Fishing lures come in endless varieties, but two of the most popular and effective are crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Should you tie on a diving crankbait or a flashing spinnerbait when targeting bass and other gamefish? Both lures have their strengths and weaknesses depending on factors like water depth, cover, and time of day.
This article will highlight the key differences between crankbaits and spinnerbaits and when to use each for the best success. You’ll learn the pros and cons of each lure type and gain insight into retrieving techniques, equipment tips, and other considerations to help you decide when to throw a crank vs. a spinner.
What Sets Crankbaits Apart?
Crankbaits have a unique action that mimics wounded baitfish, provoking reaction strikes from gamefish. They are distinguished by having an interior lip, which causes the lure to dive and wiggle during retrieval.
Unlike spinners, which stay mostly uniform in depth, cranks dive and rise erratically to mimic struggling prey. This up-and-down motion triggers reflex strikes from bass and other predators.
Identifying Key Features of Crankbaits:
While crankbaits come in many styles, there are some common features to understand. Floating crankbaits sit on the surface and dive when retrieved, while lipless cranks sink slowly and vibrate underwater.
The size and angle of the interior lip determines diving depth–generally, the bigger the lip, the deeper it dives. Crankbait bodies feature internal rattles and bright, reflective finishes meant to attract attention. Treble hooks give solid hooksets.
Buoyancy and running depth should match fishing conditions for the best success. Learning to tune and control a crankbait facilitates tempting more fish.
The erratic action and fish-mimicking look of crankbaits make them highly effective gamefish lures when matched to appropriate conditions. Their ability to cover various depths in a controlled manner adds to their versatility for different structures and scenarios.
Optimal Conditions for Crankbait Fishing
When considering crankbait fishing, it’s important to match conditions to maximize success. While cranks can be produced in many scenarios, understanding prime times and situations to throw these lures goes a long way.
Targeting staging bass in prespawn mode is an excellent crankbait opportunity. Deflecting deep cranks off the cover to generate reaction bites works very well. Crashing square bill crankbaits through shallow shoreline brush also pays off.
Low light conditions like early morning, evening, and night bring feeding windows perfect for crankbaits. Overcast, dreary days are also productive since low light makes fish less leery. Bright baits like chartreuse and orange get attention.
Cranks shine to cover water to find active fish. They allow probing different depths quickly compared to other lures. So, crankbaits serve as excellent search baits to locate hungry lunkers. Once a productive area is identified, thoroughly working it with the crank that’s dialling in success is advised. Pay close attention to where bites occur.
While crankbaits catch fish in many different situations, paying attention to prime windows significantly ups the odds. Match lure styles and colors to existing conditions for best results.
Unlocking the Potential: Species Suited for Crankbaits
While crankbaits shine for bass fishing, they should not be overlooked for other species. Their ability to cover water and depths makes them effective at locating and triggering strikes from many gamefish.
Walleyes often relate to rocky points, humps, and transitional zones that crankbaits effectively target. Long, slim floating/countdown models mimic the baitfish walleye feed on. Stopping retrieves or slow rolls trigger reaction bites.
Trout also gravitate towards baitfish patterns cranks imitate. Clever colour schemes provoke strikes from rainbow, brown, and brook trout when fished around structures, grass lines, and holes in streams and lakes.
Striped bass blitz schools of shad, making them prime targets for deep-diving crankbaits trolled offshore over their territory. Larger profile baits draw explosive attacks.
Panfish like perch and crappie are aggressive towards smaller crankbaits that buzz through their feeding zones in lakes, creeks and alcoves. Bright colours attract attention and trigger the instinct to strike.
Don’t overlook crankbaits for other gamefish besides bass. Their versatility allows adapting presentations to match different species feeding behaviors and exploit patterns efficiently.
Unveiling the Mystery Behind Spinnerbaits
The distinct flash and vibration of spinnerbaits make them enticing to gamefish who key in on injured prey. Unlike crankbaits that imitate small baitfish, spinners replicate vulnerable crayfish, frogs, and larger meals.
The blade/skirt combination puts out thumping pressure waves and reflects light, getting attention even in dirty water. Spinnerbaits come through cover readily, bouncing and helicoptering at slow speeds above the grass, branches, and rock piles where bass and pike ambush meals.
Their snag-resistant qualities allow thorough working of the strike zones predators patrol. Once a fish strikes, solid treble hooksets catch hold to land feisty fighters. When the bite gets tough, unique spinner bait action keeps producing.
Spotting the Characteristics of Spinnerbaits
While there are many styles, spinnerbaits share some common traits. A metal blade (usually willow leaf, Colorado or tandem) flashes and vibrates during retrieval.
A vinyl or silicone skirt adds bulk and extra flicker attaches below the blade. A swivel connects the blade/skirt to a wire frame head, preventing line twists.
Single hooks, stout trebles or stingers ensure solid hook-ups out of dense cover strikes occur in, bringing fish boat side. Spinnerbaits come in all sizes, from 1/8 ounce blades for panfish to giant 1 oz models designed for trophy pike and muskies.
Paying attention to blade size/style, skirt, and head shape helps match the hatch under varied situations.
Perfect Timing: Ideal Scenarios for Spinnerbait Usage
While versatile lures, spinnerbaits shine under certain productive situations. Their snag-resistant qualities make them ideal for punching through thick, shallow covers like brush piles, flooded timber, and lily pad fields.
