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Published Apr 1, 2022 1:51 PM

Perhaps more than with any other general technique, choosing the best crankbait rod for bass is a highly variable and personal decision. The same rod you use to finesse a lightweight balsa Shad Rap over a pea gravel bank is far different from what you’d choose to bomb cast a massive deep-diving Strike King 10XD over a stumpy roadbed in 20 feet of water. To pare down the massive list of great crankbait rods, I tested the best crankbait rods—with the help of some experienced anglers—I could get my hands on and made my top picks for different use cases. 

A man on a river holding a fishing rod
You’ll need to choose the best crankbait rod for the type of crankbaits you commonly throw. Scott Einsmann

Methodology

The crankbait rod testing sessions took place on Lake Anna in Virginia during the transition from pre-spawn to spawn. It was around the full moon, and the fish were scattered anywhere from ankle-deep out to 15 feet. While conditions were good, the bass were finicky and everything from a lightning-fast retrieve to a slow crawl through cover was necessary to get them to chew our crankbaits. The test panel included Bill Roberts, Ron Hohenstein, Scott Einsmann, and myself. Bill and Ron are seasoned tournament anglers with decades of experience. They’ve seen rods go from glass to graphite and back again, with every step along the way. Einsmann is the gear editor at Outdoor Life and a workaday bass angler who provided the perspective of a weekend bass angler. We tested rods with different types and sizes of crankbaits, in deep and shallow water, with various brands of reels. That also meant using different line sizes and styles—because the rod that performs perfectly with fluorocarbon might not offer the same sensitivity with mono. Meanwhile, a rod that does well with mono might repeatedly pull hooks free with the same reel but substituting fluorocarbon.

Here are the parameters we looked for while testing each rod:

  • Action: Does the rod have the proper action to rip crankbaits through cover? Does it have the right action for keeping fish hooked? This is a matter of feel, and it’s highly individualized, but a rod with the wrong feel will make an angler less confident and therefore less effective.
  • Hookup Percentage: Did the rod consistently keep fish hooked up on the tiny crankbait trebles? Were they solidly hooked at the strike, and did those hooks come loose when they jumped or surged at the boat?
  • Casting Accuracy and Distance: How well did the rod cast small and large crankbaits of different sizes, styles, and levels of wind resistance?
  • Feedback: Can you feel the crankbait’s wobble when it deflects off cover or when a fish changes its direction but does not get hooked? Too much feedback and you pull the lure away from the bass. Too little and you miss key clues to the day’s patterns.

Best Overall: Dobyns Champion XP 764CB

Dobyns Rods

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet, 6 inches
  • Full cork handle
  • Lure weight: ¼ to 3/4 ounce 
  • Action: Medium moderate fast
  • Line weight: 8- to 14-pound test

Why It Made the Cut

The Dobyns Champion XP 764CB is a premium rod that can handle a huge variety of baits, from square bills to deep divers. 

Pros

  • Premium-quality cork
  • Giving blank without being a noodle
  • Crisp casting feel

Cons

  • 7 feet, 6 inches length may not be best for short anglers or in tight quarters

Product Description

The Dobyns Champion is a rod that was precision built with mid-range divers like Wiggle Warts and the Rapala DT10 in mind. It tackles that application, but it can also branch out to shallow or deep divers. If you’re comfortable with a 7-foot 6-inch rod on your shallow divers, the crisp blank will allow you to both finesse and power those lures through gnarly cover. 

During the test I powered a KVD 1.5 over, through, and around big stumps while always maintaining control and a sense of feel. It also handled all but the biggest and hardest-pulling deep divers. The premium cork handle is long enough for bomb casts without being overwhelming, so if you need to crank a 6XD all day, this is your tool. It might not be ideal for the massive 10XD, but it can handle that in a pinch. All of the other components are top notch, too—that includes Fuji Alconite guides and Fuji graphite reel seats.

I really liked the Champion XP for a wide range of crankbaits, but Roberts felt like it excelled for crankbaits that dive 6 to 12-feet deep. He noted that when he threw a 1.5 square bill the rod didn’t load well and accuracy suffered. But, it casted a 2.5 crankbait just fine. He also said he experimented with throwing heavier line on the Champion XP and it performed well, so you’re not limited to throwing 10-pound test line around heavy cover.

