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Crankbaits & Twitchbaits

Crankbaits & Twitchbaits
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Crankbaits and Twitchbaits, popularly called wobblers (in England – “plugs”) is without any doubt the simplest in use and therefore the biggest and the most popular family of artificial lures . The feature that distinguishes this family is a lip, usually made of plastic, placed in a front part of the lure. It induces characteristic wobbling action and allows the lure to dive to the right depth.

The division into crankbaits and twitchbaits was done a long time ago in the USA. These sub-families are very similar to each other and the division between them is in many cases rather conventional. Crankbaits have a relatively big lip in relation to their short compact shape, whereas twitchbaits are long and slim and their lip – rather small.

The awareness as to what type of lure we fish with is very important. The optimal fishing method is rendered in the lure’s name. Crankbait’s action is very strong and can be felt very well at the rod. For this reason just retrieving the lure monotonously is enough, so called cranking, is enough to create a strong acoustic wave that attracts the predator.

Classic twitchbaits work in a more delicate way. But only retrieved with a proper technique – “twitching”, twitchbaits show their full power. The wobbler jumps to the right and to the left, alluringly flashing with its sides. There are not many predators which could ignore such an invitation to a snack!

The big family of wobblers can be divided into a few smaller groups characterized with similar features. There are three main criteria of division:


  •  body construction
  •  lip construction
  • Buoyancy

There are three versions of wobblers – floating, constituting the biggest group, sinking and suspending. Each of these groups can be applied in specific places and situations.

Floating models are the most numerous as they are the most universal and therefore often the most effective. The most natural places for using these wobblers are shallows of all types. However, vast diversity of floating wobblers allows to choose an optimal model for most fishing situations. They can also be used effectively for fishing at large depths, applying one of many ballast systems.

Large displacement of these lures makes their action extremely vivid and energetic. This is the kind of action that can be felt very well at the rod. Regardless of the applied fishing method, one can easily feel all the disturbances of the lure’s work and react quickly both to snags and a contact with fish.

Sinking wobblers are usually used in deeper places. Theoretically, they can be fished with at any depths. It should be remembered though that they sink relatively slower than, for example, spoons or heavy jigs. Moreover, fishing with a small model at a depth of a dozen meters, we are not able to react quickly enough when the fish strikes. Of course, these problems concern classic spinning. In case of trolling control over even a small lure is much bigger.

If we are “dealing” with fish which for some reasons are not very active in their preying, which are undecided, follow the lure but do not want to strike, then suspending wobblers are irreplaceable. When they have dived they do not go to the surface or sink. Thanks to precise balance they “hang” in the water as if inviting to a feast.

Talking of wobblers division in terms of buoyancy, it should be mentioned that the most “vivid” are, of course, floating models. The heavier the body, the more difficult it is to induce aggressive action. Yet, large leaning amplitude of the lure is not always the key to success. Many anglers judge wobblers by intensity of their action. Experienced spinning anglers claim that in case of some species the most effective is a very narrow action of the lure. All the lures for asps may serve as a good example. The best wobblers to catch this predator, even retrieved at a considerable speed, only slightly shimmer. This is the type of action that asps like the most. Most pike hunters think that the wobblers with aggressive action are the most effective. Very few of them realize that sometimes the lure that barely wobbles proves to be much more effective.

Suspending models are the lures for special assignments. They usually belong to twitchbaits. Guided with leaps of various lengths, they can be lethal. Every leap of the lure, first long then short should be ended with a pause. Usually strikes take place at this very moment. If we loose our concentration and let the line be loose, we may not even notice that we have just missed a bite.

Body construction

In shops we may find wobblers of various shapes. We already know how to distinguish crankbaits from twitchbaits. In both these groups apart from one-part models there are also jointed ones – consisting of two or three parts. However, not everybody knows that such lures were already in use many years ago. As early as the beginning of the previous century the American manufacturers introduced jointed wobblers to the market. Quickly it turned out that it will not be a hit. Yet, just like in other trades, also in our favourite trade fashion comes back once in a while. And so, in recent years we can find more and more lures of this kind in the world manufacturers’ offer. They try to outdo one another in adding more elements to their wobblers. Japanese companies like e.g. Lucky Craft mastered it to perfection. The wobbler produced by this company, called “Pointer” delights with precision of workmanship and its natural look. But is the number of the lure’s elements proportional to its effectiveness? Anglers themselves will have to answer this question.

