How To Fish A Crankbait [17 Essential Secrets To Catching Bass With A Crankbait]

How to use a crankbait?| How to work a crankbait?

When I was new to fishing, I would go to my local big box store and see isles and isles of crankbaits.  Without the right knowledge I had to result in guessing what the bass would bite…

But I knew crankbaits worked, I would often see on TV professional anglers win tournaments with them, or read vague blog posts about the necessary they are, over more often than not, no one would really go into detail on exactly how to fish a crankbait… until now.

I’m here to tell you that fishing a crankbait requires much more technique than casting it out and winding it back in. The good thing is crankbaits can and will catch fish all year long. However, the challenge is to recognize how and when a specific crankbait needs to be presented.  Furthermore, additional factors you have to consider when fishing a crankbait is time of year, weather, time of day, water clarity, location structure, crankbait body wobble, retrieval speed, and deflection capability.

Sound like alot?  Truthfully, it is… But I’m here to make it easy for you.

You’re going to get a full Blueprint on learning to recognize and understand all the ways you can fish a crankbait will undoubtedly catch you more fish.

But before you get started…

This is the second report in this Crankbait Mastery Series. If you’re brand new to crankbait fishing haven’t read the first report, then click here first. It’s called, “What Is A Crankbait? [ A Complete Beginners Guide with Pictures]”

In this report I created for you, I’m going to give you the exact list I use when I trying to catch bass with a crankbait.

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This is long report, but you can use these quick navigation links to instantly whisk you to the section you want to read the most!

Crankbait Retrieval Methods for Catching Bass

Here we will discuss a few techniques for fishing with crankbaits.

The Jerk

Fish instinctively bite when something is trying to get away, rather than lose a potential meal. To achieve this technique, simply jerk the rod a few times during retrieval.

This is especially useful if you’re not getting any bites as bass are known for reaction bites.

The Burn

After casting out your crankbait, wind in the lure as fast as you can. this works perfectly if there is a piece of structure you know your crankbait will hit.

If you’re not getting any bites with this method, briefly pause the lure retrieve immediately after the crankbait hits the structure, then re-start the fast retrieval. 

Stop & Go

Similar to the reaction produced with a jerk, quickly reeling then stopping abruptly will cause a reaction bite.

With floating crankbaits the bass will bite on the rise, while with suspended baits they may wait until the go.

Stop & Poke

Best done in clearer water, this technique will have you turning heads… literally.

Start with a quick retrieve, then suddenly push the rod towards the lure like you’re “poking” it.

It may sound silly, but what it’s doing is spinning the lure 180-degrees, making it stare down the bass.

This is awesome if you find the bass are just following your lure, as they’ll usually quit risking losing a potential meal and attack!

It’s best to practice this technique in a swimming pool (not in use of course). It will give you a very clear view as you practice this technique. 

Bump & Grind

This is a great method for all depths and is fairly simple. All you really need is a diving crankbait with a random foraging action.

This helps to kick up silt and creates a very realistic action.

Simply drag the lure along the floor of the lake, but make sure not to use too aggressive of a diver as it will embed itself into the lake’s floor.

Kneel & Reel

Sometimes you need a few extra feet of diving depth; that’s where the “kneel and reel” comes in handy.

For this method, use a long, fast action rod and kneel down on the deck of your boat or dock.

Then on your retrieval, stick the rod two to three feet into the water and reel.

This will help get your bait down a little further, reaching those illusive deep water bass!

Tip Up For Grass or Shallow Structure Fishing

If you’re faced with fishing submerged grass and you’re crankbait keeps getting hung up, keep the tip pointed up. 

This forces the bait to swim significantly higher in the water column. 

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Seasonal Patterns To Consider

The season you’re fishing will help you choose the right type of crankbait. 

Spring

The spring can be broken down into three parts: prespawn, spawn, post-spawn. 

For prespawn bass...

Focus your crankbait fishing on the north end of the lake, particularly around bluff walls and large boulders (which tend to radiate heat) near spawning flats. 

Other great locations like the following should be checked:

  • Steep banks
  • Banks near a river channel swing
  • Vertical structure near a spawning flat
  • Windblown banks
  • Main lake points near deep water

Your best chances to catch a big fat bass will be in 12-16 feet of water. 

Medium to deep diving crankbaits that come with a thin body shape such as the Rapala Shad Rap, Spro Little John, wiggle wart or the Fat Free Shad work really well. 

For spawning bass...

