The Best Surf Fishing Lures

May 9, 2020

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Here at Finn’s Fishing Tips, we love surf fishing. Surf fishing is one of the easiest ways to get your tackle in front of large fish – from striped bass to sharks or kingfish. With the proper surf fishing rod and surf fishing reel, you have the chance of fighting the fish of your dreams. From shore! But if you aren’t into using live bait or a fishing finder rig, what are the best surf fishing lures?

We’ve done hours of research and user testing to bring you the best surf fishing lures that we’ve used ourselves as well as time tested surf fishing lures from our friends who are avid surf fishermen. In this article, we’ll first go over the different types of fish you can catch while surf fishing with lures, then we’ll cover our favorite surf fishing lures depending on the season. We’ll also go into how to present different surf fishing lures and where to look for surf fish.

In a Hurry? Here’s The Best Surf Fishing Lures

What Kind of Fish Live in the Surf?

The type of fish you can catch while fishing with surf lures is very dependent on where you live (although there are some species like sharks that live all over the world). On the west coast, you can catch striped bass, surfperch, rays, sharks, halibut/flounder, tuna, surf smelt, and jacksmelt. On the east coast, you can catch striped bass, bluefish, red drum, tarpon, snook, and many other species the farther south you go.

What are the Best Surf Fishing Lures?

Alright, so what are the best type of surf fishing lures? There are actually many lure options that work well. Artificial lures, artificial bait, and natural bait can all catch large saltwater surf fish. Keep reading to learn which works best for different situations.

Artificial Surf Fishing Lures

There are several types of artificial lures that work especially well for surf fishing. Poppers, spoons, and other types of lures meant to imitate what surf fish eat (often smaller fish and insects). 


Poppers

Poppers are meant to imitate an injured baitfish that is swimming on the surface to escape predatory fish that may be hiding below. They often create splashes or vibrations when you reel them in that also attract hungry predatory surf fish. Poppers work great for bluefish, striped bass, tarpon, and other fast saltwater gamefish. We really like the Yo-Zuri 3D poppers.


Spinning Lures

Large spinning lures can also work well for surf fishing. Most spinning lures come in extra-large saltwater resistant sizes that work perfectly for surf fishing. We really like Vibrax Blue Fox lures.


Spoons

Big metal spoons may be the oldest type of surf fishing lure, and still deserve a spot in the surf fishing lure tackle box. Their heavyweight and silvery coloring a perfect for casting far out into the surf then retrieving like a small baitfish. Our favorite spoons to use for surf fishing are large and extra-large sized Kastmaster spoons.


Plastic Jigs

Plastic Jigs are another great option of surf fishing lure. They come in pretty much all shapes and sizes – some have eyes while other implement feathers as streamers. These jigs work really well in extra bright colors. Plastic jigs are a favorite of ours to use when surf fishing in the southern half of the United States. Tarpon, snook, and bonitos all love brightly colored plastic jigs. The RonZ Big Game jigs are our favorite.

Hiding Scent

It’s also worth mentioning that after you tie your lure onto your line, try covering it with a masking scented oil. These can be anise smelling or baitfish flavored. This helps convince the surf fish that your lure is natural and hides any weird smells you have given it while touching the lure. Saltwater fish have a surprisingly strong sense of smell!

Artificial Surf Fishing Bait

Artificial bait can also work very well when surf fishing. We recommend using the tried and true fishing finder rig with either herring or shrimp flavored artificial bait. You’ll need to check your lure more frequently than with live bait as the artificial bait is more likely to fall off in the waves.

Live Surf Fishing Lures/Bait

Live lures can also work well for surf fishing. Many different types of baitfish/squid will work well for surf fishing depending on your location. For the east coast, we recommend using mullet, herring, squid, or sardines. The further south you go, you can use crabs and shrimp along with the above baitfish. Be sure to secure your bait firmly to your hook!

If you’re using a fish head as your surf fishing bait, hook the head through the nose. For the body pieces, hook them through the spine. If you’re not sure what the local fish are eating, swing into a local fishing shop and chat with the workers. You can also often buy the right bait and lures from them as well. And remember, big fish like big lures!

Where to Fish Your Lures

Now that you have your surf fishing lures picked out, it’s time to figure out where the saltwater fish are hiding. 

When fishing on a sandbar, try and identify both the crest of the sandbar (where it’s most shallow) and the trough (where it’s deep). Both of these transition areas can be good for saltwater surf fish as it’s often where smaller creatures they like to eat live. 

Keep an eye out for birds in and above the water. If birds are diving into the water, that means that there is a ball of baitfish nearby (and most likely predatory saltwater fish).

Rocks can also provide shelter for saltwater baitfish and are another good place to cast your lure. Just be careful not to snag your lure on the bottom!


Best Surf Fishing Lures Depending on Season

While the above lures and techniques can work year-round, your general strategy for surf fishing should change depending on what season it is.

The best time of year to surf fish depends a lot on the fish’s running patterns. You want to fish for predatory fish during their run or migration, as they’ll often congregate near shore. On average, saltwater fish tend to begin running in the summer and into September and October. Try using more active fishing techniques and surf fishing lures such as spinning lures and spoons during these months.

In the winter, saltwater fish are more sedentary and tend to hang out in the deeper parts of the shoreline. Since they’re not as active in these months, it makes more sense to get close where they’re hiding then use passive bait/lure with a fish finder rig. Baitfish, crustaceans, and squid all work great for this type of surf fishing. 

Try to avoid surf fishing in the middle of the day, and focus on fishing early in the morning and later in the evening. This is when many saltwater fish feed, and they’ll be more likely to bite.

Additional Surf Fishing Tackle

Surf fishing with a proper surf fishing rod, reel, and line makes a huge difference when casting your lure far out into the surf. If you’re looking to buy a complete surf fishing setup, check out our surf fishing rod, surf fishing reel, and surf fishing line buying guides.

Conclusion

Surf fishing with artificial lures can be one of the most fun ways to fish for saltwater gamefish. After reading this article, you now know what type of surf fishing lures to use for different types of gamefish, as well as how to present them depending on the desired action. Catch a massive saltwater fish while surf fishing? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Happy Hunting!

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