9 Characteristics of Crankbaits


The vast variety of crankbaits on the market is mind-boggling; there are hundreds of styles available, and literally thousands of different color and size combinations for anglers to choose from. The seemingly infinite number of crankbait options presents a dilemma for anglers who use them when fishing for bass and

other species. How do you select a lure that will catch the most fish? Are there certain conditions when one crankbait is preferred over another? When are big crankbaits more appropriate? Small ones? How does one choose the best color? Is a floating bait best or one that dives deep? Should it be cranked fast or slow?

There are no pat answers to these questions. But don’t fret. Help is available from “The Doctor of Diving Plugs,” Joe Hughes of Mount Ida, Arkansas. Hughes has worked hand-in-hand with numerous lure designers and fishing professionals to help develop fishing lures for major companies such as Rebel, Cotton Cordell, Heddon and Bomber. His knowledge of crankbaits and crankbait fishing is unexcelled.

“I sat down one day and tried to determine what makes crankbaits perform the way they do under various conditions,” Hughes says. “The word ‘characteristic’ kept popping up. It has a characteristic of sinking, a characteristic of high buoyancy, a characteristic of the depth it attains. I put these on paper and came up with nine basic characteristics.”


Color is the characteristic anglers probably give the most consideration when selecting a crankbait.

“Color, as a characteristic of fishing lures, got a great boost from research conducted by Dr. Loren Hill (developer of the Color-C-Lector),” says Hughes. “There are colors anglers find very productive that most would never have tied on had it not been for the impact of the Color-C-Lector. The color gray, for instance, is a color that doesn’t sell well. But, it’s a great fish-catcher. Gray, according to Loren’s research, was the number one color overall. It wasn’t always the most visible to bass, but it was always one of the most visible under various conditions. The fact that gray catches fish makes sense when you consider that most forage fish are some shade of gray.”

According to Hill’s research, red also is a top color.“Red signifies blood or circulation, like something that can be easily captured because it’s injured,” says Hughes. “Red has reproductive connotations, too. To show how important it is to anglers, consider this example. Several years ago, someone at a major lure manufacturer I worked for said, look, if we don’t paint these little red mouths on our minnow plugs, we can save a lot of money. So we quit doing it. The consumers came out of their skulls! We got dozens of letters saying, ‘What happened to the red mouth? These baits don’t produce as well.’ So we went back to putting red on our lures. You’ll notice that many lures have a red gill, throat or belly. It’s not there for decoration; it’s there because fishermen said the baits don’t work as well without it.”


Though Hughes includes scent as the final characteristic on his list, he says this one has little importance when fishing crankbaits for bass.

“Bass have a poor sense of smell,” he says. “When fishing crankbaits for trout and walleye, scents may have some use, but to a large extent, they’re unnecessary for bass fishing.”

Hughes developed his list of crankbait characteristics only after a great deal of thought and research.

“It was a process of many years fishing various crankbaits and trying to learn more about them.” he says. “Now when someone asks, ‘How does that lure catch fish?’ I can talk about the specific characteristics that make it work.”

Don’t get bewildered by the many varieties of crankbaits available today. When making a purchase, or when selecting a crankbait to fish with, take Joe Hughes’ list of crankbait characteristics and give them some thought. You’ll find you’ve put an end to crankbait confusion.