Crankbaits, Wood or Plastic?: Which of the Two Options for Diving Baits Works Best?

The major difference in crankbaits is what they are made of, plastic or wood, and the choice of either is often very important. Each of the two choices have pros and cons and most good anglers will carry and use both to assure they are covered in any fishing situation.

Crankbaits Create Reaction Strikes

Most of the strikes elicited by crankbaits are reflex strikes. Much like throwing a ball close to a dog or cat, fish can’t resist the urge to grab the projectile, but since fish have no hands, they use their mouth to grab with and get hooked.

Crankbaits are most effective when fish are actively feeding, but the reflex action to strike a crankbait can be triggered by the deflection action of the bait when it strikes an object. In fact, most strikes occur when the bait strikes an object and quickly changes direction which fish detect as a fight or flight mode from a frightened or injured bait fish.

When To Use Plastic Lures

Plastic crankbaits are at their best in warm water situations. These baits have a built-in air bubble so they will float and often contain a rattle chamber as well to create sounds associated with bait fish. In warmer water situations the fast rising of a stopped crankbait often triggers the fish to attack the bait.

Professional bass anglers often use crankbaits as a locator lure. They can be fished fast and are capable of catching a quick limit of fish. One of the disadvantages of plastic crankbaits is they can be cracked or broken when cast against rock cover. This causes the air to escape from the chamber and renders the bait useless. Often, the paint gets scratched off after repeated use. Plastic crankbaits have been used to win several Bassmaster Classic events.

When To Use Wooden Crankbaits

Wood crankbaits also have their place in the fishing world and about fifty years ago were the only choice available.

Wood crankbaits really became the most popular selection in the 1980s when professional bass anglers, David Fritts and Rick Clunn, each won more than one Bassmaster Classic event and the BASS Angler of the Year Awards, using wooden baits. Clunn is quick to tell anyone that asks that wooden baits are a great choice especially in cooler water or when fish are sluggish. Fritts will tell you that he prefers wood baits because they hold their depth integrity much longer than a plastic lure, there is no air bubble to constantly cause the bait to rise toward the surface.

The action of a wooden bait is much more reserved than the quicker action of plastic baits. Wooden baits are slower to react when reeled in and being heavier tend to dive deeper than plastic baits. Many wooden baits are made of Balsa wood, but some anglers prefer Red Cedar wood for their crankbaits. It’s much more durable and paint seems to hold up better on Cedar wood. While the plastic diving lip may break off a wooden bait, they are still much less likely to break than a plastic unit.

Both wood and plastic crankbaits can reach a variety of depths depending on the diving lip design. Some baits are preset to fish two to four feet of water while others can reach deeper than twenty feet. With dozens of color choices available, it’s usually best to opt for bluegill, shad, crawfish or baby bass color schemes.


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