Walking Surface Plugs are in a class alone. While they are a true top-water lure, they have a unique zigzagging surface action that tempts many important gamefish species, including bass, muskies, stripers, pike, snook, seatrout, tarpon and others. Water-spraying surface explosion strikes are common. The original Heddon Zara Spook is the premier plug in this class, but many others offer the same fish-attracting zigzag "walk the dog" dance, including Rebel's Jumpin' Minnow, Lucky Craft's Sammy, Mirrolure's Top Dog and Rapala's Skitter Walk.
Jigging Spoons are available in a wide array of sizes and weights, and are produced by many manufacturers. Models by Hopkins and Slab Spoons (by Bomber) are some of the most famous. They’re used chiefly for vertical jigging in deep water, fresh and salt, for everything from largemouth bass and lake trout to grouper and wahoo.
Lipped Divers are among the most popular plugs on the planet, mainly because they look like little fish and catch plenty of big ones. The original Rapala and Rebel Minnow are likely the best known, but dozens of similar plugs are made by many companies. They can be fished slow or fast, cast or trolled, and are almost impossible to work incorrectly for predator fish.
Plastic Worms have been around a lot of years, pretty much kicked off by the original Nick Creme plastic worm invented in 1949. Modern plastic worms come in a rainbow of colors, shapes, sizes and lengths, targeting fish in saltwater and freshwater, from bluewater gamefish to bluegills. Rigged weedless, a la, “Texas style,” this lure undoubtedly has accounted for more bass than any other artificial devised.
Top-Water Plugs come in a wide variety of styles, types and shapes. All float at rest, but when activated by rod twitches and reeling, they come alive. Some chug and pop, others dart and dive, some churn the surface with side baffles and wings. Most are designed for largemouth bass, but they catch many species, including seatrout and tarpon, muskies and striped bass.
In-Line Spinners have been around for seemingly forever. Most famous is the Mepps, followed by the Panther Martin, often used by trout fishermen in rivers. Yet this lure type scores big on many other species, including largemouth bass. The famed Hildebrandt Snagless Sally is one of the most famous in-lines, best known as a big bass producer in thick weedy cover.
Weedless Spoons are designed to produce lots of flash and dash during a retrieve, but made for tossing in lily pads, thick weeds, stumps and brush piles. This makes them favorites for bass, pike and muskie fishermen. Many weedless spoons are available, but the Johnson Silver Minnow is the standard. Many anglers fit it with a fluttering trailer like a curly-tail plastic worm, rubber skirt, or twin-leg pork rind.
Jigs are likely the least attractive and exciting of all lures. They don’t look like much in a fisherman’s hand. But with a lead head and a body that can range from plain white bucktail to soft plastic rainbow hues, the lowly jig is perhaps the most effective all-around lure ever devised. Most sink quickly, and must be retrieved with a snappy action to mimic something alive. But with a good angler at the controls, a jig is killer from ocean wahoo to mountain trout.
Spinner-Baits come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, with different spinning blade types and colors. They look like a jig with a safety-pin attached, with spinners that flash during a retrieve. They’re very weedless, and are thus popular with bass, pike and muskie fishermen. In saltwater, redfish love them as well. Companies like Strike King make dozens of different models.
Wobbling Spoons indeed have the look and flash of a table spoon, thus their name. The fabled Eppinger Dardevle, Johnson Sprite, Lindy GatorBack, Acme Little Cleo and Kastmaster are among the best known models. Their sparkling flash draws gamefish from long range, and their heft and weight allow for long casts with even small lures. Countless pike, trout, salmon, seatrout and others have fallen to wobbling spoons.
Soft Plastic Jerk Baits are a fairly new innovation, simply a modified plastic worm that is deceptively plain in appearance. Herb Reed’s original “Slug-Go” was the first on the market, but now dozens of models are available from as many companies. Rigged weedless with a single hook, and no weight, the lure has astounding action with minimal rod work. They’re deadly in weeds, brush and timber for many species, especially bass, pike, muskies, tarpon, snook and seatrout.
Deep-Diving Crankbaits like the original Bomber and Whopper Stopper’s Hellbender paved the way for a broad array of minnow-imitating plugs that are reeled fast to make them dive to where big fish lurk. Most have oversize lips, which when retrieved plane plugs down to depths ranging from 6 to over 30 feet. Some, like Luhr Jensen’s Brush Baby have specialty lips or bills that even allow effective use in flooded timber. Huge models are used in saltwater trolling great depths for wahoo, tuna and grouper. But most are smaller, designed chiefly for bass.
Tube Lure Jigs are the result of Bobby Garland’s original design Gitzit soft plastic lure. With a hollow head, and a host of pulsating soft plastic tentacles, tube jigs are unique in the fishing lure world. They are used like jigs, and their soft plastic squid-like look tempts a multitude of sportfish. Bass anglers love them, especially for smallmouths, as tubes well imitate bottom walking crawfish.
Walking Surface Plugs are in a class alone. While they are a true top-water lure, they have a unique zigzagging surface action that tempts many important gamefish species, including bass, muskies, stripers, pike, snook, seatrout, tarpon and others. Water-spraying surface explosion strikes are common. The original Heddon Zara Spook is the premier plug in this class, but many others offer the same fish-attracting zigzag “walk the dog” dance, including Rebel’s Jumpin’ Minnow, Lucky Craft’s Sammy, Mirrolure’s Top Dog and Rapala’s Skitter Walk.
Lipless Crankbaits like the famed Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap are among the best lures ever designed for schooling predator fish like bass and stripers when they’re chasing shad. Designed without a diving lip, these plugs cast like a bullet, and sink slowly to a depth desired by an angler. With a tight-wobbling built-in action, they’re dead ringers for nervous schooling baitfish like shad, shiners, menhaden and others.
Over many years of trail and error fine-tuning tackle companies have devised a wide array of lures that perform especially well for specific types of fishing. Here are 14 lure types among the best of each group, and no angler should be caught on the water without.