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Types Of Fishing Lures: Common Kinds of Lures Explained

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Fishing lures come in an incredible range of shapes, sizes, designs, and materials. For anglers new to the sport, the ins and outs of lure choice can be confusing to the point of mystery.

We get that!

With so many options available, it’s really hard to know what each one is, does, and works for.

But we’re here to help.

Below, you’ll find an explanation of common lure types to cover both fresh- and saltwater, as well as pretty much every species you’re after. We’ll also offer a few recommendations for each type of fishing lure, helping you make the best choices with your hard-earned money.

In-line spinners

Spinnerbaits

Crankbaits

Jigs

Soft plastics

Spoons

Topwater

Chatterbaits

Types of Fishing Lures

In-line spinners

In-line spinners combine flash, color, and vibration in one enticing package. Built around a long central wire, they feature a weighted, colored body, a spinning blade, and usually a skirt to up the ante on excitement.

Armed with a sharp treble hook, they’re nothing if not deadly.

Yakima Bait Wordens Original Rooster Tail Spinner Lure, White, 1/4-Ounce

The Original Rooster Tail is a proven choice.

Whether you’re casting to rising trout swimming in a clear stream, hungry pike hunting the edge of a weed bed, or fat crappie hugging tight to submerged trees, an in-line spinner is an excellent choice.

Offering lots of thumping vibration, high-visibility flash, and a range of colors that let you match the hatch or stand out in murky water, in-line spinners are money on darn near every species.

Mepps BD3TSBLP-W Double Blade Aglia Dressed Treble In-Line Spinner

Mepps Aglia is lethal on everything from brook trout to pike.

A decided advantage of the in-line spinner is easy casting. With its weight nicely centered by design, you can typically cast these lures as far as your tackle is able and with great accuracy.

pike lure rainbow rooster tail

This pike hit a big rainbow Rooster Tail.

They’re durable, too, and the only damage they tend to suffer comes from hard impact. Every few casts, I like to check mine and make sure they’re still spinning well.

Any bend in that wire will throw an in-line spinner off, so be sure to check and, if necessary, make them straight again.

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!

Spinnerbaits

The bent-wire design of spinnerbaits places the hook and skirt opposite the spinning blades, offering a bigger presentation than its in-line brethren.

Check out our guide on the best spinnerbaits!

Like an in-line spinner, a spinnerbait offers flash, thump, and color--just more of them!

Strike King Lures FSB12WW-538SG KVD Finesse Spinnerbait Lure, 5/0 Hook, 1/2 oz, Chartreuse Sexy Shad, per 1

The KVD Finesse is very hard to beat for trophy bass.

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.

white spinnerbait

In murky water, go with Colorado blades for their violent thump.

Spinnerbaits are available in a rainbow of color combinations, and from day-glo yellows and whites that make them pop in low light to natural hues that match the hatch, you’ll find just what you need.

Two blade styles are common: the Colorado and Willow. Willow blades are long and narrow, producing slightly less vibration but more flash to mimic baitfish. By contrast, Colorado blades thump like crazy but don’t flash as much.

Willow blades are superior in clear water, offering enticing shine to trigger a strike. But Colorado blades thump much more violently, and they’re ideal when visibility is limited.

Crankbaits are most effective when a gentle breeze is creating light chop, and like in-line spinners, they’re a relatively shallow running lure. And as with all single-hooked applications, low-stretch line, like braid, will improve hookset.

Among my most trusted lures, you’ll find Strike King Finesse KVDs, Booyah Pond Magics, and Booyah Pikees.

BOOYAH Pond Magic Small-Water Spinner

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.

Crankbaits

Crankbaits were among the first lures ever invented, developing from simple wooden plugs into hyper-realistic mimicry of common prey items like perch, shad, and minnows.

Check out our guide on buying the best crankbaits!

Designed with a plastic lip or sloped head to cause them to dive, the size and shape of these devices dramatically affect how deeply they’ll run. Adding further options to the mix, some crankbaits are available in neutrally-buoyant models, keeping them deep during pauses.

Rapala Original Floater 07 Fishing lure (Perch, Size- 2.75)

This Rapala Original effectively mimics an injured perch.

Crankbaits are easy to work, but they’re poorly misunderstood by novice anglers.

Unlike in-line spinners, a straight retrieve won’t display a crankbait’s finest features. Instead, you need 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.

fish can't resist wriggling crankbaits

Walleye and bass crush crawfish-styled crankbaits in early spring.

