For anglers, few topics inspire more discussion than fishing lures. With seemingly endless varieties of shapes, colors and actions, plus new styles constantly hitting the market, choosing the best lures can be overwhelming.
This comprehensive guide breaks down everything you need to know about top lure types - from versatile crankbaits to flashy spoons to reliable soft plastics and more. You'll get insider tips on selecting lures based on water conditions, structure, target species and other key factors. We'll tackle classic debates like lures vs live bait and specialized topics like saltwater lures and replacing worn out ones.
Our goal is to demystify the vast lure options so you can gain confidence picking the right one for any fishing situation. Armed with this knowledge, you'll save time and money while catching more fish.
So let's get started dissecting the exciting world of fishing lures!
Fishing Lures: An Overview
Lures come in a variety of styles, colors, and actions to mimic different types of prey. As you build your tackle box, be sure to include these top fishing lures that no angler should be without.
One of the most versatile and effective lures is the crankbait. This is a type of fishing lure designed to mimic the movement of baitfish, crayfish, or other prey, enticing predatory fish to bite. Most of these lures have a distinct lip or bill at the front which, when reeled in, causes them to dive and wobble in the water, simulating the lively movement of prey, but there are also lipless versions in the market. Available in various shapes, sizes, and colors, crankbaits allow anglers to explore different water depths and are particularly favored for bass fishing. They can be constructed from different materials, typically hard plastic or wood, and might feature one or more hooks for catching fish.
If flash and vibration are what you need, tie on a spinnerbait. At the heart of this lure is a metal blade that spins around and reflects light. Paired with a plastic or rubber skirt and trailing hook, the combination entices ferocious strikes from species like pike and muskie.
Additional blades or willow leaf shapes can increase vibration and allow the lure to run deeper. Use white and gold blades when the water is clear and switch to neon colors in muddy conditions.
Shaped like the bowl of a spoon, hence the name, this lure usually crafted from metal, presents an oblong, often concave figure to resemble a darting baitfish with an erratic wobbling action. Spoon lures work for all types of game fish from bass to salmon.
Soft plastic lures are a type of fishing lure created from a flexible plastic material, primarily used to mimic the appearance and movement of live bait like crayfish or worms to attract fish. These lures are effective on all types of structure and environments. The lifelike texture and movement of soft plastics convinces fish to strike even when they are not actively feeding. Carry a variety of sizes and colors to experiment with until you find what works.
When fishing requires precision and finesse, turn to fly lures. Tied with natural and synthetic materials on a hook, flies mimic insects, crustaceans, baitfish, and other forms of fish prey. Floating flies are great for trout on the surface while streamers can pull up bigger fish from the depths. Though it takes practice, fly fishing allows anglers to cast to highly specific targets and depths.
This overview provides a starting point to build your tackle box but there are countless other effective lures out there for every fishing scenario.
Lures versus bait
The lures vs. bait debate confronts every angler at some point. While lures offer convenience, natural baits have advantages too.
Lures are reusable, easy to store, and let you quickly change styles without re-baiting. They enable long casts and are good for catch and release since fish tend to injure themselves less.
However, natural baits harness scents and movements that draw fish in. Live bait keeps working when you stop reeling, making it great around cover where lures can snag. It also gives wary fish in cold water a more natural look.
Lures do have downsides - most are made of non-biodegradable materials that persist in the environment, though sustainable options are emerging. Lures require more precise technique than natural baits that move themselves. In some cases, letting live bait drift naturally can outfish any lure.
So consider carefully when choosing lures or bait. Lures are convenient and versatile while natural baits take advantage of a fish's wild instincts. Know their strengths and weaknesses to decide what each scenario calls for. With the right approach, both lures and bait can play a productive role in your tackle kit.
One key to lure selection is matching depth to where fish are feeding. Here are some top lures for targeting different parts of the water column:
Topwater lures like poppers, walkers, prop baits and frogs float on top and create commotion. They draw explosive strikes from fish looking up. Use topwaters at sunrise/sunset, around structure and for working shallow zones.
Swimbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits and vibrating jigs excel at mid-range depths. Adjust retrieve speed to run lures at desired levels. Target cruising fish suspended beneath the surface out to 15+ feet deep.
Jigs, weighted rigs and deep diving crankbaits get down to the bottom. Bouncing lures off the bottom triggers strikes from bottom-dwelling species around rocks, wood and other cover. Finesse tactics often work best.
Spinnerbaits, spoons and lipless cranks cover every depth effectively based on retrieval technique. Let lures flutter down after casts then reel quickly to bring them back up. Constantly change speeds to explore different zones.
In most cases, fish aren't at just one depth but spread throughout the water column. Carry a balanced lure selection to effectively target fish feeding at different levels. Adjusting presentation depth is often key to zeroing in on the most active fish.
Best lures for freshwater fishing
Having the right lure for lakes, rivers, and streams can mean the difference between an epic catch or empty net. Freshwater fish like bass, trout, pike, and panfish prefer certain lure types and colors. Use these tips to choose the best lures for common scenarios:
- Crankbaits mimic baitfish with wide wobbling action. Target bass, walleye, etc. with floating models in shallows or diving crankbaits in deeper water. Use chartreuse, white, blue.
