Top 6 Freshwater Fishing Lures
Many anglers that enjoy freshwater fishing do so using artificial lures. While live bait is certainly productive, lures have advantages as well. They are more convenient, versatile, and will elicit strikes when fish are not hungry. Lures are also a lot of fun to fish! However, anglers can be confused by the vast amount of lure choices. Capt Jim will list the top 6 freshwater fishing lures in this article.
The top 6 freshwater fishing lures are:
- Inline spinners
- soft plastic baits
These lures will cover every fishing situation that a freshwater angler will encounter.
Capt Jim Klopfer is a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. He grew up in Maryland and has fished extensively in freshwater throughout the country. He will break down each lure type along with his personal favorite lures.
One advantage lures have over live bait is the ability to cover water much more quickly in search of fish. Lures will also cause fish to bite out of reflex, angler, excitement, curiosity, and more. Artificial lures are also more convenient; no need to keep bait alive. It can also be easier to release fish when using lures, especially those with a single hook.
Inline spinners were one of the first freshwater fishing lures. They consist of a metal shaft with a blade that rotates around a body. At the rear of the spinner is a hook, most often a treble hook, that can be dressed with hair or fur and is sometimes plain. Spinners put out a lot of flash and vibration and are very easy for novice anglers to use. In most cases, a slow steady retrieve is best.
Spinners work extremely well in rivers. The current alone will usually cause the spinner blade to rotate and flash. Anglers simply cast the spinner across the stream or river and allow it to drift down stream on a tight line, retrieving it just fast enough to keep the blade turning. In-line spinners also work very well in lakes, they can be cast out and retrieved but are also very productive when trolled.
Spinners catch a wide variety of freshwater species, from small panfish up to giant pike and musky. This versatility is one of the attributes that makes spinners one of the top 6 freshwater fishing lures! Capt. Jim’s personal favorite in-line spinner is the Wordens Rooster Tail spinner. It is very light which makes it an excellent choice when fishing in streams and small rivers as it will not sink down and get hung up on the bottom.
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Mepps spinners are another favorite lure of freshwater anglers. They have been around a long time and have caught countless fish over the decades. While Mepps offer several varieties, the Aglia spinner is their best seller. The combination of the gold blade and brown tail is an excellent all round color combination.
As mentioned above, in-line spinners will catch large fish as well. The best in-line spinner for larger game fish, especially musky and pike, is the Mepps Musky Killer spinner. It is a large lure with sturdy hardware, which makes it a good choice when fishing for powerful fish with a mouth full of teeth such as musky and pike. Generally speaking, bright color combinations work best.
The jig is an extremely versatile fishing lure that produces fish in freshwater as well as saltwater and catches just about every species that swims. They are number two on the list of the top 6 freshwater fishing lures. Jigs are available in a wide variety of styles, sizes, and colors. They can be cast out and retrieved as well as presented vertically. Jigs can mimic bait fish, crayfish, and other popular freshwater forage. Jigs are most often cast out or fished vertically, however there are instances where trolling with jigs can be effective as well.
Jig and grub
One of the most popular jigs is the jig and grub combo. This consists of a jig head, which is a hook with some lead molded at the front near the eye. This offset weight causes the jig to have its erratic action. Some type of soft plastic body is then threaded onto the jig head.
One of the advantages of the jig and grub combination is the versatility. Anglers can easily change the grub body to match the conditions and the locally available forage. They are also quite economical as the grub body can be replaced once a fish tears it up. The same applies to anglers fishing in areas where snags are common, the jig and grub usually costs less than one dollar.
Grub bodies are available in a myriad of styles, shapes, and colors. They can mimic crayfish, leeches, bait fish, and even come in styles that do not look like anything found in freshwater. While they all catch fish, Capt. Jim’s personal favorite is a chartreuse curly tail grub on a jig head. The size of the lure is matched to the fish being pursued. Tiny 1 inch jigs are deadly on panfish while 3 inch to 4 inch versions work well on bass, walleye, and larger game fish.
