We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Written By
Updated Jan 23, 2023 4:43 PM

Every bass angler should have an array of the best crankbaits. Of course, you should have a variety of different baits and lures ready to go at a moment’s notice, including soft plastics and finesse-style baits to topwater and weedless rigs. But if you don’t have a few different crankbaits in your box, you might miss out on a lot of fish. Crankbaits come in a variety of types and sizes, designed to work in different conditions, habitats, and seasons. Dialing in on which crankbaits work best for your water takes practice and experimentation. Here are five of the best crankbaits to get you started.

How I Made My Picks

Crankbaits come in just about every shape and size imaginable. With that comes an overwhelming number of options. Some are good, and others, not so much. To find reliable options, I like to start with baits made by known crankbait manufacturers. From there, I’ll find baits that work well for my waterbodies and the conditions I fish. As you fish them more, you’ll develop an idea for what you prefer. I based my selections on the following criteria.

  • Materials: Is the bait wood or plastic, and how does it affect the action?
  • Terminal tackle: Are the hooks and split rings good quality?
  • Body Size: Is the bait properly sized for the bait fish?
  • Lip Design: How does the lip design affect the action?
  • Durability: Will the bait hold up to fish and other abuse?
  • Castability: Does the bait shape affect its casting?

Best Square Bill: Strike King KVD Square Bill Crankbait

One of the best square bill crankbaits for shallow water situations.
Strike King

Key Features

  • Sizes: 2”, 2.5”, 2.75”
  • Popular Colors: Sexy Shad, Natural Red Craw, Bluegill, Black Back Chartreuse
  • Diving Depth: 5 feet

Pros

  • Hard to snag
  • The silent version is great for pressured fish
  • Wide range of color options

Cons

  • Not great for deeper water
  • Hook sometimes snags on the bill

If you find yourself fishing around shallow water and structure, there is no better bait than a square bill crankbait. The Strike King KVD square bill has developed a cult-like following as the brainchild of Kevin VanDam. It’s available in a wide range of colors and sizes, so anglers can match just about any bait source. The square lip design deflects off of rocks and other structures where bass are lurking. Reel it like you would any other bait, and don’t be afraid to get it stuck. I’ve popped the lure off of snags countless times only to find a hungry bass was waiting to strike. While the lure won’t go deeper than five feet, it is perfect for targeting shallow water bass during the prespawn. If you find yourself casting at heavily pressured fish, the silent version without the rattle is the ticket to drawing reaction bites.

Best Rattling: Rapala Rippin’ Rap Rattling Lipless Crankbait

Make a ruckus in the water and let every bass know where the food is.
Rapala

Key Features

  • Sizes: 2”, 2.5”, 2.75”
  • Popular Colors: Chrome, Firetiger, Pearl Gray Shiner, Yellow Perch, Gold Chrome
  • Diving Depth: Sinks to the depth you want

Pros

  • Can be fished in a variety of ways
  • Loud rattle
  • Easy to cast far

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Not a lot of natural color options

To me, lipless crankbaits are one of the most effective but often overlooked bass baits. The Rapala Rippin’ Rap is no exception. It has a loud rattle and heavy vibrating action to draw fish in from distance. This lure is so effective because it can be fished in so many ways. Traditional crankbaits must be reeled at all times, whereas lipless baits can be reeled, paused, and jigged. The combination of movements allows anglers to cover water when they need and slow down when they find the fish. My preferred method is to fish these through sparse weed beds. Despite its two treble hooks, a strong pull is all you need to rip off the weeds and expose your bait to waiting bass.

Best Deep Diving Crankbait: Bass Pro Shops XPS Lazer Eye Deep Diver Crankbait

The go-to bait for when the bass is down deep.
Bass Pro Shops

Key Features

  • Sizes: 3 1/16”
  • Popular Colors: Texas Shad, Chartreuse Black Back, Crawfish Boil
  • Diving Depth: 15 feet

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Loud rattles
  • Deep diving

Cons

  • Some need tuning
  • Needs more color options

We’ve all had that one day where you can’t seem to catch a fish shallow. When that happens, the bass have moved offshore in search of colder water and schools of bait. Finding them out there can be tough, but with good electronics and the right lure, you can catch some impressive bags. The XPS Lazer Eye from Bass Pro Shops is a great affordable deep diving crankbait. The large lip in the front of the bait brings it down fast. Add a loud rattle, and it’s a great attractor lure for offshore bass. Considering its price, the hooks and split rings are plenty strong enough to handle bigger fish. I prefer fishing shad colors and targeting schools of shad. While you may not see the bass on your electronics, they are not far from their food source.