Rapala is perhaps the most famous name in crankbaits, and the Original Floater is a true masterpiece of lure design.

hit structure and cover with crankbaits

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. This style of crankbait features a sloped forehead to force the lure deeper as it’s worked, and the absence of a lip lets you really run it through dense cover.

If you find that you’re getting hung up too often, an old trick is to use a pair of pliers to remove the lowest hook from each treble. That should help you avoid snags without impairing your ability to lock up a big fish.

Red Eyed Shad/Chrome Sexy Shad

Strike King’s Red Eye Shad is a tournament favorite.

Jigs

A jig is really nothing more than a hook with a weighted head. And like a blank canvas, that no-frills design is just waiting for imagination and invention to cover it.

From the tiny, fly-like Marabou for trout or crappie to heavy swim jigs for bass, jigs now come in an almost endless variety of shapes and sizes.

Small Maribou jigs are murder on crappie; big ones can crush pike.

The Marabou jig looks a lot like a nymph for fly fishing, and it wears a magical skirt that summons crappie like a charm. I like to rig these below a slip float and toss them near vertical structure. A few very light bounces with my wrist get the jig dancing, and the crappie just can’t get enough!

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.

Jigs can be just the thing for bass, too.

silver headed jig

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. 

6th Sense Divine Swim Jig (Bluegill Fire, 1/2 oz)

For clear water, 6th Sense’s swim jig in “Bluegill Fire” is very hard to beat.

And for the nastiest cover, I like Booyah’s Boos, as their upturned head design really bounces off the thick stuff.

BOOYAH Boo Jig - Black/Blue - 1/2 oz

Punching thick cover is the Booyah Boo’s specialty.

I like to tie these to strong braid as excellent sensitivity and low stretch are needed to detect and react to a sudden strike.

Soft plastics

Soft plastics are precisely what they sound like they should be, and they’ve taken the fishing world by storm.

Designed to be run on a single hook alone, as with the legendary Texas rig for plastic worms, or as a sweetener for a lure like a chatterbait, they’re among the most versatile, effective options in your tackle box.

They’re so good, in fact, that they’ve started to edge out live bait even on the hard water!

For example, more and more anglers--including pros like Brian "Bro" Brosdahl--are turning to 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 the slightest twitch of your wrist causes the Ice Fry’s tail to dance.

Berkley PowerBait Ice Fry Soft Bait - Chartreuse - 3/4in | 2cm - Ice Fishing

Just ¾ of an inch of wriggle!

And legendary crappie anglers like Richard Gene can tell you that a small soft plastic is simply murder on slabs.

Indeed, it’s hard to beat a small soft plastic in the 2-inch range for crappie, 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.

Strike King Mr Crappie Slabalicious Electric Chicken (MRCSLC-60)Bobby Garland Mo' Glo 2-Inch Baby Shad Glow-in-The-Dark Soft Plastic Fishing Lure, 18 per Pack, Blue Ghost

These are deadly on crappie and big bluegill.

And as a finesse option for largemouth, soft plastics can’t be beat. Offering lots of action and a subtle presentation, plastic worms, craws, lizards, and swim baits are perennial favorites on the tournament scene.

That’s because options like Strike King’s Rage Tail Bug really deliver! Pre-spawn, bass are trying to fatten themselves on protein-rich crawfish, making this style of craw almost a sure thing.

Strike King Rage Bug/Falcon Lake Craw, Multi, 4-inch (RGBUG-135)

The Rage Tail Bug mimics a crawfish, making it an exceptional pre-spawn choice.

Rage Tail Bug catches fish

This craw summoned a bass anyone would love to catch.

For drop shot rigs, where lively action is essential, the Senko from Yamamoto is simply unbeatable. Each tiny ridge catches air bubbles, giving this worm movement you can’t believe--no matter how you rig it.

Yamamoto 9S-10-297 Senko, 4-Inch, 10-Pack, Green PUM-Packin W/Black

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 great fishing lures

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.

Strike King Rage Swimmer Ayu, 3 3/4-Inch

Rage Swimmers provide plenty of vibration, as well as shapes and colors that work like a charm.

Spoons

Where I grew up fishing, spoons were among the most popular choices for saltwater enthusiasts chasing reds. But it wasn’t until later in life that I discovered just how effective they were on freshwater species, as well.

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!

fish can’t resist big spoon lures

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!

Berkley Johnson Silver Minnow Gold 2in - 1/4 oz

The Silver Minnow is a legendary choice for big fish like reds, muskie, and pike.

big spoon lures catch big fish

Ever wonder what the really big spoons are for?

