Lipless crankbaits (Part 2)
  |  First Published: June 2003

Vibrations – music to fishes’ ears

SECTION: Freshwater

In summary, lipless or vibration baits are available in at least the following variations:

• Floating

• Suspending

• Sinking (standard)

• different brands offer different rattle sonics

• some brands particularly those of Japanese origin offer lures of different sounds and different weights THE MANY brands of lipless crankbaits all have different rattles. Some anglers claim that the varying sounds – from soft to loud and in a range of pitches – make a big difference. If the fish go off the bite when using one brand, it can be worthwhile switching to a another with a different sound.

The different rattles are caused by varying numbers and sizes of steel ball bearings, which are inserted into the lure’s plastic shell before the halves are glued together. You can achieve an even greater range of sounds by using suspending lures, because these have a different number of internal weights (ball bearings).

It’s important to have a variety of different sounding ‘rattlers’ in your tackle box, so you can try different lures if one isn’t working. Some anglers even hunt second-hand stores and garage sales in their quest of these lures, such as the old square-nosed Cotton Cordell Spot. This lure has only one large ball bearing, and wears the moniker of ‘one-knocker’.


The significance of Japanese ‘vibration lures’ (the Japanese term for lipless crankbaits) should not be underestimated. Many Japanese lure makers achieve the different sounds – with model specifications such as ‘low sound’ and ‘loud noise’ – by using ball bearings made from different metals such as tungsten, nickel or brass. The varying densities of these metals produce different sounds (rattles can also be made of plastic for semi-silent running).

Denser metals also produce lures that are slightly heavier. For example, an American-made lure might weigh 14g whereas some of the Japanese models of the same size will weigh 20-28g. Many anglers believe that the heavier lures not only offer the advantage of a different sound, but also can be used to probe a little deeper. If the majority of anglers are combing the top two metres of water with their 14g lures, you might have all the deeper fish to yourself if you use a heavier lure that runs at three metres or deeper.

Fans of the Japanese products also cite the superb finishes that the lures are endowed with, not to mention their super sharp trebles.


You can follow this premium lure example and upgrade your trebles to top quality variants. Many anglers suggest that if you’re having hook-up problems it’s worth trying larger sized trebles than those normally found on these lures. As well as taking southern natives, lipless crankbaits are also useful for barramundi when the hooks are upgraded to 4X trebles to reduce the incidence of straightened hooks.


The American lures that we most often see on the Aussie market are nearly all the same shape, whereas quite a few variations can be seen amongst the Asian and Aussie versions. The main variation is more of a fish shape complete with fins.

Some lures offer two towing points, and some have square nose shapes while others have a rounded nose. These variations can influence the lure’s action in the water.


Lure colour can make a big difference to your catch rate, and the guidelines for colour choice are pretty much universal. In low light choose a colour with some white in it, such as one of the many ‘shad’ colours. In bright sunlight use a metallic chrome lure or, if the water is stained, use metallic gold. In dirty water try a Fire Tiger pattern (anything with bright yellows, chartreuses and/or greens.)

One lure with an interesting colour and finish is the Strike King Diamond Shad. This square-nosed and flat-sided lure has a raised pyramid texture, which is said to give off more broken flash with metallic finishes (also referred to as ‘scale pattern reflection effect’).


There are two schools of thought regarding rods. One popular choice is a stiffer action for ‘ripping’ lures when the trebles catch on strands of weed. Examples of this type of rod include the G.Loomis Mag Bass series, the Popping Rods (if you like slightly longer rods) and their new Spinnerbait series.

The second camp advocates a softer action stick to prevent the lures from tearing out of the mouths of jumping fish, such as barramundi or saratoga, or soft-mouthed fish like bass. An example of this type of rod is the G.Loomis Crankbait (CBR) series.

I’m a big fan of the CBR841 and CBR843. The 7ft length gives longer casts than a shorter rod and the flexible attributes of the fibreglass tip help to reduce fears of those little narrow gaped treble hooks being pulled from a bass’ mouth (if you hook them around the lips). A premium co-polymer nylon type line in the form of Platypus Super 100, rather than any of the super braids, will offer enough stretch to help the cushioning effect and makes it less likely to tear the hooks out of soft tissue.

Let’s look at some of the options, and then I’ll suggest a three outfit strategy to cover the majority of reaction bait scenarios.


