Jerkbait vs. Crankbait: Which one should you Fish?

When we think of fishing lures, jerkbaits and crankbaits are, arguably, 2 of the most popular lures used, especially for fishing bass .

Gone are the days when using live bait was the thing. Today, jerkbaits and crankbaits have proven to be more effective lures because they are inexpensive, efficient in mimicking fish forage, and can be reused for many years.

Both jerkbait crankbait are lures made of hard plastic, wood, or polymer, for durability.

Here is a look at some of their unique features, strength, weaknesses, and tips on where, how, and when to fish with them when looking to catch bass, walleyes, pike, and other fish species.

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Jerkbaits, also called ripbaits or slashbaits, can be made of plastic, wood, or polymer. These materials are especially preferred for their durability. They can also be cast far away into the water.

Jerkbaits work by mimicking the natural movement of injured fish, hence the name ‘jerk’. Since the lures don’t generate their own action, you are the one who controls their motion.

When you jerk or twitch the rod, the bait randomly wobbles in the water. The random sway motion of the bait attracts predatory fish to it.

A key contributor to the castability of jerkbait is its body shape, which tends to be long and aerodynamic. These lures have a minnow profile.

The design of jerkbaits allows them to run in shallow water, typically 1-3 feet from the surface. It also features short bills. The bills, also known as lips, are important in determining the lure’s wiggle action, and its diving depth.

Jerkbait bills tend to be short, often just slightly longer than a fingernail. You can also get a jerkbait version with longer bills for deeper diving. All jerkbaits have three treble hooks on their bottom side.

There are two primary categories of jerkbaits: soft and hard. These categories can be divided further into three subcategories: sinking, floating, and suspending jerkbaits.

Suspending jerkbait: It is the most popular of the three. Its design allows it to remain ‘suspended’ between the surface and the bottom of the water. What is important to note about suspending jerkbait is that it remains in the same spot it was initially cast, until you subject it to some motion.

Sinking jerkbait: When you cast out this bait, it starts to sink immediately. The lure will stop sinking when you apply force to the rod to produce some motion. It is such motion that helps you adjust this bait’s sinking rate to your preferences.

Floating jerkbait: The name of this bait makes it self-explanatory. It will remain floating on the water surface until you subject it to some action. It is such action that ensures floating jerkbait doesn’t get stuck in submerged wood or weed.

These jerkbait types and their characteristics make them ideal for shallow to medium water fishing.

Let’s look at some strengths and limitations of jerkbait.


  • Suitable for shallow and clear waters
  • Ideal for winter fishing by mimicking the behavior of dying fish
  • Inexpensive and durable
  • No extra tackle required to get started


  • Not suitable for deep-water angling
  • Limited bill varieties


Just like jerkbait, crankbait bodies can be plastic, wooden, or polymer. Balsa wood is a very common material used to make crankbait because of its ability to copy fish’s natural movement. Plastic, on the other hand, ensures high castability.

Crankbait comes in multiple colors and more lip varieties compared to those of jerkbait. Speaking of lips, crankbaits have wide and extended bills, which make this type of lure suitable for medium to deep water fishing.

It’s worth noting that crankbait can also be lipless, which makes the bait capable of fishing in shallow water. You can use lipless crankbait over vegetation beds to attract northern pike and bass.

A unique feature of crankbait is its body type, which is round, short, and often fat. The short body profile of this baits makes it have only 2 treble hooks compared to the three in jerkbait.

The body type of crankbait is also preferred because it mimics the ideal size of prey that attracts predatory fish.

One prominent factor that sets crankbait apart from jerkbait is its diving depth. Crankbait is made for diving in deeper depths of up to 25 feet or more, below the surface of the water. If you’re an experienced angler, then you’ll know what type of fish reside in different depths during different seasons.

Even though crankbait is most effective in deep waters, lipless versions also tend to thrive in shallow ones.

Since crankbaits are best for trolling, they can cover vast amounts of water with minimal effort. Upon arriving at a point suitable for active casting, the crankbait can simply float back to the surface.

Crankbait also assumes a slightly different form of underwater movement from that of jerkbait. The former does not require you to apply a lot of force on the line. You can simply reel the bait once it sinks. This movement contrasts with that of jerkbait, which requires constant jerking to mimic the motion of struggling fish.

As for seasons, crankbait works best in summer when the metabolism of predatory fish increases. Fish also tend to move closer to the bottom where temperatures are low. This is a great time for you to strike.

Having looked at key crankbait highlights, some of its strengths and drawbacks are listed below.


  • Short and fat profile attracts predatory fish
  • Great for trolling with
  • Adapts to different water depths
  • Requires minimal jerking movement after casting


  • Not ideal for fishing in shallow waters


Overall, both jerkbait and crankbait are great fishing lures, which are designed to thrive in different fishing conditions.

If you’re an avid angler, then it’s likely you will fish in both shallow and deep waters on different occasions. Hence, using both jerkbait and crankbait is almost inevitable.

Remember that crankbait thrives in medium to deep waters where trolling is possible. It can go to as deep as 15 feet below the surface.

When angling in shallow to medium waters, then jerkbait and lipless crankbaits are the ideal picks for that task.

It’s also worth noting that jerkbaits and crankbaits durable and generally inexpensive. They can be used for years before needing replacement.

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