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Crankbaits and jerkbaits are both hard plastic baits that anglers use when targeting such fish species as bass and walleyes. Both are meant to mimic forage that fish naturally eat, and both dive under the surface when reeled in. The two baits have several key differences that influence when fishermen should use one or the other.
Jerkbaits have a long, slender body. Crankbaits generally have a shorter, fatter body. Many jerkbaits have three treble hooks, but most crankbaits have only two treble hooks.
Both crankbaits and jerkbaits have bills, which allow them to dive and wiggle when retrieved. A bill on jerkbait is much smaller than a crankbait's bill. Whereas the bill on a crankbait generally is wide and long, allowing it to dive to depths of 15 feet or more, the bill on a jerkbait may be no larger than a fingernail. Anglers tie the line directly to the jerkbait itself, but the ring used to connect line to a crankbait is usually on its bill.
Jerkbaits, by virtue of their small bills, perform best in shallow water or in the upper portions of deep water. They rarely dive more than about 5 feet. Crankbaits, on the other hand, are especially effective when retrieved right along the bottom. Anglers should choose a crankbait that dives slightly deeper than the water's depth. Crankbaits capable of diving 25 feet or deeper are available.
For the most part, fishing with crankbaits is a matter of casting them out and reeling them in so they make contact with the bottom. Anglers can cast and retrieve jerkbaits, but they generally are more successful if they impart some action on the bait. A good technique is to cast the jerkbait out, jerk your rod tip so the bait travels 2 or 3 feet in the water, reel in the slack line, and jerk it again. The retrieve causes the jerkbait to dive and dart erratically, which is key to triggering a strike.
Larry Anderson has been a freelance writer since 2000. He has covered a wide variety of topics, from golf and baseball to hunting and fishing. His work has appeared in numerous print and online publications, including "Fargo Forum" newspaper. Anderson holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from Concordia College.