50 Best Fishing Lures of All Time

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50 Best Fishing Lures of All Time

Updated Oct 29, 2022 10:03 AM The Rapala Original Floating Minnow was developed in the 1930s. By the earl

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Updated Oct 29, 2022 10:03 AM

The Rapala Original Floating Minnow was developed in the 1930s. By the early 1960s, thanks to its inclusion in one of the best-selling issues of Time magazine in history, just about every angler in America was casting one. More than 90 years later, you can still buy this fishing lure, and it’s still catching loads of fish. It is an all-time classic, after all. However, while there are many other lures that can be lumped in with the Floating Minnow, the sport of fishing is constantly evolving. There are more lure companies now than there have ever been, so, when compiling a list of the best fishing lures ever made, focusing just on classics like the Floating Minnow is a disservice.

To create this list, I considered many aspects of both new and old lures. If a company improved upon an old design in a meaningful way, it could make the cut. If a company used cutting-edge technology to create a lure that was truly revolutionary, it deserved a spot. The point is: Longevity alone doesn’t make something the best. It might make it proven, but it also may have inspired a newer lure that’s more popular or catches more fish. I strove to bring together the old and the new and cover every type of angling with this list. Did I miss something? Probably. Will you disagree with a few picks? Most likely. But I’m confident in saying that if you incorporate any of my selections for the best fishing lures into your arsenal, you’ll be happy with the results.

The Best All-Around Fishing Lures

Berkley Gulp! Minnow

Why it Made the Cut

The Gulp! Minnow is so potent, it practically eliminated the need for anyone to buy live shiners.   

Key Features

  • Strong scent attractant
  • Split tail

Pros

  • Can be presented a multitude of ways
  • Great tail action

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Gets destroyed easily

When Berkley unveiled their Gulp! line in the early 2000s, it changed fishing. Featuring a patented, super-secret scent formula, anglers quickly figured out that the company wasn’t kidding when they touted the product as better than live and natural bait. The Minnow was one of the earliest offerings in the line-up, and nearly 20 years later, it’s still catching everything under the sun. The Gulp! Minnow is available in several sizes, so whether you’re after crappies, big bass, or redfish, there’s a Minnow that fits the bill. The beauty of this lures (or maybe bait is a better description) is that there’s really no wrong way to fish it. Pin one on a jighead and bounce it off the bottom for walleyes. Hang it under a float and let it drift around for crappies. Cast one on a single hook and let it slowly fall like a dead shiner for pike. Stick one on a bucktail jig as a trailer and send it down for snappers. The scent is so powerful fish will find it fast. The downside to Gulp! Minnows, however, is that a bag of them costs significantly more than similar unscented soft-plastic baitfish. It’s just that the Gulp! is so much more effective, anglers all over the world are willing to pay up.

Bucktail Jig

Why it Made the Cut

Bucktail jigs are so universally effective they were once included in military survival kits.

Key Features

  • Deer hair tail
  • Lead head
  • Hook eye positioned for horizontal presentation

Pros

  • Can be fished alone or tipped with baits and soft-plastic lures
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Don’t stand up well to toothy fish

If you’ve got a bucktail jig, there’s nary a predator species in the world you can’t catch. Granted, size matters, but whether you’re launching a 4-ounce bucktail into the ocean from a cliff in Australia or jigging a 1/16-ounce bucktail along the bottom of your favorite local creek, something’s going to eat it. A version of the standard bucktail is a staple in almost every fishery that exists. Sure, the striper surf guys might prefer a “Smiling Bill” head and extra-long tail, while the walleye anglers prefer a round head and short tail, but the action and versatility is the same. In white, a bucktail is a baitfish. In brown-and-orange, it’s crayfish. In all black it can mimic a leech. During the coldest months of the year, you can slow-up a bucktail on the bottom, letting the hair “breathe” and score finesse bites. When the water is warm, reel quickly and pop the rod tip to get the lure swimming in any part of the water column. Bucktails also pair well with add-ons. Fluke anglers might thread on a long squid strip to ramp up the flutter and scent. Smallmouth anglers might add a paddle-tail soft-plastic to increase vibration. With so many more modern lure choices, a bucktail may not be the first thing you tie on, but you’re wise to have a few on hand because sometimes this old classic gets it done when the latest and greatest is coming up short.

Eppinger Dardevle Spoon

Why it Made the Cut

One of the most iconic and recognizable lures ever made, the Dardevle has been catching monster fish in fresh- and saltwater since 1918.

