So, have you noticed that you’re becoming more interested in freshwater fishing recently? With the summer now over, it’s no surprise to see people trying to keep their fishing fun going throughout the year. Fishing is a gratifying hobby that will not only allow you to spend some quality time with your family, but you’ll also get to enjoy plenty of relaxation in the great outdoors. Before you start catching fish this winter, you’re going to need to know what the best lures for freshwater fishing are.
What are the best lures for freshwater fishing?
The best lures for freshwater fishing include:
- Plastic Worms – Yamamoto Senko
- Crankbaits – Normark Rapala
- Spinnerbaits – Mepps Aglia
- Jigs – Leland’s Lures Trout Magnets
- Spoons – Acme Kastmaster
- Flies – Pistol Pete
- Plugs – Yakima Bait Flatfish
- Surface Lures – RUNCL Topwater Frog
While the type of lure you’ll use when fishing can vary depending on the species you are fishing as well as your surroundings, you’ll need a combination of these items if you plan on fishing successfully in freshwater.
Truth be told, most lures were meant to catch fishermen – not fish – and we’ve purchased more than our share to try! Here’s what we found that actually works for us. Below we’ll cover what the best lures for freshwater fishing are and when you should use them so that you can plan several successful fishing outings over the months to come.
Selecting Freshwater Fishing Lures
Once you start shopping around for freshwater fishing lures, you’ll notice right away that there is an overwhelming number of options to pick from when you start looking. Freshwater fishing lures come in a bevy of different sizes, colors, shapes, and styles. The majority of freshwater fishing lures focus on catching bass. Still, many of the artificial lures we use for bass can also catch several other different types of fish, including perch, walleye, and northern pike.
It’s also important to remember that some freshwater fishing lures cycle through “hot” fad periods and then are discarded. Other freshwater fishing lures have been used by anglers for years and are typically more reliable.
There are so many types of lures available on the market today that it would be so easy to completely fill your tackle box up with the lot of them. However, you’ll need to know what lures you’ll want to use for different types of freshwater fishing situations in order to become a better angler.
To help you become a more effective angler, we’ve created some instructions below to help you understand when you should pick specific freshwater fishing lures depending on your surroundings and the type of fish you are trying to hook.
#1 Plastic Worms
So, when are you most likely going to use plastic worms when you are freshwater fishing? Typically, plastic worms are used when you are fishing for largemouth bass. Plastic worms were first created back in 1949 by Nick and Cosma Crème, and since then, plastic worms have become a widely prevalent largemouth bass lure.
Plastic worms come in a variety of different colors and sizes. Their lengths can run anywhere from four-inches to ten-inches. Since the creation of plastic worms, plastic worms have inspired a bevy of other creatures to be created as soft, plastic lures, including crayfish and grubs.
You can use plastic worms for fishing on the surface if you’d like, but you can also use plastic worms in a bevy of other different fishing situations. For example, you can use plastic works to fish more easily in brushy, weedy areas, and also near rocky drop-off areas. Plastic worms can be rigged when you thread the hook through the worm so that the worm’s body hides the hook point.
Our most recommended plastics are the Yamamotos. Get the Senko if you’re going for a worm. It’s impregnated with salt, adding a little heft to it which affects how it drops and acts in the water. You can get them on Amazon here.
For a crayfish, you can’t go wrong with a Neko-Rigged Yamamoto PsychoDad available on Amazon here. If there’s fish in the area, you’ll get them with this!
Another type of item you’ll often use for freshwater fishing is crankbaits, which are sometimes also called plugs. When you purchase a crankbait, you’re buying an artificial lure comprised of hard plastic. Crankbaits get their name because they are made to be cast out and then brought back in toward the angler. Some crankbaits are designed to attract fish to strike as you retrieve them.
Crankbaits do come in weedless options, but most anglers don’t like using crankbaits for fishing around weeds. When it comes to picking crankbaits, you’ve got a lot of variety in styles, which we’ll break down in some detail below.
Some crankbaits operate as topwater lures, which you use for fishing on the surface of the water. Topwater lures include things like poppers. Poppers have a vertical concave design that creates a “pop” sound when moved with the tip of the rod. Wobblers are another form of a topwater lure that is designed with plates that push the lure from each side when you retrieve it. The last type of topwater lure, stick baits, work as thin lures that don’t have any attachments.
