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Best Saltwater Lures for Every Situation: Gear Up for Pier, Surf, Inshore, and Deep Sea

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Saltwater fishing offers an unbeatable range of species, and whether you fish from a pier, the surf, or a boat, there’s always something exciting to catch - whatever the season.

But if you’re unsure about which lures are the most effective, you’re far from alone. It’s a question we get asked a lot, and it’s time for a definitive answer.

Below, you’ll find reviews of some of our favorite saltwater lures, categorized by the type of fishing you’re doing.

Here’s a quick look at the products we recommend:

Best Saltwater Lures for Pier Fishing

Best Saltwater Lures for Surf Fishing

Best Saltwater Lures for Inshore Saltwater Fishing

Best Deep Sea Fishing Lures

Accessories:

Best Saltwater Lures for Pier Fishing

Spoons

Sea Striker’s Surf Spoon is an excellent choice for anglers casting from a pier. The larger of the two sizes weighs in at ¾ ounces and casts like a dream.

Sea Striker Surf Spoon

The Sea Striker ups the ante on flash with the addition of a bit of reflective tape.

The magic behind this lure is a deadly combination of flash and wiggle, and whether you run this bad boy on its own or behind a swivel sinker to work the bottom, you’ll be surprised at how effective it is on everything from mackerel to jacks.

Another excellent spoon is the Clarkspoon. It may not look like much if you’re used to freshwater, but this legendary performer is simply amazing. At ⅜ ounces and 3 inches, it provides plenty of weight for casting - and lots and lots of aggressive flash.

Clarkspoon Original Fishing Spoon

Simple, sure. But undoubtedly effective.

With either of these spoons, you want to keep them moving pretty quickly. Otherwise, fish with teeth are prone to swallowing the lure and cutting the leader.

In-line spinners

In-line spinners are one of my top picks for pier fishing as they combine easy casting with plenty of vibration and flash.

One of my favorite spinners is the Mepps. Don’t let its reputation as a freshwater lure run you off - these little beauties work just as well in the salt!

Mepps Spinners

Big in-line spinners like these from Mepps can be murder on aggressive species like speckled trout.

These are a selection of the #5 size, weighing in at ½ ounce each. They’re big enough to attract a lot of attention from hungry predators, and those blades flash like mad. What’s more, the bullet-shaped bodies shine just enough to draw fish in. 

I like to use a tough leader to help prevent bite-offs because everything from blues to kings will go mad for these spinners. Armed with a big treble hook, lock-up is secure and fast, too.

Poppers

Especially where the bottom is a mess of hang-ups and obstacles, topwater can be the way to go from a pier. And in the salt, nothing works better for that than a big popper.

When I’m working the surface, my first choice is a Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Popper.

Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Popper

That’s a paint job no fish can resist!

2 ¾ inches long, these ¼-ounce Yo-Zuri poppers simply drive specks wild! Designed with a wide mouth to create crazy amounts of vibration on each jerk, you can either pop and stop or walk the dog effectively - and both techniques work really, really well.

Every color offers plenty of iridescence backed up by a flash of red on the mouth, and the paint jobs on these guys are simply incredible. “Mullet” and “Silver Black” are probably my favorites, but I wouldn’t hesitate to run any of them.

And to top it all off, wherever this lure gets hit, there’s a big treble hooking just waiting.

use a loop knot for saltwater popper lures

A good loop knot or swivel is the way to go with these poppers.

I strongly recommend a good loop knot like the Kreh to get the most from these lures, and of course, you’ll want strong, tough leader to prevent bite-offs.

Bucktail Jigs

A final must-have for pier fishing is a good bucktail jig. Extremely versatile, the time-tested bucktail is perhaps the best all-arounder for saltwater fishing, and whether you’re working deep water from a long fishing pier or casting into the shallows, you can bet on this style of jig for lots of fish.

