Tackle Reviews

Best Flat-Sided Crankbaits for Bass

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Crankbaits are effective lures for bass fishing and they are somewhat akin to wrenches in a tool box. Just because you have a wrench doesn’t mean it will be the right one for every job. Certain wrenches fit certain nuts and bolts and even adjustable ones, certain ones are better for certain jobs. So knowing the what, when and where of flat-side crankbaits and some of the best options will help you make good choices in your bass fishing. 

There are lots of flat-sided crankbaits on the market and there has been an explosion in the last few decades of home-builders and small scale hand-crafters that make some mighty fine and impressive crankbaits by hand. It’s hard to get your hands on a lot of those so for our purposes we’ve tried to stick with the flat side crankbaits readily available to the public.

We’ve tested a long history of flat sides and have talked to some of the finest crankbait makers that have ever carved a bait to understand what makes flat sides special.

What is a flat-sided crankbait

While there is a great bit of variation and even debate on what constitutes a flat-side crankbait. Some believe it’s a flat profile and some believe it’s any bait that has a flat side on it. For our purpose it will be crankbaits with a thin profile as opposed to a round profile. We’ll explain why that matters. But for the most part a flat side crankbait is going to have a tighter wiggle as opposed to a wider wobble. 

But part of the reason we are including a bunch of flat sides this season is because not one of them swims exactly like the other and that’s where we come in. You may have a specific thing you are looking for in a flat side. And without being able to test them all you have to make your best guess on which one will do what you hope it will do. 

In a few decades of shallow cranking flat sides there are things that matter and should be considered. Those include but are not limited to the following:

  • Action
  • Castability
  • Durability
  • Buoyancy
  • Bill construction
  • Hardware
  • Color options

While different flat sides are good at some of these things they may not be good at others or they may be the best at certain things. So we took it to heart to try to identify that for you in each crankbait so you can make informed decisions on flat side purchases and where to fish them. The old flat sides of yesteryear didn’t have great paint jobs and weren’t very durable. Making baits out of balsa with flimsy plastic lips lead to more wear and tear. 

But today’s flat side boast much better paint jobs, swimming actions, durable lips and hardware and multiple modified buoyancy rates in much more castable versions of the crankbaits from years ago. 

Why to choose a flat side for fishing

The real advantage to flat sides is they generally have a small profile with a very natural subtle wiggle that is often most appealing in colder waters or in ultra clear waters where fish might be more leery or conditioned to obtuse actions. When you want something to natural enter a fish’s strike zone and act very naturally, you’re going to want a flat side. They also excel at fishing in ultra shallow water like shallow banks in the spring and fall as well as major flats where other crankbaits might be to aggressive.

I love flat sides on rocky banks in the prespawn. It’s a staple way I have fished for two decades and it’s proven time and time again to be one of the best ways to get big bass to trigger in those colder waters. 

It’s equally exceptional in the fall when bass are chasing young shad up into the shallows of major creeks prior to the water getting cold and the bass and bait moving back deep for the winter. A flat side mimics a small shad very well in this scenario.

When should you fish flat-sided crankbaits

I love flat sides on rocky banks in the prespawn. It’s a staple way I have fished for three decades, and it’s proven time and time again to be one of the best ways to get big bass to trigger in those colder waters. 

It’s equally exceptional in the fall when bass are chasing young shad up into the shallows of major creeks prior to the water getting cold and the bass and bait moving back deep for the winter. A flat side mimics a small shad very well in this scenario.

In the spring I really like craw colors and colors in between crawfish and shad that can pass for both in dingy dirty water which you find a lot in the early prespawn spring period. In the fall I really like shad colors best but will still go a little different than all the baitfish in the lake because the lake can be very dense with an abundance of baitfish and you need to stand out a little.

