Are crankbaits topwater? Are my crankbaits supposed to float?

Many fisherman may be surprised when they cast out their brand new crankbait that it floats in the water. Is it supposed to be fished on the top of the water?

But then you tie on a different crankbait and it sinks immediately! What gives? They can’t be topwater then!

The answer is complicated, but to answer it simply – crankbaits are not a topwater bait. But some crankbaits do float at first, and others sink immediately. Below I’ll go into all of the details of why crankbaits float, which ones don’t, and how you should use that knowledge to fish them more productively!

Why crankbaits float

The first question that we have to answer is why some crankbaits float if they aren’t meant to be topwater.

The answer is that if a bait sinks, you have a very hard time controlling it’s depth. So a bait that sinks naturally has to be reeled at the exact right speed, the tip has to be held at the exact right height, and you have to be very precise to keep it at a certain water depth.

Or, you could make the bait float naturally and make another force make it dive into the water. Enter the lipped crankbait. A plastic piece that comes off a crankbait nose that will make it dive into the water.

So if the bait floats naturally but a “lip” makes it dive to a depth, you can more easily control the depth by how the lip is made.

This is why some crankbaits float – they are meant to go to one depth and stay there no matter how fast or slow you reel, where you hold the rod, or any other factor. 

Which crankbaits will float?

Knowing why crankbaits float, you can now guess which ones will float. If you find a crankbait that has a “lip” or plastic piece coming from its nose, it’s going to float.

lipped crankbaits float topwater

This is universal, as the only reason for a plastic bill coming from it’s nose is to make it dive to the correct depth. So for it to work, it has to naturally float at first.

But this doesn’t mean its supposed to be fished like a topwater at all, in fact all crankbaits are meant to be fished under the water. Let’s get into how to fish naturally floating crankbaits.

How to fish a crankbait that floats

If a crankbait naturally floats, it is meant to be reeled a certain amount to get it to depth.

The amount you have to reel to get it to depth depends on how deep it dives. And how deep it dives depends most on the size of the lip.

Generally speaking, the large the bill the deeper a crankbait is meant to go into the water. The smaller, the shallower it dives. Simple enough, right?

So if you reel say a squarebill, which has a little lip, a few cranks it will get as deep as it ever will. But if you get say a Strike King 8XD which goes to 20 feet depth, it takes about ⅓ of your cast just to get it down to depth.

Fishing a crankbait like this is pretty simple – get it to depth quickly and then keep a steady retrieve to get back to you. This will get it down where it’s supposed to be, then make it just swim naturally and hopefully get a bite.

That’s really all there is to it. Lipped crankbaits seem complicated because they naturally float, but they’re actually one of the easiest lures to use.

Which crankbaits don’t float

If a crankbait with a lip does float. You should also be able to guess which crankbaits don’t float. Any of them that don’t have a lip!

And thankfully these crankbaits have a very logical name – lipless crankbaits.

Pick up a lipless crankbait and compare it to any other crankbait with a bill and you’ll notice something immediately. A lipless crankbait is much heavier.

lipless crankbaits

And that’s because it is supposed to sink naturally in the water. When you cast it out it will start sinking immediately. The only way you keep it off the bottom is by reeling it in or lifting up your rod tip.

But how are these crankbaits worked in comparison to the lipped variety?

How to fish a crankbait that sinks

We talked about the genius of a lipped crankbait is that they naturally go to one depth just by reeling. A lipless crankbait does not have this ability, but they do have a different advantage. 

They can be fished at any depth.

When you are using a lipless crankbait, you get to choose how deep in the water it goes. Once you cast your lure the longer you wait before your reel, the deeper it goes.

Or reel more slowly and it will go deeper. Put your rod tip down, it will go lower. Or vice versa, reeling faster and keeping your rod tip up makes it go shallower.

This makes it much more versatile to use, but also a little more difficult. When fishing with a lipless crankbait you have to always keep in consideration how deep or shallow your crankbait is.

So the best way to fish a lipless crankbait is to cast it out and let it drop a few feet. Usually fish are not on the very surface of the water and are somewhere between the middle and bottom of the lake. So you want your crankbait to drop to that depth.

Then, start reeling at a medium speed with your rod tip at about 2 o’clock. This is a general speed that will keep your lipless crankbait moving at a similar depth that doesn’t make it fall into the bottom or get too close to the surface.

But this is just a guideline and it is much more complicated. That’s why fishing a lipped crankbait is so much more beneficial in some situations. But if you want to learn about fishing lipless crankbaits more, watch the video below.


With this in mind, you will be able to buy any crankbait and now whether it will float or sink immediately. And more importantly, what this means for how you are supposed to fish it. 

If you use a crankbait to catch any fish, leave a comment below or send us a picture on social media, like our twitter page which you can find here. We love seeing your catches!

Leave a Comment