During spawn the bass will build their nests in 1-12-feet of water, near current, mostly on the northern and western banks. 

The beds will look like craters running approximately 1-3-feet in diameter. 

Smaller shallow running crankbaits, squarebill crankbaits, medium diving crankbaits, and even from wake baits will work amazing during this time. 

Many times you’ll have to cast repetitively because you’re looking for a protective strike on your lure, not a hunger strike you’d normally get with fishing a crankbait any other time of year.

For post-spawn bass...

As spawn progresses the female will exit the next first leaving the male to guard the eggs and fry. 

Use a crankbait near the following locations”

  • Spawning flat, however target the deeper water locations.
  • Creek channel swings
  • Vertical structure near a spawning flat
  • Main lake points near deep water
  • Base of bluff walls near a spawning flat

Don’t be surprised to catch fish in a specific location one day, and on the next day they’ll be gone.  Don’t fret, just scan the area with other similar structures. 

Most effective retrieves during the spring: The Jerk, The Burn, Stop & Go, Tip Up

Most effective colors: Shad colors, crawfish colored (brown/orange), or even red/black are some of the best colors.  

Here are some of most dependable and successful spring time deep diving crankbaits:

  • Rapala DT16
  • Bomber Deep Fat Free Shad
  • Norman Deep Little N or DD22
  • Strike King 6XD
  • Megabass Deep-Six

Here are some of the most most dependable and successful spring time shallow running crankbaits:

  • Lucky Craft 1.5 DRS  squarebill
  • Bandit 100 Series
  • Strike King 1.5 squarebill
  • Bagley Balsa B1 squarebill

Summer

In the dog days of summer it can be difficult to find and catch bass. 

Some bass go deep, whereas some stay shallow. 

There are usefull techniques to catching bass in both depths of water. 

Deep Summer Crankbait Fishing

Most of the bass will retreat to the deep water 15-50-feet.

Finding these holding locations can be hard, and to make matters worse some days can incredibly calm making catching bass even more hard.   What to do? …

Simple answer: find the current first, then find the structure.

Bass are opportunistic predators who don’t want to overextend themselves if they don’t have to. 

Generally, they will find a deep location that will bring them their food. 

Check out these deep water spots where current can typically be found:

  • Bends of river channels
  • Wind blown points
  • Main lake points
  • Main lake humps and rock piles
  • Ledges
  • Shell beds
  • Vegetation irregularities
  • Deep shell beds

If the lake you’re fishing is man made chances are one of it’s primary uses is for generating power. That means current will be produced whether the power company is drawing water out and dumping it back in. 

Helpful Tip: As a rule of thumb, shell beds are a great indicator of nearby current. Little clams, mussels, and mollusks rely on current to bring them food.

Therefore, try throwing some  squarebill crankbait onto the points and shell beds on lake ledges, as that’s the place bass schools of fish hang out.

Shad, bream and crawfish colored cranks will do well here, you just have to experiment to see what the bass prefer to eat.

The majority of the time bass school around one specific area the size of a dinner table.

Consequently it’s really important to pay attention to your casting angle, how fast you’re winding your bait back, and take notice of any structure that you bump into.

Rattles or No Rattles In Deep Summer Crankbait Fishing

Admittedly, most professional anglers will use rattling crankbaits in the summer.  On the other side of the coin, sometimes a silent crankbait can work best.

Rattling crankbaits used in late spring and early summer will outperform silent crankbaits.  Why?…

Theory is, when bass initially head to their deep summer spots, they’re hardly pressured, so a rattling crankbait can work very well.

Conversely, after a couple of months the bass become accustomed to the rattling crankbait and will become reluctant to strike the lure. That’s when silent deep diving crankbaits really shine.

Silent crankbaits put out a ton of vibration, but lack the rattles that may spook the school you’re fishing for.

Most effective retrieves: The Burn, Stop & Go, Stop & Poke, Bump & Grind, Kneel & Reel

Most effective colors: Shad and bluegill colors

Here are some of the most successful deep summer crankbaits:

  • Norman DD22
  • Strike King 10XD
  • Strike King 6XD
  • 6th Sense Cloud 9 Series Crankbaits
  • Rapala DT-10
  • Norman Deep DD22
  • River2Sea Tactical Bassin’ Deep Diving Crankbait

Catching Bass Shallow in Summer

You don’t always have to go to the main lake and fish deep for summer bass. Sometimes, bass will remain shallow instead.

