Can You Use a Spinning Reel for Crankbaits?

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You want to get into bass fishing, and more specifically, bass fishing with crankbaits. The only problem is you’ve heard that baitcasting tackle is the best way to use cranks, but you only have a spinning reel. If this is you, or you’re curious about using spinning gear with crankbaits, keep reading.

So, the question here is can you use a spinning reel for crankbaits? Yes, of course, you can! The real question is, do you want to? Again, the answer is yes, but you’ll want to use your spinning tackle selectively. The key is to use a spinning reel for your lightweight crankbait, and if you have the option, use a baitcasting rig for your heavier lures.

Do you need to go out and buy a new baitcasting rod and reel just to use crankbaits? No, not necessarily right away. You should be able to use your spinning reel for most crankbaits. But you’ll want to have both baitcasting and spinning gear if you’re serious about fishing. But this article is specifically focusing on the best ways to use crankbaits with your spinning reel.

crankbait with spinning reel

What is Finesse Cranking?

Finesse cranking is when you slowly reel in your lure, letting it dive, wiggle and bounce off the structure at a leisurely pace. This technique is most effective when the water is colder, and fish are more lethargic. Finesse cranking involves using light lures, light lines, and spinning gear.

Use a Spinning Reel to Cast Cold Water Cranks

Especially when it’s cold and windy, spinning gear excels where baitcasting reels fall short. Now, it’s not impossible to cast these kinds of lures with a baitcasting reel. In fact, we have an article exclusively covering how to cast light lures with a baitcaster. But, if you have the choice, spinning gear will work much better with cold water crankbaits.

Why is this? The spool on a baitcaster spins on its own, and it’s difficult to build up enough momentum with a lighter lure like a crankbait when casting.

Another benefit of using spinning reels with crankbaits is a spinning reel will be able to cast the cranks further than a baitcasting reel. Since crankbaits like to dive down, a longer cast gives your lure more time and space to move in the water and attract fish.

One adjustment you may want to make with your spinning reel is to go up a size or two. Typically, the 25 is the favored size of spinning reel, but for casting crankbaits, you can go up to a 30 or 40 for a little extra power.

Also, be sure that your drag is set low enough to give big fish plenty of runs. While spinning tackle can slay plenty of big fish, this is one area where a baitcasting reel has an advantage. With this in mind, it’s best to play it safe and turn the drag down a bit to keep the big fish on the line.

What Crankbaits to Use with Spinning Gear

Finesse cranking was made famous by the Rapala Shad Rap, so we’ll start with the obvious one right off the bat. Made from balsa wood, the Rapala Shad Rap 05 is the size I’d recommend, it’s 2.5” long and dives down two feet to six feet below the surface. There are many different color options to choose from, I like to pick the most natural-looking colors.

Rapala Shad Rap 05 Fishing lure (Silver, Size- 2)
  • The world's best running hardbait, hand-tuned and...
  • Balsa Wood Construction
  • Natural Baitfish Profile

A naturally colored Strike King Lucky Shad can work wonders in cold water when the fish have seemingly turned off. With a slight internal rattle, this natural diving crankbait will induce bites even when the fish aren’t turned on. This lure will work its magic once the water temperature gets below 55 degrees. This mostly occurs during the fall and spring months.

Serious anglers swear by balsa hard bait, which you can find in the Shad Rap. You don’t have to buy a Rapala to get a nice balsa hard bait, though. Balsa wood has the perfect properties for creating a lure, with hard but lightweight features. Try out this Bagley Balsa in the Sexy Shad color. Many bass later, you’ll be glad you did.

Bagley Baits Balsa B2 - Sexy Shad
  • Made to mimic the look and motion of medium forage
  • Balance tackle to slightly higher test and stiffer...
  • Retrieve and pause to let lure wobble, float,...

Another lure to try is the Strike King KVD 1.0 square bill crankbait. Square-billed cranks are more shallow divers and don’t get hung up as much as you might think. Fish your square-billed cranks around docks, grassy areas, and near submerged wood. The moment your lure bounces off a piece of structure like a log is one of the best times to get a strike from a fish. Square bills are best used in under six feet of water.

Strike King (HCKVDS1.0-699) KVD Square Bill 1.0 Fishing...
  • Perfect for shallow water power fishing
  • The square bill design and unique action will...
  • Helps deflect off cover to entice strikes

What Spinning Rod Should I Use for Crankbait?