Two-part wobblers have much bigger leaning altitude and vibration frequency. We can feel their action much better than of similar single- or multi-part models. Such aggressive action often turns out to be irreplaceable. Especially, when fish prey less actively. The more parts the lure has the less aggressive its action; it moves on a wide sine curve.

Lip construction

The most important feature that distinguishes wobblers is a lip construction. The lip’s size and shape, its angle to the body axis and location of the ring for attaching the line are the features that decide about the lure’s fishing value.

Firstly: the size of the lip – the more its attacking surface is the more aggressive action we get. In extreme cases, if the lip is almost microscopic, leaning amplitude of the lure is so small that it is practically invisible for our eyes.

Secondly: the attack angle (in relation to the longitudinal axis). The smaller the angle the deeper the lure dives. At the same time, when reducing the angle, the wobbler’s action is changing: its vibration frequency increases but its leaning amplitude drops. In extreme cases (a narrow lip at a small angle) the lure stops moving on a sine curve. It only wobbles sideways along the longitudinal axis.

Moving the ring from the lure’s body to the lip results in creating a deep-diving wobbler. The front ring’s location depends on the body’s shape and balance. In general, there are two versions: Deep Runner – with a shorter lip and Super Deep Runner – the lure which, thanks to its long lip, can dive down to a few meters.

Another type of wobblers that can be found on the market are wobblers with a metal lip. These are usually sinking wobblers intended mainly for trolling. When cast they tend to turn with their lip towards the cast direction and that is why they often get tangled up. Still, with a bit of practise, one may fish with a casting method even the depths reaching down to more than 10 meters. They provide sufficient degree of control as they are heavy and they put up considerable resistance while being retrieved.


Basic techniques of fishing with crankbaits

As it has already been mentioned, crankbaits are very popular due to the fact that they are easy to “operate”. In many cases it is enough to spin the reel and the lure creates so much commotion that sooner or later something swallows it. But even in such cases it is good to use a few simple techniques that will increase the number of strikes.

Here, the whole secret lies in presenting the lure with a variable speed. It includes, on the one hand, acceleration induced with both the rod and the reel and, on the other hand, long pauses, in result of which the wobbler goes to the surface (a floating version) or drops to the bottom (a sinking version).

Fishing technique for floating crankbait.

In case of each technique the key issue is a perfect control of the line tension. It relates particularly to the pause, during which most strikes take place. Fishing with floating wobblers in shallow weedy places is very effective and exciting. It is possible to fish easily and effectively with floating lures presenting them even on the water surface if necessary. We can achieve great results by leaving the wobbler alone on the surface for some time after emerging. Most predators can “collect” it like a trout going for a dry fly. And we should not be afraid of big lures. A big lure, skilfully presented just under or even on the surface can lure a real trophy fish out of dense vegetation and provoke it to perform the attack that we will remember for a long time!

In rivers, both big and small, floating wobblers are invaluable when floated with the current to the places that cannot be reached with a cast. On the “trout” streams these are, for example, overhangs under tree-covered banks or long straight sections without trees. In such places fish are extremely cautious and even approaching them carefully “from the tail side” often results in their immediate escape. The best way to outsmart them is to float our wobbler down the river and then slowly retrieve it, making short pauses. On a big river, the perfect place to try out this technique is, for example, the groyne tip, from where we may guide even the smallest lure into the predator’s distant fishery.

Wobblers Super Deep Runner deserve a few words here. For their exceptional abilities to dive very deep, they are used mainly in trolling.

