While the world of bait can be overwhelming if you just head to the store, you can use this guide to break down all types of fishing lures and baits, including the differences between hard and soft baits.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is a Fishing Lure?
- 2 Lure Fishing vs Bait Fishing
- 3 What Attracts Fish to Lures and Why?
- 4 Types of Fishing Lures
- 5 The Secrets to Catching More Fish with Your Baits
What is a Fishing Lure?
While natural bait like minnows and worms work well, artificial fishing baits and lures can be used more than once to catch multiple fish. Lures also come in a number of variations, but they are all designed to do the following:
- Attract fish with movement, reflections, and colors.
- Look like insects, larvae, smaller fish, and other creatures that fish love to feast on.
While most fishing lures can target a certain type of fish species or a group of fish, you can likely use the same lures for different fish. However, some will work better than others to attract particular fish, such as trout and panfish. These types of fish won’t do well with lures designed for pelagic fish. You can find the types of fish that lures are good for on the packaging. Most lure manufacturers list these on the side or back of the package.
When you pick a fishing lure, you should pay attention to size and weight, making sure to think about the water conditions where you’ll be fishing as well. If you are fishing in rivers with strong currents or windy conditions, then heavier lures are thought to be better. Lightweight lures are great for calm conditions.
In addition to size and weight, lure color and reflective features are also important. When you fish in murky or brackish water, bright lures and reflections will attract a catch more successful. However, the opposite is true for crystal clear lakes and waterways. You wouldn’t want to use a colorful lure.
Lure Fishing vs Bait Fishing
A fishing lure is akin to hunting fish, whereas bait fishing, aka using baited hooks, works more like trapping. Lure fishers are able to span across larger expanses of water, seeking out their catches. There are different situations where lure fishing is better than bait fishing, and vice versa. Here are a few things to consider:
When Is It a Good Time to Use Lures?
Fishing lures work well for catching aggressive, predatory fish, but it will also work for catch and release better than baiting. If you don’t want to catch smaller, undersized, and other nuisance fish, then lures really are the best way to do so.
If you are fishing in clear water, fishing lures are going to be the best way to find the larger fish. Warmer water will also work better with fishing lures over baits, simply because bait may fall apart in warmer waters.
Lures use a uni knot primarily, which is a strong knot that cat form a small loop. That can be used to attach to the line or fly lead. This allows the lure to swing freely and flow more naturally in the water, which is more attractive for fish.
There are some ways that baits are better than lures. For one, a good lure can be expensive. Some lures get caught on trees, water weed, and rocks. You need to know how to cast and retrieve, as well as troll from a moving boat, in order to get the most out of a lure.
Some species of fish just won’t respond to lures. They require the smell of bait in order to latch on.
When Is It A Good Time to Use Bait?
You should use bait at night, when instructing those new to fish, or when water is muddy and discolored. There are also times when it’s very cold that using bait is best. If you are targeting fish that are vegetarian or omnivorous, then baits also work best.
Fishermen tend to use bait with half blood knots, you want to create a strong connection so that the fish will catch onto the line.
Bait is also effective at fooling most fish and faster at catching certain types of fish. It’s also pretty cheap. You can cast out your line, set your rod down, and then the fish will come to you. You can also return leftover bait to the water or take it home to your freezer for use in the future.
Many fish will hook themselves when they latch onto the bait, so you don’t have to know exactly where the fish is to be able to catch the fish. Bait is also good to use with a variety of different fish in every kind of aquatic environment. You will always catch something with the right bait.
Bad Times to Use Bait
There are some issues with bait that will prevent you from using it always. For one, bait has to be refrigerated or you’ll need a live well to help you maintain the freshness of your baits. You might have to catch your own bait, which is difficult and dirty. Bait also smells pretty strongly. It will stain your hands, clothes, and gear, so you will always have to shower and clean your clothes rigorously.
Bait doesn’t always attract the best types of fish, so you may run through your best bait and only catch undersized fish or those that you don’t want.
However, probably the worst part is that if you are doing catch and release, you can’t release baited fish typically back into the water with a high rate of survival. That’s because baited hooks tend to get latched onto fish, which can’t be released.
Lure fishing VS Bait fishing! Fishing Cape Cod Canal: by @ SenkoSkipper
What Attracts Fish to Lures and Why?
Seasoned anglers carry all types of lures in order to attract a big catch each time they go out on the water. These lures try to cover each fishing zone: surface, bottom, and subsurface. There are specific lures for each type of zone, and with certain types of baits, you’ll be able to attract the fish you want every time.
Artificial bait and lures are made to imitate the movements and characteristics of prey that fish like to eat. They have the same flash, color, and shape as prey basically.
Lures are simply fun to use and collect. You can use them over and over again to attract larger fish, and it’s extremely satisfying to catch a fish on a lure, especially one that’s a bit more expensive. However, fish are attracted to lures because they can look just like the tastiest organism with colorful designs, reflections, and jittery movements that make them more alive than the real thing.
Lures also tend to catch larger fish on average, and you’ll be able to catch fish in the jaws, mouth, and lips, which is better for catch and release fishing.