While you’re busy picking out the right reel, don’t forget about how important your rod is for casting crankbaits. Ideally, you’ll want a rod with slower action on the tip, but with medium-heavy power.

If you’re in the market for a new rod on a budget, my recommendation would be to go with an Ugly Stik Elite Spinning rod. The Ugly Stik Elite is a quality, reliable rod and comes in under $50. The guides on the rod are stainless steel, which is what you want to see, and the shaft is made from graphite. This allows for both strength and sensitivity on the water. A premium cork handle will keep your hand comfortable during a long day of fishing.

If you want to buy one of the best spinning rods available for fishing crankbaits, check out the Abu Garcia IKE Signature Finesse Spinning rod. This bad boy will cost you about three times as much as the Ugly Stik, but you get what you pay for. This new rod from highly respected Abu Garcia was designed in part by Bass Pro Michael “Ike” Iaconelli. Ike wanted this rod to be minimalistic to keep the weight down, designing specific features for finesse techniques.

Abu Garcia 7’6” Iaconelli Signature Finesse Spinning...
  • 36-TON GRAPHITE CONSTRUCTION for a lightweight,...

The new IKE 2.0 comes with a redesigned EVA grip with finger grooves for added comfort when casting and reeling. The guides on this rod are stainless steel and considered “mid-size.” They aren’t quite as small as micro guides, but they’re smaller than standard guides. The IKE also features a Fuji reel seat for better comfort and durability. The shaft is made from 36-ton graphite.

While it won’t technically help you catch fish, the paint job on the shaft changes color in the light and simply looks cool. And if you look good, and feel good, you’re probably going to catch an extra fish or two. If you really want to look good, you can pair up your IKE rod with an IKE spinning reel.

What Spinning Reel Should I Use for Crankbaits?

The Abu Garica Revo is one of the most trusted reels in the business, and it now comes in a new IKE design. The Abu Garcia Revo IKE reel is truly one of the best reels you can buy for the money. Available in a 20 size and a 30 size, you’ll want to opt for the smaller 20 if using primarily for finesse techniques.

Abu Garcia REVO2IKESP30 Spinning Rod & Reel Combos
  • 9 stainless steel HPCR bearings
  • Carbon Matrix drag system
  • IM-C6 body design

Featuring the same “flip-flop” paint job as the rod, this reel and rod combo can’t be beaten based on looks alone. The handle is brand new and made from carbon fiber. The grip has a custom flare design that provides the ultimate finger comfort. Another attention-to-design detail is a small clip on the side of the handle that can be used as a drop-shot holder. While we aren’t talking about drop shots today, this can also be a great place to hold your crankbait when you aren’t using it.

On the inside are 10 ball bearings. Nine HPCR stainless steel and one roller bearing for the best possible gear functions and longevity that you can find in a reel. You’ll also find everything else you’d expect to see in a high-end Abu Garcia reel. This includes a Carbon Matrix drag system. It also includes AMGearing, Rocket line management, K-Clutch anti-reverse, and a Rocket Spool Lip Design.

What Line Should I Use for Crankbaits with Spinning Gear?

Since you’re going to be finesse cranking with your spinning gear, you’ll want to use a line that complements your technique. There are arguments to be made for using all different types of lines. Fluorocarbon is nearly invisible in the water. The braided line gives you the most bite sensitivity. And monofilament provides stretch and forgiveness.

Ultimately, monofilament should match up best with crankbaits on spinning gear. Because the fish are more lethargic in colder water and won’t be biting as hard, you don’t want to yank the lure up before the fish has fully taken it. The stretch provided by monofilament will give you more forgiveness when setting the hook and gives you a better chance to land bass.

Monofilament also has a larger diameter compared to other lines. While this can affect casting performance, that’s not as much of an issue when finesse cranking. The added diameter causes more drag through the water and can help stimulate sluggish fish.

The best monofilament you can buy for the money is the Berkley Trilene Big Game. For less than $10 you can buy a 1700-yard spool of the 8-pound test line.

Berkley Trilene® Big Game™, Green, 8lb | 3.6kg, 1700yd |...
  • BERKLEY TRILENE BIG GAME: Don't let fish off the...
  • EXTREME FIGHTING POWER: This mono fishing line...

The Bottom Line on Using a Spinning Reel for Crankbaits

Not only can you use a spinning reel for crankbaits, but it’s also recommended if the crankbaits are small in size, or the conditions are cold and windy. With the right rod, reel, and line, you’ll have a great time on the water cranking for bass.

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