Jigs are also available with some type of natural or synthetic care tied onto the jig head. These are often referred to as bucktail jigs or marabou jigs. They are extremely effective lures for a variety of species. Tiny marabou jigs are extremely effective on crappie and panfish. Large bucktail jigs are very effective lures for striped bass and other larger game fish.
While very effective freshwater fishing lures, these hair jigs do have a couple of disadvantages; primarily being cost and durability. Unlike the jig and grub, once the hair dressing is torn up, it cannot be easily replaced. Also, these jigs are more expensive to fish than a jig with a soft plastic body.
There are several different styles of bass jigs available to anglers freshwater fishing. Most of these have a fairly heavy head, a sturdy hook, and some type of rubber legs for dressing. The rubber legs undulate naturally in the water and are very effective. Anglers often add some type of soft plastic trailer to add bulk and even more action. These are generally used around weeds and heavy cover. Capt Jim likes the Booyah Boo jig in dark colors.
Soft plastic baits
Third on the list of the top 6 freshwater fishing lures are soft plastic baits. Soft plastic baits are extremely effective freshwater fishing lures. Plastic worms were introduced in the late 60s and revolutionized bass fishing. The soft plastic baits available today are much more sophisticated and effective. Anglers can purchase a soft plastic lure that resembles just about anything in the water, including worms, salamanders, crayfish, leeches, bait fish, and more.
Soft plastic baits can be fished several different ways. Anglers can thread them on a jig head as mentioned above. They can be rigged on special hooks which allow anglers to present these baits in an almost weedless manner. Soft plastic baits can also be fished on hooks either in a drop shot presentation or wacky rigged. The combinations are really endless.
Capt. Jim’s favorite soft plastic bait is the Yamamoto Senko worm in green pumpkin. This is a fairly unassuming bait that does not look like much, however it really catches fish. It can be fished drop shot style, wacky rigged, Texas rigged, and on a shaky head jig. All of these are effective presentations. In most cases, a subtle action works best. These are finesse style baits and fish often respond with little or even no action by the angler.
Spinnerbaits are extremely effective freshwater fishing lures. They are next on the list of the top 6 freshwater fishing lures. Spinnerbaits consist of a wire frame that resembles a safety pin with a blade or blades at the top and some type of body with a hook at the bottom. The weighted hook can come with a rubber skirt or some type of soft plastic trailer, and sometimes both.
Spinner baits are very easy for novice anglers to use. The lure is simply cast out and retrieved back in in a steady pace. They are fairly weedless and will bounce over submerged timber and other structure. While they really do not look like anything that is in the water, spinner baits put out a ton of flash and vibration, which attracts game fish. In most cases, they resemble bait fish. However, they are available in darker patterns which can be bounced along the bottom to mimic crayfish as well.
Capt. Jim’s favorite spinner bait is the Johnson Beetle Spin. This is a fairly plain looking lure, however it is extremely effective on a variety of species. The 1/16 ounce versions are deadly on panfish. The larger one quarter ounce model is extremely effective for bass and other species in lakes and ponds. His favorite color combination is a black body with a silver blade.
Strike King offers anglers a wide variety of spinner bait options. The KVD finesse spinner bait is an excellent choice when anglers are trying to imitate smaller shad or other bait fish. It also works well when fish are a bit finicky. The larger versions work very well in larger bodies of water where shad are present. They will catch largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, walleye, pike, and other game fish.
Spoons have been catching freshwater fish for anglers for many decades. A spoon is a very simple yet effective fishing lure. It consists of a curved piece of metal with a hook in it. In most cases, the spoon comes with a treble hook that swings freely on the rear. The shape and curve of the spoon will dictate the action. Long slender spoons have a tight wiggle and are best worked quickly. Wider spoons have a slow deliberate wobble and produce better when slowly retrieved.
Spoons are very effective fishing lures that can be presented in a variety of ways. Spoons can be cast out and retrieved back in. They are also very effective when vertically fished over structure. Anglers ice fishing you spoons extensively for walleye, lake trout, and other species. Finally, spoons are extremely effective when trolled for salmon, trout, walleye, and other species.
