Crankbait Bass Fishing

E.A.S.Y. Baits

Fishing Lures
Spinnerbaits, Crankbaits, and Topwater baits
      Year-round Baits

Serious and even not-so-serious bass anglers should never leave home without an assortment of spinnerbaits, topwaters, and lipless crankbaits. Why?

Because they are Efficient, Always, Successful, Year-round Baits

Suppose you were to look in a professional angler's boat during practice before a big tournament. In that case, chances are you would see spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits, and topwater baits tied onto at least three rods, and they would either be on the deck or within easy reach in the rod box. The main reason for having these baits tied on at all times is that these are fish-finding and fish-catching baits that always work.

There are very few things that professional anglers will agree on, but the bait of choice, and in most all arsenals, will always be a spinnerbait.


are easy to use, versatile, and can quickly cover lots of water at all depths.

Where many anglers get confused about spinnerbaits is trying to figure out which configuration of spinnerbait to use on a particular body of water under a certain set of conditions, taking into account such factors as water clarity, light penetration, time of year, and depth being fished. Blade configuration, spinnerbait weight/size, and skirt color are additional factors. Spinnerbaits are easy to use because you cast them out and reel them back in. Pretty simple, right? However, learning the right configuration and components often separates the fish-catching from the fish-wishin' anglers.

With thousands of combinations and variables to confuse the ordinary angler, how do you narrow down the options to select the appropriate bait for the situation? Break the spinnerbait into four components: composition, blade, weight, and color. It's straightforward, take color first because it is the easiest. For clear water, stick to neutral, translucent, and white-colored skirts. For dingy or stained water, use chartreuse/white, blue or pumpkinseed, or a combination thereof, and in muddy water, use black, orange, or chartreuse.

Second, consider the composition. There are three kinds of spinnerbaits, in-line, short arm, and long arm. In-line spinnerbait means that the spinners (blades) are in direct line with the hook, such as the Snagless Sally or Mepps Rooster tails. They are primarily used in northern waters. In-lines can also be fished around brush and timber, and can be buzzed just under the surface.

Both short-arm and long-arm spinnerbaits are safety pin baits. The long-arm baits are easier to get through the grass and are more weedless due to the arm of the bait being directly over the hook. Short arms are used as a drop bait because the blade is directly over the head of the lure, which lets it spiral down (helicopter) to the bottom. There are many manufacturers of these types of spinnerbaits. The cost range can be as economical as less than a buck to the higher profile and more expensive type, such as those with a titanium wire base arm that claims never to need adjustment.

The main reason for having these baits tied on at all times is that these are fish-finding and fish-catching baits that always work.

No discussion of spinnerbaits is complete without addressing the various blade configurations and colors used in the assembly process. There are three primary blade types: Colorado, Indiana, or willow leaf, and numerous combinations such as the thumper, tortoiseshell, and pear-shaped blades. To choose the appropriate blade, first determine the water clarity, which will tell you whether the fish are feeding by sight or sound. Colorado blades are used primarily in stained to muddy water or low light conditions where the fish feed by sound, and bait vibration is the key factor. Also, the Indiana or thumper blades would be used under these conditions for maximum throb and vibration. Tandem willow leaf blades will work the best under clear water conditions with vegetation because the blades have a tighter rotation and will tangle less in the grass. Willow leaf blades have the least vibration and most flash. Use chrome or nickel blades when fishing clear water because these fish feed by sight. Use copper, gold, or painted blades in stained to muddy water. When unsure what blade configuration to use, start with double blades, one silver, and one copper. Let the fish tell you what they want.

A single Colorado blade works best when you want more vibration in dingy or stained water conditions. This also holds for night fishing and fishing in the summertime. Use double Colorado blades to V-wake the bait just under the surface. The thumper blades are great for a slow roll or drop. The larger the blades, the more lift the lure will have. Single-blade baits have more vibration than the tandem willow leaf bait, and finally, Colorado blades have more vibration than the willow leaf, but not as much vibration as Indiana blades.

It is fairly easy to determine the spinnerbait weight. You want to feel the bait vibrate as the blades are pulled through the water. If you cannot feel the vibration, change the weight size. ¼-ounce, 3/8-ounce, 1/2-ounce, or 3/4-ounce baits will get you through most situations. Water temperature is a key factor in determining the weight of the spinnerbait because different times of the year require different weight sizes.

Spinnerbaits can be fished from the surface to the bottom and anywhere between. During the winter, I like to use a 3/4-ounce bait and slow roll it over the vegetation or let it drop to the bottom and work it back, much like a worm. Depending on the water clarity and temperature in spring and fall, I like to use a 1/4-ounce up shallow and a 3/8- to 1/2-ounce in deeper water. When fishing in the heat of the summer, you can't beat a 3/8-ounce tandem willow leaf in and around the vegetation or a single Colorado blade that provides a lot of vibration.

Spinnerbait, Topwater, Crankbait


action is the most exciting way to catch bass, especially in the early hours before the sun gets up, late evenings, or during low light (cloudy) conditions. Watching a bass come up to the surface and inhale a bait is breathtaking, and it seems like time stops for that particular moment when the explosion occurs, and the bait disappears from the surface beneath the dark waters.