Best Flat-sided crankbaits

The best of anything in fishing is obviously subjective as we all fish just a bit different than one another. But we’ve tried to be objective in measuring each baits buoyancy, castability, wobble/wiggle, deflection, durability and overall fishability. While we’ve included most of our favorites, we may add to this rundown as new crankbaits become available. I know of a couple that were just released that we haven’t quite got our hands on yet. 

Here is a quick rundown of our picks for the Best Flat-Sided Crankbaits for Bass in 2022.

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Rapala Ott’s Garage Tiny 4 Crank

While some will look at this and think it’s just the baby brother of the Ott’s Garage Slim 06, they are VERY different crankbaits. The swim, castability and fishability of this diminutive flat side is very impressive. It swims so nice and casts so nice, it’s very easy to target cast. You can land it in the last inch of water before you hit the bank and start your retrieve and catch those fish others miss casting 3 feet off the bank. 

I have been most impressed by the fact that whatever is swimming near it will bite it. I’ve caught so many different species on this crankbait and fully believe it’s because the fish really believe it’s alive. That fish attracting quality should not be over looked. While I know every crankbait on this list will catch bass, this is going to be thrown a lot by me. 

There is just something very good about this bait that gives me a lot of confidence when I’m cranking it. I caught nice largemouth, quality smallmouth, big crappie, white bass, yellow bass, and even bluegill on it this spring. Even the day I was comparing all the swims, I could not keep the yellow bass off of it. It’s just wild how fish attracting it is. This slow riser stays in the zone a while and the fish love it on a pause.

The OG Tiny 4 comes in 19 colors, weighs 5 1/6 ounce and measures 2 1/4 inches in length for $8.99. I’m telling you it’s money well spent. You can buy it here. 

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Strike King Chick Magnet / Jr.

The Chick Magnet sought to marry together old East Tennessee crankbait building in a mass produced bait everyone could find. Andy Morgan has been throwing custom flat sides for decades and wanted to bring some of his contacts and experience to bear to build a good throwing, tight wobbling crankbait that would catch bigger than average bass in tough conditions. 

The Chick Magnet and it’s newest little brother the Jr. both throw really well. You can hit very precise targets, put the crankbait right on the bank or rip rap or up next to a piece of wood or patch of grass and the bait has a medium-tight wiggle, has a medium slow rise and deflects well off of cover. It also clears really well if it gets grass on it. So it’s a good fishing crankbait that you can cast on just about any decent cranking setup. 

You can find these on sale now here. 

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Berkley Frittside

Most of the time when you’re talking about flat sides, you’re talking about balsa wood crankbaits and fishing slow with tight wiggles. While the Frittside has a tight wiggle. It excels fishing at high speeds and maintains a proper balance and leveling at faster speeds than most flat sides thanks to the slight rounding shape. 

While it’s a plastic crankbait, it does have balsa properties to it. With its tight wiggle, flatter running profile and good castability, the Frittside also benefits from being plastic with things like unique holographic and translucent colors, better weight transfer and faster fishability. And at $7-$8 depending on size, it’s a solid option for a lot of bass fishing scenarios.

You can buy it here. 

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Shimano Macbeth Flat Crank

The Macbeth Flat is one heck of a new introduction to flat side crankbaits. Shimano just launched it’s new line of crankbaits this year, and the Macbeth Flat has already sold through a couple times. The colors are great, the design is phenomenal and the swim is unexpected. 

This bait has a bigger tail kick than most of the flat sides on the list and I’m really anxious to get this in cold dirty water next prespawn because I think it’s going to shine in those conditions. It weighs 3/8 ounce at only 2 1/4 inches in length. Because of its Jet Boost technology it shifts and stays in balance on the cast giving it a much great distance and accuracy than most small crankbaits. The tight action is accented by the tail flick. 

The Macbeth Flat features premium hardware and hooks and tuned perfectly right out of the box. It’s a medium slow riser and thumps so nice on a medium slow to slow retrieve. You will love this on your favorite 7-foot or 6-foot, 10-inch medium light cranking rod. 

You can buy it here. 