Dardevle spoons wriggle like mad, and that wobbling action emits vibrations that reliably summon pike and muskie for a closer look. I like to run mine across the tops of weed beds, ripping them from the grip of vegetation. I also favor a long run down the side of cover, as I’m looking for a pike or muskie that are sitting still in ambush.

Both techniques deliver, especially when you spend the time to find where the baitfish are hiding. Use your electronics to find the shad, perch, and minnows--that’s dinner, and the hungry predators will be there every time!

Original Dardevle Spoons (Red/White, 1 Ounce)

Red and white is the classic combo for the Dardevle.

Topwater

Plugs, poppers, frogs, torpedoes--topwater sports a diverse set of styles and designs with one thing in common: explosive action!

Best Topwater Frogs

Predatory fish like largemouth and pike are always on the lookout for something swimming on the surface, whether that’s an injured fish or a fat frog. Silhouetted against the sky, predators use their impressive sight and sensitive lateral lines to find these easy meals, and then they hit them as hard as they can.

That’s why when you twitch a frog through the lilies, you can expect the strike of your life!

Soft plastic frogs are a great choice for pike, muskie, and bass. Essentially floating soft bodies that mimic the real thing, they sport two upturned hooks that ride close to the body to miss weeds.

Lunkerhunt’s Lunker is my top pick, and though the legs might not last as long as tasseled designs, the hyper-realism of this topwater frog 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.

Lunkerhunt Lunker Frog, Bull Frog – Fishing Lure with Realistic Design, Legs Extend and Retract in Use, Great for Bass and Pike, Freshwater Lure with Hollow Body, Weighs ½ oz, 2.25” Length

Deadly on bass--and pike and muskie!

Heddon’s Torpedo, especially in clear, is one of my absolute favorites. Weighted to keep its nose up, it’s easy to walk, and that rearward prop buzzes like mad as you pull it through the water. Somehow that translucent body creates the illusion of something tasty, and bass hit this little lure like a runaway semi on a mountain road.

It’s that good!

Heddon Tiny Torpedo 1/4oz Clear - Single Lure

I’ve stunned fishing buddies with the effectiveness of the Baby Torpedo.

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 shoreline vegetation, the Super Spook pulls big ones out like nothing else.

Heddon Super Spook Topwater Fishing Lure for Saltwater and Freshwater, Bone/Silver, Super Spook Jr (1/2 oz)

The Super Spook delivers awesome results.

Chatterbaits

Easily the most misunderstood lure in the world of angling, the chatterbait is a mystery to most.

Promising to eclipse the venerable spinnerbait, it was unveiled to much aplomb, only to quickly fade in popularity as few fishermen really knew how to work this amazing lure. 

Basically a stripped-down spinnerbait with an angular blade, the chatterbait does what its name suggests--chatter like crazy. As Steve Wright explains, “Ronny Davis's much-tinkered with design makes the hexagonal blade bounce off the lead head of the jig and reverse itself.” That wild vibration makes this lure a killer, especially in high-pressure lakes and rivers.

Z-MAN CB38-46 Chatterbait

That big, squared-off blade thumps vigorously, making way more noise than a Colorado blade.

Three techniques are ideal for working a chatterbait:

  • Pop and reel. Start by letting your lure sink to the bottom. Next, pop it with a quick pump of your rod, and retrieve for a few seconds. Then, let it fall again and repeat. I find this is especially good with craw trailers.
  • A slow, steady retrieve is something to try, especially with flukes and craws. Between the skirt, the blade, and those trailing bits of soft plastic, this can be murder when you zip your chatterbait just over the tops of weed beds.
  • Hopping along the bottom. Working your chatterbait like a jig, making it rise and fall to the bottom in short hops or jumps, is often money. Especially in cooler water when the bass are holding deeper, low, slow presentations are king. But don’t shy away from this technique in any season.

Z-Man dominates the chatterbait scene, and the Z-Man Original is a work of fishing art. It’s got the skirt, the vibration, and the action to drive bass and pike wild, and it’s one of the most productive lures out there.

Chatterbaits are made to be sweetened with a soft plastic. In pre-spawn, I like a craw like the Zoom Z-Craw for reasons that are obvious.

Original Dardevle Spoons (Red/White, 1 Ounce)

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has demystified lure choice, clarifying a topic that’s often daunting to new anglers.

If it has, we’d love to hear from you.

Please leave a comment below!

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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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