If you’ve done much fishing you know that crankbaits are among the top-producing lures for any fish species that likes to eat smaller fish, like walleye, bass, and pike. One of the benefits of crankbaits is that they allow you to cover large areas of water more quickly than other lures.
And because they’re all about getting noticed, sometimes a crankbait will even coax fish that aren’t hungry into striking. But there are also several different crankbait types, including lipless crankbaits.
Here’s how to get the most out of the lipless crankbaits in your tackle box.
What is a Lipless Crankbait?
Lipless crankbaits, or “rattle baits”, are flat-sided lures that “wobble” and vibrate when retrieved. Most have a split ring on the front of the bait for tying to your line, along with two treble hooks that dangle freely in the water.
A crankbait like the Backstabber Lipless Stabber is uniquely designed with hooks on the lure’s tail and back so that it will run truer in the water and hook your prey in the mouth rather then deep down in their gills.
Many lipless crankbaits also contain a metal weight inside that clacks back and forth. The purpose of this rattle or knocker is to cause a lot of commotion during the retrieval so that fish are more likely to notice and strike the bait.
Lipless crankbaits are also quite versatile because of the various techniques that can be used while fishing them. Most lipless crankbaits also come in a wide range of colors to match the seasonal shad, perch and crawfish that predatory fish like to feed on.
How Do Lipless Crankbaits Work?
A lure like the Lipless Stabber creates vibrations in the water that mimic those produced by a wounded fish so that you can attract unsuspecting prey. The faster the retrieval, the stronger the vibration.
If you’re used to fishing with a bladed lure like the Reaction Strike RS Spin, a lipless crankbait works in much the same way while moving through the water. Because of their versatility, lipless crankbaits are equally proficient for catching suspended fish or those lying in the shallows.
Fishing with a Lipless Crankbait
Because of their buoyancy and sinking action, lipless crankbaits can be fished in water depths up to 20 feet or more, although most seasoned anglers will tell you they have better luck in depths of 10 feet or less.
In general, there are few wrong ways to fish a lipless crankbait once you understand how the bait responds to various techniques and retrieval methods.
You can fish a lipless crankbait around submerged vegetation where fish congregate any time of year. Much like a swim jig or Castaic Atlas Spinnerbait, lipless crankbaits can be retrieved over the top or around the edges of grass or lily pads. Some of the best presentation techniques are to make contact with a fixed structure or to rip free of vegetation.
When bass move into the shallows to spawn during the spring or fall, you can also fish a lipless crankbait as you would a shallow-diving crankbait like the Backstabber Squarebill Crankbait. Simply use a slow, steady retrieval so the lure ticks the bottom or passes right above it.
Best Times of Year
The beauty of a lipless crankbait is that you can use it all year long. In most cases, the warmer the water is, the faster you’ll need to crank your reel handle. Depending on the season, here’s how to catch more trophy worthy fish with your lipless crankbaits:
In spring, many larger fish tend to congregate in shallow water as they prepare to spawn. That makes shallow lures like lipless crankbaits perfect for those early season fishing excursions.
Use a steady stop-and-go retrieval with a Red Craw Lipless Stabber to convince the fish that there’s a scurrying crawfish moving through their spawning beds.
As the water temperature heats up, so does the metabolism of hungry fish. Summer is the time to speed up your retrieval and fish a little deeper than you normally would. For better results, rip your lipless crankbait on top off or through vegetation patches.
When fall air temperatures start dropping, both baitfish and the predatory fish that chase them become more active. When fishing in lakes that contain shad, switch to a white or shad-patterned lipless crankbait. Cast out long and use a fast retrieval until you locate a group of hungry fish.
In the late fall and winter when colder temperatures are the norm, start using a slower, lift-fall retrieval with a lipless crankbait that produces a tight wobbling action. Of all the crankbait types, lipless crankbaits work best during the cold winter months.
Choosing the Best Fishing Rod and Line
When fishing a lipless crankbait around vegetation it’s better to use a heavier, 7’ or longer long-casting rod so that you can pop the bait free. But your rod also needs to have enough flex in the tip to counteract the extra stiffness so that you can keep your fish pinned longer.
In larger flats without any vegetation, a medium action rod works best for slow-rolling or bombing casts. The rod’s action will also help keep fish pinned while you’re reeling them in.
Fluorocarbon is probably the best fishing line to use with lipless crankbaits because of its low stretch and abrasion resistance, but a heavier monofilament line also works well for certain applications. Depending upon the size of your lure, fishing depth, and whether or not you’ll be ripping through vegetation, you’ll want to go with a 12- to 20-pound test line.