Crankbait VS Jerkbait Full (and Helpful) Comparison

If you’re new to the fishing world and looking for lures recommendations you may hear the words crankbait and jerkbait more than enough. They’re known to be effective in countless situations and proved successful in catching lots of fish. But when can you use each one of them?

So, what even are crankbaits and jerkbaits? Jerkbait and crankbait are both types of fishing lures that can be jigged or trolled to catch a variety of fish. The slim body of jerkbait makes it ideal for shallow waters, while the wide body of crankbait is more suitable for deeper waters.

Now, let’s dive deep into this crankbait vs jerkbait comparison to learn when you should actually use each of them for the best possible results.

crankbait vs jerkbait infographic comparison

What is Crankbait?

Crankbait is a type of fishing lure made of hard plastic or wood carving. It’s designed to look like a baitfish, crayfish, or other prey swimming.

There are two main categories of crankbait:

  1. Lipped Or Billed Crankbaits
  2. Lipless Crankbaits

Each one of these types is designed to do a different job making it ideal for lots of fishing scenarios.

Lipped crankbaits is the popular type and it’s usually called just crankbait. The “lips” stands for that plastic or metal bill at the front. The bill is in the shape of a scoop. It’s normally made of clear plastic and resembles a spoon scoop.

This lip is the one responsible for making the crankbait dive underwater. The bill creates resistance and drags the bait underwater while you crank the reel. Some anglers use weights on their crankbaits to help them suspend.

Lipless crankbaits don’t have the lip at the front. Therefore, they are built to sink. They are weighed down by internal parts that resemble a rattle, which attracts predators due to its noise. Lipless crankbaits are often referred to as rattle baits because of this.

Lipless crankbaits are usually fished faster than lipped crankbaits. They have a tighter wobble, which is ideal for quicker retrievals. Unlike a lipped crankbait, their hook is attached to the top of the lure rather than the front.

What is Jerkbait? 

A jerkbait is a minnow-shaped lure that is presented horizontally. A jerkbait swims with a shimmying motion when fished with a straight retrieve. A jerk-bait shines when fished with a snap-pause retrieve, which gives it an unpredictable, darting movement that drives fish crazy.

Its slim body gives it the advantage of passing through rough structures which can be ambush points for the fish you’re targeting. Jerkbait is ideal when you’re fishing in structures such as:

  • Rocky shorelines, points, and mid-lake structures
  • Sand and grass flats
  • Ledges and drop-offs
  • Around docks
  • Open water

Jerkbait can also have a lip or a bill like a crankbait. However, you should keep in mind that the bill on a jerkbait is smaller than that on a crankbait. The jerkbait bill is typically just a bit larger than the fingernail while the crankbait bill tends to be longer and wider. 

Body Types

Crankbait (your left) and jerkbait (to your right)

Crankbaits have a frame that is wider and longer. Jerkbaits, on the other hand, have a slender and longer body. Crankbaits are usually chosen because they are shorter and fatter, resembling a tasty snack for predatory fish like Muskies.

Body shapes vary for several reasons. The most important one is the profile. Baits are supposed to establish a forage profile, resulting in lots of different shapes and colors. The displacement of water is another element. Some rounder bodies are huge and deep, moving a lot of water and giving fish another sense to focus on.

Another factor in body shape and size is the width of the bait. When the water temperature is cold, the thin slender bodies of jerkbaits have less water displacement and are more subtle, which is desirable. Lipless crankbaits are also great when water temperatures are low.

Another thing to consider is the bill or lip shape. The shorter the bill and the steeper the angle, the shallower the bait will run making jerkbait suitable for shallower waters. The longer the bill and the angle or pitch of the bill, the deeper the bait is designed to run. That’s why crankbaits are ideal for deeper waters. 

Retrieval Depths

As mentioned before, a crankbait wider and shorter body allows it to sink to various depths. Bill size and shape determine the depth as well, and since crankbaits come in a range of bill sizes and forms, you can choose the best one for the job. 

Crankbaits are best used in lakes and deep rivers and reservoirs since most of them are made to dive up to 25 feet or more (7.6 meters).

Jerkbaits, on the other hand, don’t have such a wide bill variety, and their bill sizes are typically less than ½ inch (1.3 cm) long. Because of that, they tend to have a much better performance on the upper side about 1-to-3 feet (about 0.3-to-0.9 meters) from the surface of the water. They’re ideal if you’re fishing in creeks and ponds.

Lipless crankbaits are a great option if you want the best of both worlds. A lipless crankbait is a shallow diving bait that does the jerkbait job with the movement and the various appearance of a crankbait.

Swimming Actions 

In Deep Waters

Lakes and deeper waters are prime locations to use crankbaits. When it moves across the water, the crankbait wobbles. Predatory fish pay close attention to and respond to this wobbling.

When you drag the lure into the water, it starts to dive until it can no longer dive. Buoyancy and upward resistance typically determine this point. The line you’re using will affect upward resistance as well:

  • Braided line floats. This will make it put much more upward resistance on a crankbait.
  • Fluorocarbon line sinks. It will allow a crankbait to reach its maximum depth.