The keys to finding and catching bass in shallow conditions in the summer would be to fish “money-spots”. 

What exactly is a money-spot?  It’s finding shallow cover near current or deep water. 

Furthermore, the best cover tends to be wood or thick vegetation.  

Here are some examples shallow cover that could hold bass during the summer:

  • Tree laydown into the water
  • Overhanging tree or other structure
  • Large shallow stump
  • Docks
  • Bridge piling near the shore
  • Floating vegetation mat
  • Thick submerged grass
  • Floating mat of debris after thunderstorm
  • Large rock falls and boulders near the shore

Summer bass will feed all day if given the opportunity, however most of the time bass will feed in the early morning and in the evening. During the day summer bass will find as much shade as they can and tuck themselves deep in the cover. 

When you find that money-spot try to cast past it and once it makes contact with the structure let it sit for a second or two. Some anglers will give their crankbait a few gentle twitches (they call “dancing”) before restarting the retrieve. 

The big takeaway here is if you find a great money-spot you MUST make repetitive casts to the same spot, at least 15-20 casts – no joking.

You won’t spook the bass, what you’re trying to do is irritate that bass to rise up and eat that crankbait. 

Remember – If you find a good spot make sure you make plenty of casts to that spot.

Helpful tip:  The darker shade the shallow structure makes, the better the odds it’ll hold a bass in it.

Most effective retrieves: The Burn, Stop & Go, Bump & Grind. Bonus: you can even skip your crankbait under docks or overhangs!

Most effective colors: Shad, bluegill, crawfish 

Here are some of the most successful shallow summer crankbaits:

  • Lucky Craft DRS 1.5
  • Strike King 1.5 squarebill
  • Bandit 100 Series Crankbait
  • Spro John Crews Fat John 60
  • SPRO RkCrawler MD 55
  • 6th Sense Crush squarebill
  • Luhr Jensen Speed Trap

Fall

What’s the secret to fall crankbait bass fishing? The secret is – find the baitfish. Once you find the baitfish the bass will be nearby. 

Early fall when the water is still warm you’ll see baitfish near the mouth of the cove near the main lake. Bass will primarily feed on these little morsels, so target your crankbait over deeper channels, ledges and points. 

As the weather starts to cool, the bait fish will migrate to the middle or the back of the coves in search of plankton. Naturally the bass follow. 

During this cooling period crawfish become more active. For this reason, the little mudbugs soon become more common in the bass’ diet. 

So it’s safe to recommend using baitfish/shad colored lures in early fall. Conversely, it’s recommended to use a mix between shad and crawfish colored crankbait to see what the bass are feeding on that day.

Fat bodied crankbaits with wide bills typically have an aggressive hunting action and will draw more bites early fall. In contrast, thin bodied crankbaits with narrow lips will have a tighter shimmy and will work better in the late fall.

Furthermore, if you’re fishing in cool, calm, clear water with bluebird sky conditions nothing is better than fishing a flat sided crankbait. 

Here are some examples structure you need to target this fall:

  • Brush piles close to drop-offs
  • Feeder creeks
  • Backs of coves
  • River channel bank next to a flat
  • Laydown logs and other large structure off the bank 

Most effective retrieves: Early Fall – The Burn, Bump & Grind, Knee & Reel.  Late Fall – The Jerk, Stop & Go, Bump & Grind. 

Most effective colors: Shad and crawfish 

Here are some of the most successful fall crankbaits:

  • Bomber Model 6A
  • Storm Lure Wiggle Wart
  • Spro Little John MD
  • Strike King KVD 1.5 Flat Side
  • Rapala’s DT6 Series

Winter Crankbait Fishing Tips

I used to put my crankbaits away during the winter, believing bass would only eat a jig slowly crawling on the bottom of the lake. 

However, 20 years ago that all changed when I signed myself up for a winter tournament as a co-angler.  The boater I was paired with described himself as a power fisherman and that we’d be moving around throwing crankbaits most of the day. 

He explained that fishing a crankbait at the right time during the winter can yeld some big bass!

One of the biggest supportive factors is finding the schools of baitfish near vertical structure. 

Bass will often follow these schools of baitfish waiting for the weak ones to die when the weather turns frigid cold. Ultimately, baitfish can become a primary source of calories during a cold winter. 

Bass will also feed on crawfish during the winter, especially if the shad population is healthy.

