Crankbaits are some of the most versatile weapons anglers have at their disposal. Their ability to win bass tournaments, pull walleye off structure, and dupe inshore saltwater species cannot be denied. While crankbaits are all generally the same in principle, their lips, rattles, weights, body materials and color patterns can be tweaked in a variety of ways that make them ideal for many different conditions. Each year, the market is flooded with a new generation of crankbaits. Some prove themselves worthy, and others are forgotten at the bottom of the tackle box. So I sifted through the new models for this year to find 10 standouts. Here they are.
Reaction Strike Ranger
Born in the legendary lakes region of Northeast Texas, the “Ranger’s” versatility makes it a multi-species warrior. The Ranger’s weight transfer system shifts to the rear for long casts and deep thuds on the retrieve. The crankbait dives to between 2- and 4-feet and its textured body increases underwater vibration. The Ranger is equipped with lethal, tournament-grade Kitana Hooks and is available in eight detailed color patterns. Not to mention, at $6.99, it’s a great bargain.
There’s no right or wrong way to fish the Juke. Berkley’s new crankbait can be cranked, twitched, or even trolled. It’s a multi-purpose bait that will elicit strikes in a number of conditions. The Juke is configured for long casts and has a flat profile that flashes and rolls when retrieved. There are 3-, 4- and 5-inch models of the Juke that cover everything from panfish to inshore saltwater species. It’s available in a slew of natural and high-visibility patterns so you can match the hatch or stand out in stained water.
Booyah’s Streak IV is not your average crankbait. The big, heavy crank is designed to plow down into the depths, diving to 25 feet. The hefty 3 5/8” body weighs in at two ounces, enabling you to cast it halfway across the lake. When bass, walleye, and pike are holding in open water or off steep breaks, the durability and diving ability of the Streak IV enables you to reach them.
Sometimes the best new lures aren’t new at all. Anglers have been begging Rebel to bring back the Humpback for years. And Rebel has finally delivered. The diminutive crank is a shallow water specialist, swimming just below the surface. The diving depth of the Humpback allows it to swim over weedtops, rocks or virtually any other structure. So when bass, trout, or panfish are holding in the skinny water, the Humpack can be put in the right places to pull them out.
Spro’s Little John family has a proven track record of catching fish. And the newest member of the family is the largest and deepest-diving of them all. The Little John Super DD was designed with the help of BASS Elite John Crews to target lunker bass in the abyss. Its tungsten weight system serves double duty, producing long-range casts and allowing the Little John Super DD to plunge quickly into deeper water. It’s also been designed with a streamlined body that greatly reduces drag in the water, making it easier to crank.
Few crankbaits can tout that they shine in cold-water situations, but the Sonicside from Megabass was designed to do just that. With a tight, high-pitch action and a bulletproof lip, the Sonicside can be cranked at warp speed and bounced off any type of structure. It features flat slides and an internal weight system which make the bait stealthy, which the company says will elicit strikes in cold-water conditions. In fine Megabass tradition, the color patterns on these 2.6-inch, ½-ounce lures are exquisite.
A crankbait doesn’t need to be expensive to be effective. The XPS Square Bill from Bass Pro Shops packs quality performance into a stellar price point. This silent killer has a wide-wobble, even when burned at furious speeds. Its square bill deflects off structure, allowing it to ply the tight crevices where largemouth and smallmouth often hide. The XPS Square Bill can also be ripped over submerged weeds with a dive-and-rise action or be crawled as a wake-bait on the surface.
Booyah has spawned a new squarebill with its Flex II. The Flex II takes the finer qualities of balsa and puts them in a foam-injected, tougher-than-plastic body. It has the same thump, wide wobble, and deflection of a traditional wood bait, but is considerably more durable for pounding rocks, reefs, and other hard structure. The 2 ¼-inch, ½-ounce bait dives between 2- and 5-feet, has through-wire construction and wields a set No. 6 extra wide gap hooks. The Flex II is available in 11 color patterns to match any condition.
Following up on the huge success of LIVETARGET’s Golden Shiner Rattlebait, the masters of matching the hatch are following it up with the “Yellow Perch Rattlebait.” Flat-sided, noisy rattlebaits are a staple in bass fishing and sometimes the only way to trigger a strike. But few come with the attention to detail and intricate patterns that LIVETARGET has built its reputation on. The Yellow Perch Rattlebait is available in sizes 2 7/8” up to 6 ¼”, all of which come in a natural/matte, metallic gloss, fluorescent UV and glow UV perch pattern.
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Designed by B.A.S.S. Elite Mike McClelland, Spro’s “RkCRAWLER 55” moves water and dances with a wide wobble. Its hunting action easily bounces off cover, triggering aggressive strikes. The RkCRAWLER takes advantage of a predator’s wiring and natural instincts and produces reaction strikes when it contacts structure. It runs from depths of between 9- to 14-feet to reach fish that are relating to rocks and reefs. Also designed to keep fish pinned when hooked, the RkCRAWLER has two sticky-sharp Gamakatsu #5 round-bend hooks.