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Crankbait Selection Part 2

By Craig Ritchie - August 21, 2019
In our last article we looked at how to select crankbaits based on depth and action. But other factors are also important, such as the material that the lure is made from.

Crankbaits come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, as well as a variety of materials. Walk down that tackle aisle and you'll find baits made from wood, plastics and metal.

The manufacturers of wooden crankbaits say that the material provides the most life-like action possible due to its natural buoyancy. The downside to wood is that its comparatively light weight makes it tough to cast these crankbaits into a wind, especially with baitcasting gear. It's also subject to damage - toothy critters like pike, muskie, chinook salmon and even big lake trout can reduce wooden lures to mangled splinters in short order.

Most crankbaits today are made from plastic, which being heavier, is generally easier to cast when the wind comes up. Manufacturers working with plastic also find it easier to add rattles or make the lures suspend, while the molding process allows a greater range of shapes and finishes. Plastics also tend to stand up to chewing a bit better than wood.


Crankbaits range from baits that look like a pencil to others shaped more like a golf ball. Still others look like bananas. There are two basic guidelines when considering body shape.

The first is to think in terms of the fish you want to catch. If you're targeting walleye, for example, and you know that in your particular lake walleye eat mainly minnows, you would be best off picking a crankbaits with a long slender profile that mimics the profile of the most common prey item. This seems obvious, but it's amazing how often the obvious gets overlooked.

As a general rule, omnivorous fish like bass will respond better to short, round, fat crankbaits than species like pike or walleye, which eat primarily fish and therefore tend to prefer longer, slimmer lures.


Crankbait buoyancy refers to what the lure does at rest. Some float, some sink, others suspend in the water.

Body shape and material can affect buoyancy. When you stop retrieving a short, rounded, hollow plastic crankbait, that lure will normally rocket to the surface. Stop retrieving a similarly sized, slender, wooden crankbait and it too floats to the surface, but at a much more leisurely pace. A solid plastic lure may just hang there in the water, and neither float nor sink. One that's weighted will plummet to the bottom.

From day to day fish may prefer one over the other, and you'll just have to experiment to find out. Active fish in warm weather will usually prefer something fast and active, while on cooler days, or when dealing with less active fish, a slower, more subtle approach will usually work best

I carry crankbaits in clear plastic boxes with movable dividers, grouped by type. One box contains nothing but lures which dive very deep. Within that box is a wide range of different sizes, body shapes, floating models, suspending models, sinking models - you name it. But they all reach depths of 15 feet or more.

I have a similar box for lures that work at between eight and 15 feet, again in a wide range of styles and colors, and a third box of crankbaits which work at depths of eight feet or less.

Having them organized this way makes it fairly easy to decide what to use. If I arrive at a spot that's 12 feet deep, I pick the box of medium-runners and I've already narrowed my selection down significantly. I'll then decide size and body shape based upon what kind of fish I want to catch, the water temperature, and how active I believe the fish will be. Finally, I make a decision on color based upon water clarity. Presto!

If you want to catch more fish this season, spend more time getting to know the crankbaits you already own. They're among the most effective fish-catchers made, yet in spite of that, most anglers spend far too little time with them tied to the end of their line.

Author Craig Ritchie
Craig Ritchie
Over a near 40-year career as a full-time outdoor writer, Craig Ritchie has fished all over the globe for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species. The author of The Complete Guide To Getting Started In Fishing, he has written thousands of articles for magazines, websites and newspapers worldwide, appeared as a guest on several television fishing programs and won numerous awards for his writing and photography. He lives in the Great Lakes region where great fishing is as close as his own back yard.
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