The Best Crankbaits for Fishing Any Water Depth

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A crankbait is one of the most popular bass lures of all time. Typically consisting of a hard body paired with a couple of treble hooks, these lures can be used in any water body to mimic crawfish, shad, bluegill, or other forage. They are effective in a wide range of water depths from mere inches out to about 25 feet. You just need to know what the right crankbait is to throw.

These common moving baits can produce strikes in different water columns because of their various styles and designs. The term crankbait includes a number of different lures, such as squarebills, medium divers, finesse, and deep divers. Some of these baits are made from plastic, while others are made from wood. The same goes for noise—some rattle, and others are silent. 

To be most productive with a crankbait, it’s a good idea to have a few different models in your box. After all, a squarebill is going to perform much differently than a deep diver. That’s why we put together this list of the best crankbaits and broke them down into categories based on diving depth and purpose. As you read through some of the options, think about where you fish, how deep you fish, and what the forage looks like. But no matter what, you should have at least a couple of crankbaits from each category to always be prepared. Here are some of the best.

An angler lands a big largemouth bass. Shimano

How We Picked the Best Crankbaits

We primarily grouped our categories based on function. You can get too much into the weeds when looking at rattle versus silent, wood versus plastic, and so on. Instead, we picked the best crankbaits based on the depth they dive, offering the best options for lipless, squarebills, deep divers, and other categories. 

These recommendations are based on my extensive bass fishing experience in the Southeast. I love to throw crankbaits for big largemouth and have fished with most of these lures, some helping me catch fish for for the last 30 years. It would be impossible to test every crankbait ever made, and there might be some good options that aren’t on this list. But all of the recommendations below are what have worked for me, both in tournament bass fishing and just for fun.

That said, this list of a dozen or so baits comes from testing out more than a hundred different lures. I am confident to put my stamp of approval on each and every one of these baits. They’ve helped me catch a lot of fish, and I know they will do the same for you.

Best Lipless Crankbaits

Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap 

lipless crankbait

Lipless crankbaits don’t have bills. They have hard bodies that are often shaped like an elongated diamond, paired with a line tie on top and two trebles hanging beneath. These baits come in a variety of sizes from 1/8 ounce up to 2 ounces, but the most popular size is around 1/2 ounce, with the 1/4 ounce and 3/4 ounce baits getting a lot of play as well. 

Most of these baits are designed to sink, allowing them to be fished throughout the bulk of the water column. You can throw one into an inch of water and burn it back, or let one sink in 20-feet of water and slowly roll it along the bottom. Almost all are made of plastic or composite, with a chamber for rattles within the bait. 

The best lipless crankbait ever made is a tossup between the Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap and the Strike King Red Eye Shad. If forced to pick one, the Rat-L-Trap wins simply because of how long this bait has produced bites for me. But the Red Eye Shad is equally effective and has become a favorite for many anglers over the last two decades. The Lucky Craft LV 500 is another great lipless option.

Best Squarebill Crankbaits

Strike King KVD 1.5

Squarebill crankbaits are designed primarily for fishing around shallow cover in 1 to 5 feet of water. There are some magnum squarebills that you can fish deeper than that, but the majority of these baits are between 1 and 3 inches long with squared-off bills on the front of them. This bill helps make the bait weedless by tucking the nose of the lure down on the retrieve, which then causes the two trailing treble hooks to kick up and away from cover.

The squared-off bill also causes the bait to deflect wildly off of shallow cover like stumps, rocks, and laydowns. This erratic action triggers strikes from bass that are lying in wait for prey to ambush. The best squarebill is the Strike King KVD 1.5, which measures 2 and 1/4 inches long and dives 3 to 6 feet. This is the size and depth range that most people would consider ideal for a squarebill. Some of my other favorite squarebills are the Bill Lewis SB-57 and the Bandit 100 Series Crankbaits.

Best Finesse Crankbaits

Rapala Shad Rap

Finesse crankbaits are designed primarily for use in colder water (below 50 degrees). These baits have longer, more slender bodies that make tighter wobbles than most other crankbaits. These elements come together to trigger strikes from lethargic bass during the winter months. 

The typical finesse crankbait measures about 3 inches in length and has a long, slow-tapering body that comes to a point at the tail. The bill is a little longer too, designed to help the bait get down to around 7 feet. There are some finesse crankbaits that are a little larger or smaller than this, designed to be fished either a little deeper or a little shallower. 

Without question, the Rapala Shad Rap takes home the best finesse crankbait of all time. This bait has undoubtedly put as many fish in the boat during winter months as any other cold-water lure. The only drawback of this bait is the super lightweight design, so most anglers are forced to throw it on spinning gear, and even then, it is hard to fish in windy conditions (which are prevalent in the late winter/early spring). 

For this reason, I like to fish the Jackall Soul Shad, which has a weight transfer system inside of it to aid with casting. The Rapala DT 6 is another fan favorite when looking at finesse crankbaits. Made from balsa wood, the DT 6 is one that many anglers consider a must-have crankbait for cold water–crediting the balsa wood’s buoyancy and action for the bait’s effectiveness in water below 50 degrees.

