If you haven’t done an inventory on the ol’ tackle box, now’s the time to do it. Here, we break down the best fishing lures to have in reach at all times.
There’s nothing like feeling a tug on the end of your line. Heck, I even get excited if I catch a snag … at first.
But, to catch fish, it takes time and effort to figure out what works best. Live bait is always a great option, but it can be a pain to tote around. On the other hand, artificial lures come in such a wide variety that they can catch any species of fish, any time — that is, if you have the right fishing tackle in your box.
Here are some of the top lures of all time. We’ve used these to catch fish from Alaska to the Caribbean. And while every lure won’t work every day, this combination of lures, in various sizes and colors, should be able to pull a bite on the vast majority of freshwater species on most days — and even some saltwater fish.
The Best Fishing Lures
A classic for bass fishers, spinnerbait is a must-have for your setup. These lures are designed with movement and flash in mind and provide a plethora of options for fishing in all sorts of conditions.
Fish a double or single Colorado Blade Spinnerbait slow in cold or murky water with low visibility, or after the sun has set. Then, turn to a bright Willow Blade in clear, warmer waters. Visual hunters like bass can’t resist spinners, but you also might find crappie, pike, or bluegill at the end of your line.
Jig, troll, or twitch it, a spoon is an all-around winner in the tackle box. And you can get it in varieties small enough to catch perch (level up a bit to catch bass), get a spoon that’s solid enough to surfcast for stripers, or even throw a line out for giant pike.
The classic spoon might just be the Dardevle (pictured), a lure born in the Midwest and a boon for pike, walleye, and bass fishers. But, like all the lures in this list, it will catch a heck of a lot more. Try the Sea Striker Surf Spoon if you’re near the salt, or tie on a Johnson Silver Minnow in nearly any situation and see what you come up with.
Helpful review: “The original Dardevle spoon is often copied by cheap imitations that don’t have the action of the Dardevle. I consider this lure a mainstay in my tackle box. The 1/8 and 1/4 oz. I use for smaller trout, bass, pickerel, etc. The 2/5 oz. size is perfect for larger trout, northern pike.
“I have had excellent results with the 2/5 oz. casting for Lake Ontario trout and salmon. Favorite colors on overcast days or murky water: yellow/red diamonds, black/white stripe, chartreuse/red spot, fluorescent orange/black spot; sunny days or clear water: nickel, brass, hammered nickel/blue, hammered nickel/green.” — Joel C.
For lake and reservoir fishing, many anglers turn to the crankbait. The action of a crankbait mimics the action of a realistic wounded smaller fish, and — once in the water — it appears to be an easy, free lunch for predatory fish. It can be fished on a steady reel or in a more jerking motion with success, and it usually has two to three treble hooks for max catching ability.
Known as a bass-fishing panacea, crankbait manufacturers boast about the many world-record fish caught on the other end of their lure, like Strike King’s KVD Square-Bill Silent Crankbait. The reviews bear out the success of this piece of equipment, and it makes sense, as a crankbait can be a topwater lure as well as a sinker or swimmer.
I’d be remiss not to mention that the brand Rapala is largely credited with the crankbait’s success. And many anglers will call any crankbait a “Rapala” — and for good reason. All of Rapala’s listed lures have a four-star rating or more on Amazon with a ton of reviews behind that rating. And you can find all sorts of Rapalas that match the baitfish your favorite aquatic quarry is after, whether it’s a brown trout minnow or a silver-blue mackerel (pictured).
Optimistic review: “This [Rapala X-Rap Jerkbait] lure looks very well made and you can tell its durable when you pick it up. It almost wobbles back and forth when retrieved slowly and really gives off that wounded fish look. I hooked a giant musky just messing around with it trying to get a feel for the action.
“It was my bass pole and was not ready for a fish with teeth so unfortunately, he got away with my lure shortly after hooking. I was so impressed I went to the store and bought replacements. With all that in mind, I would recommend these to other fishermen.” — rccolaman
Soft Plastic Lures
Soft plastic lures have the added bonus of feeling like live prey once a hungry fish grabs onto it. And the easy movement of lures better mimics those soft and live movements underwater.
The favorite soft plastic lure in the office is the Mister Twister 3-Inch Meenie. GearJunkie Editor-In-Chief Sean McCoy claims that “this guy right here will catch almost any fish from Alaska to the Caribbean.”
McCoy lived in the Caribbean for 10 years, so he’s got the bonafides on that rec. Plastic worms like the ever-popular Yamamoto Senkos can be fished Texas-rigged, weightless, wacky-style, or whatever you can dream up.
The other benefit of soft lures is the ability to add scent and taste. Fish Berkley’s PowerBait options for added sensual oomph in the water. A fan favorite is Berkley’s PowerBait MaxScent The General, reviewed below.
Helpful review: “My go-to bait. If I go somewhere for the first time I always have a General tied on. They love these drop shotted, wacky, weightless- you pick. I like 4″ for smallmouth and 5″ for largies. You can’t go wrong. They bite these year-round.” — photoswanson
Jigging requires a bit of a different action that your classic cast-and-reel deal. The up-and-down motion of these fish-catchers once again mimics the action of a wounded baitfish. It’s a more active but also more stationary type of fishing. It’s an exceptionally useful technique fishing the salt off docks, ice fishing, or even from shore with the right rig setup.
Popular saltwater jigs include the bucktail and the vertical jigs. For freshwater jigging, grab a weighted jighead and rig it out with a soft lure or live bait. Jigheads come in a ton of different options as well, from a walleye jighead to a trout-specific setup.
Optimistic review: “I recently purchased the Sea Striker Popeye Jig and had many fantastic days on the open sea, catching my limit of Sea Bass and Fluke.” — libertymaker
Many mini-anglers get their start with the classic spinner lure. It’s a lure that sticks to the basics while maintaining simplicity. The lure works off visual flash combined with a low-frequency vibration that fish can’t help but check out.
Just remember to tie on a swivel or risk gnarly line twist.
Optimistic review: “A classic, must-have trout spinner. While simple and old school, this spinner always seems to catch more trout than any other spinner I have ever fished. I hooked and landed a 20lb salmon on this size and pattern Panther Martin on the lower Sacramento River and after a few pics I straightened the hooks back out and fished with it some more! I’ll always have a few in my tackle bag!” — bajafisher