Topwaters are at their peak when a light ripple or small chop is on the water. If there is no ripple or chop, the fish will be easily spooked and wary of topwaters, and it's probably best to go to a sub-surface lure like a spinnerbait. Topwater fishing may be the most exciting way to catch bass when fishing in shallow water, but it is also the first pattern to go under frontal conditions. Because adverse weather affects shallow-water patterns, the pros have learned over years of experience never to depend exclusively on a topwater pattern to hold out for an entire tournament.

Topwaters fall into five basic categories based on size and bait type: cigar, stick, slush, popper, and buzzbaits. With hundreds of topwater baits to choose from, how do you know which ones will produce? The all-time favorite has got to be Heddon's Zara Spook using a walk-the-dog-type of cadence to produce huge bass. "Walking the dog" means casting your bait past the target and working it back with your rod tip pointed towards the water, leaving the line somewhat slack (not tight). Pop the bait with a short jerk or twitch and then pop it again, making it move from side to side in a stop-and-go pause-continuing cadence. If the bait does not move from side to side, chances are you have too much slack line out. Reel some of it up, but not all, as this method works best on slack line. The walk-the-dog action resembles a wounded baitfish fluttering on the surface, easy prey for the bass. They will inhale the bait by flaring their gills and sucking it down. You don't want to set the hook when you see the fish explode on top of the bait. You want to wait until you feel the fish pulling the bait down, then set the hook. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn with topwaters. It's unnerving and almost impossible to do, but if you set the hook too soon, the fish won't be there because you have pulled the bait away before the fish connected; if you wait too long, the bass may spit the bait out. There is an excellent line there; only experience will tell you when to set the hook.

The older spooks with three sets of treble hooks are the best. Also, when fishing topwater cigar baits, the Zara Puppy is very effective on school bass.

When you get into slush baits (baits with propellers on the front, rear, or both), Cordell's Boy Howdy and the Crazy Shad, along with Smithwick's Devil's Horse and Heddon's Tiny Torpedo, are classics. Slush baits are fished with short, erratic twitches and semi-slack lines. For additional action, instead of tying the knot directly to the snap ring, many of the pros tie their topwater baits with a loop knot, which imparts more lifelike action to the bait. Slush baits are best used from post-spawn on through the summer's school fish and continue to work through early fall.

Stickbaits like the traditional Smithwick Rogue, Cordell Red Fin, Pencil Popper, and Bomber Long A are hard plastic jerkbaits fished with long sweeps or short jerks. These baits are designed to resemble and have the action of a wounded minnow and make the distinctive noises of a shad thrashing on the surface, which adds an extra enticement to attract bass.

One of the favorite poppers is the famous Rebel Pop R. This bait has been around for at least 20 years. It was discontinued for a while in the 80s, and with increased demand from the pros, it was brought back into production and has danced and popped its way into the money for quite a few of the pros on the professional circuits.

When bass chase shad in the summer, this bait can be popped, gurgled, and teased back to the boat or steadily worked in the walk-the-dog method. Storm's Rattling Chug Bug is another excellent popper fished similarly, but it has rattles to entice the bass further. Excalibur's Spit'n Image is a minnow-like bait (bottom weighted) that is also retrieved in the side-to-side motion, and its sputtering action has been very effective on school fish.

One lure that every angler should have several of is a buzzbait. These baits are highly effective when fished over vegetation and can even be used in the dead of winter over open water to catch giant bass. This is one of the easiest baits of all to use, just throw it out and reel it very fast until the bait stays up on the water's surface and reel it like that back to the boat. John Hope of the infamous Tracking Texas Trophies segment told me long ago that when you listen to this bait as it is reeled straight up off the bottom, it sounds like a ball of shad coming to the surface.

There are many manufacturers of buzzbaits. The primary colors are white and white/chartreuse. Blade colors would be picked as in spinnerbaits and determined by water clarity.

Lipless Crankbaits

are great tools to locate bass. I can't tell you how many big tournaments have been won on this particular bait, but it has been a lot, especially in lakes with vegetation. These baits can be cranked down to the top of the grass, ticked across, and then ripped through the grass, and if a bass is anywhere near, it will trigger a strike.

These shad-shaped baits come in almost any size range, and some are hollow baits with rattle chambers added for sound and weight. I call these baits fish magnets because they draw the fish out when nothing else works! The original Rat-L-Trap comes in over 50 colors, but if you're just starting, stick to the primary colors.

Lipless crankbaits work year-round, using the smaller sizes in early spring and, as the water warms, going to the larger sizes in the fall. If you examined every boat on a given body of water, almost all of them would have these baits on board and tied on to at least one rod!

The setup you use (rods, reels, and line) is just as important as the baits you throw, and the balance is critical to your overall success. Quality medium-action fast-tip rods are well suited for use with these baits. Regardless of lure choice, select the proper equipment from line to rods and reels for use with them, and the results will be far more rewarding for you.

Starting, it's usually best to keep color choices to a minimum. Chrome, shad, crawfish, chartreuse, and firetiger, all basic colors in the food chain, will be your mainstays. We constantly go to the tackle store and stand gawking and mystified at the variety of sizes, shapes, and colors of baits. None of us is willing to leave the store with just one lure! No matter how many baits we have, more is always better because... they are Efficient, Always Successful, Year-round Baits!