Choosing the Correct Crankbait for Cold Water Bass

One of the best times of the year to throw a crankbait is now. Using crankbaits in late fall and early winter will allow you to cover a large amount of water when you are searching for bass. Crankbaits provide water displacement and movement in target depths that fall and winter bass will be found and they best imitate the primary fall forage of bass such as baitfish and craw fish.

In most reservoirs, schooling shad will move to the back of the creek as the water begins to drop in temperature. The action of a crankbait they can be irresistible to bass as they wobble, wiggle and dart about ricocheting off structure and cover inciting frenzy in feeding bass. The trick is selecting the correct bait that will run at the correct depth in a color, size and shape that will match the forage of the waters that you are fishing.


Selecting a crankbait can be difficult, what color to use and at what depth can leave angles puzzled. Here are some crankbait selection tips that I have learned over time as well as a fall – winter selection chart that I have developed over time. Why should we let the pros have all the fun? With just a bit of knowledge and a slight change in presentation you too can be cranking some lunkers to the boat. The “stained water” in cold water can be a curse. Lethargic bass will not chase bait in cold water, especially when visibility is limited. As they say, never give up, your bait may just slap a bass on the face causing a reaction bite.

crankbait chart

Select a crankbait color based on the season, water temperature and by trying to match the color of the forage or bait fish the bass are feeding on. Refer to the chart below for suggestions I have listed. There are many manufactures and styles on the market, keep in mind that these are made to catch the angler as much as they are to catch bass. I have been guilty of buying lure because I liked the style or color, but remember it is the fish we are trying to attract.


Another point that anglers need to know is that the lure is designed to hit or bump objects. Which usually means the lure needs to make contact with the bottom. Always choose a crankbait that will run at least 6 inches deeper than the bottom or structure that you are fishing. You can vary the depth by the speed of your retrieve. Fast = Shallow, Slow = Deep. This allows the lure to hit bottom and structure. The erratic action that occurs and the clouded trail when the lure scratches the bottom or bumps something is the main characteristic that makes the crankbait attract bass. Slower cranking with a lighter sinking line will also make the lure run beyond its maximum depth.

You will want to take full advantage of the crankbait’s productivity, make long cast beyond the target where you think bass are holding this allows the lure to achieve maximum depth at the point where the bass are.


Anglers must also keep in mind that the size of the crankbait can be as important as the color and can make a difference of the size bass that will be attracted to the lure. Bass found on deep structure tend to be larger than bass found in shallow water. A good rule of thumb is to match the size as close as possible to the baitfish the bass are feeding on. When bass are feeding on schooling bait fish remember that they tend to attack the bait that falls behind or swims differently.

I hope these few tips can help you make the correct decision as to which crankbait to fish with in this cold water season. A simple truth is that big fish eat smaller fish, and a crankbait can imitate bait fish as well or better than any other lure in your tackle box.

Happy Fishing!

Recommended Videos

SHOT Show 2019: Browning T-Bolt Rimfire

Game & Fish Editor-in-Chief John Geiger highlights the Browning T-Bolt Rimfire at SHOT Show 2019 in Las Vegas.

SHOT Show 2019: Accumax Carbon Fiber Bipod

Game & Fish Editor-in-Chief John Geiger and Jarrod Grove of Caldwell discuss the features of the Accumax Carbon Fiber Bipod at SHOT Show 2019 in Las Vegas.

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.