Spinnerbait, vibration, or shallow minnow – which lure do you choose? I recommend you have at least one of each of these already tied onto a rod and for these rods to be strapped to your casting deck. The modern flat-decked bass boat with multiple rods tied down on the casting deck are ideal for to this type of fishing. You just drop one outfit and switch to another that’s rigged and ready to go.

“With Australian bass, hot fishing sessions can occur quickly, and within 30-45 minutes the feeding session can be over,” says die-hard bass angler Tracy Johnson. “During small windows of opportunity, lipless crankbaits claim more actively feeding fish than any other method I've fished. Their ability to cover more ground and work large areas in a shorter period means you’ll take a larger percentage of the active fish working the area.

“An example of this was my first trip to Queensland's Baroon Pocket Dam. My fishing mate and I had fished for two and a half hours and landed only five bass between us when sudden heavy rain made the fish switch on. When we’d located the weedbeds that held active fish, we had a red hot session – over 35 bass within an hour on Rat-L-Traps. After the clouds rolled through and the sky brightened, the fishing shut down completely. If we’d used other methods, our tally could have been less.”


A spinnerbait can be used in many similar situations and in fact when you can't get weed free wind pockets or when sporadic columns of weed rise up above the flooded weedbeds or out from the weed face then the more weedless nature of spinnerbaits will make them an often superior choice over the trebled hooked hardbodied crankbaits. The spinnerbait is a very versatile fishing tool.

But when the bass are hitting shallow worked spinnerbaits and not hooking up then its time to switch to a hardbodied lure option. With often at least two super sharp treble hooks hanging of them we find that hook ups become more common. As said before the vibration lures can be cast further and the rattle and slab sided flash characteristics give our impoundment natives two great features to home in on. So when the fish are scattered the rattler should possibly be your first choice. With this in mind, they are also a good option for someone visiting an impoundment for the first time, as they can be used cover more water while you’re searching for hotspots.

Bibbed Minnows

"If I get a hit on a rattling lipless crankbait and I don't feel weight [ie it is likely that the fish didn't feel the hooks] perhaps they have worked out the lure isn't edible I show them something completely different in the hope of fooling them again. I'll throw an opposite style lure which can be worked in the same strike zone," says Dad, "You already know that the fish are there so a slower presentation becomes an option. To give an example if, when fishing clear water, I was bumped by a fish whilst rapidly retrieving a noisy rattling lipless Cotton Cordell Super Spot but didn't hook up my opposite switch would be a shallow running bibbed crankbait or small jerkbait."


So after considering the many opinions what three outfit combo would the author go with for reaction bait angling?

Well I'd have:

1) A spinnerbait tied to a mono type leader which in turn is attached to a high speed retrieve reel via a spool full of highly sensitive braided superline. The rod would be either a long graphite baitcaster or long graphite threadline depending on the weight of the lure. (A lipless vibration could be tied to this rod when you want a stiffer rod for 'ripping' around the weeds and/or when working in heavy timber were a bit of skull dragging might be called for).

2) A long softer actioned trigger grip rod (the GLoomis Crankbait in either CBR841 or CBR843 is popular for this on the Aussie market) and from it would hang a rattling spot tied to monofilament type line which is in turn attached to a high-speed baitcaster reel (but I'd have a low speed reel such as a Shimano Calcutta 50XT on standby).

Using fluorocarbon as a mainline can assist in enabling your lure to run a little deeper if that is what you desire as the fluorocarbon is denser than 'traditional' nylon type lines.

If fishing pressure is fairly solid in an area then you may need to go to a thinner line.

3) My third outfit would be a shallow running minnow and fished from a long threadline rod and high speed spinning reel.


Just in case you're wondering if you should go out and try these techniques yourself in your local impoundment and curious to see if it is suitable for your waters it will be reassuring to know that at least the following impoundments have produced bass on 'Spots' using these techniques: Maroon, Cressbrook, Somerset, Bjelke-Petersen, Boondooma, Baroon Pocket, Moogerah, McDonald, Borumba, Hinze, Lenthalls and Wivenhoe in Qld and at least Clarrie Hall, St Clair and Glenbawn in NSW. Yep every dam that has bass and/or golden perch in it.

Incidentally, if you are a land-based angler, then throwing vibrations from the bank is an ideal way to fish impoundments.

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