We chose the Dobyns Champion XP 764CB as the best overall crankbait rod because it runs the most popular crankbait range exceptionally well and it can branch out to shallow or deep divers. It’s also very well made. If you had to choose one crankbait rod to have on your boat, this is a great choice. 

Best for Throwing Light Crankbaits: Douglas Matrix 763MF

Douglas Outdoors

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet, 6 inches
  • Power: Medium light
  • Action: Moderate fast
  • Line weight: 8- to 15-pound test
  • Full or split high-density EVA grips
  • Lure weight: 3/16 to 1 ounce 

Why It Made the Cut

The Douglas Matrix 763MF’s incredible strength-to-weight ratio gives comfort when throwing small lures to giant fish. 

Pros

  • Ergonomic comfort
  • Proprietary carbon matrix blanks
  • Premium components throughout

Cons

  • Price

Product Description

Despite being rated for lures up to 1 ounce, I found the Douglas Matrix’s EVA really excelled compared to the others we tested with the little stuff—crankbaits that I might even otherwise throw on a spinning rod. Maybe that prejudice derives from the fact that it’s so light and balanced—I didn’t want to put it down. It’s almost like driving a sports car; even in wind and current, I could feel light-wobbling lures and what they were contacting. When a fish changed the lure’s direction, I was able to react and steer him away from cover.

Beyond the Douglas’ amazing feel, its EVA grip also set it apart. Cork grips were the gold standard for many years, and I always preferred it. But, the silky smooth and super comfortable EVA grip on the Douglas Matrix made me change my mind. Whether I was flinging a tight-wobbling balsa lure or something that thumped harder, my hands never tired and I could always feel what was going on. Combined with the Fuji guides and reel seat, it’s premium from butt to tip. All the testers like the 7-foot-6-inch length in open water, but in tight quarters we would have preferred the 7-foot length. It’s great to have a rod that can be used for multiple applications and this rod could also double-up for other comparatively light-line techniques, like throwing a fluke or a floating worm.

Best for Close Quarters: G. Loomis IMX Pro 843CBR

G Loomis

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet
  • Power: Medium
  • Action: Moderate fast
  • Full cork handle and foregrip
  • Lure weight: ¼ to 5/8 ounce 
  • Line weight: 8- to 14-pound test

Why It Made the Cut

When you’re fishing shallow, tight cover in the spring, reach for the G. Loomis IMX Pro 843CBR. It throws small crankbaits with good accuracy and has the backbone to wrestle big fish up close. 

Pros

  • Fuji K-Series tangle-free guides
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Moderate action without sacrificing extreme accuracy

Cons

  • Pricey

Product Description

Loomis has decades of experience building superior rods for uncompromising anglers, and the IMX-Pro series reflects a continuation of that trend. I felt comfortable throwing small lures like Bandit crankbaits around trees, docks and in other tight spaces. That’s one of the hardest things to do consistently well, particularly when it’s windy or your hands are cold, and I found that the blank’s crisp action was particularly helpful in maintaining my accuracy with smaller lures, down to ¼ ounce.

Einsmann tested this rod extensively and it was his favorite for throwing squarebills, especially the Megabass Knuckle LD, which weights 3/8 ounce. He commented that this rod was exceptionally accurate and allowed him to easily place a crankbait around right cover and under overhanging limbs. He also used it for throwing a Whopper Plopper 75 and it found it worked very well with a 100 percent hookup ratio on the three topwater bass he caught.

This rod is surprisingly powerful and beefy for a rod that feels so light, and I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable using it to muscle a giant away from the cover that attracted them. There are also additional lengths, strengths, and actions for cranking in this same series.

Best Bargain Deep Diving Crankbait Rod: 13 Fishing Omen Black OB3C74C

13 FISHING

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet, 4 inches
  • Action: Moderate
  • Line weight: 10- to 20-pound test
  • Split grip cork handle with mini-foregrip
  • Lure weight: ¼ to 1 ½ ounce 

Why It Made the Cut

The 13 Fishing Omen Black offers good performance at half the price (or less) of the competitors’ best deep cranking rods.

