However, there are many types of bills out there. Such as:

  • Square bills
  • Diamond shaped bills
  • Rounded bills
  • No bill (lipless)

At Kanan lures we offer a variety of crankbaits with different bills, as well as jerkbaits. Not all models will always work for you, much depends on the type of fishing you plan to do, as well as what type and size of fish you're targeting.

The best way to find out what works for you is to simply pick up a couple different types of crankbaits, in different colors. All of the lures we offer at Kanan are proven to catch fish.

Crankbait vs Jerkbait body types

Both crankbaits and jerkbaits may have a similar purpose, but their body is very different. Crankbaits, for example, tend to have a shorter and fatter body. The jerkbaits, on the other hand, have a slender and longer body.

These also tend to have three treble hooks most of the time, whereas the crankbaits tend to bring only 2.

Usually, crankbaits tend to be preferred because they are shorter and fatter, mimicking a nice sized snack for predatory fish. However, jerkbaits can be just as useful, it all depends on the type of fish you want to catch. Many fishermen tend to combine and use both.

As with any lure or bait, what works great one day could very well not even get a bite the next day.

Crankbait vs Jerkbait retrieval depth

Jerkbait and crankbait diving depth image chart comparison

What about depth? This is also quite different for crankbaits and jerkbaits. Since crankbaits come with a variety of bill sizes and shapes, you can often choose the right crankbait for the right depth.

Jerkbaits however don't have such a wide bill variety, and their bill sizes are typically less than half an inch long. Because of that, they tend to have a much better performance on the upper side (1-3 feet from the surface) of the water. They tend to work great in shallow water, such as creeks and ponds - or you can skim the side of the banks on larger lakes, and not have to worry about diving too deep where you will snag every structure on the bottom.

Since most crankbaits are made to dive to deeper depths (up to 25 feet or more) they are a much better choice for lakes. Experienced fishermen will know what type of fish can be found at what depths at what time of year. Crankbaits make it possible to target these fish, and they do it very well.

If you want the best of both worlds, lipless crankbaits can be ideal for you. A lipless crankbait has a shallow diving depth, yet has the action and look of a crankbait.

Crankbait VS Jerkbait swimming action

The swimming action of a lure is very important as well. Crankbaits and jerkbaits both typically have an aggressive wobble that mimic a fish swimming away in distress.

Much depends on the type of fishing you'll be doing. We'll display a few scenario's for you:

Scenario one, ponds, creeks, shallow waters

Ponds and creeks are great bodies of water to fish for smallmouth and largemouth bass, yet they can prove difficult to be fished with fishing lures. Fish too deep and you may just end up catching vegetation or snags and scaring fish away all day long.

Jerkbaits are ideal in this scenario. They stay close to the surface, and with a quick pause in between retrievals, you can easily keep them within a foot of the surface as you're getting close to the bank.

Fishing with a crankbait shallow waters can prove to be difficult. Your best option in this case is a lipless crankbait. If your crankbait floats, a good method is to retrieve your crankbait for a spool turn or two, and let it float back to the surface. If your crankbait sinks, slowly retrieving it all the way to the bank is your best bet to prevent getting snagged.

Scenario two, lakes, deeper waters

This is where crankbaits get to shine. Having a variety of crankbaits at your disposal will make for a great day on the water.

A floating crankbait is great to troll with. It covers a large amount of water with little to no effort, and when you reach a spot where you want to actively cast, your crankbait will float back to the surface.

Grab your shallow diving crankbait and cast near the bank, near structures, etc. Found a good drop off on your fish finder? Pull out a large bill crankbait and cast as far past the drop off as you can. That way it can reach a good depth by the time it passes the targeted area. 

Even when boating there will be times where you want to fish a shallow area. A jerkbait will prove useful to fish near banks, or shallow waters where you know your crankbait will run into trouble.


Best for shallow waters: Jerkbaits
Best for shallow to medium waters: Jerkbaits and smaller and/or lipless crankbaits
Best for medium to deep waters: Crankbaits

Overall there is no better option; every angler will fish both shallow and deep waters eventually. Using the right bait at the right location will always better your chances, and the only way to be prepared is by having both baits at your disposal.

It’s important to note that the best crankbaits and jerkbaits aren’t that expensive, and both typically have years of use on them. 


  • Jemstone90

    Thanks for defining the difference between a jerk bait and a crank bait. I have been using both for years but never knew they were different categories. I knew some dove deep and others were good for shallow water but to me they are all just hard plastics. When Bass are hitting in shallow water in the spring, you can use ANYTHING with a hook on it and catch fish! Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota has so many BIG toothy Pike and Musky I always use steel leaders and will catch 250 to 500 Large Mouth a season because the Pike eat the same thing the Bass eat. OTHER FISH!

  • Brain's Answer

    Brian from March 2019 – the answer is not too complicated.
    Jerkbait – hard floating bait, typically has 3 treble hooks, is typically thin and long and has a small lip that is about a fingernail in size.
    Crankbait – hard floating bait, typically has 2 treble hooks, is typically short and fat and has a much larger variety of lips to help them dive deep. Some have no lips at all to give them the ability to be used in shallower water.
    Stickbait is anything in a stick form that is typically mimic a worm that you will hook yourself and typically fix in a texas or carolina rig.

  • Brian

    How do I know if I have a stickbait, jerkbait or crankbait?

  • Ben

    Glad it helped Stanley! Both are very good choices, and both will catch fish. Be sure to pick one up from our store! :-) Fish on!

  • Stanley Beck

    Just started fishing. Information very useful. Love to catch bass. Wanted to know best lure. Thanks..

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published