Essential Lures - 3

Crankbaits and The Definitive List

Whenever out in a boat it is worth carrying a fair selection of lures that will double up for trolling as well as casting. Crankbaits are the most obvious choice, although these days they probably get used more for trolling than casting having fallen from favour as jerkbaits and soft plastics have become so popular. Nonetheless, you should never neglect crankbaits for casting, especially floating ones for fishing in depths of twelve feet or less, maybe as deep as fifteen in clearer water.

While it's true that many jerkbaits duplicate others, this is even more so when it comes to crankbaits. I have far too many lipped baits - especially minnowbaits. I have to admit that when it comes to minnowbaits I do appreciate the subtle difference in actions and densities of similar lures from different manufacturers. Even so there are some that I find are more useful than others.

The Bomber Long A and the now discontinued Magnum Hellcat are two plastic minnowbaits that compliment each other nicely. The Bomber is a fairly dense lure, which gives it a slower rise when twitched than the Hellcat; it will also dive a little deeper when repeatedly twitched. The jointed Long A is one of the few jointed baits, of any description, that I have any time for as it works well when cranked straight back and when trolled. The Hellcat is more buoyant than the Bomber but not as buoyant as some similar looking minnows, such as the Cordell Redfin, so it can still be worked at more sensible speeds and will crank quite nicely, which is not something that can be said of a number of minnows I have tried.

When it comes to wooden minnows the one I like best is the Bagley's Bang O Minnow. I think this is another discontinued lure, so I'll be keeping all the ones I have - even though I haven't used them much. Again these are great twitchbaits with a slow rise. I guess the reduced buoyancy is a result of their laminated construction of balsa either side of a harder wood centre. Like all wooden lures, though, the finish is prone to damage so they need constant attention and repair. But the action makes them worth the effort.

I have two lipped baits that are pretty unusual in that they can be twitched and cranked just below the surface. Not an everyday requirement in a crankbait, but sometimes essential. I think I am right in saying that neither of these lures is currently in production. They are the Magna Strike Predator and the Gudebrod Maverick. The Maverick probably gets the vote as essential because it has a solid plastic body and casts like a bullet. While the Predator's hollow plastic body is prone to leakage. Both score well when speed cranked a foot or less under the surface. The Predator trolls about six feet down if my memory serves me right, but I have yet to try the Maverick. I do know I can get it down four or five feet by repeatedly, and violently, twitching it.

Shallow to medium diving crankbaits, if I am honest about this, are largely much of a muchness. The old Magna Strike Equalizer, Abu Hi-Lo and Creek Chub Pikie in the six inch size all fulfil pretty much the same role. I'm hard pressed to say which I find most useful of these three. The Equalizer probably casts and twitches best, the Hi-Lo has an adjustable lip that has some use (although I mainly leave it on one setting), and the Pikie is a classic lure. I'd probably opt for the Equalizer if pressed, but for anyone who has none of these lures I'd recommend the Pikie, simply because it is most readily available (it also comes in a jointed version) and because the newer Hi-Los don't seem as well made as the older ones.

Like the Magna Strike Predator and Equalizer the Swim Whizz and the very similar Believer get their action from lips that are an integral part of the lure's head design. The size I prefer is the seven or eight inch one - it depends which lure you are referring to, but they both appear to be pretty close in length to me! I also have a preference for the straight models rather than the jointed ones, but that goes for most lures. I think I have more Swim Whizzes than Believers, but these two baits have minor construction differences, more so since the Swim Whizz has been redesigned (not for the better in my opinion), but behave pretty much the same in the water. Having two line ties on the lip gives you two running depths; deep on the upper eye, and shallow on the lower. Using the lower eye when casting this lure I generally fish it more as a jerkbait, working down just a few feet. The action is a kind of 'swing', while cranked in using this eye there is very little wiggle, but a lot of body roll somewhat like a minnowbait. Fixing the trace to the upper eye you get a more traditional crankbait action, although it is more of a head wag than a tail wiggle. This is the line tie I prefer for trolling the lure, and it is a lure that has brought me fish on a hard day on the troll.

Flat sided lip baits are a must as they not only excel as trolling lures, but many of them twitch as well as traditional minnowbaits. The smaller ones are easiest to twitch, as their lips are smaller and offer less resistance. Six inch Jakes and Grandmas are almost (but not quite) indistinguishable - Jakes being a little bit more buoyant than Grannies. I'll keep my selection of both as they don't amount to many and there is little duplication of colours.

Another twitchbait I couldn't be without is the Bucher ShallowRaider. Made from dense plastic it not only has a slow rise it also has an exaggerated flash when twitched. As always, the straight version is best for twitching, I never have much faith twitching any jointed lure, and it is also good for trolling which is where the jointed model comes into its own - covering the ten foot band nicely.

The larger Jakes and Grandmas also catch well when cast and either cranked or twitched. Not easy work though. But dragging them behind a boat requires little effort and is highly productive. The nine and ten inch lures run to around sixteen feet on the troll. The eight inch Jake has the same lip size, on a shorter body, as its ten inch brother so runs a few feet deeper - down to twenty feet or so. All are good baits, so I can't see me thinning them out a great deal.

