Are Lipless Crankbaits Good? (3 Things You Need To Know)


by Robert Ceran

Lipless crankbaits have become a staple in the arena of bass fishing, and are regularly used by experienced bass anglers to catch big fish.

However, lipless crankbaits seem a little counterintuitive to beginners, since they come without a diving lip and don’t have the characteristic action of regular crankbaits, such as square bills and deep diving cranks.

So how good are lipless crankbaits, and are they really worth throwing? 

In this article we’ll cover the basics of lipless crankbaits, as well as their key advantages, to help you decide if it’s worth using lipless cranks for your purposes.

What is a lipless crankbait, and how does it work?

A lipless crankbait is a type of sinking crankbait without a diving lip. Most lipless crankbaits are oval in shape, have flat sides, and a metal ring on the back used for attaching the fishing line.

Many lipless crankbaits are hollow, and come with metal beads inside the hollow core that create a rattling sound when the lure is moved in the water.

What is the point of a lipless crankbait?

The point of a lipless crankbait is that it has a much more subtle wiggling action than a regular crankbait, since it comes without a diving lip.

The subtle swimming action of lipless crankbaits is ideal for catching lethargic bass during the cold part of the year.

During the winter, both bass and baitfish move around much less actively than during the summer, and when they do move, they swim with a subtle wiggling motion.

Lipless crankbaits mimic this behavior much better than the wide wobbling action of a regular crankbait that comes with a diving lip, which makes them more effective lures during the winter months.

How deep do lipless crankbaits dive?

Lipless crankbaits can dive as deep as 40 feet, but are usually used in water between 10 and 25 feet depth. Keep in mind that lipless cranks are sinking lures, and so there’s theoretically no maximum depth at which they can be fished. 

What makes a lipless crankbait wobble?

Lipless crankbaits are built a little wider at the front and have a flattened head region, which causes them to wiggle from side to side in a tight swimming motion when pulled through the water. This wiggling motion is much more subtle than the wide wobbling action of a regular crankbait, which can be highly effective for triggering bites from bass during the cold season.

What is the difference between lipless crankbait vs rattletrap?

The main difference between a lipless crankbait and a rattletrap is that a rattletrap is a specific kind of lipless crankbaits originally made by Bill Lewis, called the Rat-L-Trap.

In other words, a rattletrap is automatically a lipless crankbait, but a lipless crankbait is not automatically a rattletrap, since there are a variety of other lipless crankbait designs on the market.

Are lipless crankbaits good?

Yes, lipless crankbaits are great lures for catching bass during the winter, prespawn and fall. Lipless cranks really shine when bass are stacked up in water between 10 and 25 feet depth, and since they are sinking crankbaits, it’s much easier to fish them at these depths than regular crankbaits.

Also, as mentioned above, the subtle wiggling action of lipless cranks is perfect for mimicking lethargic baitfish in cold water, and this works great for triggering bites from winter bass, when they can be fished at depths of 30 feet or more.

Are lipless crankbaits good for walleye?

While lipless crankbaits were originally developed for bass fishing, they also make great lures for walleye. The reason for this is that they are sinking lures, and are thus easy to fish close to the bottom similar to fishing with jigs. 

And just like fishing a jig for a walleye, the best way to fish lipless cranks for walleye is to lift them up and let them sink down again in erratic patterns during retrieval. The subtle wiggling action of lipless cranks is also a great option when walleyes are finicky, and not responding to other lure types.

Are lipless crankbaits good for ice fishing?

Yes, lipless crankbaits are great for ice fishing because they can be readily fished vertically, just like a jig. Similar to an ice fishing jig, you can lift them up and let them flutter down again until you get a bite. 

And since lipless cranks come in a wide range of sizes, you can use them for perch, walleye, as well as pike ice fishing. One of the most popular lipless cranks for ice fishing is the Rapala Rippin’ Rap.

What is the best lipless crankbait?

Many bass anglers agree that the Rat-L-Trap by Bill Lewis is the best lipless crankbait overall. The reason for this is that it’s extremely versatile, and catches bass during most months of the year. The Rat-L-Trap was one of the first lipless crankbaits on the market with a rattling sound, and this can help a lot to trigger bites from bass, especially in stained water.

What is the best size lipless crankbait?

The best all around size lipless crankbait is 1/2 oz, which is a medium size that can be used in water between 10 and 20 feet deep. If you want to fish in deeper water, or target bigger fish, it’s better to go for a 3/4 oz or even 1 oz lipless crank. Conversely, if you want to fish shallow, you can downsize to 1/4 or even 1/8 oz.

What is the best color for a lipless crankbait?

Silver and gold lipless cranks produce a lot of bites in many fisheries, and both colors are a must in every tackle box. In addition, sexy shad, chrome black, and crawfish red also work very well, depending on the season and the forage that the bass are feeding on.

When should you throw lipless crankbait?

The best time for lipless crankbait fishing is when the water temperature is cool or cold. They work well for deep water bass in winter, but are even more effective during prespawn and fall, when bass hold in 10 to 25 foot deep water.

The vibrating action of lipless crankbait makes them ideal for cold water fishing, since they resemble the subtle movement of lethargic baitfish at this time of the year.

If you lift a lipless crankbait up and down in the water it actually resembles the movement of a dying shad, which is quite a common occurrence when the water gets cold. 

Can you troll a lipless crankbait?

Yes, you can troll a lipless crankbait along the edges of flats, weed beds, and other shoreline cover, which is a very effective method for catching both bass and walleye.

In order to make the lipless crank sink deeper during trolling, many anglers like to use split shot weights or sliding sinkers rigged 2 to 3 feet above the lipless crankbait.

How to use a lipless crankbait for bass

The best way to use a lipless crankbait for bass is to throw it in medium depth water around 10 to 20 feet during early spring and fall, when the water is cooler, and the bass plus the baitfish they’re feeding on slow down their movements.

Especially during prespawn, you can use lipless cranks to catch big females that stack up in medium depth water close to their spawning areas. In contrast to fishing regular crankbaits, which produce enough action on their own to trigger strikes, the best way to fish a lipless crankbait is with lots of erratic tempo changes.

A great technique for fishing lipless cranks is called”yo-yoing”, where you lift your rod up and then lower it down again, making the lipless crank dart up and flutter back down again, which resembles a small baitfish in distress. In many cases you’ll get a bite while you’re lowering the lure down, so pay close attention to anything that might indicate a bite.

When using lipless cranks during the winter, you should fish them in deeper basins around 30 or 40 feet depth, and slow roll the lipless crank close to the bottom. You can still add some additional erratic action to the lipless crank, but slower than you would during the warm season.

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