Casting these lures, especially if the strong wind is blowing, can be quite tiring. Due to their big lip they have a tendency to spin in the air and their hooks often catch on the line. Of course, one may try to cast with only the wind. One may also control the line falling from the spool so that it the lure went with the “tail” to the front. But we do not recommend this type of wobbles for long casts. It is different with short casts, for example, on a small “trout” river. Here, SDR wobbler shows its best. Due to their specific construction – a long lip and a body positioned at a large angle to the river bed, the lures of this type can avoid snags with exceptional efficiency. With some of them one can practically “get away” with fishing among the trees knocked down to the water. In places where other lures immediately catch on the first underwater obstacle, our SDR steals across magically! The explanation is simple: when the wobbler’s lip comes across an obstacle it works like a pole in pole vault – it carries its hooks over the obstacle, avoiding snags. Some wobblers of SDR type mastered it to perfection. Salmo Bullhead SDR, for example, allowed to catch many trophy trout which had managed to avoid anglers before as they had lived in places out of reach for classic lures.

In case of sinking wobblers, during the breaks in reeling in the line the lures goes towards the bottom. Fish usually strike when the lure “starts”. It is good to let our lure go to the very bottom. Particularly when fishing for perch and zander, sudden lifting the wobbler from the bottom, which also lifts some ooze, is an old and effective trick.

Fishing technique for sinking crankbait.

In lakes, perfect places for trying sinking wobblers are steep bottom drops and edges of underwater hills whereas in rivers these are places where the current is strong and deeply washes out the banks – especially when guiding the lure “downstream”. In such a place, after the cast we let the current take the lure, controlling only the line tension. It is enough to jerk it delicately to put some “life” in it. All the trout hunters are well familiar with this technique which let outsmart one or two speckled trophies.

We will also achieve great results fishing with sinking wobblers in places where knocked down trees lie. Sinking wobblers are perfect for guiding them into dark holes under the obstacles, which are often hideouts for large predators.

We fish with twitchbaits

Most twitchbaits are floating or suspending lures. They are usually used for fishing at small depths (0.5 – 4 m). Of course, trolling is an exception. Here, these lures have been very popular for fishing the salmonidae fish both in salty and fresh waters. Species like trout, seatrout and salmon are fished mainly with typical twitchbaits of light shimmering action, guided on a loose line and with additional weight.

Generally, twitchbaits are used mainly in classic spinning. The very name of this group suggests the best fishing technique. “Twitching” is a synchronized work of the rod and the reel consisting in guiding the lure with leaps of a various length. Typical twitchbaits are balanced in such a way that every jerk results in the lure jumping to the right or to the left. In case of stronger jerks, apart from the “jump” twitchbaits also leans to the side. In this way we can make twitchbaits with slightly bigger lip go to the surface. It perfectly imitates behaviour of a frightened prey. Predators usually attack precisely at the moment of such “escape” to the surface. The view of a big predator reaching and swallowing a twitchbait just under the surface stays in one’s memory for a long time!

In principle we fish at three paces – longer or shorter pull with the rod tip – reeling in the backlash with simultaneous return of the rod tip to the starting position and, at last, a pause. The pause’s length depends on a few factors. The most important is the type of the lure we fish with (floating or suspending), the depth of a fishery and the fish’s activity. If you find optimal action for your twitchbait for a given day and place, you will be astonished by its effectiveness. The position of the rod tip during the pause in reeling in the line is very important. In practice, the rod and the line should be in one line at this moment. You can be pretty sure that if you allow yourself to relax and loose concentration during the pause even for a brief moment, your potential trophy fish will choose this very moment to try your lure! It often turns out that it is impossible to jerk effectively with a loose line and a rod leaned backwards.

Although, as I already mentioned, wobblers are the lures which are very easy to use, it is worthwhile working on one’s fishing techniques, adjusting both the lure model and the fishing method to the situation on a fishery and the way the fish response to our efforts on a given day. Only a thinking angler, who learns from his/her failures and analyzes reasons of success, stands a chance to fish bigger and more fish than the rest of “rod” competitors.

Piotr Piskorski

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