How to Fish a Crankbait Based on the Season

lure in the water

Most anglers can agree that crankbait is probably the most versatile lure out there. This type of lure will help you catch a wide range of species every season, whether you’re trolling or casting. But how to fish a crankbait can be tricky for the beginner. Fortunately, this guide will give you some great tips on how to get the most use out of your crankbait and why you won’t ever want to fish again without one.

How to fish a crankbait is often based on water depth and season. Squarebills and medium divers are best suited for shallow water conditions ten feet and under, while deep divers can handle water that’s twenty-five feet deep or more. In terms of season, you’ll often find big fish in shallow waters during the spring, which is why a squarebill is often the best option during this time of year.

Read on to learn how the right type of crankbait can help you easily land fish and bring in a better haul this fishing season.

How to Use Crankbait

You can use crankbait to target any type of fish that normally eats smaller fish. The crankbait is any type of lure that features a plastic lip that will cause bait to dive under the water. The depth of this type of lure ranges from just below the surface up to thirty feet or more. The crankbait can be classified into three major categories:

  • Squarebills
  • Medium divers
  • Deep divers

The squarebill lures work the best in shallow water conditions. They’re best used around submerged wood, docks, rocks, or grass lines. To fish this type of shallow water crankbait, you’ll want to fish them without any regard to getting them hung up. For some, this may seem crazy, especially for lures that have a couple of treble hooks, however, if you reel them in fast enough, you’ll never have to worry about them getting hung up. Crankbait that can dive up to ten feet deep will work the best in shallow water since it can cause a disturbance by digging into the bottom. Just like a shallow diving crankbait, the deflection is what triggers the strike.

The deep diver crankbait will work well if you’re fishing off shore structures such as creek channels or rock piles. It definitely takes more effort on your part to get this lure down deep and keep it there. However, like shallow lures, contact with the bottom is important.  Brandon Palaniuk has some great deep diver crankbait tips in this video.  (Here is the lure he uses throughout the video)

Fishing with Crankbait in the Spring

fishing accessories

When it comes to warm water, you want to be able to reel in your bait quickly. While shallow crankbaits work the best in the spring since many types of larger fish can be found in shallow water as they prepare to spawn, a bright shallow crankbait that’s used with a faster retrieve can easily dive to the bottom and look exactly like a scurrying crawfish.  The Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap is a favorite.  This lipless crankbait was first developed by Bill Lewis himself in the late 1960’s, and is still a go-to bait today.

Summer Fishing

As the water continues to heat up, so does the predatory fish’s metabolism. During the summer months, you can crank as fast as you like and fish much deeper than you can in any other season. The deep diving crankbaits are the best choice if you’re angling off shore structures.  As mentioned above, the Strike King 10XD is a great bait for the Summer.

When the Temperature Starts to Drop

During the fall, baitfish tend to become more active. A shad-pattern or white crankbait will work well in lakes that have shad. The crankbait should have a faster retrieve in order to cover more water until you’re able to locate a spot that’s well-populated with fish.  We have tried a few here, but for late Fall, we keep coming back to our old standby – the Rapala Super Shad Rap 14 Fishing Lure.  It has a nice action and the silver color is right on target.  They love it!

Cold Weather Angling

Flat-sided crankbait that produces plenty of wobbling action is the perfect choice for the winter months. Keep in mind, crankbait with a wider wobble will not work very well once the temperature drops. Because of this, we recommend a flat-sided crankbait combined with a steady, slow retrieve.  We cannot emphasize enough the importance of the slow retrieve in winter.  The fish are moving slower, and they want their meal to move even slower.  If they feel it is moving too fast, they will just pass it by and wait for something where they will not have to expend so much energy.  The Rapala Flat Rap 08 fishing lure has been a good pick for us.  However, an important note is in order.  The Flat Rap 08 comes in a variety of colors, chrome, silver, silver blue, perch, etc.  We have been right in the middle of the pocket using one color and nothing, but then we change it to another color and bingo!! We can’t keep up with the strikes.  So if you decide to try this this lure, we strongly suggest you go out with two or three colors.  One might be dead in the water, and the other color finds them wide-open.

Also, remember that Fluorocarbon is perfect for cold water or ice fishing as it absorbs very little water, remaining soft and supple.  The Seaguar Blue Label Fluorocarbon works great in Winter.

Fishing Line Selection

One of the most overlooked aspects of crankbait fishing is choosing the fishing line. Line diameter and size will have a huge impact on how deep the bait will dive, not to mention the type of action you can expect. Basically, bait will dive much deeper if you’re using a thinner diameter. Additionally, the type of line you use will also impact the crankbait’s diving depth. Fluorocarbon sinks while monofilament floats. Braided line tends to have the least amount of stretch, which doesn’t make it a great choice for this type of lure since the lack of stretch can pull the hooks out of the mouths of fish.  So go with the fluorocarbon with the deeps. We have been using Seaguar deep fluorocarbon forever, and it works great.

Related Questions

What Type of Cranking Gear Do I Need for Crankbait Fishing?

Since crankbait is considered pretty versatile, you won’t be very limited in terms of what type of gear you use, however, using gear that’s specifically designed for crankbait will allow you to get the most out of your lure. The reel you use should have a slower gear ratio and should be able to handle a large amount of line. The rod should be long enough for a farther casting distance, allowing you to get to the max dive depth.

Can I Crankbait Fish With a Kayak?

Yes. Keep in mind, even with the best fishing kayak, you may need to adjust your casting technique when you’re fishing in a kayak since they tend to be short on cockpit space. If you’re looking for a versatile model that can handle shallow water and deep water conditions, we recommend the Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak.

What Type of Crankbait Should I Use for Kayak Angling?

This will depend on where you normally fish in your kayak. For shallow water, we recommend a squarebill crankbait, while a deep diver is more suitable for ocean angling or fast-moving rivers. To learn more about kayak angling, click here to read our article on kayak fishing tips.  In our research, the crankbait for kayak fishing with the craziest, longest, most descriptive name goes to the UNVINS Minnow Fishing Sinking Lure Set Hardbait Ocean Kayak Tackle Set with Treble Hooks.  Gee! It better be good with a name like that.

Final Thoughts

Crankbait is by far the most versatile lure option out there and can be used in a variety of fishing conditions, any time of the year. As you can see, learning how to fish a crankbait is simple, as long as you use the right crankbait based on water depth, season, and even the type of fish you want to haul in.