Since most fishes are designed to target specific types of fish, they have different weights and sizes, built to withstand undercurrents as well as high wind conditions. Not all lures are going to be able to attract fish that want to smell the bait, rather than get tricked to latch on by reflective features.
Types of Fishing Lures
When you go out on the water every day, you should know all about the different types of baits and lures available to you. With artificial lures, there are hundreds to choose from, but they fall into specific categories.
There is a great bait debate in the fishing world right now between soft and hard bait types. Every angler wants to get that edge when they fish, so we’ve broken them down and defined the characteristics to look for based on the type of fish you want to catch and the type of water you fish in.
Here are a few to add to your collection, as well as how each work and for what fish.
These look like small fish and typically will work best if you are fishing surface zones to medium dives, and occasionally deep-diving fish. You can cast and retrieve by reeling, then cranking the line back in.
These mimic extremely small fish. Some will float, and others dive, as well as shimmy, gurgle, splash, and shake to mimic prey that fish love to feed upon. You tend to catch a lot of fish types with minnows so be careful to use in zones where you know your catch will strike.
Pencil baits are also called stick baits and walking baits. These are a topwater lure that you can always use to catch larger predators, such as bass. Pencil baits are pretty historic to hard bait lures, dating back to 1910. You can now break them down into horizontal and vertical. Horizontal pencil baits move side to side in the water, which is called “walking the dog” or “skating.” Vertical pencil baits went out a long time ago, so you’ll only find the traditional horizontal pencil baits in most stores.
These are smaller hard baits that mimic the movement and shape of bugs floating on the surface of the water. When the bait is jerked, it makes a sound that will attract your catch. These are perfect for calm lake waters during a post-spawn season.
Spoon lures are some of the oldest types of lures and were thought to originate around the 1840s. Simple in shape and color, these are designed to reflect and imitate a crippled or injured prey in the water. When you cast, you’ll need to experiment to see what speed works best to lure fish.
These are great for attracting fish who like movement and flash. The spinner has small blades that propel and spin, reflecting in the water to attract a predator. Fish like the motion and vibrations that shoot through the water from these types of lures.
These are small hooks with a lead ball near the hook’s eye, and they can be decorated with eyes, rubber legs, tinsel, and feathers. These are typically more expensive and tend to only work on certain types of fish, such as bass or larger predators.
Soft baits are more natural and work better in some ways because of their familiar texture, odor, color, and simplicity to use. They are more effective when you head out to local shops in areas near where you plan to fish as well.
Shad is the preferred fish bait for catching catfish. These are small silvery fish that you can catch yourself or you can purchase. There is a debate on whether fresh or frozen shad is best for your fish-catching needs. Fresh shad is the best bet if you want to catch blue catfish, according to some anglers. In any case, shad is best for river fishing in shallow, brackish waters.
There are all types of crab and different ways that anglers use crab in certain waters to catch the right predators. Around inshore areas, such as bridges and fast-moving currents, anglers like to use blue crab. You’ll typically use a float that is a few feet from the crab to keep the bait just where you want–in the strike zone.
However, pass crab is good for catching fish like tarpon and some larger predators when you are fishing off the shore. These are easy to cast, but they are typically not as successful as blue crab.
The Secrets to Catching More Fish with Your Baits
When in Doubt, Add Flash
Do Hear What I Hear? Fish Do!
If you are fishing in topwater, you may want to have a treble around just so you can add it to your baits. It may seem small and unimportant, but it’s quite the opposite. You can add a treble feathered bait to a popper or spoon bait, just for that added flair and flash to get a fish’s attention. This is a perfect opportunity for catching bass.
Use Different Hooks for Casting and Pitching
You should use a straight shank hook when you cast with a worm because it will look better to fish in the water. You don’t want the fish to see the hook at all, and over time, fish have gotten used to the color and smell of a hook. However, when pitching to flip a worm to cover, anglers say you should avoid a heavy duty flipping hook. Smaller hooks are always better to go when you are fishing with worms.
Plastic Worms vs Live Worms
There is a situation in which one worm is better than the other. Just because a worm is wiggling doesn’t mean that a fish will be attracted to it. Taste, smell, sound, and color are all important to certain types of fish in the right water.
- Straight tail worms: These are the most versatile and will work for most fish. They also move and sink differently, allowing you to fish in strong cover or even in clear water without a problem.
- Curly tail worms: If you are working with a lot of vegetation and brackish water, then the curly tail worm is best since it has more realistic movement in the water.
Live worms always tend to work best with a small hook in clear-water areas as well as muddy waters due to the smell and movement.
Pick the Right Weight and Size
Learning to fish with lures and baits is trial and error at first. You may not be able to accurately get the right baits the first time, but following professionals and learning about the different lures specifically made for the fish in your area is a good first step. Bass fishing is the most popular sport among anglers, and it’s what most fishermen aspire to catch at first.
Just remember, when bass fishing, using worms is probably the best approach as these fish are typically smarter than your average predator. Plastic worms work effectively throughout the year, but it’s really about your technique and lure action that will get you more strikes.