Thin Minnow Lures
Thin minnow lures are named after the minnows they are designed to resemble. These lures are usually colored like minnows, so they blend in well to the natural surroundings. Thin minnow lures are designed with a tiny lip in the front, which makes them different from stick baits. You can utilize slim minnow lures to fish on the surface of the water or below the surface of the water. When you use a thin minnow lure, you want to catch with a twitching motion.
The most popular thin minnow lure on the market today is Normark’s Rapala (click to see on Amazon).
Another type of artificial lure you’ll need to familiarize yourself with if you plan on learning how to successfully freshwater fish is a swimming crankbait. Swimming crankbaits are also known as swimbaits. These artificial lures are made to go from side to side as you retrieve them in the water.
Sometimes, this kind of lure features a concave surface around the head, which helps create the swimming effect on the lure. Two fantastic types of lures like this are the Lazy Ike which you can see on Amazon here and Helin Flatfish (on Amazon here).
If you need something that can dive farther than a swimming crankbait, then consider using a diving lure to get the job done. A diving lure comes with a larger lip than what you’ll find on a thin minnow, which allows the diving lure to get deeper down into the water.
Diving lures are often designed with thin, long bodies or stocky, small bodies. The quicker you retrieve your lure, the deeper you can get the bait to go in the water. However, if you stop your retrieve, the hollow bait will come up to the surface. On occasion, some crankbaits will stay suspended depending on what you’re using when you fish.
You’ll also need to have some familiarity with spinnerbaits. Most anglers utilize spinnerbaits in areas that other lures cannot handle. So, if you’re in a space that might hang up your other lures, you may want to use a spinnerbait. Spinnerbaits are also known as safety-pin spinners because they look like a safety spin that’s flipped open. Spinnerbaits are designed with a weighted end that features one hook, a skirt, and an ending that has at least one spinner, if not more.
Spinnerbaits will allow you to have quick retrieval as you move across the surface. Spinnerbaits can handle moving through areas that other baits struggle in because they are designed with a propeller or some blades in the front that, along with adding flash and noise, have a side benefit of helping them cut through the water.
There are three different kinds of blades as far as spinnerbaits are concerned: willow-leaf, Indiana, and Colorado. The willow-leaf edge is designed to be thin and pointy on both ends. The Indiana looks like the willow-leaf but features a rounded end. Last, the Colorado has a round end with a rounded point.
The last type of bait that falls into this class is the French spinner. The French spinner is made with a tubular metal body and features a blade in the front and a hook and a skirt on the back. Anglers usually use French spinners on rocky areas as well as smaller freshwater streams. French spinners do a great job of working through areas that might be difficult for other types of spinners.
As an angler, how often should you use jigs? Jigs can be used year-round for just about any freshwater fishing activity. Jigs are comprised of a hook and a weighted head with a hair, feature skirt, or plastic grub. Many jigs come with a rounded head design, but some come with flat or triangular heads. The reason for the different design is to keep the hook upright, so it doesn’t snag on anything nearby in the water.
When you retrieve your jig, you’ll be using an up-and-down motion if the water is warm or cold. However, the colder the water is, the more you’ll want to slow down the retrieve. Jigs come in a variety of different designs, and they work well in areas where they can easily get hung up. However, jigs are cheap, and you will wind up losing a few of them as you fish, so be prepared for that. Since jigs aren’t costly to replace and it’s common for jigs to get hung up, don’t worry too much about losing a jig here and there.
On occasion, some jigs come with a removable safety-pin spinner. Those spinners also feature a tiny grub body on most occasions. The most popular type of jig that resembles this concept is the Bass Buster Beetle Spin (find on Amazon here), which is popular to use for several different kinds of fish.
You can use jigs for fishing in a variety of different ways. Anglers that use them when fishing for bass like to flip or pitch them across a small distance rather than going for longer distances. You usually retrieve your jigs by lifting and dropping your rod with a slow rising and lowering motion, which creates a taut line for the jig. You can also retrieve your jigs straight and keep your rod at about ten o’clock when you do that.
Our most recommended jig is Leland’s Lures Trout Magnets – we like to put these on a 4 or 5 foot leader with a bubble and experiment with various retrieves – twitching the lure in slowly – until the fish tell us what they’re interested in. Gold heads and more natural colors are our preference. You can get them on Amazon here.
Spoons are something else you’ll be using quite often as an angler. Spoons work for a wide variety of different species of fish and are one of the oldest and most traditional lures still around today. The fishing spoon was created back in 1850 by Julio T. Buel. According to the story, Buel cut the handle off a teaspoon and then placed a hook on it. By doing that, the spoon can move from one side to the other as it is retrieved, attracting more fish.