Capt. Jay’s Fishing offers a nice range of heavier options that are ideal for deeper water and stronger currents. Available in ½-ounce, 1 1/2-ounce, and 2-ounce sizes, these fish-headed jigs offer a long skirt, a flash of red, and a sharp hook.

Capt Jay Fishing Bucktail Jig

Sweetening a jig with a bit of shrimp or cut bait can really improve your odds.

Another option to consider, especially for shallower water where you want a lighter jig, is Croft Enterprises 3-pack. White is an excellent choice for pier fishing, and these jigs come in a range of weights running from ¼ ounce to 2 ounces.

Croft Enterprises 3-pack

There’s just enough red and pink on these lures to trigger a reaction strike, and the long skirt creates great action in the water.

I like a good, tough leader on my jigs, especially when I know I’m going to run into something with sharp teeth!

Best Saltwater Lures for Surf Fishing

Diamond jigs

I doubt that there’s a more tried-and-true surf casting option out there than the diamond jig.

Heavy enough to cast to the next country and built to buck strong currents and tides, the diamond jig is startlingly effective on nearly every species you’ll run into from the beach.

Last Cast Tackle Chrome Diamond Jig

Last Cast Tackle offers the diamond jig I prefer, and the shiny metallic sides of these lures flash like mad, ringing the dinner bell for everything from specks to reds and blues to big croaker.

Tipped with a hook sized to the lure’s weight, you’ll find these diamond jigs in 2-, 4-, and 8-ounce weights, running a 7/0 or 8/0 hook.

Attached with a loop knot like the Kreh on a length of tough leader, these lures are very hard to beat from the beach.

Spoons

There are lots of good options to throw from the sand, but I don’t hit the beach without an assortment of Acme Little Cleo spoons. As effective in the salt as they are on lakes across America, the Little Cleo has been catching big fish from shore since 1953.

Acme Little Cleo spoons

Available in a huge selection of colors and patterns, as well as sizes from 1/16 to 1 ¼ ounce, I favor the big guys for the surf. 

They cast like a dream and wriggle like mad on a swivel or loop knot, and you can count on a sharp treble on the business end to do its thing when the time comes - and you won’t be waiting long!

Another killer choice is also offered by Acme: the Kastmaster spoon. When fishing from shore, legions of anglers think this is the lure to reach for, and its legendary casting and action are hard to deny.

Kastmaster spoon

A 2 ¼-inch, ⅜-ounce Kastmaster is certainly a lure to be reckoned with, and if you need a combination of maximum distance and deadly attraction, I can’t think of a better option. Available in a huge range of colors and patterns, there’s the right one for you and your fishing, pretty much guaranteed.

I love the chrome and neon-blue bucktail model, but darn near every one seems to work!

Swimbaits

One of the best options for stripers from the beach is undoubtedly a good swim bait. Typically, you’ll be using a jig head to provide some weight to your soft plastic, allowing for longer casts, and that gives you some exciting options to explore.

One of my favorites is Strike King’s Rage Swimmer. I’m partial to both the 3 ¾-inch and the 5 ¾-inch models, and I usually have a few colors ready to go.

Strike Kings Rage Swimmer

Never underestimate a paddle tail in the surf.

What’s magic about these soft plastics are the ridges and paddle tails. They may seem like small details, but the tail creates tons of vibration, and the ridges trap air bubbles that create some erratic shimmies as they fall through the water.

For me, that gives priority to two techniques.

I like to slowly crank these guys, starting and stopping occasionally to trigger a reactive strike. But I also like to work sandy bottoms by ripping the lure off the sand and letting it fall as I take in slack.

Fish are triggered by the falling action, and a lot of strikes happen as I’m taking in that slack.

Crankbaits

If you’ve never worked a nice crankbait from the beach, you don’t know what you’re missing!

You wouldn’t be alone, though - plenty of crankbaits just aren’t designed for the surf and salt and don’t have what it takes for ultra-long casts and deep diving.

