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Mackerel is another pelagic sports fish that, besides wahoo, is largely forgotten in the pursuit of other bigger species. Often times mackerel are caught by mistake and annoy saltwater fishermen that were targeting yellowfin tuna or marlin.
But what most fishermen don’t know is that some species of mackerel can be a blast to catch, especially on lighter tackle. So what are the best mackerel lures?
You have come to the right place! In this article, we’ll go over our top 7 best mackerel lures, why we like each of them the most, as well as the different types of mackerel you can catch with them. We’ll also go over some best practices for catching more mackerel. Get ready to become a master mackerel fisherman!
Best Mackerel Lures
Best Mackerel Lures for Casting
Casting for mackerel from either a pier or from a boat is our favorite way to catch them. Since mackerel are such aggressive feeders, you’ll get killer strikes on topwater lures, plugs, and more. Here are our best casting mackerel lures.
The Yo-Zuri 3DB Popper is our favorite casting mackerel lure for many reasons. It’s lifelike retrieval makes it irresistible to hungry mackerel, and gets us more hookups than any other casting lure. The Yo-Zuri is a favorite for many other species, like voracious bluefish and cobia. The double treble hooks are hidden by a bucktail streamer that mimics a frantic baitfish’s tail. The Yo-Zuri 3DB Popper works well in all colors we’ve tried and is our go-to mackerel casting lure.
In a close second place is the GOT-CHA Plug. The GOT-CHA Plug deserves a spot in every saltwater fishermen’s tackle box, as it works well for many different saltwater game fish. Mackerel are no exception, the double treble hooks provide steadfast hookups and the metal body prevents many mackerel’s sharp teeth from biting through the lure. It’s a great choice in almost all situations.
The GOT-CHA plug is our favorite when trying to catch kingfish from a pier.
The ACME Kastmaster is on so many of our best lure lists, we’re beginning to lose track. But there is a reason for this – it works really, really well! The ACME Kastmaster is one of our favorites when fishing for mackerel from shore or from piers due to its extended casting capabilities. It’s chrome coloring and twitchy retrieval mimic a scared herring or mullet that hungry mackerel love to bite.
It’s also great for tropical species like Barramundi.
Best Mackerel Lures for Jigging
After casting, we like jigging for mackerel almost as much. If you find a school of baitfish near your boat, jigging for mackerel is often the most effective way to get a hookup. Mackerel strike jigs almost as hard as casting lures, and the bigger mackerel tend to feed in deeper water. Here are the best jigging mackerel lures.
Diamond jigs might be the most underrated type of jig out there – they have a super simple design, yet prove irresistible to many saltwater sports fish. Diamon jigs work especially well once you have found a bait ball of herring or mullet. Cast your diamond jig into the bait ball, let it sink, then beginning jigging it. You’ll have a mackerel on in no time!
If the Kastmaster is the classic saltwater spoon, then the SPRO Bucktail Jig is the classic saltwater jig. The SPRO Bucktail Jig works well for almost all types of saltwater fish – redfish, snook, black drum, and of course mackerel! The SPRO Bucktail Jig mimics a small shrimp or wounded baitfish and has the finesse for difficult presentations. We never go out on the water without one in our tackle box.
Best Mackerel Lures for Trolling
Trolling is another technique that works well for mackerel. We listed it last because often times if you’re trolling, you’re probably targeting a large species of pelagic fish – like yellowfin tuna, albacore tuna, or wahoo. Catching a mackerel is usually an afterthought. But if you have lighter tackle or are looking to catch mackerel to eat, here are the best mackerel lures for trolling.
Hoochie squids work well for so many different saltwater species of fish, and they are the best mackerel lure for trolling as well. We like using hoochie squids that have two hooks – one near the head and trailing hook. This limits misses and helps hook tentative fish that might mouth the lure before biting fully. If you’re looking to troll for mackerel specifically, get the Boone UV Hoochie Squid.
The Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow trolling lure is also a great choice when trolling for mackerel. Unlike hoochie squids, the Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow will dive up to 13 feet depending on your speed. This extra depth can work wonders on lower visibility days when you need to get your lure closer to where the mackerel are feeding. It also tends to attract larger mackerel species that are slightly lower in the water column.
What Kind of Mackerel Can You Catch?
Now that we’ve gone over the best mackerel lures, let’s spend some time talking about the different species of mackerel you can catch with them. There are actually many different species of mackerel in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, but we’re just going to cover the most commonly targeted species.
Did you know that wahoo are actually a type of mackerel? They are! Wahoo are the largest species of mackerel and probably the most commonly targeted. They often grow to over 100 lbs! If you’re fishing for wahoo, we recommend getting the largest size of the lures we listed here or sizing up to lure similar to what you would use for yellowfin tuna.
Kingfish (or king mackerel) are the second most targeted species of mackerel, and much like wahoo, it’s probably due to their size. Kingfish often grow to over 30 lbs and make for great eating if prepared fresh. We love catching kingfish using either the casting lures we listed above or by going kite fishing.
Author Note: Another very common species of mackerel you can catch both from shore and the open ocean is Spanish mackerel. Spanish mackerel are much smaller than wahoo or kingfish but can be just as fun to catch with light tackle.
They also tend to school up much more than the larger species and can be caught in large numbers if you find a school. Try using smaller versions of the above lures or a bubble rig with a piece of straw. We also think Spanish mackerel taste great!
Mackerel Fishing Best Practices
Before closing, we wanted to go over a few best practices when fishing for mackerel. Knowing what the best mackerel lures are is just the start. These tips will set you up for success the next time you go and will keep you safe while fishing for them.
- Get a pair of fishing pliers. All species of mackerel have razor-sharp teeth, which means unhooking them can be quite dangerous if you use your hands. We recommend getting a pair of saltwater fishing pliers to keep your fingers out of harm’s way.
- Use a strong leader. For the same reasons you should get a pair of fishing pliers, we recommend using an extra-strong leader when fishing for mackerel. Both wahoo and kingfish are notorious for slicing through the fishing line with their sharp mouths. You should also check your line for scratches and cuts immediately after landing a mackerel to prevent your line from snapping.
- Look for balls of baitfish. If you can find a ball of baitfish, you’ll soon be into tons of mackerel. Look for birds sitting on top of the water or flying overhead, as well as other predatory fish jumping out of the water feeding.
Mackerel can be a ton of fun to catch, especially if you’re looking for non-stop action. They may be smaller than other pelagic fish species, however, they are strong fighters and will tear line off of a lighter setup.
We hope after reading this article you now know what the best mackerel lures are and are set up for success with your next mackerel adventure. If you want more inspiration, check out our guide on the best lures for Kingfish.