The lure department at a bass fishing superstore is no place for the uninitiated. The staggering selection of bass lures can be downright overwhelming. There are lures of every imaginable shape, size and color, and each of them promises to bring in more and bigger bass with fewer snags.
To add to the confusion, there are bass fishing lures designed for every possible variation in water temperature, condition and season -- cold water, warm water, murky water and clear water, pre-spawn and post-spawn.
Rather than cramming a hundred different bass lures into their tackle boxes, most experienced smallmouth and largemouth bass fishermen narrow down their options to a few favorites that consistently bag the biggest fish.
While professional anglers are known to guard their lure selection strategies as closely as the locations of their favorite fishing spots, we've managed to reel in this list of 10 essential bass fishing lures that are famous for catching big bass year round across a broad range of water conditions. Want to find out the best lure to use, and when? Read on!
Stick baits belong to a larger category of bass fishing lures known as topwater baits. As the name implies, topwater baits attract fish by creating a disturbance on the surface of the water. With stick baits, the angler relies on his or her own skill to create a motion that mimics the movement of a surface-swimming baitfish. Perhaps the best known stick bait is one called the Zara Spook, a cigar-shaped lure that can attract bass to the surface from as deep as 25 feet [source: Bass Resource]. Fishermen most often use the Zara Spook and similar lures to create a back-and-forth "walk-the-dog" motion that's irresistible to bass but takes some practice to perfect [source: Stuart].
Like all topwater baits, stick baits are most effective when water temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) [source: Iaconelli]. Stick baits work best in clear, open water and can be used on the surface of shallow water or the very top layer of water of any depth. For another topwater option, check out the aptly-named topwater poppers on the next page.
Topwater poppers, also known as "chuggers," are designed to ripple the surface of the water and cause popping or splashing sounds as you retrieve (or reel in) your lure [source: ExtremeLures.com]. Poppers come in styles and colors patterned to resemble many of the favorite snack choices of a hungry bass, including frogs, shad, bluegill and minnows. While the shape, color and size should be selected to match the baitfish that live in the waters you are fishing, all poppers have a cupped lip that creates the distinctive popping and splashing sounds you want the bass to hear when the lure is jerked sharply (or "chugged") out of the water [source: Moore].
The first topwater poppers were made from solid wood, and a few still are, but most are now molded from hard plastics. Topwater poppers can be used around grasses, stumps and shorelines, as well as in open water. In clear water, a popper on the surface can attract a bass from depths of more than 30 feet [source: Ratley]. Popular brand names include the Pop-R, Chug-N-Spit (so named because it "spits" water out as the lure is jerked back), Chug-Bug and Hula Popper.
Fish not biting at the top? Despite its unappealing name, the next lure on our list can help you pull in even the most lethargic bottom-feeding bass.
Real grubs may be a gardener's worst enemy, but their soft plastic namesakes are often a fisherman's best friend. Unlike their living, soil-dwelling counterparts, the versatile grubs used for bass fishing come in a range of colors, sizes and styles and are essentially worm lures with tails attached [source: Ingram]. Grubs work in both cold water and warm water and can be attached to a range of different hooks, rigs and weights to help them sink to the desired depth. In cold wintry conditions, both curly-tailed grubs and flat-tailed grubs can lure in the sluggish fish that laze along the lake bottom or hide out under docks, vegetation and natural debris, and in warmer temperatures, grubs can be effective in shallow water as well [sources: Bass Resource; Ingram].
Experienced anglers may get good results by skillfully "darting" and jerking grubs near the edges of rivers and streams, but many bass fishing aficionados recommend reeling in grubs with a slow, steady retrieve to avoid snagging the lures on weeds, rocks and fallen trees, or losing the attention of slow-moving bass in colder waters [sources: Ingram; Bass Resource].
If you find yourself fishing in cover that's too tricky for grubs, make sure your tackle box contains at least a few different sizes of the next bass fishing lure on our list.
A spoon is an oblong, concave lure with a shape that resembles a small shoehorn or the bowl of a shallow spoon. Spoon lures are nearly always made of metal and are usually relatively heavy, weighing between .5 ounce and 2.5 ounces [source: Bass Fishing and Catching]. Their sturdy weight and smooth, spare design make spoons among the most weedless of all bass fishing lures, meaning that they are ideal for fishing in heavy cover such as submerged weeds, mosses and grasses with a minimum amount of snagging [source: Bass Resource].
Spoons are typically considered deepwater lures, used to catch bass swimming down on the bottom or suspended at midlevel depths [source: Bass Fishing and Catching]. Because of their weight and the thickly vegetated areas where they are often used, spoons require a heavy line and a medium to heavy rod [sources: Bass Fishing and Catching; Bass Resource].
While spoons excel at slipping through weeds and debris below the surface, the lures on the next page are favorites for navigating thick grasses in the shallows or on top of the water.
Buzzbaits are topwater lures with flat propeller-like blades that churn the water as the bait is retrieved, producing the noisy buzzing sound that gives these baits their name [source: Bass Resource]. Buzzbaits are typically made of hard plastic or lightweight aluminum. While they're perhaps best loved for their ability to skim over vegetation and debris without snagging, buzzbaits come in a range of weights and blade styles designed to work in different water conditions. The baits come in two basic shapes, inline and U-shaped, with between one and four blades per lure [source: Ratley]. Experienced anglers often bend the blades to modify the angle of the propellers, which affects their movement, or action, in the water [source: Staples].
