Selecting a Lure

by Scott Moeller

February 2010

Perhaps the biggest difference between casual anglers and hard-core anglers is in the equipment that they use, particularly when it comes to lures.

Beginning anglers are often shocked and puzzled at the seemingly endless variety of shapes, sizes and colors of lures on stores shelves. This variety can be confusing, but it is easier to understand when you realize that every lure has the same objective – to get a fish to try to eat it.

Of course, there are lots of different natural foods out there that attract lots of different fish in lots of different ways. When you learn about the many different senses that fish use to find food, you begin to understand why some lures are brightly colored, some make rattling noises, and some are flashy and “spinny.”


Lesson 5:5 – Flashy Fish Catchers from the MinnAqua Fishing: Get in the Habitat! Leader’s Guide is an excellent lesson for learning and teaching about why certain types of lures are used in different circumstances. When it comes to deciding on the right lure, there are really only a handful of basic lure types.


Basic Lure Types

LureDescriptionAKAHow it worksExample
JigsA jig is a weight with a hook molded into itjigheadThe round weight usually has eyespots, and a tail of feathers, plastic or hair to make the jig resemble an insect or small fish.twistertail jig
Plastic wormsA plastic or rubber version of the real thing Plastic worms are often infused with a chemical that gives the lure an attractive smell or taste (to the fish). Slide it onto a hook or jig, and you’re ready to go.plastic worm
SpinnersAll spinners consist of one or two shiny metal blades that spin around a shaft as the lure is pulled through the water weight-forward spinners; spinnerbaitsThe spinning blades produce flashes and vibrations that the fish can see, feel and hear.spinner
SpoonsA spoon is a single, curved metal blade that wobbles as it is pulled through the water Usually shiny on one side and colorful on the other, a spoon imitates the shape, movement and colorful flashing of a small fish.spoon
PlugsA very generic term for any lure that looks like a small baitfish with hooks attachedpoppers, chuggers, crankbait, diving plugs, surface plugsThe round weight usually has eyespots, and a tail of feathers, plastic or hair to make the jig resemble an insect or small fish.popper


As Lesson 5:5 – Flashy Fish Catchers explains, you choose the best lure depending on the fish you are trying to catch as well as the conditions.


Size of lure is largely a function of the size of the fish you are going after. That’s kind of a no-brainer.


color depth

Color of lure mostly has to do with providing a good contrast that will make the lure visible to the fish. This has to do with the physics of light and the interplay between light and water color, water clarity, and water depth. Use bright orange or red lures in murky water to increase visibility. Avoid reds and oranges, however, if you’ll be fishing deep water, because of the spectral qualities of light in water. Truth be told, many anglers just experiment with different colors until they have success under particular conditions.

Spinners are employed when an angler wants to simulate the flash of a minnow or the vibration that a real minnow would make as it swims through the water. Spoons generate the flash and the movement of a baitfish, but without the vibration.

Plugs simulate the movement, flash, and/or vibration of a live baitfish by diving or wiggling beneath the water, or splashing across the surface of the water.

Color and flash attract fish because fish have excellent color vision. Vibration attracts fish because they have excellent hearing and vibration-sensing capabilities. Some lures are even scented or flavored to take advantage of the sensitive taste buds of most fish.

The incredible variety of lures arises, of course, because there are an infinite number of variations on each of these basic lure types. As you make your selection(s), remember to keep it simple. Instead of buying an armload of lures and filling your tackle box, consider the fish you’ll be going after and get only the lures that are appropriate.

crankbait sizes

Generally speaking, plastic worms, jigs, spinners and surface plugs are all good for a variety of species, provided you get an appropriate size. Spoons and diving plugs are good for catching larger predatory fish like pike, muskie, walleye and bass.

And, of course, if you’re a beginner, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple and going after bluegills with nightcrawlers.

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