Lure Techniques

Learning to Use Lures for Fishing

Learning to use lures for fishing is confusing to a beginner. The choice of lures seems endless. How do you know which lure to use? Using lures for fishing means knowing what lure is best.

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Table of Contents

Which lures to use is dependent on the species, water conditions, and specific situations. The fish have to find the lure. The way lures attract fish is through sight, sound, or vibration. Taking into account the water clarity and depth and sight may be unable to attract a fish.

learning to use lures try a crankbait

The best option is to one or two types of lures. Learn each lure to an expert skill level. Practice using a lure and find its best situations for success. Use the lure and get a feel for how it acts in the water. What action or movements make a fish strike. These actions vary among the different types of lures.

Lures and Species

Look at your target species to learn habitat and behavior. Plus the type of water you will fish. This will limit the choices to one or two lures that work best. These are the lures to fish with first. After learning to use the best lure for the target fish, add another lure. The second lure should complement the first.

Starting with soft plastics is a finesse style of fishing. Soft plastics work well for bass and walleye in many waterways. Add in a search bait for the second lure. This gives you more options. Search baits are crankbaits and spinnerbaits. They allow an angler to cover an area of water faster.

Learning the Types of lures for Fishing

Lures come in different types. Each has pros and cons in its use. There are lures for slow presentations and others for faster fishing techniques. As an angler, you need to know which lure is best for a situation. In other words, lures work in specific conditions. Use a lure in the wrong way or conditions. The chances of catching a fish are slim.

Anglers need the lures best for the species and water they fish. Fishing in lakes for largemouth uses soft plastics. In a river smallmouth fishing may be best with spinnerbaits or jerk baits. An individual angler needs to decide which lure to use.

Learning to Use Soft Plastics Lures

Using lures for fishing means soft plastics at some time. These are finesse lures for cold water or wary fish They also go into thicker cover where the bigger fish hide. The bigger fish take the best cover. You need to get into the cover to catch them.

Soft plastics come in many shapes and sizes. The classic rubber worm to highly detailed creature baits. Soft plastics imitate fish bait. Bass anglers prefer soft plastics in weeds and heavy cover. Yet, the designs available will catch most game fish. These lures will catch musky, pike, walleye, and panfish also.

The type of soft plastic for the targeted fish should be of the correct size and design. In other words, match the lure to the species for the best results. The jig or rig needs to be correct also. Anglers need to use the right amount of weight. A rig too heavy will snag and too light does not present well. Using the correct rig or jig aids in successful fishing.

Soft plastics need to be rigged correctly to work. Soft plastics need the hook through the center line of the lure. This avoids spinning or erratic movements. Having a soft plastic off-center is a common mistake. A lure off-center runs poorly. They will twist or flip.


Worms come in many variations and sizes. The longer ones are good for largemouth bass. Anglers use Texas and Carolina rigs with 8-9 inch worms. After hitting the bottom, these rigs are dragged and popped. The Texas rig is preferred in weeds and heavier cover. In open areas, the Carolina rig tends to have better results.

The Wacky rig is another set using worm baits. The rig uses smaller worms and has a fluttering effect on the fall. The rig is easy for beginners after learning to rig it correctly. In some cases, a nail weight is placed on one end. This is to achieve a different action.

There are too many rigs to mention in this article. Read this post on how to rig 5 popular soft plastic rigs. These 5 rigs cover the majority of applications and situations. An angler will face when fishing.


Tubes are easy to use and effective. Jigging a lure with a simple lift and pop action works best. These lures imitate a crayfish in the action. The lure will catch walleye, smallmouth, and largemouth bass. A 3-4 inch size is common and works best for an all-around lure.

Grub Tails

Use grub tails with jigs or as an add-on to spinnerbaits and other lures. The curled section ripples and wiggles behind the lure adding more action. A grub tail works for panfish, walleye, and bass. The tails come in many sizes. An angler will need a few sizes depending on the species.

Placed on a jig it is a cost-effective lure. Jig-heads and grub tails are very inexpensive. Use this lure in rocky areas. Panfish and walleye anglers have great success with jigs and grub tails. They catch smallmouth bass very well also.

In addition, using a jig and tail on a beetle spin frame is a fast technique to cover water. Use the beetle spin in shallower areas instead of regular spinner bait. This is a versatile lure for all species that eat minnows.

Creature Baits

Creature baits are lizards, crayfish, and other soft plastics mimicking fish baits. These are the match the hatch version of soft plastics. Creature baits work in clearer waters where the fish can see baits well. A crayfish is the common one used by anglers.

A lizard is another common creature bait. These are effective in waters with various salamanders and lizards present. A black lizard lure easily passes for a mud-puppy or hell-bender.

Smallmouth anglers like using hellgrammite bodies on jigs. A hellgrammite is one of the smallmouth’s preferred meals. Bass tend to inhale the smaller lure. An Angler having difficulty getting hookups with thicker soft plastics. May find these lures better.

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Learning to Use Jigs and Rigs

Jigs and rigs are commonly used with soft plastics. Yet there are jigs with bucktails and feathers. These lures get to the bottom faster and in deeper water. The weight controls the sink rate. The weight also is varied based on current and casting distance.

These lures are bounced along the bottom. An angler uses a twitch or snaps of the rod tip to lift the lure. The lure falls to the bottom after twitching. The twitch and pause action repeats until the lure is retrieved.

