Crankbaits guide Diving depth, location, tackle and tips

When it comes to artificial lures, crankbaits are among the most favorite, and most used lures among amateur and professional fishermen alike. Since crankbaits are typically reeled in fast, they are ideal to cover a lot of water in a short time.

When you visit a tackle shop or shop online for crankbaits, you may get a bit overwhelmed. Crankbaits come in countless colors and sizes, different bills or “lips” and weights.

Depending on what type of fishing you’d like to do with a crankbait, the lip size is an important factor. Typically the larger and bigger the bill, the deeper it will dive.

How a crankbait bill affects diving depth

Crankbaits have bills or “lips” that make it dive upon retrieval. Depending on the type of fishing you will be doing, this is an important factor. When fishing from a boat, kayak or other vessel, it’s good to have multiple crankbaits with different bill sizes. This will allow you to fish shallow or deep depending on the structure and depth you’re fishing.

Deep diving crankbaits

Cranky LED - Coral reef crankbait

A ¼ oz Kanan lures crankbait with a 1” bill. This lure will dive 5-15ft.

Cranky XL - Flash Shad crankbait

A 1 oz Kanan lures crankbait with a 1.5” bill. This lure will dive 10-15ft.

A deep diving crankbait typically has a bill of 1” or larger, depending on the overall lure size. The larger the lure, the larger the bill needs to be, as more weight and volume needs to dive. A 2” lure with 1” bill will dive deeper than a 5” lure with the same 1” bill. Deep diving crankbaits are ideal for boat or kayak fishing, as it will allow you to target deeper water, which typically hold larger bass and other predatory fish.

Shallow diving crankbaits

Alosa Minor - Golden crankbait

A ⅜ oz Alosa Minor with 0.5” bill. This lure will dive 3-10 feet.

Dante VIB - Pumkinseed lipless crankbait

A ½ oz Dante Vib lipless crankbait. This lure will dive 3-6 feet.

A shallow diving crankbait typically has a bill size up to 0.5”, or no lip at all. Shallow diving crankbaits are a great bait for any type of fishing and fishing location. Be it a lake, pond, creek, river, etc.

Lipless crankbaits, such as the Dante Vib typically have connect to your fishing line or leader from the top of the lure, rather than the traditional front or nose of the lure.

This allows the force or water to push the lure down upon retrieval. Furthermore, lipless crankbaits usually sink compared to floating crankbaits. While floating crankbaits are typically thrown and retrieved, a lipless crankbait allows you to change tactics. Cast out, let it sink, reel it in, let it sink, this combination of aggressive wobble swimming and then slowly sinking can antice bass and other fish species to strike that other wouldn’t.

Bass act a lot like cats. No doubt you’ve seen a cat focused on a toy, waiting for the perfect time or movement to strike. Bass often do the same thing, and the falling motion of a lipless crankbait may just be enough to cause that strike.


Rather than focusing on what location isn’t right for crankbaits, let’s focus on what areas are not right for crankbaits, as most locations are crankbait friendly.

Ponds or lakes with tall underwater vegetation can be a nightmare for crankbaits. Crankbaits typically consist out of 2 treble hooks, which accumulate to a total of 6 hooks. In other words, plenty of opportunity to get snagged.

Low water locations are another snag waiting to happen. Most crankbaits will dive 3 feet and deeper, fishing low water can easily get you snagged on vegetation, branches or rocks. It’s not impossible to fish low water locations with a crankbait, though a floating crankbait would be your best choice. Pause your retrieve every couple cranks and let it float back up.

Experienced fishermen target underwater structures such as branches or thick vegetation, as these typically hold an underwater predator waiting to strike. Before fishing a crankbait in such locations, it’s important you understand how deep your crankbait dives and how the angle of your rod affects the dive in order to prevent a snag.

Tackle - What rod is right for crankbaits

While basic crankbait fishing is quite straightforward, not every rod you have laying around will be ideal for fishing crankbaits.

