There are so many crankbait choices to pick from with enough different body styles, color patterns, and hook arrangements to keep the tackle industry in business for years. But when targeting fish with crankbaits, there’s one attribute that trumps all of those features and determines exactly how successful trolling and casting attempts will be and that is the length of the lure’s lip.
Usually made of plastic (though sometimes in the cases of larger baits they’re metal) the crankbait lip is, without getting into a physics 401 lecture, the disrupter of the water column, which when trolled or reeled in, creates the resistance that pulls the lure down below the surface and into the strike zone. The general rule is that the longer the lip on the crankbait, the farther down in the column the lure will go. Sure there are tweaks to the plastic that alter the depth and wobble, such as teed or widened lips, but the longer the plastic extends from the lure the deeper it will dive.
The length of the crankbait’s lip and resultingly how deep it will dive is important for anglers to know, which is why those die-hard crankbait anglers will have a significant selection of lures stashed in their hard bait boxes. Crankbaits with shorter, square lips will run shallow, anywhere from one- to four-feet deep. Those with longer lips will dive deeper, anywhere from five- to fifteen-feet deep or further down depending on the model. Many for sale packages will list a range of depths on the box that detail where the crankbait will run when reeled or trolled at maximum speed, giving anglers an easy way to estimate how far down the lure will go; but the only real way to make this determination is to get those lures in the water.
Anglers must match the running depth of the crankbait to where fish are holding. If it’s early season and fish like bass are up in prespawn mode along shorelines and related structure, a shallow running crankbait is a great option. Make sure that the crankbait is bashing rocks, logs and other debris that hold early-season fish as contact and the erratic motion that results from it, usually triggers bites. If walleyes at mid-summer have set up along the bottom in a gravel transition in 14 feet or so, a deep diving crankbait that makes occasional contact and stays in that one-foot strike zone will produce fish. Got a school of white bass or crappies on the sonar in eight feet? Stop the boat and cast a crankbait back that will run right through the feeding frenzy. Through these examples and countless others that anglers encounter on the water, the value of the right sized lip and the running depth of a crankbait is evident. After finding where the fish are and how deep the crankbait needs to get, those other factors come into play – color, body style and so on – to trigger even more bites.
There are more crankbait options than ever before. Walking down the crankbait aisle even in the smallest of tackle shops can create confusion unrivaled by any other lure shopping experience. But by focusing on the most important factor first, and selecting the crankbait that’s got the right lip right for the job – and runs true in the depth where fish are holding – will help you connect with greater success…in our outdoors.