Best Lipless: Strike King Red Eyed Shad Crankbait

Fish effectively in shallow water from 0 to 7 feet.
Strike King

Key Features

  • Sizes: 2 1/4”, 2 5/8”, 3”
  • Popular Colors: Bluegill, Sexy Shad, Orange Craw, Gizzard Shad
  • Diving Depth: Sinks to the depth you want

Pros

  • Great action 
  • Premium VMC hooks
  • Loud Rattle

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Paint can chip off it

If one of the best bass anglers of all time, Kevin VanDam, recommends a bait, there’s a good chance it will catch a few fish. It’s built on the same platform as most lipless crankbaits but with added features that set it apart. The oversized 3D eyes give bass something to key in on, eliciting more strikes than traditional lipless baits. The free-floating rattles add even more attraction to increase aggressive takes.

Strike King went with premium hardware for this series featuring strong and sharp VMC hooks. My best bass to date came after bouncing an orange craw color off an offshore rock pile. The bass were looking for crayfish, and popping this bait near rocks was a great imitation of a fleeing craw. For anglers looking for an all-around crankbait and a variety of color schemes, it’s hard to beat this lipless crank.

Best Budget: Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special Rattle Bait

You don’t need fancy lures to catch fish. Bass Pro Shops

Key Features

  • Sizes: 2 3/4” 
  • Popular Colors: Bone XXX Shad, White Shad, Golden Tiger, Red Shad
  • Diving Depth: Sinks to the depth you want

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Useful color options
  • 3D eyes and holographic finish

Cons

  • Not the best hooks
  • Some baits are tuned better than others

Having a bait that can do it all is key for beginners and budget anglers. Lipless crankbaits are by far the most versatile and easy-to-fish crankbaits out there. Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special Rattle Bait gives anglers access to a good lipless crankbait at an incredible price. It features 3D eyes and a holographic finish that stand out in every condition. While there aren’t a lot of color options, the ones available match just about any bait source bass feed on. At under four dollars a bait, it’s easy to stock up on a variety of colors. My only gripe with this bait is the quality of the hooks. They are sharp, but I’d be hesitant to fish it where trophy bass are frequently caught.

Things To Consider Before Buying the Best Crankbaits

Crankbaits are a simple lure. They come in a few different styles, including lipless, deep-diving, and shallow-diving options. The style of crankbait you choose will determine how you fish it. Other factors like depth, color, and hardware/materials will also dictate the quality of the lure. Consider the following when looking for crankbaits.

Depth

Crankbaits come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, all designed for different depths. Figuring out which one is right for the conditions you fish is key. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the lip on the bait, the deeper it dives. The exception to this is lipless crankbaits. With no lip, these baits rely on the weight of the lure to get them to the depth you are targeting. If I’m targeting a specific depth, I favor baits that are tuned to run to those depths. For those exploring new water, lipless crankbaits are a great tool.

Color

Color can be an important factor depending on the conditions you fish. If you find yourself fishing in dark or stained water, dark baits are a good bet. These lures silhouette well and attract bass compared to flashier offerings. For those fishing in clear water, natural baits are the best choice. I prefer to match that bait source when I can in clear water situations. If you find yourself fishing through rocks where crayfish might be, choose red or orange baits that imitate creature-style baits.

Hardware

While often overlooked, hardware can make or break a crankbait. Strong and sharp hooks are crucial to hooking fish and keeping them on. Some baits may have great action, but subpar hooks will result in lost fish. Hooks and split rings are also major factors in how the bait runs. If your crankbait is tilting to one side rather than running true, try different hooks. I always carry a pair of split ring pliers and some extra treble hooks in case I need to make an on the water adjustment.

FAQs

Q: How do I choose a crankbait? 

To choose the right crankbait, consider a few factors like water depth, time of year, and water temperature. When the water is cooler during prespawn and early spring, square bills will be your go-to in shallow water and around structure. When the summer months roll around, and the water begins to heat up, bass will move out deeper to find cooler temps. This is when deep-diving baits will come in handy and get you in the game with those bass down in the water column

Q: How deep do lipless crankbaits go?

Lipless baits are incredibly versatile because they can cover a good range of depths. You can fish them in inches of water or in 8 to 10 feet. Once you begin to get deeper than 10 feet, you will want a bait with a lip to get down further.

Q: What is the best color crankbait?

Finding the best color lure is relative to the area you fish. It’s smart to “match the hatch” and pick a color and pattern based on baitfish in your area. On Lake Erie, I like to use baits that resemble gobies, an invasive species that bass feed on. If you don’t have anything to particularly match, then try flashy colors that will draw attention. I often find red is a productive color when nothing else is working. 

Final Thoughts on the Best Crankbaits

Crankbaits are one of the most popular lures for a reason, and it’s worth putting in the time to understand how to fish them. It’s not as simple as picking up any old bait and making a cast. Each crankbait is useful for a different situation, and when you begin to recognize where to fish them, your days on the water will be even better.

MORE TO READ