But the size 12 Rapala X-Rap is exactly the thing you want when you’re fishing for mackerel, specks, jacks, and the like from the sand, and as you’d expect from this legendary company, the balance of this lure is simply perfect for long, long casts.

I can’t think of a better-casting crankbait than the Rapala X-Rap.

Whichever color option you select, you’ll be rewarded with lots and lots of hits, and with two big, sharp single hooks, you know hooksets will take.

The big bill on this crankbait, as well as its weighting and balance, allow it to dive to 4 or 5 feet, an ideal depth for a surf fishing crankbait.

Do yourself a favor and add this lure to your arsenal. 

Seriously - it’s that good!

Best Saltwater Lures for Inshore Saltwater Fishing

Swimbaits

In the salt marshes of Louisiana, where the reds and specks run, nearly everyone throws a paddle-tail minnow at some point in the season. And the reason is obvious - they can work magic when you match the hatch.

One good choice when minnows are the primary prey item is Beoccudo Fishing’s split-tail minnow. About 3 inches long, these little guys are hyper-realistic, and whether you run them behind a jig head or a bare hook, they swim like mad.

Beoccudo Fishings split-tail minnow

That’s a look fish just can’t ignore!

Another perennial favorite is the Berkley Gulp! Alive Minnow. When the shrimp are running, I like the motor-oil colored option that looks like live Gulf shrimp. It’s just deadly!

Berkley Gulp Alive Minnow combo pack

A combo pack like this one gives you options, and I like to carry a few bags of them.

One technique that tends to be effective is to work the shallows by swimming these guys with an erratic cadence. You can also try working shallow bottoms by lifting and picking up slack to hop your swimbait across the sand or mud. In either case, it pays to rig them Texas-style and keep just the barest tip of the hook uncovered to prevent them from catching weeds and grass.

Specks simply can’t resist!

Stickbaits

Inshore fish are closely associated with bait fish, and nothing attracts their attention as quickly as an injured mullet.

That’s why one of my go-to lures is the Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Pencil. Four inches long, this stickbait has iridescent shine, wriggling action, and bead-driven vibration to spare. Snooks, specks, and reds can’t resist when you walk the dog with this Yo-Zuri.

Yo-Zuri 3D Inshore Pencil

Another top pick would have to be Heddon’s Zara Spook. Legendary for a reason, the 4 ½-inch, ¾-ounce stickbait has probably filled more coolers for inshore anglers than any other lure.

Heddons Zara Spook

The Zara Spook does anything but spook fish!

It casts like a dream, too, letting you stand off from productive areas without spooking (see what I did there?) fish. And, of course, the color and pattern options are plentiful.

My favorite? White Red Head.

Rat-L-Traps

A lure so famous that its name became synonymous with the style, inshore anglers know and love the Rat-L-Trap. For inshore, I like the Magnum Force series, offering 1-ounce lures that rattle like an angry snake.

Rat-L-Traps Magnum Force

The time-tested Rat-L-Trap is a must-have for inshore angling.

Not only do Rat-L-Traps cast well, irrespective of a stiff breeze, the flash, wriggle, and vibration they emit really makes a difference when water clarity is low.

Hungry stripers can’t resist, and in a season or two, your favorite Rat-L-Trap will have the scars to testify to this fact.

I like to stop my retrieve every so often, looking for a reactive strike. But I’ll also let this heavy lure drop through the water column where it’s deeper, much like you’d work a jig-headed swimbait. You’ll often get hit on the fall, just as you’d expect.

Weedless Spoons

I doubt there’s an inshore angler who doesn’t throw a weedless spoon - at least everyone I’ve ever met does!

The most popular one in my experience is Johnson’s Silver Minnow Spoon. Designed to really work, it offers a swaying action and flash that other manufacturers wish they could imitate. Chalk that up to the details of the sweep of this lure if you wish, but whatever the reason, it simply works.

