Custom, handmade wooden crankbaits are deadly fishing lures – and popular lure making projects.
OK, so they’re a little more complex than some other types of wooden lures. But the rewards are worth the effort.
So if you’re keen to learn how to make crankbaits, then read on dear friend, read on! Especially if you’re planning to design your own wooden crankbaits from scratch.
This article will give you four tips for designing homemade crankbaits that knock ’em dead! Plus you’ll find links to a bunch of other articles that will help with your wooden crankbait making.
Tip #1:Body Shape Of Wooden Crankbaits
The body size and shape of wooden crankbaits is incredibly diverse. It’s also the best place to start when you’re designing a homemade crankbait for a specific fishing application. So here are the common body types:
- Shads. When viewed from the side, these guys tend to be kind of like a comma in shape. They have a deep belly and usually a fairly slender tail. Great for imitating deeper bodied bait species like: well, shad! But also herring, bream and numerous other deep bodies species. Also great for imitating craws at times. Shad styles can be round or flat sided, shallow running to deep diving.
- Flat-sided crankbaits. Often shad shaped when viewed from the side. These little used wooden crankbaits create strong vibrations and flash both great fish attractors. Awesome in hard fished waters.
- Minnows. These tend to be longer and more slender. Almost always used to imitate baitfish, minnow style crankbaits often have a rolling type of action. Can be designed for working at all depths from the surface to about as deep as a homemade crankbait can be made to run.
- Fat Bodied. These chunky little numbers are more often than not shallow or medium diveing lures. Strong, pulsing action and snag resistance make them popular choices for imitating bait and craws among structure.
- Jointed. Most jointed wooden crankbaits are either minnow or shad shaped. The jointed body style gives them a lot more action at much slower cranking speeds. The trade-off is that they tend to flutter in flight, so they’re not great for casting.
- Unusual. Anything that doesn’t fit the other categories fall into this basket. It includes shapes aimed at imitating frogs, craws, crickets or novelty items.
- Lipless. Not so much a body shape, I suppose, as a style of crankbait. Most often (although not always) flat sided and shad or oval shaped. These lures have a very different action and vibration to other crankbaits. Can be fished fast or slow, even vertically jigged. Also well suited for use with rattles and heavy hooks and rings for tough conditions.
A good place to start when designing homemade crankbaits is with a body style that resembles local baitfish in size and shape.
Tip #2: Diving Lip Size, Shape & Angle
Let’s start with the three basics shapes of diving lips used on wooden crankbaits round, square and coffin. Then we can look at the characteristics that can be altered to get the action you need.
Please keep in mind that it’s not all about the diving lip. Once you have a body shape and lip shape in mind you’ll need to adjust the weighting , lip angle and, tackle, tow points and hook hangers to suit the design.
- Round Diving Lips. Fitting round-ended diving lips to your wooden crankbaits will tend to give them an even, relatively predictable action. Round lips don’t deflect as strongly as other styles when your lure strikes timber, but they also don’t tend to snag weed as much.
- Square Diving Lips. Square diving lips have corners that tend to dig in when they strike structure. This can cause your wooden crankbaits to deflect strongly. Lures fitted with these lips are often thought of as being the best for fishing in heavy cover, though I find all styles have their place in this situation. Square diving lips tend to create a slightly more erratic action, which can also be beneficial.
- Coffin Diving Lips. Pretty much half way between round and square diving lips, these are a good general purpose option.
Here are a few other tips when it comes to designing diving lips:
- Making a diving lip wide at the front and narrower where it meets the lure body will stabilize the action.
- Length of diving lip affects the diving depth more than any other factor.
- Width of diving lips affects the width of the action more than anything else
- Angle affects the size of diving lip you can use. Smaller diving lips need to be angled downwards to do their job. Longer diving lips need to be closer to horizontal or they will destabilize the lure.
Tip #3: Weighting Wooden Crankbaits For Maximum Action
Not all wooden crankbaits necessarily contain internal weights. But if you’re just getting started then I highly recommend you consider adding weight. On many occasions I’ve found that the addition of a little weight can substantially improve the action – or even turn a complete lemon into a useful lure.
You’ll need to experiment with the amount of weight used and with exactly where to place it for best effect. But here are some general tips on weighting your wooden crankbaits:
- Placing the weight just under the skin, somewhere in the throat or belly region helps to stabilize and balance the lure, giving it maximum action.
- Deeper diving lures with longer lips usually need more weight, and it often needs to be a little forward, around the throat area. See my article on hard bait design for more info
- Shallower running lures have smaller lips and can usually get away with less weight, which should be placed further back towards the belly.
- Lipless wooden crankbaits are often sinking lures and usually do better with the plenty of weight well forwards.
Tip #4: The Importance Of Towpoint Location
The location of the towpoint (loop that you tie your leader to) is super important to the action of the lure. The area in front of the towpoint is effectively what gives the lure it’s action.
For many lipped wooden crankbaits the towpoint protrudes from the nose of the lure. But once you start installing longer diving lips the action of the lure becomes too strong and unstable with a nose towpoint.
To reduce this and make the lure work effectively you can move the tow point onto the diving lip. This reduces the action to a level that the lure can sustain and in so doing increases the diving depth. However, moving the towpoint too far forward kills the action and reduces the diving depth. You’ll need to experiment until you find the “sweet spot” that gives best performance. Where this will be depends on the body shape, weight placement and hook placement.
The location of the towpoint on lipless crankbaits is equally important. Moving it forward slightly will reduce the action and allow the lure to work better at higher speed. Moving it backward will increase the action for slower speed work. This towpoint location is also preferred for vertical jigging with lipless crankbaits.