Best Crankbaits for Bass in Each Season

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Three crankbaits on a table.
Three crankbaits on a table.

The best crankbaits are almost always a staple of any angler's tackle box. Knowing the best crankbaits for bass in each season is incredibly important for year-round fishing success. Let’s go over the characteristics of crankbaits, how to fish them, and then we’ll take a look at our picks for the best crankbaits for each season, and varying fishing conditions.

Definition and Purpose of Crankbaits

Crankbaits are designed to mimic the movement and appearance of prey, enticing predatory fish to strike. These lures are equipped with a diving lip (see lipless crankbaits), enabling them to reach various depths where fish may be holding.

Characteristics of Crankbaits

Diving Depth and Action

Understanding the Impact of Diving Depth: The choice of diving depth in crankbaits is akin to selecting the right floor in a multi-story building. Different fish species occupy distinct depths, and a savvy angler comprehends this, tailoring their choice based on the specific environment they're fishing in. We highly recommend using depth finder or depth gauge tool to keep track of the depth of water being fished. If you catch a fish at a particular depth, it’s best to continue targeting that same depth for a period of time.

The Importance of Lifelike Action: The success of a crankbait lies not only in its depth but also in its ability to mimic the natural movements of prey. A lifelike action, whether erratic or steady, can be the deciding factor in triggering a predatory response. Experiment with crankbaits of varying movements, from subtle to erratic.

Color Selection and Realism

Behind the Color of Crankbaits: Color serves as a silent language in the underwater world. Certain hues and patterns resonate differently based on factors like water clarity, light conditions, seasonal variations, and target species preferences.

Achieving Realism for Different Fishing Conditions: Adaptability is the hallmark of a skilled angler. The best crankbaits are those that seamlessly blend into their surroundings, fooling even the most discerning fish. Remember to keep the primary baitfish in mind when selecting a crankbait’s size and color pattern.

Design and Construction

Body Shape and Material

Impact of Body Shape on Crankbait Performance: The impact of body shape on crankbait performance is a critical consideration for anglers seeking to optimize their lure selection. The contours and structure of a crankbait's body play a pivotal role in determining its swimming action, diving depth, and overall effectiveness in attracting and triggering strikes from predatory fish. Always take diving depth and buoyancy, action and wobbling movement, and versatility into account when choosing a crankbait for your specific fishing conditions.

Materials That Enhance Durability and Attraction: The choice of materials in crafting crankbaits goes beyond aesthetics. Durable yet buoyant materials contribute to longevity, while those with inherent scent or flavor add an extra layer of attraction, making them irresistible to curious fish. Crankbait bodies crafted from high-performance plastics or resins offer a winning combination of durability and buoyancy. More traditional crankbaits made of cedar or balsa wood remain popular due to their natural buoyancy, and their ability to create a subtle, enticing action.

Hooks and Hardware

Importance of Quality Hooks in Crankbaits: The connection between angler and their catch is the hook, and in crankbaits, this link is paramount. Pick high-quality hooks to ensure secure hooksets which reduces the chances of losing a prized fish.

Choosing the Right Hardware for Optimal Performance: Incorporating treble hooks provides versatility in hooking potential and ensures a higher chance of securing a strike. Treble hooks excel in hooking fish that strike from various angles, making them a popular choice for crankbaits. Choosing durable and high-quality split rings is essential for maintaining the integrity of a crankbait. Split rings connect various components of the crankbait, allowing for fluid movement and action. Pick crankbaits with corrosion-resistant materials so they maintain their strength and functionality.

How to Fish Crankbaits: Best Practices

Seasonal Adjustments and Conditions

Spring: During the spring, fish are often in the midst of the spawning process, making shallow areas prime locations for crankbait action. Targeting these shallow zones with slow-moving crankbaits that mimic injured baitfish can trigger strikes from protective bass. As the season progresses, transitioning to medium-depth crankbaits becomes effective as fish move to deeper waters post-spawn.

Summer: Summer sees an increase in fish activity, but the warmer water temperatures may drive them to deeper, cooler waters. Adapting crankbait tactics involves exploring different depths. Deep-diving crankbaits are effective for probing deeper structures and ledges, while medium-depth crankbaits can excel in the thermocline where cooler water meets the warmer surface layer.

Fall: As temperatures drop in the fall, baitfish start migrating, and predatory fish follow suit. Crankbaits that imitate the size and color of the prevailing baitfish become go-to choices. Medium-diving crankbaits are effective for covering a range of depths as fish move from open water to shallower areas in pursuit of forage.