Johnsons Silver Minnow Spoon

Weedless spoons like the Johnson Silver Minnow can work magic inshore.

Available in a wide array of colors and patterns, multiple sizes are available. For the salt, I reach for the larger end of that sizing spectrum, and I like the 2 ¾- and 3 ¾-inch offerings a lot.

Best Deep Sea Fishing Lures

Trolling crankbaits

Trolling a big crankbait is pretty much a standard practice when you’re working offshore, and whether you’re hunting a submerged peak, a shallow trench, or other attractive topography for pelagic species, this is an essential lure.

For tuna and other squid-hungry fish, I like the DAMIDEL Simulation Squid Fishing Lure

DAMIDEL Simulation Squid Fishing Lure

5 ½ inches of realistic squid body with a streaming, colorful skirt, these big crankbaits are simply ideal for trolling. That big bill lets them dive deep; those two monster treble hooks lock up tight.

To get them deeper, you can add a plumb, and that’ll take them 30 feet or so, letting you target species like grouper over a reef.

Vertical jigs

Nothing beats a big vertical jig when you’re parked over a reef and looking to land a big snapper, grouper, or jack. Goture Tuna Lures’ Vertical Saltwater Jigs are as good as they come. And tuna simply devour these jigs!

Goture Tuna Lures Vertical Saltwater Jigs

6 ½ inches long and 2 ¼ ounces in weight, these slender jigs drop quickly and work really, really well for yo-yo jigging.

I’ve seen nearly everything hit these, in no small part due to the bright, UV reflecting paint jobs that sparkle and flash like scales. They also feature a fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark strip of paint that works very, very well at night.

Seriously, these can work magic!

But let me warn you - it sometimes happens that a big tuna will hit these jigs and the hook that’s included isn’t up to the task. If that’s the action you’re looking for, I recommend spooling on some very heavy mono and switching the hook out for 9/0 J hook. It’s also important to swap out the split rings for a heavier, stronger option.

If you do that, you’ll have a rock-solid tuna jig that’s up to the biggest, baddest fish out there!

Bost lures

Wahoo hit like a Mac truck, and they’ll destroy a lure the moment they do - unless you’ve got a Bost #39 Wahoo Witch on the end of your line!

Bost 39 Wahoo Witch

Expensive? Yes. Effective? Ask all the tournament winners!

Made from nearly indestructible resin, these lures offer a fluffy skirt that attracts plenty of attention as well as a shiny, red eye. Sailfish, Mahi, tuna, king mackerel: they all love the skirt and color combinations of the Wahoo Witch.

About the only thing you need to worry about is replacing the skirts after wahoo savage them!

Other good options include the Bost #36 San Sal, a proven performer that sports a long, conical nose and a trailing skirt. Ideal when trolled at 6 to 16 knots, this 13-inch lure is just the medicine you need for trophy wahoo, marlin, dorado, and dolphin, and it’s trusted by pros and amateurs alike.

Bost 36 San Sal

Bost’s line-up is probably responsible for more trophy wahoo than any other option, so if that’s what you’re after, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on these guys.

Chuggers

The tried and true chugger is an off-shore staple, and from tuna to marlin, sailfish to wahoo, pretty much everything eats them up.

Among my favorites, you’ll find Mold Craft’s Super Chugger, a go-to trolling option that sports a long, full skirt that big marlin really love.

Mold Crafts Super Chugger

Another well-respected option is offered by Bimini Lures. Their chugger is just plain mean for everything from tuna to sailfish to Mahi-mahi, and at 9 inches, it has plenty of skirt to attract a strike.

Bimini Lures chugger

Both of these chuggers sport the bright colors, iridescent heads, and long skirts that are needed to attract the attention of sight predators like tuna and Mahi-mahi, and of course, the concave head shape that gives the chugger its name creates plenty of vibration to call big fish from the deep.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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