Gone are the days when people used to collect worms to use as bait when fishing. Fishing equipment and accessories have evolved over the years to become easily accessible and highly effective.

When it comes to baits and lures, jerkbait and crankbait are the most common. Although they have some similarities, they have several differences too. In some scenarios, one type may be the best fit, while in others, either can be used.

This article explores the similarities and differences between jerkbait and crankbait and when it is most appropriate to use each type.

Difference Between Jerkbait vs Crankbait

Overall Design

Both come in different sizes, materials, shapes, and colors. The majority of each type is made of plastic, but you can find some made of polymer, metal, or wood. Although both types of lures are hard-bodied, they exhibit several differences in their design.

Crankbaits are generally shorter and fatter, while jerkbaits are slender and longer. Jerkbaits mostly have three treble hooks, while crankbaits have two.

When it comes to the design of the front part of the lures, both have bills. The size and shape of the bills differ between the two types and among the various types of jerkbaits and crankbaits. The bills are smaller in jerkbaits compared to crankbaits. The crankbait’s bill is longer and wider to enable it to dive deeper. The type of bill determines the type of action the bait produces

The most common types of bills for both jerkbaits and crankbaits include square bills, diamond-shaped bills, and rounded bills. Notably, some jerkbaits and crankbaits are lipless.

The following are the different categories of crankbaits and jerkbaits according to their design:

  • Lipped crankbaits: They have a lip
  • Lipless crankbaits: Do not have a lip
  • Minnow crankbaits: Have a smaller and more slender body than the typical crankbaits.
  • Jointed crankbaits: They have two or more parts that join to give an illusion of bigger baitfish.

Water Depth

Different crankbaits and jerkbaits have different buoyancy such that some can be cast in the shallow waters, others in the middle water, yet others in the deep water. Either type can be categorized according to how deep the lure can sink in the water as follows:



  • Suspending jerkbait. It is designed to sit between the surface and bottom water. It is the most common type. Once cast, it remains in the spot where it first landed, but you can adjust its positioning by jerking the rod.
  • Floating jerkbaits. These, as the name suggests, float at the surface but can go a little deeper with some jerking.
  • Sinking jerkbait They begin to sink as soon as they are cast into the water. When you jerk the rod, the lure stops sinking. Therefore, you can adjust the sinking depth to your preference with a simple movement of the rod.



Like the jerkbaits, crankbaits can be categorized as shallow divers, medium divers, or deep fivers, depending on the depth they can be cast to.

  • Shallow divers. They often have a square bill and tend to go up to 5 feet. They are most suitable for use in submerged wood, docks, or low-level grass.
  • Medium divers. Can dive up to 10 feet. They cause action when they hit the water. Most of them are lipped, and they are a great option for use in lakes.
  • Deep divers. Used to catch fish beyond 10 feet. These baits require an aggressive swing on the rod to cast deep.

With that said, jerkbaits have smaller lips and higher buoyancy; therefore, they do not go too deep. They are better suited for shallow waters (1-6 feet) in creeks, streams, and ponds. Crankbaits are effective in middle to deep waters (4-25 feet) in lakes, oceans. However, lipless crankbaits are suitable for use in shallow water.

Swimming Action

Both crankbaits and jerkbaits have an action that mimics the movements of a baitfish swimming away in distress. Jerkbait action ranges from subtle to aggressive. Their action includes swimming, rolling, moving side to side, twitching, wiggling, and darting. Similarly, crankbaits produce a range of actions, including vibrating, slow swimming, rolling, and wobbly movement.


Both are easy to retrieve. However, the lipless ones retrieve more slowly than their lipped counterparts.

Operating Mechanism

Both jerkbait and crankbait require a fishing rod to cast and retrieve. You can either use a baitcasting rod or a rod and reel combo. While some anglers say that they use a given rod interchangeably for the different types of bait, some recommend rod specification for crankbaits that are different from jerkbaits as follows:

  • Crankbait rod. It should be at least 7 feet long with medium power and fast retrieval action. If using a fishing rod and reel combo, the reel should provide an adequate and smooth drag. It should have a lot of bend at the tip for the crankbait to produce adequate action. It should also have a non-slip handle to prevent slipping if the handle gets wet.
  • Jerkbait rod. Similar to a crankbait rod, it should have medium power but faster retrieval power. However, it should be shorter, about 5-6 feet, to impart a good action when you cast it into the water.

Casting Mechanism

Crankbaits are usually cast into the water and then reeled to your desired depth. Jerkbaits are cast into the water, and then you jerk the rod to adjust its position in the water.

Water and Weather Conditions

Crankbaits work better in muddy water, while jerkbaits work well in clear water. Jerkbaits are more efficient to use in the colder seasons. Their slender, long bodies can wiggle through the cold water with a wide, slashing action. The small, rounded crankbaits are suitable for the warmer summer and spring seasons.

Similarities Between Jerkbaits and Crankbaits

Jerkbaits and crankbaits and similar to each other in that:

  • Both can be used to catch a wide range of fish, including bass and walleyes
  • Their design mimics the forage or bait that the target fish preys on
  • They both do not require extra tackle to get started
  • Can be used on a variety of water conditions and depths
  • Both have bills with some types within each category being lipless
  • They are both affordable and durable.
  • Both are great fishing accessories to have in your tackle box

Use the Right Rod and Rod Angle

Tips for Using Jerkbaits and Crankbaits Effectively When Fishing

Now that you know the main differences and similarities between jerkbaits and crankbaits, here are some tips to help you use them properly.

  1. Choose the right lure to use. Assess the weather conditions and water conditions to decide the most appropriate type of bait to use based on their descriptions and applications discussed above.
  2. Use a wide range of crankbaits and jerkbaits to lure the fish. While you might have had great success during a given trip using a given type of bait, it is good practice to keep trying out different baits. Keep in mind that water conditions and fish behavior change over time, and your need to change your luring strategies.
  3. Cast your bait correctly. For both jerkbait and crankbait, it is important that you throw the bait in an arc and then angle the rod accordingly. This gives you access to a longer casting distance to be able to scout a larger area. You then can go to a different area.
  4. Vary the depths you cast your bait into. The fish may be in shallow water, middle water, or deep water. Cast for the various depths to be able to establish where the fish is on the given day.
  5. Vary your retrieval speed accordingly. Use a faster retrieval on hot days and when the water is clear and calm, and slow down retrieval in cold, dirty water. This is because in clear water and hot weather, the fish metabolism is high, and they have more energy to strike and fight.
  6. Use a sturdy rod and crankbait reel. A good crankbait reel offers a steady and balanced movement whether you are casting the bait or retrieving it.
  7. Use the correct fishing line depending on the depth you are casting for. Monofilament and braided lines float, so they are ideal for shallow water casting while fluorocarbon lines sink, making them ideal for deep water use. Lines with a bit of stretch such as monofilament and fluorocarbon allow the fish adequate time to bite, while braid lines do not have a stretch and tend to pull the hook out of the fish’s mouth, leading to lost catches.

The question on most novice anglers’ minds is which is better between jerkbaits and crankbaits? The simple answer is none. Both bait designs are useful in fishing. Each has its place in fishing depending on the fishing conditions.

Ideally, you should have a large selection of each type in your tackle box. Some fishermen prefer to use both simultaneously to increase their chances of a good catch. The best way to find out which type of baits work best is to test a wide range from each category.