So say you’re new to fishing or new to crankbait fishing, at least. You Google the word “crankbait” and in 0.9 seconds, 8.1 million results pop up (that’s literally what will happen, I just did it). That’s a whole lot of information that can be quite intimidating. We live in an age where there’s honestly a little too much info out there. Fortunately here at Wired2fish, the information we publish gets shuffled to the top of the deck quite often, thanks to the continued support and readership of all of you.
This is a responsibility we take very seriously and an opportunity for which I am personally thankful— to have the chance to impart a little knowledge I’ve gained along the way to hopefully help a newcomer to the sport make sense of a lot of this info and shorten the learning curve a bit. That’s what we’re going to do today. In this piece, we’re going to take a look at 3 great crankbaits I believe are great for beginners.
These baits are easy to use and will catch fish right out of the gate, which makes them perfect for newcomers to cranking. But their consistency and fish-catching characteristics also ensure they’ll stay with you throughout your life. I’ve been on this planet for almost 35 years and fishing most of that time; these are 3 baits I’d still feel confident throwing today even as I’m becoming quite seasoned, as is evidenced by the salt-and-pepper in my beard to which my nieces keep referring. But that’s a whole other story. Let’s get through this one first.
Bill Lewis SB-57
The SB-57 from Bill Lewis lands firmly in the squarebill category. There are a lot of great squarebills out there. I am personally a big fan of a few of those as well. The Bandit 100 and Strike King 1.5 are quick to come to mind. Both great crankbaits and I’m not suggesting the SB-57 is necessarily superior to them, moreover it’s a great squarebill for beginners in particular. Let me explain why.
The SB-57 is a rugged bait, which is an important characteristic for anglers new to squarebill fishing. You’ll want to get a squarebill up and in some pretty nasty cover. Riprap, rock, laydowns, docks and other hard cover all make for great squarebilling. But baits are bound to collide with that cover pretty hard at times, even for folks who have been fishing this way for years. An errant cast or the wind changes mid-cast and boom, your bait shatters against a rock. So using a durable bait is especially important as you’re learning to get a bait as close to cover as possible without hitting the cover.
The SB-57 has a circuit board bill which is not unique to this one particular squarebill but is pretty rare across the genre. This bill is extremely durable. The body also has a honeycomb structure inside of it that makes it particularly durable as well. I’ve fished with this bait for a few years now since it came out and it’s an extremely effective squarebill I’d throw even if it was prone to breaking. But the effectiveness and the durability on top of that make it one of the best crankbaits out there for beginners.
Team ARK MiniDiver
The Team ARK MiniDiver is likely my favorite crankbait of all for beginners for two reasons: This bait gets tons of bites (by all kinds of fish) and it is also very easy to throw for its size. There are other small crankbaits out there that also get bit, but many of them are so light that they’re nearly impossible to cast. ARK incorporated a magnetic weight transfer system into this little nugget to help overcome that major issue we see in other baits its size.
A magnetic weight transfer system consists of a chamber in the bait, a spherical metal weight that rolls through that chamber and a magnet that holds it in place. At less than 2 inches long, it’s quite impressive that the lure manufacturer was even able to put a system like this in place. But the benefit of it is huge. As you go to cast, you can actually hear the weight dislodge from the magnet near the front of the bait and click as it rolls back and loads up in the tail. Having the weight in the tail now, the bait is aerodynamic and soars through the air as you cast it.
This system allows you to cast the MiniDiver I’d say twice as far as some of the other crankbaits its size. And as important as that is, if the bait doesn’t get bit, then you’ve really just got a bait on your hands that you get to reel twice as far. Fortunately, this thing is a piece of candy to a bass; about like putting a cheese puff in front of me which, let me tell you, is fairly effective.
I was introduced to this bait by Elite Series pro Clent Davis and he affectionally refers to the MiniDiver as “Auto-bass”, meaning it’s just about always going to get a bite. I can attest to its effectiveness now myself. One of the best things for beginners is just to get a few bites, even if they aren’t all bass. That’s how you build confidence in a bait and stay interested in fishing. This bait does that the best of any moving bait I’ve ever fished with.
Strike King Series 5XD
It’s impossible to know this for a fact, but if I had to guess which deep-diving crankbait was responsible for the most fish catches of all time, I’d guess it would come down to either the Strike King 5XD or its slightly bigger brother, the Strike King 6XD. Both of these baits were made popular by the relentless dominance of Kevin VanDam around the time they came out. I wouldn’t be surprised if KVD has caught half the fish that have ever swam by now and a large portion of those came on a 5 or 6XD.
But I chose the 5XD instead of the 6XD for this piece because I believe it to be a little more versatile, especially for newcomers to cranking. Many of you will be fishing from the bank, which limits the necessity of both of these baits. But even if you can push off into a pond with a boat or get out on the big water, a 5XD is still way more likely to suit the style fishery you’ll find yourself on. Even for my personal fishing, I use a 5XD much more than a 6XD, relegating it to the occasional ledge fishing trip.
The 5XD, again, simply gets bit. That’s the main feature that makes it great for any angler including new crankers. But this bait is also really consistent. It runs true straight out of the pack, most of the time. I do occasionally have to tune one of these crankbaits to get it to run true, or dive straight. But most of the time, it’s a tie it on and sling it out deal. The XD refers to the bill design which causes this bait (and others in the XD lineup) to dive extra deep for its body size. This is one of the factors that helps this bait get more bites in my opinion.
I selected these 3 baits in particular because they are all effective at getting bit and easy to use for newcomers to crankbait fishing. The SB-57 having the added benefit of durability, the MiniDiver excelling in castability and the 5XD making its biggest contribution in versatility. These 3 baits give an angler a crankbait option for targeting fish from 1 foot of water down to about 15 feet. If you can enter into the cranking world and get good at targeting fish in that strike zone, you’ve mastered 85% of crankbait fishing.
Another thing these baits have in common? They’re all fairly affordable. The MiniDiver is the winner here, coming in at only $4.99. The Series 5XD is a touch more at $6.79 and the Bill Lewis SB-57 comes in at $8.99. All great investments in my opinion for newcomers to cranking as well as those who have been cranking for a while for that matter, who might just be looking to boost their crankbait game a bit by finding a bait better suited to a particular depth range. Whatever the case may be, these three baits are great choices to add to your cranking arsenal.