Best Medium Diving Crankbaits

Strike King Series 4 Pro Model

Medium diving crankbaits dive down to 6 to 10 feet, and most have rounded bodies and wider wobbles. For bass fishing, these baits are often used to imitate shad or crawfish in the pre-spawn and post-spawn stages, when the bass are transitioning from deep to shallow water or shallow to deep. 

Though most of these baits have more rounded bodies and wider wobbles, some also have flat sides and tighter wobbles. Flat-sided crankbaits work best when the water is a little colder (45 to 52 degrees), transitioning to the wider wobbling rounder baits when the water starts to warm up to around 52 degrees. 

There are several of these that rank high on most bass angler’s lists, like the DT8 from Rapala and the Series 4 Pro Model from Strike King. For super cold water, the old-school Storm Wiggle Warts are a good bet, as well as the more modern version of this bait, the SPRO RkCrawler. As far as flat-sided medium divers go, the SPRO Little John MD 50 is hard to beat.

Best Deep Diving Crankbaits

Strike King 6XD

When fish are in the 12- to 20-foot range, the conversation turns to deep divers. These baits typically have rounded bodies with wide and long bills. These bills dig aggressively into the water and help baits dive deeper than lures with shorter, narrower bills. 

Designed primarily to mimic baitfish, deep diving crankbaits come in a wide range of colors to make them more visible or more natural based on the water color. Some of these baits have rattles, while others are silent. But almost all are made of plastic or composite. 

Among the more popular deep divers are the Rapala DT baits (DT12, DT14, DT16, and DT20), as well as the Strike King 6XD. The Bomber Fat Free Shads are also really popular, as are the Norman DD22s. But the Strike King 6XD takes home the title for the best deep diving crankbait of all time.

Strike King 8XD

Any crankbait that is designed to dive deeper than 20 feet can be lumped into this extra deep diver category. These baits are typically massive in comparison to other crankbaits. They have long and wide bills to help their oversized bodies get down into the cold, dark depths of a water body. They are also typically heavy (weighing as much as 2 ounces), which aids in the casting of these baits. The further you’re able to cast a crankbait, the deeper it can dive.

Pairing these big heavy baits with heavy-duty baitcasting gear is part of getting them further out so they can dive deeper down. Without a doubt, the best in this bait category is the Strike King 10XD. This bait measures 6 inches in length, weighs 1.92 ounces, and can dive deeper than 25 feet. The Strike King 8XD is a great bait as well, bottoming out around the 20-foot mark. And the 6th Sense Cloud 9 Series C20 is another extra-deep diver that I’ve caught fish on in 20-plus feet of water. The occasion for needing a crankbait like this is rare, but it’s better to have one in your tackle box just in case the fish are stacked up deep down.


Q: What is the best color crankbait for bass?

The best color for a crankbait depends on two things: the natural forage present and the water color. You want to try to match the hatch when selecting the color, meaning you should pick a color that closely resembles what the bass are already feeding on. For instance, a shad pattern, like Strike King’s Sexy Shad, is a good choice when bass are keying in on shad. 

When bass are targeting crawfish, go with solid red baits or green/brown baits with red/orange accents. Translucent color schemes look more natural and work well in clear water. Two-tone contrasting colors stand out in stained to muddy water, like black back with chartreuse sides.

Q: What is the best crankbait to use?

The best crankbait to use depends on the situation. Maintaining bottom contact is key with all crankbaits, except lipless ones. On the packaging of a crankbait, there will be a recommended depth range, something like 10 to 14 feet. These two numbers represent the maximum depth a bait will dive to depending on the line size you use (smaller diameter lines allow the bait to dive deeper, while larger lines reduce the depth range). You want to select a bait that will dive down to the bottom and stay there throughout the retrieve. 

If you’re fishing a shallow flat in 1 to 5 feet of water, try a lipless crankbait. If you’re fishing around shallow cover in less than 5 feet of water, go with a squarebill. Once you move out to more than 5 feet, transition to a medium diving crankbait, or you can yo-yo or slow roll a lipless crankbait. When the water is more than 10 feet deep, you’ll want to transition to a deep diving crankbait with a long bill, one that can get down to the bottom fast and stay there. 

Q: What crankbait do the pros use?

Most professional bass anglers have bait sponsors, and some even have their own signature series of baits. For marketing purposes, most tend to try to use baits that they have either designed or that their sponsors make. With this being said, Strike King and Rapala both offer a wide selection of crankbaits, and many are proven fish catchers. So, if you were to stick your nose in any given pro’s tackle box (as I have had the privilege to do many times), you’d more often than not spot a bait or two from one of these major manufacturers.

Final Thoughts

With so many baits to choose from, selecting the perfect crankbait for a given situation can be a little challenging. Start with the depth you want to fish, and that will help narrow things down quite a bit. Next, look at the water temperature you’ll be fishing in. Surface temps can help you know whether to go with a finesse crankbait, a flat-sided one, or a more round-bodied bait with a wider wobble. Remember, depth is everything when it comes to crankbait fishing. 

Lastly, select the color of your bait based on the water clarity and the type of forage you’re fishing around. If you take these four things into consideration (depth, water temp, water clarity, and forage type) and then compare them against this list of best crankbaits above, you sh

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