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Black Label Balsa Hickster

At Just 2 1/4 inches and 5/16 ounce, the Hickster is a small profile with a tight wiggle that actually hunts if you speed up to a medium retrieve. The bait is very well balanced, throws well for it’s small size and weight and has 8 beautiful hand-painted colors. It’s a slow rising buoyancy and it really shines at slow speeds in cold water. 

I call baits like this one “sneaky getters.” I think these types of crankbaits have a way of quietly getting into a bass’s strike zone and then getting the fish to react. It has a rounded circuit board lip with the line tie in the lip and can take a lot of grinding on rocks. It’s on sale right now at TW. 

 

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Water Wood Cute Pig SMS Crankbait

I’ve just gotten familiar with this crankbait company this year and I’ve already been exceptionally impressed with how refined and fishable these crankbaits are. They are made from a very unique Marupá Pedra wood from the Amazon Rainforest. It’s basically impenetrable by water. It makes the bait extremely castable even at 9/32 ounce (a little over a 1/4 ounce) and 2 inches in length.

The baits feature an impressively durable matte finish and prominent eyes and the highest quality hardware you will find in a shallow crankbait. The Cute Pig is offered in both shallow and deep models in their flat side lineup. The shallow dives to 2 foot and the deep will hit 4-5 feet. 

These baits are refined, beautiful and fishy. You can find them for sale here

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PH Custom Lures GULPH Flat Crank

A really natural swimmer, the GULPH is a throwback to the original Gulp crankbait that had a cult following in the 1980s and caught a ton of bass with is super tight natural swim. Phil Hunt is a master craftsman when it comes to making crankbaits do very specific things, and this is another in his lineup that has a proven action updated with better more durable tournament hardware and custom airbrushed paint jobs not found elsewhere. 

The GULPH weights 7/16 ounce and measures 2 5/8 inches. It throws well and features a high quality Lexan lip with a direct line tie on the nose of the hard bait. But it has a truly unique swim that just gets bit. This will become a staple for serious shallow crankers we predict. You can find it here for $24.99.

 

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Bagley’s Flat Balsa B

The Bailey’s Flat Balsa B is one of the larger flat sides that is offered this season. It’s highly buoyant so it backs out of cover really well. It throws good and has a tight swim wiggle with decent deflection thanks to it’s square bill lip. It comes in good colors and has an average durability. At 2 3/4 inches and 3/8 ounce, it’s again one of the larger offerings in flat sides.

You can find them here.

 

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Yo-Zuri 3DR X Flat Crank

Another new comer later this fall, the Yo-Zuri 3DR-X Flat offers another plastic flat side for anglers with a taller profile than most but still in a small 2 1/8 inch package. It weighs 3/8 ounce and dives 3-4 feet. We looked at it at ICAST and it seems like it will be a good crank. We’ll update once we have more details from on the water with it in the coming weeks and months. But certainly one to watch given the success we’ve had with their other crankbaits at that extremely affordable $7.99 price.

Check them out here.

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Team Ark Elite Z-Flat Flatside C

The Team Ark Elite Z-Flat flat-side crankbait features a tight wiggle at slower to medium speeds. It has a weight transfer system that makes this small crankbait very easy to cast on target and long distance. The wiggle is tight and the buoancy is pretty neutral with a slight rise.

Buy Here

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SPRO Outsider Crank SR55

This was announced at ICAST and we checked out the crankbaits there. So right now this is just a preview. But based on the thousands of bass we have caught on the original Little John line from SPRO, we believe these will also be fish getters. These flat sides are unique in that the weight is actually on the outside of the bait just below the front hook. It makes the bait extremely castable and stable when grinding on shallow bottoms in the prespawn and fall. 

The bait measures 2 3/16 inches long and 3/8 ounce and dives 3 to 4 feet. So it will be a hunting, sneak fish getter like the original Little John crankbaits albeit at an $18.75-21.75 price point depending on paint job. 

You will be able to order them here.

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