If you’ve ever seen a professional angler’s tackle boxes and bags, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the sport is really about collecting as many lures as you can.
But take a closer look, and you’ll find that most are variations on a few simple themes. And while that pro may have every color, pattern, shape, and size under the sun, there are really only a few different kinds of lures complemented by nearly endless tweaking of design.
Because while it’s true that fish can be very particular, savvy anglers know that a few select kinds of lure catch more fish than anything else.
Want to know what’s on that list?
Of course you do!
- Berkley Ice Fry
- Mr. Crappie Slabalicious
- Bobby Garland’s Mo’Glo Baby Shad
- Strike King’s Rage Tail Bug
- Yamamoto Senko
- Strike King’s Rage Swimmer
Table of Contents (clickable)
The Best Fishing Lures: Must-Haves for Every Angler
These classics work on everything from trout to pike, and they’re one of my personal favorites.
This white and silver combination is simply deadly on everything from trout to pike.
Designed with a long wire, a weighted body, a twirling blade, and a sharp treble, variations of this basic formula run the gamut in size and are available in pretty much any color and skirt combination you can imagine.
With two blades and a trailing red fringe, this Mepps grabs attention from hungry fish.
Offering an unbeatable combination of vibration, flash, and action, whether you crank these just under the water or with a broken cadence that lets them fall between runs, they drive fish wild.
This pike hit a big rainbow Rooster Tail.
Among my most productive lures, you’ll find a legion of Worden’s Original Rooster Tails and Mepps Dressed Double-Blade Aglias. My go-to colors are white, black, and rainbow. Most of the time, I tie-on white first, and if it doesn’t produce a hit, I move to rainbow, and then black.
I’ve caught crappie, bluegill, and trout on the smaller sizes. In the ½ ounce size, this is one of my most productive muskie and pike lures.
Big bass just eat the bigger Rooster Tails, too!
Closely related to the in-line spinners, spinnerbaits use a slightly different design to a similar effect.
Plenty of flash and a skirt to match the hatch–a perfect combination!
A 90-degree bend in the wire places the hook and skirt opposite the spinning blades, offering a bigger presentation than its in-line brethren.
Popular among anglers hunting for large predators like largemouth and pike, these lures are arguably at their most effective when there’s a light breeze creating just a touch of chop.
Spinnerbaits are among the most popular bass lures for a reason!
Available with a nearly endless variety of blade and skirt combinations, you can find these in colors intended to match the hatch or stand out against muddy, murky water.
One thing to note: two blade styles are common–the Colorado and Willow. Willow blades are long and narrow, producing slightly less vibration but for bait-like flash. By contrast, Colorado blades thump like crazy but don’t flash as much.
Which option you choose is driven by water clarity and light levels: go for more thump when visibility is limited.
When bass are feeding on crawfish pre-spawn, this Booyah is a killer.
Neither largemouth nor pike can resist the skirt and blade combination, and if you fish one for an hour or two, you’ll know first-hand why these lures are so incredibly popular among the pros.
A good crankbait run against a log, piling, or rock–or ripped from the top of a live weed bed–is as effective as it gets on pretty much any species that makes other fish a meal.
Designed to mimic an immature perch, this Rapala Original is super effective when ripped through the tops of weed beds.
Novice anglers are tempted to run a crankbait like a spinner, ripping it through the water in a straight line–but that’s all wrong!
Monster walleye can’t resist a wriggling crankbait.
The idea is to run them into cover and structure, creating erratic impacts and zig-zagging bounces. Predators often strike them immediately after impact, and it’s this technique that shows their true potential.
No name in crankbaits is more famous than Rapala, and the number of fish that Original Floaters in size 07 have caught is countless.
That plastic lip causes this lure to dive, and its irresistible wiggle–especially post-impact–is simply magic.
Keep in mind that the idea is to hit structure and cover, not retrieve a crankbait in a straight line.
Lipless crankbaits like Strike King’s Red Eye Shad are legendary as well. With options to match the hatch or stand out in low-visibility situations, this lure is a must in any angler’s arsenal.
With wiggle to spare, the Red Eye Shad is one of the most popular crankbaits available.
Jigs are among the simplest lure designs, and they’re really nothing more than a lead head with an attached hook that can be dressed up in any number of ways.
Jig variations are nearly endless, and from tiny, fluffy Marabous for trout or crappie to heavy swim jigs for bass, you’ll find a style that works for the fish you’re after.
Marabou jigs are amazingly effective for crappie when suspended below a slip float.
When I fish for crappie, one of my favorite techniques is to tie on a Marabou, rig a slip float, and work a few submerged trees. Crappie hang out on the sides of vertical cover, and the Marabou’s color combinations and attractive skirt help me dial-in the right option to suit their taste.
Among my top picks, you’ll find Eagle Claw’s Crappie Jig. Available in ⅛-, 1/16-, and 1/32-ounce sizes, just match the jig to a properly weighted slip float, and you’re ready to go.
Bass fishermen know how effective a jig can be, too.
Swim jigs are the next evolution of a simple design.
When anglers began to note that big females hit their jigs as they were bringing them in for the next cast, a new style was born: the swim jig. Designed much like a crankbait in that you work it by running it through and into cover and structure, looking for impacts and erratic bounces, it’s the next evolution of a simple idea.
