There are a ton of different lures designs, all of which are tailored to perform specific presentations. This wide range in the types of fishing lures can be overwhelming to the beginning angler and even anglers who fish more regularly.
In this post, we will break down the various lure types, how they work, and how you should use them.
7 Most Common Types of Lures
Jigs are one of the oldest and most commonly used fishing lures of all time. They are incredibly effective for most fish species and, as a result, have stood the test of time for generations.
Jigs are great for finesse fishing, working the bottom of a body of water, vertical jigging in deep water, you name it.
Jigs are incredibly versatile and can be used at any depth, any speed, and in or around heavy cover.
Authors Note: Jigs work great for finesse fishing or probing small specific fish-holding structure; they also excel at fishing in open water when targeting schools of suspended baitfish.
Modern jigs like swim jigs that are paired with soft plastics work great as search baits to quickly cover large areas in search of actively feeding and aggressive fish.
Jigs come in many different forms and designs today, with silicone skirted jigs, bucktail jigs, naked jigs, swim jigs, stand-up jigs, jigging spoons, and more, all of which have a time and place on the water.
Spinner designs have been in recreational fishing since recreational fishing or fishing for the sole purpose of leisure became a thing people did, with the basic spinner design being over 100 years old.
Spinners like jigs have stood the test of time due to their effectiveness and versatility.
Spinners come in a wide range of designs from standard single blade designs featuring willow, Colorado, or Indiana blades and can have either skirted or naked bodies, safety pin spinnerbait designs, or massive double blade musky designs.
Sizes can range from tiny trout spinners to massive musky spinnerbaits and bucktails, but all of these baits have the same thing in common.
Pro Tip: Spinners produce a ton of vibration and flash, which can call in fish from far distances.
Spinners can also be worked at virtually any speed and are typically retrieved with a standard straight retrieve to keep the blades spinning, which means they are excellent search baits.
Spinners can work at a wide variety of depths as long as the blade is spinning, and designs like the safety pin spinnerbaits can be worked in and around thick vegetation.
Spinners are one of the best search baits of all time, and you can fish an area thoroughly and efficiently with them to contact aggressive and actively feeding predators of all types.
Crankbaits imitated a swimming baitfish, they come in a variety of body shapes as well as having a wide range of lip shapes which affect the action and depth of the lure.
Some crankbaits don’t have any lip and these crankbaits are known as lipless crankbaits or “rattletraps” the lures can be straight retrieved or can also be used as a jig for vertical fishing.
Crankbaits excel at fishing at a very specific depth range and can be a great fish-catching tool when fish are at a specific depth in either suspended water or on key pieces of structure like rock piles.
Crankbaits can also work as search bait when casting large flats or on weed lines or drop-offs.
Authors Note: The length of the lip, shape, and angle it extends from the nose of the lure determine the action and depth, with long and angles that are close to being parallel with the lure allowing for maximum depth.
Lips can be square, round, and even triangular in shape, and the shape translates to action; in most cases, a square bill crankbait will have a tight shuddering action, and round bills will have more of a wobbling/rolling action.
Many crankbaits were designed to be “twitch” baits and work very well when used in an erratic fashion by tapping the rod tip and adding pauses.
Trolling is one of the most common ways to employ crankbaits when fishing and several crankbaits used in conjunction with planer boards will cover vast areas of water quickly and is very popular among walleye and musky anglers, among others.
Some crankbaits are actually referred to as jerkbaits, and while they may look the same, jerkbaits are used in a fashion similar to twitch baits, with taps or sharp and short rips of the rod, and if used as a crankbait, have a very tight and fast swimming action.
4. Glide Baits
Glide bait is more of a niche fishing application but can be very effective in the right situations.
Glide baits, or gliders, are used by a variety of anglers like bass, pike, and musky anglers and require the user to input the action in order for the lure to work properly.
To use a glider, an angler needs to give the lure short rhythmic taps or the rod while giving the appropriate amount of slack to allow the momentum to “glide” the lure.
The action consists of a zig-zag pattern or “walk the dog” action that imitates a fleeing or swimming fish.
Glide baits are typically used in the first five feet of a water column and work very well in shallow water, over weed beds, or across weed edges.
Authors Note: Gliders are not beginner lures and take some practice as well as needing a rod dedicated to the role, with most glider rods being shorter and stouter depending on the species.
Glide baits may also have replaceable tails like grub tails or some other form of soft plastic. Glide baits with soft plastic tails are very popular among pike and musky fishermen.
Depending on the weighting and body shape, gliders can have a tight glide or a very wide glide where the lure is capable of darting to the left and right for several feet.
We already touched on lipped jerkbaits in the crankbait section, so we won’t talk about those in this section. Glide baits are also considered to be a type of jerkbait, but there is still another type that we will discuss.
