Being versatile, and knowing when and where to use the right lure, are the keys to consistently catching fish – even if the bite is a little slow. Factors such as water clarity, wind, weather and the type of fish targeted all need to be considered. So study up on the lures below and watch your skills, and the size of your tackle box, grow.
Spinnerbaits are extremely versatile. They can be fished shallow or deep. They catch a wide variety of fish and come in a range of sizes, colors and blade styles. The blade shape creates different actions during the retrieve so get an assortment of styles. While you can catch plenty of fish by just reeling it in, to trigger more bites give your spinnerbait an erratic action by pausing it, varying the speed, and bouncing it off underwater structure.
Another extremely versatile lure, jigs come in many different styles and weights – from bass-style jigs with a colored skirt to round “gumball” jigs for walleye, panfish and many other species. You can fish them slow and deep, bouncing them off the bottom. Or you can fish them shallow, pitching them by tree stumps, weeds, docks or other structure. Always tip your jig with a soft-plastic trailer or natural bait.
Crankbaits are designed to retrieve at a particular depth based upon the shape of the lip. They wobble when retrieved to mimic baitfish, and some rattle to attract extra attention. Have an assortment of sizes and colors to match the natural baitfish of the lake you’re fishing (or to stand out in muddy or low-light conditions). Once your crankbait has reached its swimming depth, mix up the speed of your retrieves to trigger more bites.
The power of the jerkbait is the tantalizing way it darts and pauses erratically, fooling fish into thinking it’s an easy meal. Ideal for colder water conditions when fish are too sluggish to chase a spinnerbait or a crankbait. Jerkbaits are available in floating, suspending, or sinking styles to help you work different depths.
There are many types of soft plastic lures – from worms to lizards to crayfish. Each can be successful under a variety of conditions. Color selection is usually based on water clarity. Lighter or natural colors tend to work better in clearer water, darker colors in murky water. Usually rigged with a weight or on a jig head and slowly fished on the bottom. Can also be rigged weedless to help you get at fish hiding in heavy cover.
Another classic lure that excels at coaxing strikes from hungry bass and pike. Similar in style to a spinnerbait, the props on a buzzbait make a commotion on the water when retrieved on or slightly below the surface. A great choice around weeds or submerged timber.
Topwater lures like “stick baits” and “poppers” are generally retrieved with a twitch of the rod tip to mimic an injured baitfish. It may take some practice to create the ideal action, but when a fish thrashes at your lure, it’s quite a thrill. Just remember to wait until you feel the weight of the fish on your line before you set the hook. Otherwise, you could yank the lure out of the fish’s mouth before it really has a hold on it.
They may be a little old school, but spoons are still sold in tackle stores everywhere for a reason – they catch fish. From shore, you can cast a spoon a long way to get it into deeper water where fish may be holding. Or you can troll them from a boat at different speeds. Either way, the baitfish-like flash of the spoon as it wobbles through the water can prove irresistible to the top of the underwater foodchain.