Rod power:

The power rating of a rod range from ultra light to extra heavy. The power rating refers to the strength of the rod, or how much it will bend under what amount of stress. The more powerful the rod, the bigger the fish you can fight. It also determines the bend and cast distance, and how much it will bend retrieving.

Go to heavy, and it will feel like you're casting light lures with a stick. Go too light, and you will feel like you're casting a rock with a twig.

The power ratings in bold are most popular for crankbaits:
Ultra Light
Light Medium
Medium Heavy
Extra Heavy

Rod action:

Fishing rod action comparison chart

The action of the rod determines where the rod is more eager to bend under pressure. A fast action rod will bend closer to the tip, faster - where as a slow action rod will bend closer to the reel, slower.

Depending on what size crankbaits you want to cast, a lighter rod would typically give you more of a casting distance than a slow action rod. 

Extra fast action: Bends the rod in the upper ¼ of the rod. Fast action: Bends the rod in the upper ⅓ of the rod. Moderate action: Bends the rod in the upper ½ of the rod. Slow action: Bends the rod from the lower ⅓

The action ratings in bold are most popular for crankbaits:
Medium Slow
Medium/Moderate Fast

What is the right power and action for a crankbait pole? Most professionals use a medium to heavy power and medium or to medium fast action.

This combination allows enough stiffness to feel the bite fast, enough power to set the hook, yet not too much stiffness or power which would make you rip out the bait of the mouth, or completely miss bites.

Crankbait tips

Whether or not you have the ideal rod for crankbaits, here’s some tips to increase your chances catching fish with crankbaits.

Crankbait methods:

Reel in and pause: Whether you’re fishing floating or sinking crankbaits, pausing for a few seconds in between retrieval can work wonders. It can give the break in retrieval required for bass to catch up and strike. Floating crankbaits will work their way back to the surface, while suspending or sinking crankbaits will relatively stay in position, or slowly sink. It also allows you to fish more shallow areas with floating crankbaits, and not having to worry about getting snagged.

Strong retrieval, catching up slack: This method is one of my personal favorites. It’s great for changing up the swimming action of the crankbait. Rather than reeling in the crankbait at a steady or steady and pause method, pull the rod back sideways sharply, reel in the slack and repeat. This causes the crankbait to swim erratically, followed by a pause, followed by another erratic swimming bolt.

Touching bottom: This method requires more experience. The taps on the rod you feel need to be your eyes underwater. To touch bottom with a crankbait, you need to use a crankbait that dives deeper than the water you are fishing. For example, if you’re fishing waters 5 foot deep, a 10 foot diving crankbait will do the trick. Having the crankbait touch bottom and swimming above it will stir up silt and may cause more strikes.

Crankbait tips:

  • For a regular dive, you want to hold the tip of the rod low and to the side. For a shallow dive, hold the tip of the rod high. I like to do this when the crankbait is almost reeled in, and getting close to the bank.
  • A louder rattle and more aggressive wobble crankbait will do better in cloudy water conditions, or towards evening/night time.
  • Swivels affect the swimming pattern and action of crankbaits (and most lures). I prefer to tie the line directly to the crankbait, or use a wire cross locking snap if I want to switch lures regularly.
  • Always look for structures. While bass and other fish can be spotted anywhere, most predatory fish lay around and wait for a bait to pass by. Rocks, stumps, dropoffs, weeds, cattails, the bank, etc. Every body water consists of structures, and the more you explore them, the better you’ll learn the pattern of bass and other fish.


  • Ron Schieck

    I agree with Mr. Strauss above, very informative as I am new to fishing and this article helped a lot. Thanks

  • Brian Roose

    If you are trolling with a crank bait…say 1" bill for 10 feet. how much line will it take to get my lure to that depth? ie troll 50’ of line?

  • Ron Strauss

    Great article! Very informative. Confirmed a lot of things about crankbaits and I learned a few others. Thanks!

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