Winter: In winter, fish metabolism slows down, and they become less active. Adjusting crankbait tactics involves slowing down the retrieve and opting for more subtle presentations. Shallow to medium-depth crankbaits worked with a slow, erratic retrieve can entice lethargic fish. Targeting areas with minimal current and focusing on slow, deep dives becomes crucial.

Effect of Weather Conditions on Crankbait Success

Sunny Days: Sunny conditions can boost water clarity, allowing fish to see crankbaits more easily. In clear waters, natural and vibrant colors become effective choices, as the increased visibility enhances their allure. Additionally, sunny days often trigger heightened fish activity. Anglers can capitalize on this by using fast-moving crankbaits to cover water efficiently and entice aggressive strikes.

Overcast Conditions: Overcast conditions can amplify the predatory instincts of fish, making them more likely to strike aggressively. In such situations, crankbaits with bold colors and pronounced actions can be effective in triggering reactions. Conversely, the subdued lighting provides an opportunity for stealthier approaches. Natural and more subtle-colored crankbaits may excel in overcast conditions, enticing bites from wary fish.

Rainy Days: Rainy days introduce atmospheric changes that can stimulate fish activity. The impact of rain on the water surface can create ripples and noise, making fish less wary. Lipless crankbaits, in particular, can excel in these conditions, producing vibrations and attracting fish in a more dynamic environment. Additionally, rain can wash insects and smaller prey into the water, making crankbaits mimicking these profiles effective.

Windy Days: Windy days agitate the water surface, making crankbaits that produce vibration and noise highly effective. In such conditions, fish may be more inclined to strike at fast-moving and noisy lures. Deep-diving crankbaits, especially those with a wide wobbling action, can be productive in choppy waters. The wind-driven current can also position fish in strategic locations, and crankbaits can be used to target these areas.

Temperature Changes: Changes in temperature, whether gradual or sudden, influence fish behavior and dictate the optimal crankbait tactics. In colder conditions, slowing down the retrieve and using deep-diving crankbaits can entice lethargic fish. Conversely, in warmer temperatures, a more aggressive and faster retrieve may trigger strikes from actively feeding fish.

Retrieval Techniques

Exploring Different Crankbait Retrieval Styles: Crankbaits offer versatility in retrieval styles, from a steady retrieve to a stop-and-go motion. Experimenting with these techniques allows anglers to decipher the mood of the fish on any given day and tailor their approach accordingly.

Fine-tuning Retrieval Speed for Maximum Effectiveness: Different crankbaits respond uniquely to changes in retrieval speed, producing varied actions that can attract fish in different ways. Experimenting with both fast and slow retrieves allows anglers to understand the optimal speed for a particular lure. Some crankbaits excel with a high-speed, erratic retrieve, while others may produce better results with a slow and steady approach. Always keep the activity level of your target species in mind when deciding on your lure retrieval speed.

Best Crankbaits for Bass at a Glance

Best Pre-Spawn: Bomber Flat A

Bomber Flat A CrankbaitBomber Flat A Crankbait

The Flat A crankbait excels at catching pre-spawn bass for several reasons. Its flat sides generate a subtle, tight wiggle that bass can't resist. It has great buoyancy allowing for slow retrieves that mimic injured prey. The tight wiggle and slow retrieve work well in cold water, where pre-spawn bass are less active and require a more subtle presentation. Its unique action and presentation stand out from commonly used lures, making it effective for pressured pre-spawn bass.

Strike King KVD Squarebill CrankbaitStrike King KVD Squarebill Crankbait

Post-spawn bass often move into shallower water to recover and feed on readily available prey. The KVD Squarebill's shallow diving depth (3-6 feet) allows it to effectively cover this zone and trigger reaction strikes. The crankbait's square bill design creates an erratic "wandering" action, mimicking the movement of disoriented baitfish that bass are actively seeking after spawning. The square bill also excels at deflecting off cover, such as rocks, stumps, and vegetation, which post-spawn bass often use for ambush tactics. This action triggers curiosity and aggressive strikes from bass lurking nearby.