Pros

  • Great versatility at a remarkably reasonable price
  • Japanese 36 Ton Toray blank with Poly Vector graphite technology
  • Five year limited warranty

Cons

  • Not ideal for anglers who prefer EVA and/or full-grip handles
A hand holding a bass
The 13 Omen Black offers great performance with a budget price. Scott Einsmann

Product Description

At a bargain price, this rod performs like those costing substantially more. It feels refined when casting everything from hard-charging square bills to maximum-divers, but I especially liked it with the latter group. The Omen Black series offers split grip Portuguese cork handles, ALPS 316 stainless steel guides with zirconia inserts, and a customized ported reel seat. It is also an incredible choice for lipless crankbaits, with the power to rip the lure free from the grass without losing sensitivity or fish-fighting finesse.

Einsmann tested this rod as well and when the crankbait bite got tough, he rigged up a lizard on a shaky head and dragged it around main points. The same power that aids in ripping a lipless crankbait, helped him set the hook in deep water. He noted that it lacked the refined feel of the Loomis IMX Pro, but it was a stick that was perfect for weekend anglers like himself. He said with a DT-10 or small squarebills he could feel them bang of rocks and wood cover. Einsmann and Roberts also said they would prefer a one-piece grip, instead of the split, for the two handed casting employed while fishing crankbaits. I tried this one out with lipless baits, too, and that and bigger, harder-pulling shallow- and mid-depth divers is where it’s in its wheelhouse.There are also 7-foot-1-inch and 7-foot-11-inch versions in similar actions, with slightly different lure weight ranges for those who need shorter or longer cranking rods.

Best Bargain Shallow Diving Crankbait Rod: Falcon LowRider Mansfield

Falcon Rods

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Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet
  • Action: Medium
  • Line weight: 12 to 25 pounds
  • Lure weight: ¼ to ½ ounce 
  • Split grip cork handle with no foregrip

Why It Made the Cut

The Falcon LowRider Mansfield is great for roll casting small and medium crankbaits at a reasonable price.

Pros

  • Engineered to reduce weight at every opportunity
  • Fuji guides and reel seat
  • Mission designed for smaller crankbaits

Cons

  • Action may be too light for heavier or harder-thumping lures

Product Description

Falcon was one of the pioneers of finding ways to reduce weight and maintain quality in technique-specific rods. They introduced the LowRider series in 1995 and have continually refined them, with multiple crankbait-oriented models included. This version includes all of the modern amenities and benefits, including Fuji’s K Frame Tangle-Free guides with extra-durable FazLite guide rings. With a lightweight reel atop it spooled with 10- to 14-pound test fluorocarbon, this is a rod that won’t tire you out, and has sufficient bend to allow bass to fully engulf treble-hooked lures. I found that I could even use it to throw a balsa Shad Rap, a lure that often acts like a potato chip in even a small breeze, leading many anglers to throw it on spinning gear. This isn’t the rod to throw a deep diving crankbait, but when you’re throwing small shallow divers, this rod allows you to stick with a baitcaster instead of a spinning rod. I avoid going to spinning rods for my light crankbait work because I want power and accuracy of baitcasting tackle, but you need a rod like the Falcon that minimizes backlashes and frustration.

Best for Lipless Crankbaits: St. Croix Victory VTC72MHM

St. Croix

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Key Features

  • 7 feet 2 inches
  • Power: Medium heavy
  • Action: Moderate
  • Line weight: 12 to 20 pounds
  • Lure weight: 3/8 to 7/8 ounce
  • Split grip cork handle with EVA foregrip

Why It Made the Cut

Casts a mile and ultra-sensitive, with just enough “give.”

Pros

  • Maximum power with minimal weight 
  • 15-year transferable warranty
  • Hook keeper placed for specific techniques
  • Fuji hardware

Cons

  • Some anglers like a longer rod for this purpose for taking up line

Product Description

St. Croix calls the Victory their “Power Target Cranker,” but I found it excels when throwing a lipless crankbait, particularly in submerged aquatic vegetation. Whether you’re using mono, fluoro or braid, it has the power to rip a lure free from the grass without pulling it out of the strike zone, triggering otherwise-hesitant bass. I found it loaded perfectly on a wide range of lure weights, allowing for both long coverage casts and quick roll casts around targets. The Victory series includes Fuji Concept “O” guides with deep press inserts for durability. It’ll serve double duty with square bills, which is apparently what it’s meant for, but to me it seems just right for “trapping.” I tried ¼, ½, and ¾ ounce traps on it and found that it allowed me to feel their vibrations but was not too fast, allowing the fish to stay pegged when they jumped and tried to use these lures’ leverage to escape.