Helpful tip: If you catch a bass in the winter, feel it’s belly. If it feels mushy it’s been eating shad. If it’s belly feels crunchy-like under the skin… kinda like its been eating Doritos, those are the crawfish shells you’re feeling and a sure sign it’s been eating crawfish. Also, if the inside top of the mouth is orange, that’s also a tell tale sign it’s been eating crawfish.

Where to fish a crankbait in the winter?

Here are some examples structure and areas you need to target this winter:

  • Creek or river channels
  • Ledges
  • Drop-offs
  • Points
  • Southern facing bluff walls

Most effective retrieves: The Jerk, Stop & Go, Stop & Poke, Bump & Grind, Kneel & Reel

Most effective colors: Shad and crawfish

Here are some of the most successful winter crankbaits:

  • River 2 Sea Tactical DD Crankbait
  • Bomber Lures Fat Free Shad
  • Megabass DEEP-X 300
  • Spro RKCrawler 55
  • Bandit Series 300

A note about fishing lipless crankbaits in the winter…

If you don’t know, lipless crankbaits have a very tight wobble that bass absolutely love. However most anglers will just cast it out and steadily wind it back in. 

Some you have heard of the “yo-yo” retrieve…

I’m sure you have been told that all you have to do is cast out your lure and let it fall to the bottom, and basically jig it back to the boat. 

I’m here to tell you that is not what you should be doing.  

Step 1) Find a school of baitfish on your fish finder and take note of the deepest part of the baitball. 

Step 2) Find out how fast it takes for your lipless crankbait to sink 1-foot. 

Step 3) Cast out the lipless crankbait and let the lure sink while counting down to below the bottom of the baitball. 

Step 4) Remember, bass feed on baitfish looking up.  So slowly raise and lower your rod tip below the baitball, but above the bass. 

Step 5) Recognize the wintertime bite. Your bites will feel like you caught a wet towel – like a heavy soggy pressure. You won’t feel a hard slam like you would in the summertime. 

Here are some of the most trusted winter lipless crankbaits currently on the market:

  • Lucky Craft LV500
  • Strike King Red Eye Shad
  • Rat-L-Trap
  • Cotton Cordell Super Spot Yo-Zuri 3DB Vibe Sinking Lure
  • 13 Fishing Magic Man -M Lipless Crank

Putting It All Together

Things To Do Before You Head To The Lake

  • Check the prevailing weather 7-10 days prior to the day your fishing: Recent high-pressure or low-pressure  systems, air temperature, wind (strength and direction), water temperature and water clarity (call local tackle shops or ask on local Facebook groups, normally they’ll be happy to give out that information).
  • Check the weather: Air temperature, wind (strength and direction), skies. 
  • Check for any special events that is occurring when you get to the lake (ie; big tournaments occurring the same day)
  • Evaluate your lake maps and create a possible list of areas that will give you the biggest best odds of catching fish.
  • Choose the right baits for the conditions.

When You Get To The Lake

  • Verify current weather conditions.
  • Verify water conditions (temp, clarity, current).
  • Using the list of spots that you make, graph them to see if there are baitfish and/or bass on those spots.
  • If you see fish on the sonar, look for signs of feeding activity (ie; upward streaks)
  • If you’re fishing an area and not getting any bites, don’t waste more than 10-15-min on any given spot.  Just go to your next spot, because you can always come back.

FAQ

What is a crankbait "wobble"?

The “wobble” is referred to the action the lure has when it’s being retrieved after casting.

The width of the crankbait body is directly proportional to how wide the crankbait wobbles.

The wider the crankbait, the wider the wobble whereas; the narrower the lure, the less wobble.

This is important to point out because seasonal temperature and water clarity will help you choose between a wide wobble lure versus narrow wobble.

It’s also important to determine how wide you want the lure to wobble. The best rule of thumb is that higher the temperature the wider the wobble.

Bass are more susceptible to lures with greater action during the hot summer months.

In the winter months, bass like to save as much energy as possible and will not chase down a high action lure.

Also if the water clarity is low choose a lure with a wide wobble, the bass can feel the pulsations on the lateral line. This will help with track down and attack the lure with efficiency.

Be aware if the lake is highly pressured or if there was a tournament a day or two before you arrive consider using a silent crankbait.

What Are The Best Crankbait Colors?

When selecting a crankbait you must take into account the season/water temperature and water clarity. 

Bass will forage on different bait at different intervals throughout the year.  Make sure you become familiar with your home body of water or call a few of the local tackle shops in the area. 

Most of the time, shad, crawfish, and bluegill patterns work great.