While you can use spoons for hunting for a variety of different kinds of fish, you’ll usually be adjusting the size of your spoon to match the type of fish you are trying to catch. For example, if you are trying to catch trout or panfish, you’ll probably be fishing with a tinier spoon. On the other hand, you’ll want to use a large spoon when looking for larger fish like bass and walleye. Thicker spoons can work well for casting and trolling.
Some spoons are traditionally designed to work well under the surface of the water. If a spoon is made to go underneath the surface, it will have a treble hook and a split ring on the spoon. Two of the most popular types of spoons you’ll find on the market today is the well-known, red-and-white-striped Eppinger Dardevle which you can find on Amazon here, and the Hofschneider Red Eye (on Amazon here), which has two plastic eye-beads as well as hooks.
Kastmasters, Jake’s and Lil Jakes, and Super Dupers are by far our favorite lures. But if we had to choose a “go to” lure it would be Kastmasters Gold with Red which you can see on Amazon here. Again, you want to match the size and color to the game and conditions.
If you’re planning on doing a lot of trout fishing, then you’ll want to bring along your flies. Flies designed for trout fishing are usually made with one hook and hair or a feather skirt to catch the attention of the fish. Flies are the tiniest and most lightweight of all the fishing lures available and are generally used when stream fishing for trout. Flies come in a bevy of different styles and are designed to look like the type of flies trout naturally eat. There are five different types of flies, which we breakdown below.
Anglers typically use dry flies and float them on the surface to attract trout. Dry flies are made with some waterproofing feature that prevents them from sinking into the water. Dry flies are typically attached to a floating line and used to mimic the motion of the insects they are mimicking.
On the other hand, anglers use wet flies when they want their flies to sink, or they want to make their fake insects look like they are struggling in the water. You can use wet flies with sinking, floating, or sinking-tip lines depending on how deep you want to place the fly. When the water is calm, you can cast a wet fly in front of your fish and let it sink before ou starts retrieving it. That way, you can pass the fish as you come back with the line.
Nymphs are a style of wet fly that is designed to look like baby insects or tiny aquatic life. You’ll fish with a nymph in much the same way as you’d fish with any traditional wet fly.
You’ll use streamers when you want something that mimics minnows or other tiny fish. Streamers work similarly to both dry flies and wet flies. Depending on whether they are dry or wet, you’ll equally use them.
If you need a dry fly that looks like a gigantic insect, a mouse, or anything along those lines, then you’ll want to use a bug. Bugs sometimes come with popper heads. You’ll use either a floating or sinking-tip line when you fish with a bug. Whenever you are trying to imitate a more substantial form of prey, you’ll use a bug.
You might wind up using more than one type of fly when you are trying to test out what types of flies the fish are biting. Many anglers wind up testing out a bevy of different kinds of flies when trying to figure out what the fish want. On occasion, you can combine different types of flies, but that will also depend on the fishing regulations in your state.
Our favorite “fly” is the Pistol Pete (see on Amazon) which is actually a fly and spinner combination in one. These work awesome on a leader behind a casting bubble. Fill the bubble to different levels to vary the depth. Brown Marabou, Olive Marabou, and Last Supper have worked the best for us.
Plugs are another type of lure that comes with a body that is either plastic or wood. Plugs can be used both on top of as well as far below the surface of the water. Floating plugs are made to engage with the surface of the water. On the other hand, diving plugs are prepared to participate at a certain depth underneath the water.
Plugs can be used with all kinds of freshwater fish, but you’ll want to adjust the size of your plug according to the size of the fish that you’re aiming to catch. For example, you’ll use larger plugs when fishing for bass and walleye, and smaller plugs when fishing for trout. Yakima Bait Flatfish (click see on Amazon) is our recommendation here.
#8 Surface Fishing Lures
Another type of fishing lure you’ll need to be aware of for freshwater fishing is the surface fishing lure. Most surface fishing lures are designed to look like a variety of fish prey, like mice, lizards, insects, and frogs. Surface fishing lures come with a solid build that features wood or plastic. These fishing lures also have at least one and up to two treble hooks and feature an eyelet for your line in the front. RUNCL Topwater Frog Lures (see on Amazon) are our recommended favorite.
