Just as every human being needs socks in a drawer and food in a cupboard, every angler needs a few tried-and-true lures in a tacklebox. Whether one is a freshwater fishing fanatic or a saltwater slayer is irrelevant — don’t leave home without these five fish-catching lures aboard.
Since humans first figured out fish are edible, spoons have been wobbling, spinning and flashing their way into anglers’ hearts. That’s not much of a stretch. Spoons made from reflective shells have been discovered in aboriginal archaeological sites worldwide, and references to metal spoons date back to the time of the Roman empire. There’s a simple reason why: they work.
Spoons get a leg up over many other artificial lures because they not only wobble and flash in a visually appealing way, but they also create vibrations as they move through the water. Many anglers believe such vibrations help fish home in on the lure in cloudy or discolored water, where visibility is reduced. Meanwhile, their versatility is increased by the fact spoons can be cast and retrieved, trolled and, in some cases, jigged.
2. Topwater Plugs.
While it’s true that some species aren’t caught on topwater plugs — hooking a flounder on topwater, for example, would be a longshot at best — the diversity of surface-feeding gamefish attracted to them is still huge. They’re highly effective on some of the most popular species, including bass of all varieties, pike, redfish and speckled trout. Even tuna anglers can sometimes cast topwater plugs to rather dramatic effect.
That dramatic effect — a fish exploding out of the depths in a spray of fury — is one of the things that makes topwater plugs a favorite of anglers all across the globe. No strike is more exciting than one generated by topwater, and the fact that fish often miss on their first swing and attack the same plug multiple times in a matter of seconds makes using one all the more exciting.
Another lure that’s been around for as long as anyone can remember is the bucktail. Made by wrapping thread around a hook to hold the hairs of a deer’s tail against it, the bucktail is probably responsible for the demise of as many gamefish as any other lure in existence. They can be found in a million different shapes, colors and sizes, and if those parameters match up with what the fish are feeding on, there aren’t many finned predators alive that won’t take a bucktail at one time or another.
The bucktail’s biggest advantage, however, may lie in its versatility. It can be fished with virtually any method, from casting to trolling to jigging. And unlike some other lures, a bucktail can be “sweetened” with a trailer, such as a soft plastic twister-tail or a wiggling pork rind, which allows the angler to adapt a single lure to countless applications, for species ranging from walleye to wahoo.
4. Flies and Streamers.
Wait a sec, these things are only for fly fishing, right? Wrong! Whether an angler uses fly gear, spinning gear or conventional gear, she should keep a few flies and streamers in the tacklebox at all times. They can be presented with weight added to the line, or tied onto a rig in tandem with a heavier lure. And there are times when the small, slender presentation offered by flies and streamers matches the hatch better than anything else. Lake and reservoir anglers, for example, can add a fly above a spoon or jig on a dropper loop and catch crappie and bluegill while they also jig for lake trout. Bay fishermen can do the same to catch stripers and weakfish at the very same time. Even offshore, a streamer can come in handy, tied in tandem in front of a larger lure, for example. It mimics a tiny baitfish fleeing a small predator, which in turn represents a healthy mouthful to a fish such as a mahi-mahi.
5. Soft Plastic Twister Tails.
As mentioned earlier, these can be used to sweeten the look of a bucktail, and they can be used to enhance a variety of other lures, including some spoons and parachute jigs. But threaded onto the hook of a lead-head, they can also stand on their own and generate strikes from virtually any gamefish on the planet, thanks to their lifelike wiggle. And like most of the other lures on this list, twister tails are versatile in that they can be cast, jigged or trolled. But their universal appeal goes one step further, since they can also be matched up with heads of varying shapes and sizes to probe vastly different depths.
While the five lures in the main story are the must-haves, we’d be remiss not to mention the über-effective spinner. True, spinners aren’t as versatile as the lures on the main list, but they have been around forever, because they’re so darn effective. Plus, they have that same vibration-creating advantage that spoons enjoy. That’s why shafted spinners, spinner baits and other lures with spinner-bladed enhancements are popular for everything from salmon to stripers.