The Truth About Crankbait Diving Lips

lip-1If there was ever an area in lure making where people are being constantly given bad information it would have to be crankbait lips.

Knowing how to match a diving lip to a lure body to get just the action you’re after is one of the most basic things a crankbait maker needs to know. But Google and Facebook are so littered with misinformation spread by well-meaning lure makers……. you’re more likely to get the wrong answer than the right one.

Once they’ve been explained to you crankbait lips are not that hard to understand, so in this article we’ll remove the mystery and the red herrings and get your lure making right back on track.

Crankbait Lips: How Do I Get My
Lure Running Deeper/Shallower?

Ok, before we start talking about what affects the diving depth of your crankbaits let’s dispel the biggest myth in lure making! Let me say this for the record, loud and clear: The angle of a crankbait lip doesn’t affect how deep the crankbait dives.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left” textalign=”left” width=”40%”]”Crankbait Making Myth #1: Crankbait Lip Angle Affects The Diving Depth Of The Lure”[/cryout-pullquote]

The angle of the diving lip plays a part, a very important one, but it’s not the factor that changes the diving depth. The reason that a crankbait dives is that when it’s towed through the water the drag created by the lip creates a downward force that is enough to overcome the upward force created by the buoyancy of the lure.

How bib size and shape affect crankbait performance

Getting a lure to dive deeper or run shallow is all about increasing or decreasing the downward force. Changing the angle of a crankbait lip doesn’t increase or decrease the force, it just changes the direction that the downward force comes from.

The only way to increase or decrease the downward force is to change the size of the diving lip – particularly the length.

Here’s where the confusion happens! In order to put a longer diving lip on a crankbait you may have to angle it closer to horizontal. That’s because you need to change the angle of the downward force or your crankbait can become unstable and not dive at all.  On the other hand, when you use a shorter diving lip you may need to angle it more vertically or the lure will be lacking in action. I’ll explain this later in more detail.

How Do I Design My Crankbaits
To Get More/Less Action?

Why do well-made crankbaits get that enticing wiggling action when they are pulled through the water?And why do some of them swim with a very tight side to side action while others have a very wide one?

Well, in a perfect world they wouldn’t wiggle at all! In a perfect world where everything is balanced and centered crankbait lips would convert all of the pressure of oncoming water into downward force.

[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”right” width=”40%”]”Crankbait Making Myth #2: Diving Lip Width Plays A Part In Diving Depth”[/cryout-pullquote]

But fortunately we don’t live in a perfect world, so minute imbalances in the lure, water currents, rod movements and other factors cause the lure to turn to one side. This causes crankbait lips to catch more water on the opposite side, which turns it back the other way and starts with the constant side to side wobble we are all familiar with.

If the lure is fitted with a very wide diving lip it has to turn a long way to each side in order to spill water pressure. As a result, wide crankbait lips generally result in a wide, strong wobbling action. On the other hand, fitting a narrow lip results in a lure with a much tighter action.

Now to dispel yet another myth: the width of the crankbait lip usually plays very little part in deciding the diving depth of the lure. That’s because the force of the water on the lip is causing side to side motion, so increasing the force by increasing the surface area only increases the side to side action, not the depth.


How Does The Angle Of Crankbait Lips
Change The Way They Work?

So far we’ve talked about how the length of crankbait lips affects the depth that the lure will run and that the width affects the amount of side to side action. Now lets have a look at how the angle affects the outcome!

If you look at a selection of hard bodied lures you’ll find that the lip on some of them protrudes almost horizontally, while on others it can be close to vertical.

[cryout-pullquote align=”left” textalign=”left” width=”40%”]”If You Want To Get A Crankbait To Maximum Depth Fast, A Horizontal Lip Is The Secret”[/cryout-pullquote]

The main factor that is affected by the angle of crankbait lips is what’s known as “angle of attack” and the easiest way to think of it is how much of a “head down” attitude the lure will have in the water.

A crankbait with a horizontal diving lip has a strongly head down attitude and will usually reach maximum diving depth very quickly. One with a vertical diving lip tends to stay more horizontal and takes longer to get to maximum depth.

lip-2The other important role that the angle of crankbait lips plays is controlling the action of the lure.

When the action becomes too much for that particular lure design to handle it will usually roll onto its side and come to the surface, or the speed at which it can be worked will be greatly reduced.

The reason for the near-horizontal angle of the diving lip on most deep diving lures is partly to reduce the action to a manageable level. Remember, to get a lure down deep we need a bigger diving lip, but when the diving lip gets so big that the lure can’t handle it we need to reduce the action by reducing the angle of the diving lip.

Other Factors

In this article I’ve focused on the basic dimensions of crankbait lips, but there are a ton of other factors that come into play that affect both action and diving depth. For example:

  • The location of the towpoint can be on the nose of the lure or on the diving lip. It’s exact location affects both diving depth and the action of the lure and must be properly balanced with the diving lip size and shape and the shape and weighting of the lure body itself.
  • The size and shape of the crankbait body also affect action. I have plenty of examples of lures with very different body shapes fitted with identical diving lips – they each have very different actions.
  • The way the lure is weighted, if you’ve weighted it. Adding some weight inside the lure can stabilise it and allow it to function with a larger or wider diving lip – but done badly can spoil the action of the lure altogether
  • How the lure is fished. For example, a crankbait will generally dive deeper on a thin line and leader than on a heavier one, a trolled crankbait will usually get deeper than a cast one, and so on.
  • “Dishing” or creating a concave surface on your diving lips can make the action more erratic.

Putting It All Together

Ok, so now you understand the main concepts of crankbait lips: how length, width and angle affect crankbait action – and you’re probably well ahead of 90% of lure makers already!

However, I’ve deliberately oversimplified these three factors to emphasize the main influence they have on crankbait diving depth and action. So if you are trying to achieve a particular action or diving depth you have a good understanding of where to start.

The challenge with crankbait lips is that everything is inter-related, so in reality things are a little more complicated.

For example, if you have a medium diver that works well but you want to get more depth out of it you would start by giving it a larger diving lip. But larger crankbait lips can destabilize the lure and require you to make the angle of the lip closer to horizontal. And making it closer to horizontal may reduce the side to side action and require you to use a wider lip, plus you’ll need to adjust the tow point location to stabilize the action.

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