The Crankbait Trilogy – Anatomy of a Crankbait

Crankbaits. You see them on the shelves of every respectable tackle shop. You see them in the tackle box of every knowledgeable angler. You’ve heard them mentioned countless times. Heck, chances are you’ve taken your first casts with one tied on. When it comes to angling, crankbaits have claimed their spot among the greats. And now, it’s time to show them the love they deserve. It’s time to dive deep into the world of crankbaits, starting with anatomy.

Crankbaits are easy to recognize by their round shape and diving lip. These hard baits are generally divided into three categories. Shallow Runners (SR) are baits designed for shallow waters with depths up to 1 meter. Medium Runners (MDD), swim between 1 and 2 meters, while Deep Runners (DP) plunge beyond 2 meters. These depths have everything to do with one of the crankbait’s key elements: the diving lip. 

Key Element No. 1: The Diving Lip 

The diving lip is one of the main factors when it comes to the lure’s swimming range. Both the length and the angle of inclination of the lip determine how deep the bait is going to plunge. As the bait swims, the water exerts a force on the lip, pushing the bait into the lower layers of the water.  A short lip tilted between 45 and 90 degrees results in a bait that runs between the surface and 50 cm. Conversely, a crankbait belonging to the Deep Runner category often has a diving lip at least the length of the rest of the lure. By looking at the size and shape of the lip, you can easily make an educated guess about the running depth of the crankbait in question. 

Square Lip

Crankbaits featuring a rectangular diving lip have an alluring, swaying swimming action. A great example of a square lip is the BX® Brat, which I use when fishing near sunken wood and beaches. Lures such as the Super Shad Rap® and Shallow Shad Rap® feature a “broken” diving lip that gives off an enticing, rolling action. These crankbaits are ideal for exploring areas of open water with submerged vegetation underneath.  

Round Lip

Round diving lips won’t only affect the running depth of the crankbait – they also act as bumpers! This means you can bounce the lure against obstacles (rocks, wood, etc.), and the bait will simply bounce off. This technique can be applied, often with great results, with the DT series, for instance. When bumping into a rock with the lure, it can result in a small puff of sand – which draws the fish’s attention immediately! Of course, caution is advised: you don’t want to wreck your lures while crashing them on every possible obstacle.  

Key Element No. 2: The Body 

Fat Baits

Crankbaits with fat bodies are pear-shaped, feature a massive head, and a short, swollen body. The tail of these lures is often very thin, especially when compared to the rest of the body. These baits displace more water than their size may suggest, thanks to their design. I always go for a fat crankbait when scouting for active fish in a large area without a specific spot in mind.  

Fat Sides

Crankbaits with flat sides are ideal for fishing in a current, or during winter. Lures with flat sides have a tighter swimming action and they imitate prey fish nonchalantly swimming in the current. Due to their flat sides and higher profile, these baits can be seen exceptionally well in shallow waters. I opt for a flat-sided crankbait when the fish are feeling finicky – especially in the winter. Thanks to the bait’s flat body, it holds well even in stronger currents. And sometimes, this can be just the thing to make your day.  

Key Element No. 3: The Sound 

Rattling Crankbaits  

Crankbaits are lures that draw a lot of attention. As they swim, they displace a lot of water. But with rattling crankbaits, this can be taken even further. Rattling crankbaits have balls inside their body that rattle and create a lot of noise when retrieved, triggering attacks from annoyed predators. The balls, made either from glass or steel,  are stored in a closed chamber inside the lure’s body. The material and the number of these balls affect the type and intensity of the rattle.

Silent Swimmers


In heavily fished areas, the fish can get cautious – they might avoid anything that makes too much noise. That’s why you’ll want to have a couple of quiet crankbaits in your tackle box. 

Something Extra

The jointed design of the Jointed Shad Rap® results in a vivid and life-like swimming action. But it also creates extra sound! The snapping of the rear joint on the front part of the lure produces sound – a factor you’ll want to take into consideration when tying this lure on.  

And that’s just the start, as there’s much more to crankbaits. What gear to use when fishing crankbaits? Which locations are best for crankbaits? And what about the seasons? Fear not, for all will be answered! Next time, we’ll focus on the gear to take your cranking to the next level, along with some tips for fishing these versatile baits. Meanwhile – tight lines!