Jerkbait vs. Crankbait: 2 Powerful Reaction Baits for Bass

Two of the most popular types of hard baits in bass fishing are jerkbaits and crankbaits with both exhibiting different features and actions. In this article, we will explore the differences between jerkbaits and crankbaits and help you decide on when to throw these powerful reaction baits.

Jerkbait vs. Crankbait: 2 Powerful Reaction Baits for Bass

Jerkbait Fishing for Bass

The jerkbait is a type of hard bait that is designed to mimic the activity and profile of a wounded fish. It is typically long and slender with a curved or angled bill that helps give the bait a sharp diving action.

Jerkbaits are characterized by their quick, erratic movements which mimic the actions of an injured baitfish. This erratic cadence is very much determined by the angler — this motion is caused by pretty firm twitching of the rod tip followed by a pause. The general rule, a rule sworn by the legendary Kevin VanDam, is that the more erratic the action of a jerkbait, the better.

Jerkbaits are one of those baits that will work all year round. However, depending on the conditions, you’ll need to adjust your cadence as well as the style of jerkbait you throw.

Different Types of Jerkbaits

There are various types of jerkbaits, with each specializing in different water temperatures as well as water depths:

  • Suspending jerkbaits are neutrally buoyant, well, they’re supposed to be. This means they’ll stay at a specific depth when left still. These jerkbaits are better suited to shallow-water scenarios.
  • Sinking jerkbaits will slowly sink when left still. This will tend to imitate an easier form of prey for bass, a solid option for winter bass fishing. It’ll get deeper, but it’ll also be more appealing to a bass who isn’t feeding too aggressively.
  • Floating jerkbaits will slowly rise to the surface once paused. Again, this type of jerkbait is best for shallower water, but also for more aggressively feeding bass.

Crankbait Fishing for Bass

The crankbait, a hard bait cousin of the jerkbait, is a reaction bait designed to resemble all kinds of baitfish. Crankbaits have a wider, shorter body profile, with a square or rounded bill that plays a core role in their diving depth and action.

Crankbaits are characterized by their steady and consistent ‘wobble’ motion, which can trigger aggressive reactions from hunting bass, but also non-feeding bass. For this reason, the crankbait is a world-renowned all-season bass lure.

Although there are numerous ways to fish a crankbait, a steady, slow-rolling retrieve is the most popular, and many argue that this gets the best action out of a crank.

Crankbaits are fantastic baits for covering a lot of attractive water, abd are great tools for targeting various depth ranges. Bill size, and line selection are popular methods for changing depth.

Different Types of Crankbaits

Like jerkbaits, the crankbait also has different styles:

  • Lipless crankbaits don’t have any bill and will sink as they hit the water, a pretty powerful reaction bait if you’re looking to cast at isolated cover.
  • Squarebill crankbaits are often regarded as shallow-water crankbaits and will generally have shorter and ‘square’ bills. These types of crankbaits will generally run in the range of 2-6 feet in depth, making them great fun around shore-based cover.
  • Deep-diving crankbaits will have more round bills as well as longer bills. These crankbaits are necessary for targeting bass sitting deep in the heat of summer or the cold of winter. The running depth of these crankbaits is around 10-30 feet.

Difference Between a Jerkbait and a Crankbait

These baits are designed to trigger different responses from bass. Their respective actions are very different and work better in different scenarios.

The more apparent differences between jerkbaits and crankbaits lie in their profile as well as their action. Although both of these baits are imitating baitfish, it’s the state of the baitfish in which these baits differ in terms of imitation.


As mentioned, jerkbaits are more slender and streamlined, while crankbaits are more rounded and bulky. The profiles are designed to suit the bait's respective action better.


Jerkbaits should be fished so that they look erratic and crazy — and their profile is geared for this. KVD himself has designed a jerkbait with the goal of it being as erratic as possible.

A crankbait’s action is more geared towards a steady, slow-rolling retrieve. A consistent motion with an attractive ‘wobble’.

Conditions and When to Fish These Baits

As mentioned, jerkbaits are typically all-season baits. The way they’re fished can be altered based on fishing conditions. In terms of the most productive seasons, the fall is an amazing period for jerkbait fishing as bass are very much honed in on baitfish — and a jerkbait is easy prey.

Crankbaits are also all-season baits, and can also be fished in different ways to cater to various conditions. For example, a slower retrieve might get more bites in the colder winter months. Summer time is also an awesome time for crankbaits. Bass will go deeper during the warm summer months, and often a deep-diving crank can hit these deeper strike zones.

When to Throw a Jerkbait

The jerkbait is an incredibly versatile bait and that can be thrown in various zones or types of cover. A few examples include:

  • Ledges & drop-offs: These transitions of cover create a high-percentage area for bass. Jerkbaits present an easy meal for bass sitting near these areas.
  • Rip-rap and rocky cover: This is especially a great form of cover to find smallmouth bass. Jerkbaits generally deflect off rocky cover effectively as well, adding to its erratic presentation.
  • Grass flats: In the fall especially, baitfish will often move into shallower areas and commonly move in and around grass lines. Shallow-running jerkbaits can be a powerful weapon to target bass in the fall.

When to Throw a Crankbait

Crankbaits are powerful baits for covering a lot of water and can be fished in almost any area you can think of. Below are some suitable forms of cover to throw a crankbait:

  • Hardcover & logs: Ideally, you want your crankbait bouncing and deflecting off hard obstacles while you retrieve. Fish a crankbait around boulders, logs, and other hardcover to give your crankbait some necessary deviation in its action.
  • Docks & standing timber: These are another high-percentage area for bass, and crankbaits are effective tools for luring bass to eat.
  • Deeper channels: Deep-running crankbaits can be powerful baits for targeting bass that are sitting deeper in both the hot summer months and colder winters.

Jerkbait vs. Crankbait: Which is the Best Bait for Bass?

There is definitely no better bait between the two they’re extremely different in many ways. The best way to differentiate them is to understand the best times to throw these baits, and how to fish them.

Jerkbaits are known to bring finicky bass to bite because of their unique action — bass will often travel distances to come and investigate the erratic action of a jerkbait. They’re less effective for covering a lot of water compared to a crankbait, but they can often get a bite when no other reaction baits are doing the job.

Crankbaits as mentioned have more a consistent and repetitive action. They’re powerful baits for covering a lot of water and are extremely versatile when it comes to depth coverage. In order to get the best out of crankbaits, you’ll want them to deflect off various forms of cover below the surface. This irregularity is often the action that triggers a bite.

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