Slow rolling generates strikes when bass are tucked in cover. Overcast days or low light periods also favour spinnerbaits, as reduced visibility makes the flashing blade more visible as a beacon for predators to home in on.
As bass and pike transition towards fall feeding patterns, spinnerbaits come into primetime. Burning them over cabbage weeds or rock piles signals an easy meal to bulk up on. Spinnerbaits also kill it for calling in fish from long distances.
Letting them helicopter down deep drops or across flats allows for covering wide swaths of water. The wide flash makes easy prey schools can’t refuse.
Anytime bass and pike get into ambush mode around baitfish near cover, it becomes an ideal moment to tie on a spinner bait. Think edges of grass lines, overhanging trees, dock posts, etc. Their snag-proof qualities mean efficiently picking apart prime real estate for maximum enticement.
Navigating Waters: Species Attracted to Spinnerbaits
Bass remain the premier targets for spinnerbaits, as the lures perfectly match their ambush hunting style. The snag-proof qualities mean efficiently combing through shallow timber, weeds, and docks where bass lie in wait. The bulk/flicker of spinnerbaits reads as vulnerable prey to bass, provoking reflex strikes. But spinnerbaits shouldn’t be limited to just bass.
Pike are explosive predators prone to attacking spinners worked slowly over and through prime zones. Lakes, rivers and streams with pike favour slower spinnerbait presentations, especially around the gnarly cover they inhabit.
Walleyes also readily strike spinnerbaits. Bottom bouncing or drifting their harness triggers strikes as they flutter down enticingly in hard-to-fish spots. Running doubled willow leaf blades creates maximum flash and vibes making it irresistible.
While finesse tactics shine for panfish, upsized spinners prompt vicious attacks from slab crappie, bluegills and yellow perch when burned through schools swarming cover. Adjusting blade size/color to match the bait present ensures getting strikes.
Don’t forget that spinnerbaits can tempt a wide range of gamefish very effectively when applied strategically based on conditions and locations fish utilize. Their versatility remains a trump card in many situations.
Comparing the Unique Traits of Chatterbaits and Spinnerbaits
Chatterbaits combine attributes of spinnerbaits and jigs. Like spinners, they have a blade flashing enticingly. A metal lip adds knocks and vibration. A silicone skirt adds bulk and flicker.
They share the snagless qualities of spinnerbaits, plowing through cover readily. Treble hooks offer solid hooksets out of wood and weeds. Yet, with the darting shimmy and slower fall of jigs, chatterbaits exhibit a unique hybrid quality.
Which Reigns Supreme: Chatterbait or Spinnerbait?
While chatterbaits and spinnerbaits overlap somewhat, chatterbaits tend to excel covering water and bumping structure more thoroughly.
They allow grinding cover at very slow speeds, coughing up sediment and commotion matching crawfish activity. Spinnerbaits, on the other hand, have superior lift and ability to helicopter, making them better at hitting targets from a distance.
For working through gnarly shallows, chatterbaits get the nod. When calling fish from afar, spinnerbaits carry the day. Ultimately, carrying both allows anglers to adapt quickly and keeps the bites coming.
Demystifying the Myth: Can You Use Crankbaits on a Spinning Reel?
Many anglers believe crankbaits should only be used on baitcasting tackle, but that’s not true. While bait casters excel for casting distance and power cranking, spinning gear works well for crankbaits in many situations.
Finesse crankbaits weighing 1/8 to 1/2 ounce cast easily on spinning rods. Countdown and floating minnow plugs also present no issues, especially if using a lighter superline like a 6-10-pound test.
The key is matching the right crankbait weight to the spinning rod power. Ultra-light poles aren’t ideal for large, deep divers, but medium powered rods handle standard square bill and medium divers fine.
Use a slow oscillating reel for even line lay and keep hooks sharp to prevent twists caused by long fights. While bait casters have advantages for ripping lipless cranks and muscling big cranks at speed, finesse crankbait techniques lend themselves perfectly to spinning tackle. Proper gear marriage makes spinning an excellent option.
Weighing the Pros and Cons: Choosing Between Crankbaits and Spinnerbaits
When deciding on crankbait or spinnerbait, consider fishing conditions and strategy. Spinnerbaits cover water and allow long casts to call in fish from a distance. They crawl over heavy cover well to find big bites.
Crankbaits dive and deflect, enabling a thoroughly working structure at close quarters where bass hide. They also change depth rapidly to find where inactive fish hold each day.
For pre-spawn fishing, match deep cranks and flat-sided square bills to migrations into staging areas. Grinding shallow flats and wood cover sees chatterbaits and underspins shine.
On sunny days, noisy surface lures call fish from the shade. At night, black colours and loud lipless cranks draw savage strikes.
Concluding Thoughts on Selecting the Right Lure for Your Fishing Adventure
Ultimately, most anglers carry a wide assortment of hard baits to allow them to adapt to situations. Mixing crankbait and spinnerbait selections gives maximum versatility.
Pay close attention to baitfish activity and structure fish utilize each day. Match lure profiles and colours accordingly for the best action.
Both cranks and spinners continue dominating tournament circuits for a good reason–their ability to catch fish all season long under nearly any condition!
Tony is a professional fishing instructor and his hobby is fishing! He has been fishing for the last 4 years and he loves fishing instructor profession. Based on his experiences with the different type of fishing; he is sharing his opinion about various fishing technique so that a beginner can get started right away. Find him on Twitter. Happy reading!