Jerkbait vs. Crankbait – Which One Should You Use?

Jerkbait vs Crankbait

In the past, people would often go out after a heavy rain and gleefully pick up earthworms from their driveways and dirt to use as bait. Bait collecting was a hobby itself back then.

As the years went by, fishing has evolved to the point where you’re not even required to use live bait anymore. However, they still have their place in the fishing world.

Nowadays, when you enter a fishing store, there’s an abundant supply of accessories and tools to choose from. Artificial bait (or lures) are one of those tools and it can act as an effective and valid substitute. For fish enthusiasts, it’s imperative that they know how to properly land their catch. That implies the correct ways of setting up the rod, setting the hook, and reeling in the fish.

However, having the necessary skills to use the equipment is only 50% of a successful catch. Most importantly, you need to know what to use, when, and where. This is especially true for lures. Speaking of which, there are multiple categories of lures currently on the market. You can get jerkbait, crankbait, slashbait, swimbait, stickbait, etc. All of these correspond to certain fish types. For this article, we’ll focus on the two most popular — jerkbait and crankbait.

What are Jerkbait and Crankbait and How do They Work?

What Is Crankbait?

Crankbait often refers to a specific fishing lure that has a hard plastic or wooden body. Some are made from balsa wood which helps them mimic the natural movement of a swimming fish. Others are made of extremely durable plastic in order to ensure high castability.

As far as their appearance goes, there are multiple colors, lip variations, and sizes to choose from. In comparison to their counterparts, their body shape differs by being round and short. Fishermen like to use crankbaits to fish in deep waters due to their wide and extended bill.

Certain types of crankbaits can float too and some can even be used in murky waters. The bills (lips) can define a crankbait as a shallow, medium, or deep-diving plug. As far as variations go, you literally have crankbaits for each fishing condition and situation.

You can cast and retrieve them as many times as you want and the retrieval process is quite steady. However, retrieval can be affected by your decision to use a lipped crankbait or a lipless one. How so? Well, the difference is that almost every lipless crankbait sinks (retrieves slower) while the lipped ones float a bit.

Types of Crankbait

So many variations of crankbait are currently available on the market, and we simply can’t cover them all. For the sake of the length of this text, we’ll stick to main categories instead. So far we know that diving is the main “specialty” of crankbaits. Therefore, we can divide them into three main categories — shallow, medium, and deep divers.

Shallow divers (also known as squarebills) are intended to be used in water with shallow cover (not deeper than 5 feet). The targeted places are usually small rocks, submerged wood, low-level grass, and docks.

Medium divers work best with water levels which aren’t deeper than 10 feet. Lipped medium divers often trigger the reaction of the fish by causing a disturbance when they hit the bottom. They are more resistant against the water, which is why people use them to fish in deeper parts of a lake, for example.

Deep divers are quite popular during Summer. It’s the season when the fish migrates to lower depths (over 10 feet) in order to move away from the sun. Keep in mind that deep diving crankbait is “aggressive’’. That means that you have to swing the rod harder and give the bait some space to gain momentum and crash into the water. That’s how you reach the appropriate depths in order to catch the hiding fish. Here are some great crankbait fishing rods which will allow you to do this.

Here’s how you can catch bass in these deeper waters using a crankbait.

What Is Jerkbait?

Most jerkbaits have one solid body but there are variations which consist of two joined sections. Similarly to crankbait, the body of jerkbait can be wooden, plastic, or polymer. Each of these materials ensures the durability of the lure and allows you to cast them far away.

Another contributing factor to their castability is their body shape which is long and aerodynamic. Unlike crankbait (which only has two), jerkbait always has three treble hooks on the bottom side.

There are some slight differences which will be mentioned through the categorization info below and fully explored a bit later.

Types of Jerkbait

We’ll approach the jerkbait categorization in a different manner. First of all, there are two main categories of jerkbait — soft and hard. Second of all, we can divide the hard jerkbait into three subcategories — suspending, sinking, and floating jerkbait.

Suspending jerkbait is the most commonly used of the three. Due to its design, it can remain in-between the surface and the bottom of the water. Suspending jerkbait usually remains in the spot where it was cast out. However, you can adjust the depth at which it plunges by jerking or twitching the rod.

Sinking jerkbait immediately starts to sink when it’s cast out. When you apply force on the rod and it produces any motion, the lure stops sinking. Therefore, you can maintain different sinking rates and adjust them to your preferences.

Floating jerkbait is evidently self-explanatory, based on the name. This type of jerkbait keeps floating on the surface until you put some action into them. Because of that, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll get stuck in weed or submerged wood below the surface.

How Do They Work?