The discussion of freshwater fishing spoons starts with the venerable Eppinger Daredevil spoon. This simple fishing lure has been around for decades and has probably accounted for more northern pike than any other lure. It is also effective on just about every other freshwater species. It comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors. The 1/4 ounce red and white daredevil spoon is Capt. Jim’s favorite.
The list of effective and productive freshwater fishing spoons is very long. Johnson offers anglers a couple of very effective spoons. The Johnson Silver Minnow is a weedless spoon which is a very effective lure for bass and pike that can be used when the fish are in heavy vegetation. The spoon wobbles with the hook writing up in a weed guard, making the lure fairly weedless. Anglers will often add some type of soft plastic trailer to add more action and bulk. The 1/4 ounce spoon in the gold finish is Capt. Jim’s favorite.
Johnson also offers anglers a casting spoon, called the sprite spoon. This is more of an open water lure as it has a single treble hook on the rear. It comes in a variety of sizes and both the silver and gold finishes are very productive.
Another excellent spoon that Capt. Jim likes is the Acme Kastmaster spoon. It has a bit of an unusual shape and design. The cast master is a dense spoon which casts very well. It works best when using a fast, erratic retrieve. Anglers can also troll with it or presented vertically. The chrome spoon with a blue prism finish works very well, as does gold.
Last on the list of top 6 freshwater fishing lures are plugs. Plugs are hard bodied baits, usually made of plastic, that for the most part mimic bait fish. Some plugs do scour the bottom and are designed to mimic crayfish. Some plugs float on the surface, these are called top water plugs. However, most plugs work below the surface.
Plugs are generally float and then dive down to a determined depth upon retrieve. The depth that they achieve is mostly dictated by the plastic bill on the front of the plug. Some plugs do sink on their own. Other plugs, known as suspending plugs, will slowly sink down and then can be worked at a certain depth in the middle of the water column.
Topwater plugs are great fun to fish! It is very exciting to see a largemouth bass or other game fish attack a plug as it is being worked on the surface. There are numerous effective top water fishing plugs that will catch a variety of species. They come in several styles including poppers, propeller baits, and walk the dog baits.
Capt. Jim’s favorite top water plug is the Rapala Skitter Prop. This lure has a conical nose and a single rear propeller. When twitched sharply, it puts out excellent action and commotion on the surface of the water. Like most top water plugs, it is best fished close to a weed line or other type of structure.
Jerkbaits are long slender plugs that have a very erratic action and the water. They are worked by using short twitches of the rod tip followed by a pause, thus the name, jerk bait. The hard jerk in flash will attract the game fish and the pause simulates easy prey and is usually when the fish strikes. There are many manufacturers of quality jerk baits that come in many different sizes and colors.
Capt. Jim’s favorite jerk bait is the Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slash Bait. This lure comes in many different sizes small versions that will fool crappie and panfish to six-inch models that will catch pike, musky, and lake trout. The #10 X-Rap in ghost (white) is a very effective and versatile lure. When the forage is running a little smaller, anglers can drop down to the number eight size.
Crankbaits generally refer to plugs that dive down deeper in the water column. For the most part, they have a larger profile which resembles shad or bluegill. 2 inch to 3 inch long models are the most productive. Capt. Jim’s favorite crank baits is the rapid a shad rap in the number 5 size and silver finish. Crank baits are often cast out and retrieved but they are extremely effective lures for trolling as well.
Lipless cranbaits are another type of plug. These do not float nor do they have a lip. They are cast out, allowed to sink, then retrieved back in using a fairly steady pace. These lures put out a tremendous amount of vibration and are excellent lures for covering a lot of water quickly. The discussion of lipless crank baits really starts and ends with the Bill Lewis rattletrap. The half ounce model in chrome with a blue back is Capt. Jim’s top choice.Anglers can troll them as well.
In conclusion, this article on the top 6 freshwater fishing lures will help anglers understand which lures they need and to ultimately catch more fish!