The other jerkbait worth mentioning is the dive and rise jerkbait. These jerkbaits are very niche and are overwhelmingly used among musky anglers and, to a lesser extent, pike anglers.
Rise and dive jerkbaits are long and slender, with many designs featuring an adjustable metal tail fin.
The tail fin can be fine-tuned to achieve maximum depth or shallow depth, depending on the fin angle.
Sharp taps and rod will cause the bait to dive; the angler then pauses and allows the bait to rise as far as the angler wants, and then follows with another dive, and so on.
This action imitates a wounded and dying fish and can cause vicious strikes from apex predators like muskies and pike; even bass will attack large musky-sized dive and rise jerkbaits.
The dive and rise jerkbait was, to my knowledge, first created in the 1950s by a man named Frank Suick from Pelican Lake, Wisconsin.
During the prototyping phase of the “Suick,” Frank Suick caught 30 legal muskies in 30 days, which at the time was an incredible achievement.
Suicks are still made today with the original design that was pioneered in the 1950s, and many other lure builders and lure manufacturers have created their own versions since.
6. Topwater Lures
Topwater fishing is the favorite method to catch fish for many anglers across the globe. Nothing beats a ferocious topwater strike from a predator, and the explosion that ensues when a fish attacks one is one of the greatest experiences in fishing.
Like any lure, there are several different variations of topwater lures, and some can also be categorized as gliders and have a zig-zag action but stay on the surface.
Authors Note: One of the most popular types of topwater lures is the tail prop style lure. The lure typically consists of a rear section that rotates and has a fin that makes a “plopping” noise when retrieved and is a similar concept to a boat motor prop.
Prop style topwater baits can have props in both the front and the back, and the props can vary widely from small narrow props to large cupped blade-style props and everything in between.
Another common type of topwater is also a spinner bait design but instead of Colorado or Willow blades, there is a curved prop that throws a ton of water while creating a disturbance that imitates a fleeing baitfish on the surface of the water.
One of the more unusual topwater designs that are very popular with musky and pike anglers is the creeper design.
Creepers have two metal fins on each side of the body, and they flap outwards when retrieved causing the whole lure to rock back and forth while spitting and throwing a massive amount of water and making a “bloop” sound every time a fin enters and exits the water.
Creepers imitate a wounded bird or terrestrial animal that has found itself in the water, and the strikes that they elicit can be incredible.
Some topwater lures even have metal front lips like a crankbait and swim on the surface of the water instead of beneath it.
Topwaters have many more designs than the ones mentioned and are one of the lures commonly used where there is so much room for variation in design that it’s hard to list every variation on the market in a blog post.
7. Soft Plastics
Soft plastics are very prolific among anglers of almost any type of species, and if topwater lures have a wide range of variations, soft plastics seem to have an infinite number of variations.
Paddle tail swimbaits, jointed swimbaits, craw imitations, beavers, worms, senkos, minnow bodies, small insects for ice fishing, flukes, giant curly tail lures for musky, tubes, the list goes on.
Soft plastics have become one of the most dominant lure types today thanks to modern technology, and the vast number of different types and designs means that there aren’t many fishing situations where you cant use a soft plastic lure.
You can jig them, straight retrieve them, and work on the surface; the only limit in many cases is your imagination when it comes to soft plastics.
You can even use soft plastics in conjunction with jigs and even as trailers on spinners of most types, making them even more versatile.
Magic Lure Myth
There is no such thing as a “magic” lure, and many companies over the decades have tried to sell their lures by boasting extraordinary claims.
Authors Note: In almost all cases, these magic lures are nothing special or even terrible lure designs, and after some initial hype, they will fade away until they cease to exist.
The closest you will get to a “magic” lure is by using live bait, which isn’t a lure at all, and all artificial lures attempt to imitate actual living prey.
Tools in a Toolbox
All fishing lures should be looked at like tools because that’s what they are, tools for catching fish.
Some anglers have the mindset that one particular lure is better than others in a general sense, but this is also not the case, and each lure has a time and place where they will perform other lure designs.
Some fishing situations are more common for certain types of lures like a jig or spinnerbait, giving the impression that they are superior to all the others when in reality, they are thrown more often than lures like crankbaits.
Some lures are great search tools, while others are great for finesse fishing, deepwater fishing, and shallow fishing.
You should approach fishing by asking what the best tool for the job is at any given time based on fish feeding activity and the fishing environment.
The fishing market is huge, and everyone is looking to create a new hot lure design, but the time-tested classics seem to stay the same in terms of design for a reason, they work. The more time you spend experimenting with all the different lure types, the more you will learn when and where to use them.