The main purpose of both lure types is to mimic the natural motion of an injured fish. The lures have no action of their own, instead, you are the one who is controlling their motion. Each time you twitch or jerk the rod, the bait will wobble around in random directions. That specific swaying motion is what attracts the nearby fish.

Now, there are certain differences and similarities between crankbait and jerkbait which narrow down their usefulness in some situations. We’ll take a look at these in the following sections.

The Difference Between Jerkbait and Crankbait

You’ve probably informed yourself about several notable differences by reading the previous sections of the test. Nevertheless, we’ll summarize that info and expand on it to make sure that you don’t overlook anything.

Body Shape

The first and most obvious difference regards the overall look of both lures. Jerkbait tends to have a longer elongated body while crankbait looks rounder and fatter. Moreover, there’s also a difference in the number of available hooks. Crankbait uses two hooks, while jerkbait has three on its bottom side.

Retrieval Depth

When it comes to depth of the water, both lures have their zone where their performance shines. For example, crankbaits are excellent for medium to deep waters and allow you to target specific depth which can range from 5 to 25 feet. On the other hand, jerkbait fails to perform equally in lower depths due to the design of their bills. Instead, it’s ideal for shallow waters since it can go up to 6 feet deep. The difference in depth is probably the determining factor which makes you choose either one of the two types.

Underwater Movement

Finally, there’s a difference in usage as well. When you cast crankbait into the water, you don’t need to apply that much force on the line. You can let the bait sink down and attract attention just by looking like a tasty snack (due to its round shape). Immediately after it sinks, you can start reeling in the bait. With jerkbait, that’s simply not the case. Jerkbait needs to look like a fish that’s trying to escape but is struggling. That means that you’ll need to jerk the rod constantly and cause it to wobble around and jitter (hence the name).

How Are They Similar?

Pinpointing the differences is as easy as it gets since most of them are so obvious. Finding out the similarities between crankbait and jerkbait can be a little bit tricky though.

First of all, the purpose of both lure types is to act as if they were a dying fish. They pretty much have the same range of motion (which you control) and look equally enticing. Besides physically resembling a bait fish, they also share a similar design. Both lure types feature striking colors and similar bills.

The second similarity is related to the materials that they’re made of. In most cases, the manufacturers focus on using hard plastic or polymer. It’s what makes them durable against the fish bites. However, you can find wooden lures as well, as they seem to be quite popular at the moment.

Lastly, both lures are extremely easy to use. The whole process of using them has been oversimplified since there’s no need to use an additional tackle. The only thing that you need to do is tie the lure to the rod, and you’re good to go. Moreover, casting both lures into the water couldn’t be any easier. You just need to make sure that you know when and where you cast them. That will be our next point of discussion.

When and Where to Use Crankbait and Jerkbait

Each lure type has its own conditions and steps which you need to take into account and understand. That includes considering the environment where you fish and the desired depth.

Crankbait Tips

To fish with crankbait, you need to look at places where the fish are near the bottom of the water. It’s preferable that you fish in water which has a lot of downed logs and boulders in it. Crankbaits have the benefit of causing vibrations and sudden movements when they bump into underwater objects. Those are usually the places where there’s a lot of baitfish, so you’re bound to come home with a full bag. Another advantage of these vibrations is that you can still attract the fish even if you’re fishing in dirty water. In such cases, fish can’t see the lure, but they can hear it.

Summer is the time when the water temperature rises, which causes the metabolism of predatory fish to speed up as well. The fish move towards the bottom in order to “cool’’ themselves off which is when you want to strike. This is especially true for fish such as bass. However, if you’re really looking for a season when the fish are the most active, then Fall is the one. That’s the time when vast numbers of baitfish attract predators, which chase them in return.

Jerkbait Tips

To fish with jerkbait, you need to focus on clear and shallow waters. Unlike crankbait, jerkbait is more of a visual lure which is effective in places where the fish can see it. It doesn’t sink, which makes its movement horizontal. That’s why it’s suitable for use with open water where there are no obstacles or weed.

Believe it or not, jerkbaits have proven to be highly efficient during the winter then the metabolism of the fish slows down. Smaller fish types tend to have a hard time surviving during the winter. You can use jerkbait to mimic the exact behavior of a dying fish which causes the predators to come out of their hiding spots and strike.

Wrap Up

To conclude, we’d just like to summarize some of the key points relating to the lures in question. The list of factors that can influence your decision to pick one over the other can be quite extensive. Before you start looking for an appropriate lure, always take into account the place where you want to fish, the depth, and the fish type.

If you’re interested in fishing in colder areas where there’s shallow water, you can’t really go wrong with jerkbait. If you want to catch fish that are hiding deep, stick with crankbait. However, there’s also another thing that you could do. Why not use both? Both lures are excellent and there are many people who claim that the combination of the two brought them success every time.


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