Of course, the next lure has been considered one of the go-to lures for amateur and pro fishermen since it was first invented in the late '60s.
A chrome-colored Rat-LTrap lure with a blue back is hands-down one of most successful bass lures of all time [source: Martin]. This lipless crankbait -- a plastic lure designed to mimic the swimming motion of a small fish when it's cranked in -- or retrieved -- by the fisherman was invented in the late 1960s and has been a go-to lure for amateurs and pros ever since [source: Williams].
The thin, flat-sided Rat-L-Trap gets its name from its internal rattle chamber. When the lure is retrieved quickly, small metal beads inside the rattle chamber create a loud chattering noise that certain bass find irresistible [source: Wirth]. The Rat-L-Trap works in many different water conditions, but is especially effective when teased across the tips of shallow cover like underwater weeds and grass [source: Merwin].
If the fish aren't striking on a loud, vibrating bass lure like the Rat-L-Trap, it's time to get out your jigs. We'll talk about those next.
Jigs are simple bass lures that can be as basic as a hook with a small metal ball on top. More often, the top of the jig is painted with fish eyes and the hook is camouflaged with a frilled plastic skirt. The colorful skirt not only attracts fish, but helps make the hook weedless -- or difficult to snag in cover.
The jig-and-pig gets its name from the longstanding belief that big fish love pork-based baits. Pork lures look a lot like their plastic cousins -- sold in shapes resembling frogs, crawfish and worms -- but are made from real pork skin. To keep them fresh, pork baits need to be stored in a brine (salt) solution.
The classic jig-and-pig lure is a skirted jig with a pork trailer, or extra hook, attached to the main hook. For anglers who don't like the mess of brine solutions, there are plenty of alternatives like chunky plastic frogs and plastic grubs with wiggly tails.
The jig-and-pig is a heavy lure that works best when flipped into a shoreline structure like submerged tree branches or stumps and made to twitch and sink slowly [source: Tackle Tour]. Its big, slow presentation makes it one of the best bass lures for cold water, when bass are also moving slower.
Keep reading to find out which lure is best at catching bass post-spawn when they're dining on shad minnows.
Fluke baits are long, narrow plastic bass lures with a soft, rubbery feel. They're designed to look like baitfish -- silvery-blue shad or bluegill minnows -- that are a favorite snack of big bass.
Flukes are known as jerkbait because of the way they're typically fished. A soft plastic fluke is Texas-rigged to a hook with no additional weights. With a Texas rig, the hook is first pierced through the nose of the lure and then the tip of the hook is buried in the lure's belly to decrease snags.
An angler casts the lure a short distance and lets it slowly sink for a few seconds. With a light jerk of the line, the fisherman yanks the fluke back up to the surface, where it swims with a realistic wiggle before slowly sinking again. Fluke baits are particularly effective in the post-spawn of late spring when bass are fattening up on shad minnows [source: Burkhead].
No tackle box would be complete without one of the most versatile bass lures out there. Read on to find out what it is.
When fished correctly, spinnerbait can be one of the most versatile bass lures in your tackle box [source: Staples]. An experienced angler can take advantage of the unique shape and swimming action of spinnerbait to crank it deep, weave it through thick cover, and flip and sink it within the shoreline structure -- the tree branches and stumps we mentioned earlier -- or swim it along the surface.
Spinnerbait bass lures look a little strange on dry land. The body of the spinnerbait resembles a paper clip that has been opened up and twisted to a right angle. At the bottom end of the paper clip is a jig head with a skirted hook. Dangling from the top end of the opened paper clip are one or two shiny, gold or silver-colored spinner blades. The spinnerbait's odd appearance only makes sense when you see the lure move through the water.
When retrieved slowly or quickly through the water, the spinner blades spin and flash wildly, creating a commotion in the water that bass can see, hear and feel. The colorful skirt adds to the noisy effect while keeping the hook weedless.
And we simply couldn't do a top 10 without including the extremely effective plastic worm. That's next.
Back in the lure aisle at the bass fishing superstore, you might be wondering why there's so much shelf space devoted to plastic worms. Can such a simple idea -- replacing live bait worms with colorful plastic versions -- really catch bass? You betcha.
One of the simplest bass lures in the business, the Texas-rigged plastic worm, is still one of the most effective. As we mentioned before, the classic Texas rig involves threading a hook through the top of the plastic bait and then burying the tip of the hook lower down in the belly of the lure, making it weedless.
When done correctly, a Texas-rigged worm lies straight in the water with only its tail wiggling behind. In this presentation, the lure looks less like a worm than a small baitfish.
Another popular technique for plastic worms is called the wacky rig. At first, it looks like the kind of thing a 3-year-old would attempt. The hook is pierced directly in the middle of the worm's body, and the two ends of the worm are left to dangle.
When a wacky-rigged worm is flipped and dropped around structures like logs and docks, the two dangling ends of the worm wiggle enticingly as it sinks. For whatever reason, this drives bass crazy.
Now you're ready to get out on the water and try these 10 bass lures for yourself. But first, visit the links on the next page for even more information on fishing.
The bass spawn is an interesting time of year for anglers. Learn all about the bass spawn and how it affects fishing at HowStuffWorks.
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