But be warned! … There are certain times specific color patterns will work better than others.  And you must know when and where the best crankbait colors will outperform others. 

That is why an entire report was dedicated to this exact subject

Where to Find Deep Bass During the Summer Months?

The best tools that can help you are having a good sonar graph and a detailed lake map. Your lake map can guide you to potential targets that should yield fish. 

If you know the area that your fishing has good morning action look for deep ledges, creek channels and structure 100 to 200 yards from the shallow feeding grounds.

Long points with deep structure nearby that are attached to the main lake is a high percentage area.

Once you’ve identified potential locations on your lake map use your sonar to further identify “the sweet spot” of those locations.  

Irregularities of the on the shoreline often look the same under water.  Specifically, when the shoreline changes from small rock to medium sized boulders. 

Try locating something different with the general area such as a large boulder in an area of small chunk rocks or a submerged tree in an area that typically does not have any trees.

If your area does not have any differentiating characteristics then use the lines created by that areas items.

Such as, if the area in question is a large deep grass bed then target the edges of the grass bed, particularly the areas that form a point.

Accessories You’ll Need

RodThe popularity of fishing is growing and people are becoming much more conscious of  different rods that can help them.

Fisherman want best technique specific rod for the money.

Luckily, I wrote several reports article that provides you with detailed information in order for you to make buy the rod for the money, and more importantly which rods to avoid at all costs.

>> What Rods To Use For Bass Fishing? 10 Awesome General Purpose Rods Reviewed

Reel – Having the correct reel to match with your rod is just as important.  A good reel should be light and have a buttery smooth drag. There are several great reels on the market, but I recommend the Daiwa Tatula SV/TW baitbasting reel. It’s a great reel packed with great features. So much so it could easily be priced in the mid $200 range.

>>How To Choose A Great Bass Fishing Reel For The Money [and which to avoid at all costs]

Fishing Line – Having a good line is just as important as having a good rod. I recommend fishing with a good fluorocarbon line. Furthermore, it’s super sensitive because it has little to no stretch, and underwater it’s invisible to the bass!  If pride or money is on the line I would use Sunline Sniper FC.

>>21 Tips To Choose The Best Fishing Line

Fishing Lures – It’s pretty hard and darn near impossible trying to catch a fish without using some sort of lure or bait.  More importantly these baits you should never forget at home or it could lead to a horrible day on the water

>>5 Bass Fishing Lures You Never Want to Leave At Home

Tackle Bag – You can’t carry all your gear in your pockets, so you need a reliable tackle bag to transport it. I wrote a complete review guide, Best Tackle Bag for Fishing, check it out by clicking here.   But if you don’t have the time to read the full guide then let me tell you I recommend the Lunker Bag by KastKing.

>>15 Best Tackle Bags For The Money (Tested & Reviewed)

Fishing Pliers – Nothing will ruin a day quicker than getting a hook embedded in your hand, or worse your eye.  That’s why I always recommend having good set-up pliers that won’t rust and won’t slip out of your hand.  I recommend that KastKing Cutthroat 7” Fishing Pliers.

Landing Net – As you are reeling in that monster fish, you don’t want to injure yourself or knock the fish off the hook by trying to grab it. That’s why I recommend a dependable telescopic landing net.

Fishing Weight Scale – Whether if you’re going to keep your catch or just take a photo of it and brag to your friends it’s important to have an accurate scale. I recommend a scale that has a large LED display like this one fishing scale here.

Wide Brim Fishing Hat – Nowadays, you have to protect yourself against the sun’s harmful rays. Wearing a wide brim hat not only gives you UV protection, but it also keeps you cool.  I recommend the Columbia Unisex Bora Bora Booney hat. It fits any size head and it feels really comfortable.

Fishing Sun Shirt – Don’t you stop at only getting head protection, you also need to protect your chest, back, arms, and torso. According to the researchers finding skin cancers on the shoulders and forearms rank within the top-5 locations to get skin cancer*. Avoid any unnecessary UV exposure and stay cool by wearing a UV protective PFG Fishing Shirt by Columbia.

Fishing Gloves – Fishing gloves allow your hands to stay covered from the sun’s harmful rays and stay dry by using a special material. These gloves by Fishaholic offer UPF50+

My name is George and I'm been fishing my entire life and love all things outdoors. My passion is helping anyone catch more fish. The newest things I've been doing lately is learning how to break down and clean all my reels, teaching my boy how to kayak fish, and bushcraft wilderness survival.