Best in water less than 10 feet deep, lipless crankbaits are a go-to option when the fish are shallow, combining enticing action with a vegetation-forgiving design.
But these excellent crankbaits demand a technique all their own, and if you’ve been fishing them with a steady retrieve, you’ve been missing much of what makes them so incredibly effective.
Do you know how to work a lipless crankbait? And have you ever wondered which options are the most effective?
Keep reading to find out!
Here’s a quick glance at the best lipless crankbaits:
- The Strike King Red Eye Shad
- The Rattlin’ Rapala
- The Rapala Rippin' Rap
- The Rat-L-Trap
- The Cotton Cordell Super Spot
Table of Contents
Lipless crankbaits 101: The basics
Rather than the lip common on most crankbaits, lipless crankbaits use their basic shape to create the hydrodynamics that force them to dive. Generally non-buoyant, they sink when given a chance, essentially creating a contrast to their more common cousins.
Take a close look at the picture above. You’ll notice the relatively wide, sloping nose on that lure; that’s the magic that creates the dive. But if you really study a lipless crankbait, you’ll also find some subtle details: the swell just behind the eye and a taper toward a narrow tail.
Those almost imperceptible design choices allow a lipless crankbait to wriggle with a tight side-to-side waggle, imitating the swimming style of cool-weather bait fish.
Some lipless crankbaits, called rattle-baits, add an internal chamber filled with tiny BBs. This creates a rattling vibration as they swim, adding an irresistible “come and get me” to an already excellent design.
Lipless crankbaits come standard with two treble hooks, fore and aft. As a result, hooksets are not usually an issue.
How to fish a lipless crankbait
The magic of a lipless crankbait won’t be apparent on a steady retrieve.
Instead, the idea is to run these lures just over the top of weed beds or rocks. When you feel the treble hooks bite vegetation or encounter the rough edge of a boulder, jerk the bait, let it fall for a second, and retrieve again.
Think of this as a “stick-rip-fall-run” cadence–also called a “yo-yo.”
You can also work these lures off the bottom, ripping them up, giving them a crank or two, and letting them fall again. This is especially effective on shallow flats, muddy bottoms, and along transition zones–points, drop-offs, humps–adjacent to deeper water.
The basic idea is to take advantage of the unique shape of lipless crankbaits, as well as their proclivity to sink. This vertical movement is key–and the more you make use of it, the more effective you’ll find your lure.
And a pro tip: if you find that your rear treble is hanging in the weeds too often, simply clip the offending single hook with a pair of pliers. Cut it back at the curve, and you won’t find hookups a problem–though it’ll now run much more weedless.
Color choice and size
The deeper the water, the less the light will penetrate.
Lipless crankbaits are probably at their best in cooler water, and for most species–especially bass and walleye–that means shallow.
That places a premium on color choice, as above 10 feet, there’s enough light for every hue to shine.
Two rules constrain color selection, and they’re well worth reviewing:
In clear(er) water, natural colors are the best option.
Clear water allows lots of light penetration and increases the range of vision for predatory fish. For anglers, this means “matching the hatch,” and you should throw lures that resemble common bait fish and prey items.
In murky or stained water, bright colors are an excellent choice.
Murky or stained water limits light penetration, and it limits the range of vision for predatory fish, as well. Under these conditions, natural colors won’t be easy to see, and you want your lure to stand out. It’s best, then, to choose hues like chartreuse, white, hot pink, etc.
“Match the hatch” isn’t limited to color choice. Indeed, it’s important to match the size of the prey items common in your location and season.
For instance, if the shad are running about 2 inches, and you’re throwing a 4 ½ inch shad crankbait, it’ll look unnatural–and less attractive–to bass and walleye.
To increase attraction and encourage strikes, keep your lures sized to the prey.
Best Lipless Crankbaits Reviewed
Sizes: ¼, ½, and ¾ ounces
The Strike King Red Eye Shad is one of my favorite lipless crankbaits, and on cold autumn mornings, it’ll produce strikes when nothing else will.
Available in three sizes and an incredible range of colors, these lures wriggle tightly and create just the right vibration to encourage strikes. Equipped with an internal rattle, it essentially rings the dinner bell for hungry bass and walleye.
Sizes: (4)1 ½, (5) 2, (7) 2 ¾, and (8) 3 ⅛ inches
The venerable Rattlin’ Rapala is a perennial favorite of anglers everywhere, and just one look can tell you why.
Offered in hyper-realistic patterns to match the hatch, as well as bright colors like “Silver Gold,” this Rapala is packed with BBs to provide incredible vibration and sound. An easy choice given its excellent action, these crankbaits deserve a place in everyone’s tackle bag.
Sizes: (5) 2, (6) 2 ½ , and (7) 2 ¾ inches
A taller body and unique design give the Rapala Rippin’ Rap a ferocious wiggle every time you jerk your rod tip, and for low-light in murky water, there are few alternatives that draw a strike as readily.
Available in a range of high-vis colors, the Rippin’ Rap is murder when visibility is low.
Sizes: ¾ ounce
Few anglers aren’t familiar with the legendary Rat-L-Trap. And if there’s a lipless crankbait that provides more effective vibration and sound, I’d like to know what it is!
Available in a wide range of colors, you can find everything from “Lectric Gold” to “Orange Crawdad,” providing just the right hue for any condition and appetite.
Sizes: 2 ½ and 3 inches
Last, but certainly not least, is the Cotton Cordell Super Spot, so named for the black spot adorning each lure, irrespective of color.
Offering an extra-tight wiggling action, this lure sends vibration and noise coursing through the water, and it’s a favorite choice for bass and walleye anglers across the US.
It’s hard to go wrong with this crankbait, especially if you’re looking for bright patterns.
Lipless crankbaits are a must for fishing bass and walleye in vegetation, and they’ve proven their incredible effectiveness time and time again.
We hope these tips and reviews have helped you pick the right lure for your applications, and we’d be excited to hear any success stories!
Please leave a comment below.