There are a few different types of surface fishing lures. One, known as the waddler, looks like a scooped metal dish that’s placed on the lure’s body. Fizzers feature one or more blades on the body of the bait and spin when the angler retrieves the item. Plus, fizzers also make a fizzing noise that sounds like buzzing wings or a drowning insect to the fish.
Surface lures can be a lot of fun to fish with on the water. You can fish for all types of fish and a wide variety of fish of different sizes when using surface lures. To help you understand a bit more about surface fishing lures, we’ll cover the different types of surface fishing lures you’ll find on the market today below.
Blade Fishing Lures
Blade fishing lures are just what they sound like, which shouldn’t be surprising. With a blade fishing lure, you’re getting a freshwater trolling lure that features blades and a swinging hook. Blade fishing lures are made to go in deep water.
Buzz Fishing Lures
Buzz fishing lures resemble safety-pin lures. You’ll find a propeller blade on some wire and a weighted body along with a skirt and a hook. This type of bait is designed to be used on top of the water to attract freshwater fish.
Technology has given us the wonderful world of vibrating lures, which offer a tiny motor that creates vibrations that help attract fish. Because the lure vibrates, it looks more like a living creature to the fish.
Snag hooks are another item you’ll want to be familiar with when it comes to freshwater fishing. With a snag hook, you’ll get a heavy-duty hook that has lead around its center and features three treble hooks. You typically don’t bait snag hooks with anything. With a snag hook, you’ll cast it out and retrieve it quickly, hoping you “snag” a fish’s body while you bring the hook back.
When fish are spawning, anglers often use snag hooks to help cut back on populations of nuisance fish. Also, snag hooks are not legal in some states, so you’ll need to make sure you can legally use snag hooks in the state you are fishing in before you start fishing with them.
Now that we’ve covered the best lures you can use for freshwater fishing, we’ll talk in significantly more detail about choosing the right one.
Selecting the Correct Lure
So, how do you go about choosing the correct lure for the situation you are in now? With time and more experience fishing, you’ll get a feel for the type of lures you’ll want to use when. However, up until that point, it will take some planning, practice, and effort. So, we’ll give you a few guidelines below to help you select the correct lure.
Weather and Water Conditions
When it comes to selecting the correct lure, you’ll also need to make sure you pick lure colors that work for the current climate and water conditions. Most anglers use light colors on brighter days, and darker colors on darker days.
When the weather is bright and sunny, and the water is clear, you’ll want to pick lures that are light and resemble natural patterns of the area. When the weather is cloudy, and the water looks dirty, you’ll want to grab some darker lures that don’t look as natural. This instance is where a vibrating lure might come in handy because it can help attract fish with their vibrations.
Lure Size and Fish Species
You need to make sure you select the size of your lure according to the type of fish species you are trying to catch. If you are fishing for panfish like sunfish, bluegill, and perch, then it’s a good idea to stick to smaller jigs and grubs. On the other hand, you should use larger lures, like spinnerbaits and crankbaits, when you’re trying to attract some larger fish like bass and walleye.
Keep in mind that smaller lures work best on light spinning and spin casting type tackle with four to ten-pound test lines. By comparison, larger lures should be used with medium or heavy action rods, and twelve to twenty pounds of the test line.
Weather conditions and how the fish react to their surroundings can also affect the types of lures you’ll be using when you freshwater fish. For example, during the spring, when there are still enough cold fronts to make fish act lazy, you’ll want to use smaller lures and avoid larger lures.
When the weather is very windy, however, you might need to employ a larger lure to make sure you’ve placed plenty of weight on the line to keep the wind from throwing you off. We also recommend trying to cast out a spinner and prevent casting and retrieving your lure.
Now that we’ve covered the best lures for freshwater fishing, you should have a pretty good idea of the types of lures you’ll be using on your next fishing trip. As you’ve learned, the kind of bait you’ll use when you are freshwater fishing will depend a lot on the size and type of fish you are trying to catch, and the environmental and weather conditions that surround you.
As you obtain experience freshwater fishing, you’ll get a more natural handle on the type of lures and baits you should use, and when and where you should use them. However, for now, the general guidelines we’ve given you should help you out, no matter what type of freshwater fish you are trying to catch.
So, don’t get too down on yourself if you discover it takes some getting used to when you are trying to figure out what lures you’ll want to use when. As you spend more time on the water fishing, the process of selecting lures will become much more comfortable, and you’ll start catching more and more fish successfully as you learn.