Fishing with crankbaits : how-to guide

fishing with crankbaits

Crankbaits are floating hard baits usually made of plastic or wood. Fishing with crankbaits was initially invented in the United States for bass fishing. They come in various shapes and sizes however they are mostly rounded with a bulky body and a lip or bill. It’s that bill that will define its swimming action and diving depth.

Some crankbaits have a very wide wobble while others are tighter. Not one is inherently better but each has its place and situation where it will prove superior for catching big fish. Similarly, some crankbaits come with a sound-emitting rattle inside the lure, and others are silent. Again, no one is better, it all comes down to the situation. 

Crankbaits have proven themselves in all water conditions, clear, stained, muddy, cold, warm, shallow, or deep they are a true workhorse and they catch fish in a very wide set of circumstances. Even though they were initially designed for freshwater, experience has shown that they can catch saltwater fish just as well.

Crankbaits for pike fishing

As previously mentioned, crankbaits were created for largemouth bass in America but European anglers have quickly found out that they could catch pike with crankbaits as well. The first piece of advice is probably to select the largest size available.

fishing with crankbaits for pike

Regardless of the fish you’re looking for, generally speaking, the longer the bill on a crankbait the deeper it will dive. So for fishing around shallow grass or wood cover select a short-billed lure such as a squarebill crankbaits for example.

Make an accurate cast when possible beyond your target and just reel it in. Each lure has an optimum speed, some designed to be fished slow and some for running at a faster clip. It will come with experience, however shallow diving baits can usually be retrieved at a wider range of speed in shallow water.

If you need to search for active fish at deeper depth, select a deep diving crankbait with a longer bill. That’s when crankbaits really shine over other baits. While you would need to wait for a sinking lure to reach the targeted fish, a crankbait will reach its running depth on its own. 

To achieve optimum depth make a long cast and straight retrieve it. Whether deep or shallow, don’t just crank your reel handle like a robot. Add some pauses and acceleration to trigger bites from following fish. Pike love to do that!

Catching zander with a crankbait

Maybe not as widely used to catch zanders, it is nonetheless a very good technique to not just catch numbers but big fish as well. Crankbaits are faster than most other lures and will allow you to cover more water quickly. Match your lure to the depth you are fishing and when you hit the bottom, pause for about 3 seconds and resume cranking. The bite will often happen right then.

zander fishing with crankbaits

I would recommend against using braided line as zanders are known to hit very hard and it’s better to use monofilament and a soft action rod to absorb the shock, otherwise, you will lose many fish.

The best places to find zanders are ledges, drop-offs, submerged wood, and water run-ins. Make a long cast to achieve maximum depth with your lure. I have found that tight running crankbaits are great baitfish imitators and catch big zanders. You will need to experiment with your retrieve pattern.

zander crankbait

Some days a medium-slow lazy retrieve will get bit and other days a fast sweeping motion with the rod followed by a pause will generate more strikes. The fish will tell you!

What about crankbaits for perch ?

Well, perch absolutely positively love crankbaits. Obviously, it is best to select slightly smaller crankbaits even though catching a perch while pike fishing with a big lure is a very frequent occurrence. Perch love fast-running baits and will chase them recklessly.

redfin perch

I’ve found that fast, tight baitfish imitators are the best lures for perch. I barely pause the bait because perch can often lose interest if the prey is not trying to get away. Shining colors and noisy rattling baits are prime candidates.

Pro-tip: If you see perch chasing small prey on the surface you can throw a shallow running crankbait in shad patterns to catch them. It can be a good idea to keep a deeper running crankbait on another combo. That’s because you will often find small perch chasing on top while the bigger fish are feeding deeper.

Seabass fishing with crankbaits

Saltwater anglers have high-jacked many freshwater lures, with great success. Crankbaits are such a success story, so much so that many manufacturers are now offering specific colors. They can be used in a wide variety of conditions. I fish with crankbaits around rocks, oyster beds, and anywhere I need to cover wide expanses of water quickly.

lure fishing blog

Crankbaits should be selected to look like a sardine or small mackerel. Make long casts, keep your rod tip low and retrieve at a fast speed. I prefer crankbaits with a longer bill. Crankbaits will not dive as deep in saltwater as freshwater due to higher water density. The longer bill will also prevent snags in rocks.

Many fishermen are also using crankbaits as a trolling lures. Pay very close attention to the speed your lure can sustain. Not all crankbaits are created equal. Select tight wobbling action crankbaits for trolling. By using two (or more) different lures, you can cover the whole water column and catch many species of fish, not just sea bass.


In a conclusion, keep in mind that crankbaits are great all-around baits that will catch fish in a wide range of situations. These lures are also fun to collect. Whether they are deep divers, lipless crankbaits, flat sided or medium diving crankbaits, they come in all shapes and sizes. Each has its place, and having a large collection to choose from is essential for learning how to fish with them. Stay tuned for future entries about color selection, where and when to throw crankbaits, and much more!