I like 6th Sense’s Divine Swim Jig a lot, especially for clear water.
This 6th Sense swim jig in “Bluegill Fire” is awesome in clear water.
And for the nastiest cover, I like Booyah’s Boos, as their upturned head design really bounces off the thick stuff.
Punching thick cover is the Booyah Boo’s specialty.
Soft plastics come in so many shapes and sizes that it’s impossible to cover them all. Designed to offer enticing action, shapes that attract attention, and a color spectrum that’s unrivaled, soft plastics are useful on pretty much every species.
Intended to rig on a jig head or sweeten a spinner- or chatter-bait, soft plastics are perhaps the most effective single option in your tackle box.
You can find micro-baits like the Berkley Ice Fry that are just ¾ of an inch long. Simply deadly on a teeny jig head, hard-water anglers are falling in love with swimbaits dozens of fish at a time.
Just ¾ of an inch of wriggle!
For crappie, it’s hard to beat a small soft plastic in the 2-inch range, and like pretty much every other fisherman, I reach for Strike King’s Mr. Crappie Slabalicious and Bobby Garland’s Mo’Glo Baby Shad. Both offer incredible action and color choices that get the job done, season after season.
These are deadly on crappie and big bluegill.
Bass fishermen throw a lot of soft plastics, often Texas rigged to run weedless. They’re looking for bigger sizes and plenty of action.
Options like Strike King’s Rage Tail Bug really deliver! Pre-spawn, females are trying to fatten themselves on crawfish, making this style of soft plastic almost unfair.
The Rage Tail Bug mimics a crawfish, making it an exceptional pre-spawn choice.
And the ever-popular Senko from Yamamoto is perhaps the most deadly worm ever devised for drop shot rigs. Each tiny ridge catches air bubbles, giving the worm unbeatable movement.
And soft plastic swimbaits that mimic prey like shad are never a bad option, whether you’re chasing bass, pike, muskie, or walleye.
Soft plastics are my go-to for pike.
One of my favorites is Strike King’s Rage Swimmer. In 3 ¾-inch or 4 ¾-inch, this paddle tail moves like mad and draws out the strikes.
Rage Swimmers provide plenty of vibration, as well as shapes and colors that work like a charm.
Fresh or salt, spoons have proven their effectiveness on aggressive species like reds and muskie.
Composed of nothing more complicated than an asymmetrical hunk of metal, the cunning in the design of a spoon is the thump and wriggle that this shape imparts. Some models sport a single hook; others trail a treble. Both options catch fish like you wouldn’t believe!
Reds can’t resist a big spoon.
The Johnson Silver Minnow is a time-tested choice, and it’s caught more fish than you can imagine. Available in a range of sizes from 1 ¾- to 3 ¾-inches and plenty of different color patterns, when you’re after monsters, go big!
Trolled or cast, the Silver Minnow’s a winner.
Ever wonder what the really big spoons are for?
Dardevle spoons are undoubtedly effective, as generations of pike and muskie hunters can attest. And whether you run the original red and white, or one of the many other color choices, I can tell you that ripping one of these over the top of a weed bed is going to catch fish!
There’s something about the original that just plain works!
Plugs, poppers, frogs, torpedoes–topwater sports a diverse set of styles and designs with one thing in common: explosive action!
Big, bad predators are looking for a quick meal, and they’ll ambush anything on the surface that displays the right kind of action.
When the water’s warm and you twitch a frog through the lilies, expect an explosion!
Lunkerhunt’s Lunker is my pick, and though the legs might not last as long as tasseled designs, the hyper-realism of the Lunkerhunt wins my vote, hands-down. It floats all day and runs straight, and those two big hooks are practically weedless, as you’d expect.
Don’t throw this frog out in the open; you need to pitch it into the nasty stuff and hop it out. Pause after the cast–it’ll get plenty of hits just sitting there as the ripples subside, and if you need to move it, do so with plenty of pauses and a slow cadence.
Deadly on bass–and pike and muskie!
Heddon’s Torpedo is no joke for big bass, monster muskie, and predatory pike. Don’t worry that the Baby isn’t oversized–the clear color and prop work some real magic together, and once you learn to walk the dog with the little lure, you’ll be amazed–simply stunned!–by how effective it can be!
I’ve stunned fishing buddies with the effectiveness of the Baby Torpedo in clear.
The balance is toward the back on the Heddon, where it should be, and it makes the nose rise to help you walk it well.
Trust me, you want this little guy in your tackle box.
And Heddon’s Super Spook is legitimately a legend. I’ve thrown this where the bass were chasing baitfish to the surface, and every cast–every single one–scored a bass immediately. Walked along the edges of grass, weeds, or lilies, and cast back into the breaks in shore-line vegetation, the Super Spook pulls big ones out like nothing else.
The Super Spook delivers awesome results.
Of course, there are other lures designs that work really, really well–think chatterbaits or poppers–but we had to make some hard calls to cut our list down to the essentials.
That said, any angler with the list of lures in his or her tackle bag is unquestionably well-equipped to fish for everything from bluegill to pike, crappie to bass.
If you have a favorite lure that we’ve skipped–and I’m sure that’s the case!–we’d love to hear from you.
Please leave a comment below.