In a boat, anglers can use the vertical jigging method. You set the depth of the jig. Then work the lure up and down. If on a school of fish this is very effective. This technique is also good when drifting in a boat along with the structure. It allows the lure to stay in the deep water where the fish are located.

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Learning to Use Jerk-bait Lures

A jerk bait is overlooked by many anglers. These are versatile baits in many situations. The bait is able to be worked fast with a continuous retrieve. In other cases, an angler can pause the bait and work it slowly. Few baits offer this ability. In addition, jerk baits come in several types There is a floating, suspending, and sinking version of the lure.

A floating jerk bait is for shallows or above weeds and other types of cover. The suspending model is pulled down to depth. Then it is worked a few feet and left to sit with a pause. A fish strikes the lure often on the pause. The sinking version is ideal for deeper water. It allows an angler to count the lure to depth. Then start the retrieve.

Use all versions with a jerk or twitch of the rod. Do not retrieve the lure by reeling in the line. You pull the lure with the rod and reel up the slack. This action will imitate an injured or careless baitfish. It takes a little practice to be effective. Once the technique is learned, repeating it is easy.

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Learning to Use Spinnerbait Lures

An easy-to-use bait for beginners. It is a cast and retrieves lure. Cast the lure to your target and reel it back. The speed is varied to achieve different depths. Reeling faster makes the lure run shallower. A slower retrieve allows the lure to go deeper.

The depth can be varied with the weight of the lure and blades also. A heavier lure will run deeper. Larger blades provide more lift. A lure with two Colorado blades will have the most lift. This helps when you want to run the lure slower and not have it sink too deep.

Choosing this as a starter lure is a good idea. Spinnerbaits are easy to use and come in a wide variety. The weights and blade configurations allow an angler to fish any depth. A few spinnerbaits in the 1/4 to 1/2 ounce range will catch most game fish.

The single hook on spinnerbaits makes them a good lure for around brush and weeds.

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Learning to Use Crankbait Lures

Crankbaits are easy-to-use baits also. These are cast and retrieve lures for deeper presentations. The lips are designed to have these lures run at specific depth ranges. The various crankbaits are made for depths from 5-25 feet. The shallower models have steeper and shorter diving lips. The deeper diving models use longer lips set at a shallow angle to the center line of the lure.

Choose a crankbait for the depth you are fishing. The depth it runs will be on the package. After some experience, an angler can tell by looking how deep the crankbait will run.

In addition, crankbaits come in a few body types. Skinny and fat bodies are common. The skinny body runs with a tighter wiggle, whereas, the fat body has a wobbling action. When fish are active and in warmer water, the wobbling is better. When fish are less active or the water is cooler the wiggle action works better.

The Sound Element

In darker or stained waters, a lipless crankbait is best. This bait contains rattles adding an element of sound. Fish can locate the lure through the sound. Then strike when it is visible. These lures sink down to depth. This allows an angler to use them at multiple depths.

Crankbaits use treble hooks. Use this lure in open water or areas with little to no brush or weeds. The hooks will grab cover easily leading to snags. The lure works best when bouncing or ricocheting off the bottom. Do not have the lure hitting the bottom too much.

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Learning to Use Topwater Lures

The thrill of a topwater strike is amazing. Seeing a fish blow up out of the water gets the heart pumping. Topwater lures come in various types. There are easy-to-use lures such as the Jitterbug, Whopper Plopper, and buzz baits. Then some lure requires some finesse or technique to work effectively.

Topwater lures work best early morning or in the evening. Fish the lures along shorelines and cover. Each lure has a speed it works best when retrieving. Whopper ploppers and buzz baits use a fast retrieve. The Jitterbug can be brought back slow or moderately fast.

These three lures are easy-to-use topwater lures. Simply cast and retrieve, trying different speeds on the retrieve.

Advanced Topwater Lures

As you gain experience poppers and walk-the-dog lures are other options. These lures use a twitch retrieve similar to jerk baits. The lure is worked and left to pause. The fish will strike after a pause often. The walk the dog is effective on wary fish. The lure uses a zig and zag motion. It mimics a wounded baitfish struggling on the surface.

Poppers create popping sounds alerting fish to their presence. A few twitches or jerks on the rod and pause entice strikes. Some frogs are designed as a type of popper.

Frogs although soft plastics are topwater lures. These lures are great above weeds grown to the surface. They can be skipped and dragged across the weeds or lily pads. Then pull the lure into an open pocket and let it sit for a few seconds.

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Using lures for fishing requires following a few simple rules. Start with easier-to-use lures. Choose the lure based on the species and where you fish. Bass fishing in weedy lakes uses soft plastics. Fishing in rivers with currents makes other lures tend to work better.

Pick one type of lure and practice using the lure. Become an expert or close before trying another lure. When going to other lures look for a lure that compliments the first one. Using soft plastics at first, try crankbaits or spinnerbaits as the second.

Take the time to see how each lure works and how effective it is on the specific species. Smallmouth in rivers may like spinnerbaits better than soft plastics. Talk with other anglers in your area. They know what works and will help you with information.

A word of caution, anglers that say use a lure without knowing where you fish or the species. Likely do not know what is the best lure to use. They are learning or lack experience. Each lure has a time and place. Experienced anglers will ask where are you fishing? What species are targeting? Then give you a good answer.

John McIntyre

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