There are plenty of lures on the market that cover the midrange diving depths but which are more caster friendly than the large lipped Jakes. Of these my favourite is yet another discontinued (or maybe just hard to find) model. The six inch Cordell Big O is a stretched alphabet plug. It casts well and has an action similar to that of the ever-popular (with other people) Rapala Super Shad Rap. Where I feel the Big O has the edge is in its plastic construction and slower rise, the latter feature making it a fine twitching crank bait. I wish I had stocked up with a few more of these lures when I had the chance.

A lure with a similar body shape, but a larger lip, is the Ernie. The six inch L'il Ernie is a bit smaller than the Big O but runs to similar depths on the cast, while the nine inch model will get down to around twelve feet on the cast, twice that on the troll. I like to work both Ernies with a series of cranks, twitches and pauses after cranking them down at the start of the retrieve. As with all buoyant deep divers the big Ernie can be used as a shallow twitchbait, or cranked slowly subsurface. So, given its usefulness as a trolling lure the Ernie really is pretty versatile - making it essential. The only problem I have is that I consider the original ones moulded from opaque plastic to be superior to the redesigned ones with the clear lips. This might just be a confidence thing, it probably is, but we all know what part confidence plays in lure fishing…

When it comes to clear lipped baits I have a lot of confidence in the Mann's Magnum Stretch series of lures. I wouldn't be without my 30+ and 8+ versions of these large crankbaits as they cover different depths on the troll to the Ernie. There aren't many lures that genuinely reach over thirty feet easily on the troll, so the 30+ is a must if that is something you have a need for. I have seen pike caught when the 30+ has been used as a casting lure, and the 8+ looks like a bigger, chunkier, deeper diving Long A when twitched - but the pike haven't shown as much of a liking for it for me so far. Give it time!

Another lure I like for deeper trolling which hasn't produced for me on the cast is the Deep Invader. This is a lure that I never enter a boat without if trolling is an option. It easily reaches twenty feet or more, and catches pike. It has a lip profile reminiscent of the DepthRaider, a lure that I know has a fine reputation as a trolling lure, but which has been as successful for me as the Super Shad Rap! While the straight DepthRaider is rated as a trolling lure I can live without it. The jointed version, on the other hand, I like as a casting lure for shallow water. When fished slowly it has a lot of action. Not a lure I use a great deal, but I wouldn't be without one, if not two.

A lure that I will be definitely keeping far more than one or two of is the Shallow Invader. This is a lure that succeeds as well as the Deep Invader when trolled, in this case to depths of ten or twelve feet, but is also a fine twitchbait for depths to four feet or so. The soft tails on the Invaders give them an action that is unlike hard bodied crankbaits - it kind of 'flicks' when you twitch the lure and has a naturalistic swimming action on the troll. Whether this makes them more successful than other lures I don't know for sure, but I have confidence in them.

So, after three articles I have (in theory at least) managed to thin down my lure collection to the bare essentials. I've probably missed one or two, and there are a couple that aren't essential yet, but look like they might be soon. The lures I rate as essentials are those that I get along with, and most importantly consistently catch pike with. Your choices may well be very different to mine. Time will tell if I actually manage to part with the lures I hardly ever use. As we all know, there might just be a day when one of them will save a blank or catch a big fish. That's if you take it with you, of course…




Spinnerbaits ( v )
In-Line Spinners ( v )



Masterline Mister Muskie
Dardevle Husky Devle
Landa Longa

Ace Atlantic
Williams Whitefish


Poe’s Giant Jackpot
Mouldy’s Hawg Wobbler
Dicer ( c )

Top Doctor
Bucher TopRaider


Mag Grub
Twin Tail
Reaper Tail
6in Shad
Moore’s Lures Curtis Creature



Musky Mania Burt/Squirrley Burt
Suick Thriller
Fudally Reef Hawg
River Run Manta
Dolphin ( c )
agley’s B-Flat (floating)

Ace Fat Dolphin
Lungen Jerko


Musky Innovations Shallow Invader
Musky Mania Jake 6”, 8” & 10”
Musky Innovations Deep Invader
Bucher ShallowRaider
Bomber Long A 17A and 17J
Musky Mania Ernie & L’il Ernie
Drifter Tackle Believer
Mann’s Stretch 30+
Mann’s Stretch 8+
Heddon Magnum Hellcat ( d )
Cordell Big O ( d )
Gudebrod Maverick( d )

Mann’s Stretch 18
Rapala Super Shad Rap
Bucher DepthRaider
Magna Strike Predator ( d )
Magna Strike Equalizer ( d )
Best Tackle Swim Whizz


Musky Innovations Bull Dawg
Castaic Swimbait
Delalande Super Sandra

Nine inch Shad


( c ) = Custom made lure
( d ) = Discontinued lure
( v ) = Various manufacturers – generic lure


(This article first appeared on in Pike and Predators - July 2005 on this site April 2006