Best for Launching Deep Divers: iRod Genesis III Crank Launcher

Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet 11 inches
  • Action: Moderate
  • Line weight: 8 to 20 pounds
  • Lure weight: 3/8 to 1 ½ ounces
  • Contoured removable EVA handle

Why It Made the Cut

Crisp graphite construction and length allow for maximum distance and sensitivity without compromising just the right amount of flex.

Pros

  • Length allows for long casts and fish-fighting flexibility
  • Reasonable price compared to other premium deep crankers
  • Down loop style hook keeper

Cons

  • Length may preclude roll casting in tight areas or be tough for shorter anglers

Product Description

iRod updated their best-selling rod series with tournament-oriented, technique-specific rods. The Genesis III will manhandle the largest, deep-diving crankbaits like the 10XD, and even those that pull harder, without giving up any sensitivity.  I didn’t like fishing the iRod Genesis III in close quarters where I like something closer to 7 feet long, but for anything that requires long casts and taking up line quickly I’d reach for this rod in a hurry.

For such a powerful rod the Genesis III has impressive sensitivity. I could feel a bass breathe on my lure or push it sideways at 25-feet deep, and at 15 feet it was exceptionally responsive. It also scored high in the keeping fish hooked category. When hooked fish surged boatside, it had just enough flexibility to keep the treble hooks lodged without pulling free. The premium EVA handles are comfortable in a physically-demanding environment, and the reinforced Fuji Alconite tip resists damage. If you need a rod that can pull double duty, the Crank Launcher is also an excellent rod for light swimbaits.

Honorable Mentions

We would have loved to test all of the best crankbait rods, but with today’s supply issues we weren’t able to get our hands on everything. Here are some fantastic crankbait rods to consider that we weren’t able to test.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Crankbait Rod

Four-time Bassmaster Classic winner, Rick Clunn, famously led the charge to composite rods for crankbaits in the 1980s, noting that he often pulled the lure away from striking fish when he used graphite. At that time, there was also a move from the 5-foot-6-inch pistol grip rods of old up to 7-foot-plus models. That longer rod trend continues today, but the best crankbait rod length ultimately depends on you. 

Rod Length

Choose a blank design and a length that fits your body. A hyper-intense angler with a quick trigger finger might need a different rod than one with more slow-twitch sensibility. A 6 foot 6 inch musclebound angler might benefit from different lengths—in terms of both the blank and the handle.

Type of Lure

Most of all, think about the baits you’ll be using and where you’ll be using them. A heavy, hard-pulling bait may be usable on a medium-action casting rod, but it will wear you out over the course of a day. Similarly, even if you can throw a small lure passably on your heavy cranking rod, you’ll sacrifice distance and accuracy. Casting around thick stands of cypress trees might benefit from a different handle style and length than bomb casting over open water ledges. Some of us like solid handles, and others like split grips—find which camp you fall into.

Matching Your Rod to the Reel and Line 

Finally, consider line type and reel size. Will you be using monofilament or fluorocarbon, or even braid? That might change the amount of “give” you want in your blank. Also, when casting with the wind with a giant lure across open water, you might be able to “spool” a small reel, but if you go too heavy, you’ll throw your combo out of balance—and balance can be as important as the absolute weight itself.

FAQs

Q: What is a crankbait rod? 

Crankbait rods are typically softer than rods used for fishing other types of baits. The parabolic bend helps keep fish hooked on the small treble used by crankbaits. They also need decent power to rip crankbaits through cover, which triggers strikes. 

Q: Is a fast action rod good for crankbaits?

Most crankbait rods feature a moderate action. 

Q: How fast should I reel in a crankbait?

Crankbaits can be burned or slowly worked, but they’re most commonly worked fast and ticked off of cover to create a sudden change of cadence.

Read Next: Best Bass Lures of 2022

Final Thoughts

Picking a crankbait rod for someone else is like trying to pick their spouse. It’s not just a matter of personal preferences and eccentricities but also involves a certain sense of “feel” and knowing what’s right. We tried to recognize that in making our analyses, focusing on objective factors while pointing out the subjective differences that might make a rod good for us, but not for you. In determining the right crankbait rod for your next fishing outing, take full stock of where and how you fish—and the crankbaits you’re likely to throw.