- When water is muddy or fishing pressure is high, use spinnerbaits. The flashing metal blade and colorful skirts trigger reaction strikes from pike, muskie, bass even in low visibility.
- Keep soft plastic lures like worms, tubes, creatures to mimic prey with natural action. Rig weedless for heavy cover and structure. Use green pumpkin or motor oil colors for bass, walleye, trout, panfish. Tip with minnows or crawfish.
- When stealth is needed, use fly lures. Match local hatches and drift or strip retrieves.
- Even simple spoons deserve a spot to flash, wobble and imitate wounded baitfish. Easy to cast and cover water for walleye, salmon. Keep silver, gold, multi-colors.
Tweak lures based on conditions, species, structure to get consistent bites in freshwater. Carry various types for all water levels. When fish get finicky, tip lures with live bait for added appeal.
Can lures be used in saltwater?
Most freshwater lures can be used in saltwater, but some adjustments optimize them for popular inshore and offshore species. The good news is that many lure types excel at tempting the large, aggressive fish found at sea.
From the shore or pier, try topwater poppers, stickbaits, and surface lures that imitate injured baitfish. The splashing action triggers explosive strikes from surface feeders like bluefish, Spanish mackerel and striped bass. Opt for bright colors like chartreuse or pink for visibility.
Floating diving plugs are another go-to, diving a few feet down to reach snook, redfish and trout. Match the prevalent local baitfish with your lure choice.
When fishing deeper waters, don't forget metal spoons that mimic prey with flash and flutter when jigged off bottom. This triggers grouper, snapper, tuna and more around structure.
For true ocean giants, use large soft plastic lures and rubber skirts trolled behind boats. Their lifelike motions tempt sailfish, marlin and more. Match lure colors to water clarity.
No matter the lures, ensure corrosion resistance with specialized finishes or stainless steel components that endure harsh saltwater conditions.
When matched to typical prey, saltwater species can hardly resist these optimized lures.
How often should I replace fishing lures?
With proper maintenance, quality fishing lures can produce bites for years. But their lifespan depends on factors like usage, storage, and damage. Consider retiring old lures if you notice:
- Cracks, bends, broken parts or other damage affecting action
- Faded or flaking paint that ruins fish-attracting colors
- Dried out or warped soft plastic baits
- Declining ability to catch fish compared to new lures
Protect your investment by:
- Storing lures in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and humidity
- Rinsing after use, especially in muddy or weedy waters
- Removing algae and buildup with a stiff brush
- Periodically oiling metal components
While it's hard to retire an old favorite, replacing worn lures gives your tackle new life. Rotate in new lures each season while phasing out staples before they lose effectiveness. With proper care, your go-to lures can keep catching fish for years.
Does the color of fishing lures influence fishing success?
Does the color of fishing lures influence fishing success? In a related post - Does Lure Color Matter - we explore whether the color of fishing lures can influence the visibility of the lure to fish underwater and potentially affect their decision to strike. Don't miss that post if you want to know the answers to these questions!
How do I use fishing lures in different weather conditions?
Matching lures to prevailing weather and water conditions is key for fishing success. Consider these tips as the forecast changes:
Bright sun - Fish deeper with natural-colored crankbaits, jigs, Texas rigs. Translucent colors less visible. Seek shade from docks, trees.
Cloudy/Overcast - More active fish move shallow. Use bright chartreuse spinnerbaits, red spoons for visibility.
Windy - Utilize wind for long casts with 1/2oz+ lipless crankbaits, spoons, spinnerbaits that flash and vibrate.
Rain/Storms - Capitalize on feeding with noisy topwater poppers, stickbaits, buzzbaits. Watch barometric pressure closely.
Cold Fronts - Fish become lethargic. Slow down with finesse worms, grubs, slow spinnerbaits. Move to warmer water or downsize lures. Don't miss our post on cold front fishing for other tips and tricks.
Winter - Extremely slow presentations needed. Fish deeper on milder days with suspending jerkbaits, drop shots, swimjigs with trailers. Stay mobile.
Always remember to refine your approach through careful observation each trip.
Fishing lures come in endless varieties, but with time on the water, you'll find your go-to baits for every situation. Maybe it's a reliable spinnerbait that tempts finicky trout when nothing else works. Or a flutter spoon that helps fill your livewell with crappie.
Great anglers continuously expand their lure knowledge - observing nature, learning seasonal patterns, testing new lures, and refining tackle. But also stick to proven lures that build confidence through success.
Most importantly, your skills and wisdom make the magic happen, not the lure itself. Hone your technique to precisely mimic prey. Learn proper rigging, gear use, and presentation to make lures shine. As your tackle evolves, may each lure connect you to new adventures, fish tales, and lasting memories. That's the true joy of fishing.
Don't miss this related post How To Fish With Lures: Cast and Retrieve, Jigging, Trolling.
Want to capture your fishing memories better? Learn about Fishing Photography here.