Best Early Summer: Rapala Balsa Extreme Brat

Rapala Balsa Extreme Brat CrankbaitRapala Balsa Extreme Brat Crankbait

The Extreme Brat's square bill and slim body shape create a wild, tail-kicking action that imitates the movement of frightened prey, which is especially attractive to bass in the warmer water of early summer. The Balsa Brat is a relatively small crankbait, measuring only 2 inches and diving to a depth of 3 feet. This makes it perfect for targeting early summer bass that are feeding in shallow water. While many balsa crankbaits are known for being fragile, the Balsa Brat is built with a balsa core and a tough copolymer outer shell. This makes it much more durable than traditional balsa baits and able to withstand the rigors of fishing around cover.

Best Late Summer: Berkley Dredger

Berkley Dredger CrankbaitBerkley Dredger Crankbait

The Dredger's weighted lip allows it to dive deep and quickly, reaching the deeper zones where late summer bass reside. Compared to other deep divers, the Dredger has a slimmer profile, making it easier for bass to maneuver and strike. It produces a tight, wobbling action that mimics distressed prey, triggering bites from sluggish late-summer bass. Solid construction and quality hardware ensure the crankbait withstands multiple strikes and bottom contact. Diverse paint jobs offer natural and vibrant options to match different water conditions and forage preferences.

Best Early Fall: Bomber Square A

Bomber Square A CrankbaitBomber Square A Crankbait

The Square A has a tight wiggle and a quick-floating action that attracts bass that are still feeding actively in the shallows, especially around vegetation and other cover. The small size of the bait makes it a good choice for fishing pressured bodies of water or when the bass are keying in on smaller prey. This design allows the bait to deflect off of structure, which can trigger strikes from aggressive bass. The Bomber Square A can be fished at a variety of speeds and depths, making it a good choice for a variety of conditions.

Best Late Fall: Norman Lures Speed N

Norman Lures Speed N CrankbaitNorman Lures Speed N Crankbait

The Norman Lures Speed N crankbait is a great choice for late fall bass because of its tight wobble and aggressive "pitch and roll" action that mimics the movement of erratic baitfish. The Speed N dives to 4-6 feet which is perfect for targeting bass that are holding in deeper water as the water cools. Another great feature is that it remains true even at higher speeds which makes covering a lot of water quick and efficient.

Best Winter: Storm Wiggle Wort

Storm Wiggle Wort CrankbaitStorm Wiggle Wort Crankbait

The Wiggle Wort's tight wiggling action and erratic side-to-side movement mimics a struggling baitfish, which is highly attractive to lethargic bass in cold water. The Wiggle Wort dives down to 7-12 feet, reaching the deeper depths where winter bass typically hold. The Wiggle Wort's loud rattle attracts bass and helps them locate the bait in murky winter waters. The Wiggle Wort's realistic baitfish profile and 3D holographic eyes further entice cold-water bass. The Wiggle Wort can be cast and retrieved slowly, trolled, or even ripped for a more aggressive presentation.

Best Shallow-Diving: Rapala DT4

Rapala DT4 CrankbaitRapala DT4 Crankbait

The Rapala DT4 excels as a shallow-diving crankbait due to several reasons. Running at about 4 feet, it perfectly targets fish in shallow water, where many species often lurk. Its thin lip and balanced weight distribution allow for long, accurate casts, maximizing coverage area. The internal baritone rattle produces tempting sounds while the bait's thin tail creates a tight wiggle, further enticing strikes. Balsa wood construction provides a natural, erratic wobble that mimics injured baitfish, attracting fish with its realistic action.

Best Medium-Diving: River2Sea Tactical DD

River2Sea Tactical DD CrankbaitRiver2Sea Tactical DD Crankbait

The River2Sea Tactical DD crankbait maximizes surface area for exceptional diving depth, reaching depths of 18 feet depending on retrieval style. It generates an enticing vibration and wobbling motion, attracting bass from afar. Designed to mimic natural baitfish, triggering feeding responses in bass. Effective in both warm and cold water, making it a versatile fishing lure.

Best Deep-Diving: Strike King Pro 10XD

Strike King Pro 10XD CrankbaitStrike King Pro 10XD Crankbait

The Strike King Pro Model 10XD crankbait excels in deep diving due to its unique features. It has a curved bill which allows for rapid and deep diving, reaching up to 25 feet on 14-pound fluorocarbon line. This ability surpasses most other deep-diving crankbaits. At 6 inches, the 10XD presents a substantial profile, attracting larger bass lurking in the depths. The free-floating rattle chamber creates a loud sound that attracts fish from afar, even in murky water. The 10XD tracks well even when contacting the bottom, reducing snags and maintaining its enticing action.