You can check my picks for the best braided lines here and the best fluorocarbon lines here.

Crankbaits can travel at the same depth for a limited time until reaching their maximum depth. It will then begin to rise to the surface and eventually hit your rod tip.

Jerkbait can be useful in this scenario too. They’ll do great near banks, vegetated lakes, or shallow waters where you know your crankbait will run into trouble and get snagged.

In Shallow Waters

In shallow waters such as ponds and creeks, jerkbaits are ideal. They stay close to the top, and if you take a short pause between retrievals, you can comfortably keep them within a foot of the surface as you approach the bank.

A lipless crankbait can be your best bet here as well. If your crankbait floats, retrieving it for a spool turn or two and letting it float back to the surface is a safe way. If your crankbait sinks, the only way to avoid being snagged is to carefully retrieve it to the bank.

Can You Troll Crankbaits?

So, can you troll crankbaits? Yes, you can troll crankbaits. Use a baitcasting reel and a medium-heavy rod with a length of 6-to-7 feet while trolling crankbaits. Longlining crankbaits is a basic but effective strategy for catching fish. 

A floating crankbait is great to troll with. It covers a large amount of water with little to no effort, and when you reach a spot where you want to actively cast, your crankbait will float back to the surface. 

Can You Troll Jerkbait? 

Can you troll jerkbait? Yes, you can troll jerkbait. Use a 7 feet heavy action rod with an 80lb line. It’s better to troll it 10-to-30 feet (3-to-9 meters) behind the boat with a speed between 3 and 3.5 mph. Make sure to vary your speed while avoiding going too fast to keep it below the surface.

When using a jerkbait, it’s best to go for large, featureless areas that are spread out over a large field. When you’re in search mode and need to cover a wide area quickly, it’s also helpful. When fish are 5-to-10 feet (1.5-to-3 meters) deep and won’t rise to a lure, trolling jerkbaits can be very effective.

How To Fish A Jerkbait?

A jerkbait can be fished in a variety of ways. Some people choose a sideways retrieve to a snapping downward retrieve. It’s important to make a brief cast and watch the lure to ensure it has good action before attempting different retrieves.

Follow these steps to easily fish a jerkbait:

  1. Start with the rod pointing down at the 4 o’clock position.
  2. Next, snap the rod downward to 5 or 6 o’clock position. 
  3. Quickly return the rod to the 4 o’clock position while reeling in enough line to compensate for the bait’s moving time.
  4. Don’t reel too much line, since the lure requires some slack to allow it to dart to the left, it requires some slack.
  5. Repeat steps 1 to 5, but include pauses between jerks.

How To Fish A Crankbait? 

There are various ways to fish a crankbait as well. Let’s take a look at these approaches:

Reel and pause

Pausing for a few seconds between retrieves will help you catch more fish, whether you’re fishing with floating or sinking crankbaits. It will provide the required pause in retrieval for fish to catch up and hit. Crankbaits that float will make their way back to the surface, and those that suspend or sink will rest in place or sink steadily. 

Touching bottom

To touch bottom with a crankbait, You’ll need a crankbait that sinks lower than the depth of the water you’re fishing in. For instance, if you’re fishing in 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water, a 10 feet diving crankbait will serve. That’s why this method requires more experience and can be frustrating for beginners.

Mud will be whipped by the crankbait hitting the ground and floating over it, potentially resulting in further strikes from your target fish.

Strong retrieval

From its name, this method is perfect for shaking up the crankbait’s swimming action. Pull the rod back sideways quickly, reel in the slack, and repeat instead of reeling in the crankbait at a slow action. This leads the crankbait to swim erratically, stop, and then swim erratically again.

7 Best Crankbait Lures

Here’s a quick list of the best crankbait lures you can use to catch a variety of fish:

  • Bomber 7A
  • Rapala DT6
  • Luhr Jensen Speed Trap
  • Strike King 6XD
  • Cordell Big O
  • Norman DD22
  • Storm Wiggle Wart

7 Best Jerkbait Lures

Another quick list of the best jerkbait lures you can use on your next fishing trip:

  • Rapala X-Rap Saltwater
  • Savage Gear Twitch Reaper
  • MirrOlure MirrOdine 17MR
  • Bomber Long Shot
  • Sebile Stick Shadd
  • Shimano ColtSniper
  • Spro McStick 110

If you’re feeling crafty , you can follow this guide to make your own wooden musky lures in 9 easy steps.

Related Questions 

What Fish Get Drawn To Crankbait?

Lots of fish species get drawn to crankbait. Species such as trout, salmon, bass, pike, walleye, perch, and panfish. They come in different sizes and colors making them ideal to match any fish’s forage.

When Is It Best To Use Jerkbait?

It’s best to use jerkbait when the water temperature is between 38-to-50°F (3.3-to-10°C). If you have clear water over 4 feet (1.2 meters) visibility you’ll want to use it under cloudy skies with a 5-10 mph (8-to-16 kph) wind.

Helpful Resources 

Joe Bucher’s crankbait secrets  [1999]

Retrieving depth of crank bait lure controlled by tied-eye position

Change in diving behavior by lip shape and tied-eye position of crank bait lure [2001]

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