Ask an expert: how do I get better at using crankbaits?

by Editorial Staff | March 21, 2023
Shallow Crankbaits

Q: I want to get better at using crankbaits for bass fishing. All the different options out there are overwhelming. How do you choose one for shallow water?

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A: Fishing and hunting guide, tournament angler, and outdoor writer Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson responds:

Crankbaits shine for covering water to find active bass. They also offer triggering characteristics other baits just can’t match. I’ve competed in many tournaments over the years where those who were not throwing a crankbait were simply donating their entry fees.

Determining what crank best matches the situation can be overwhelming. Most packaging indicates running depth to give you an idea of where to use them.

Choosing between crankbaits

Deep-diving crankbaits look similar, with large bills to help them plummet to depths of more than 20 feet on a long cast. For fishing water deeper than approximately 10 feet, you can pick a crankbait to hit your target depth. For smallmouth bass, choose a smaller profile body and maybe a larger body for largemouth bass.

Shallow-running crankbaits offer more variety. There are fat-bodied baits, which have an aggressive wobble, square-bill crankbaits with a distinguishable square-shaped bill, and flat-sided crankbaits that are narrow in profile.

These are my considerations when it comes to choosing a style of shallow-running cranks. If the water is warm, let’s say above 60 ̊F, I’m going to go with one of the fat-bodied crankbaits that will create quite a bit of disturbance. If the water is cold, say below 60 ̊F, I’m going to choose a flat-sided crankbait. These baits have a tighter wobble and subtle action. Some of my best crankbait days have been on flat-sided baits in the spring and fall. Square-bill crankbaits are designed to deflect off cover and avoid snagging. If reeled slowly, they have an amazing ability to avoid tree limbs and bounce off rocks to trigger strikes. If you’re fishing around shallow cover, go with a squarebill.

Originally published in Ontario OUT of DOORS’ 2022 Fishing Annual.

Jeff “Gussy” Gustafon from Kenora, grew up on the shores of Lake of the Woods and is a fishing and hunting guide, tournament angler, and outdoor writer. He competes on the Bassmaster Elite Series in the US, the highest level in professional bass fishing. Contact Gussy at:

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