Key Features

  • Iconic red-and-white finish
  • Deeply scooped body design

Pros

  • Performs with a vertical or horizontal presentation
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Paint wears off easily from toothy fish

The red-and-white Dardevle spoon is so iconic that it’s often depicted on things like fishing-themed Christmas cards and ornaments, doormats, coffee mugs, and kitschy bath towels. But it didn’t end up on gift-shop wares across the country because it looks pretty. The Dardevle is a fish-catching machine. Developed in 1917 by famed lure designed Lou Eppinger, the original version was called the Osprey and featured a black body with a white stripe. It wasn’t given a makeover until just after World War I, which is also when the name was changed to honor the U.S. Marines who fought so hard that the Germans nicknamed them “devil dogs.” Over the years, there’s been a lot of debate about the color scheme, with many people assuming the red represented blood. That’s not actually true; red just produced more giant pike and bass than black, and the white stripe was supposed to represent a pork strip, which were popular as trailers on other lures of this era. The Dardevle is as versatile as a lure gets. You can reel quickly and get it skimming just below the surface, or let it fall vertically in free-spool over deep water. Don’t be shocked if it gets whacked as it’s wobbling during the drop.

Heddon Super Spook

Why it Made the Cut

This upgraded version of the classic Zara Spook features modern twists that make it more effective than its predecessor.

Key Features

  • Cigar-shaped body
  • Internal rattles
  • Rotating treble hooks

Pros

  • Snake-like walking action
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Doesn’t perform as well in choppy water
  • Front hook easily fouls

The Super Spook is the successor to the classic Zara Spook. In truth, their actions are almost identical, but the Super Spook comes with modern upgrades that provide big advantages. For starters, it features extra-loud rattles, ramping up the signature clack Spooks emit to draw in everything from smallmouths to pike to redfish. The sound is created by internal steel bearings smacking together as the bait walks back and forth rhythmically across the surface during the retrieve. Most anglers credit this bait’s potency to that unique sound. Depending on the speed and cadence you impart when whipping the rod tip, you can make a Super Spook take long, slow, sexy strides—or zigzag furiously like a baitfish running for its life. A shortcoming of the old Zara Spook was that the fixed treble hooks could easily be thrown by jumping and thrashing fish. The Super Spook fixes this issue with modern rotating hooks. With the hook’s upgraded ability to turn and pivot, that airborne bass or dragging-peeling striper won’t be able to get enough leverage to twist the lure out of its mouth.

Johnson Original Beetle Spin

Why it Made the Cut

The Beetle Spin has been producing everything from slab bluegills to giant crappies and bass for anglers on a budget for decades.  

Key Features

  • Spinnerbait-style arm
  • Colorado blade
  • Replaceable soft-plastic body

Pros

  • Easy to fish regardless of angler skill level
  • Very affordable

Cons

Let’s be honest, the Beetle Spin is kind of goofy. This simple micro spinnerbait features a jighead that comes pre-rigged with what has to be the most lifeless little twin-tail soft-plastic grub ever made. The grub has almost no action, and the spinner is nothing unique. Yet something about the Beetle Spin drives fish crazy. On one hand, the fact that the lure costs less than $2 makes it affordable to anglers on any budget. On the other, the Beetle Spin’s low price has given it a reputation as a lure for kids and rookies, but that’s not accurate. It’s highly unlikely you’ll find a pro bass angler flinging a Beetle Spin around on tour, but despite its price and slight lack of toughness, this bait catches lots of big bass, trout, crappies, walleyes, and trophy bluegills for legions of serious, diehard anglers. Beetle Spins are available in several sizes—including a heavier-duty saltwater model—but it’s the small original version in its old-school blister pack that’s been flying off tackle shop, dime store, and K-Mart shelves the longest. All you have to do to fish a Beetle Spin is cast and retrieve, and if you do hang one up in a tree, or drive it into a stump, or (hopefully) have a 5-pound smallmouth bend the wire, for two measly dollars you can get right back in the game.

Johnson Silver Minnow

Why it Made the Cut

This weedless spoon has been turning big fish on in weedy lakes and grassy saltwater flats for decades.   

Key Features

  • Adjustable weed guard
  • Strong hook
  • High-flash body

Pros

  • Easy to fish regardless of angler skill level
  • Works well paired with a variety of trailers

Cons

  • Not great for distance casting

You’d be hard pressed to find a seatrout or redfish angler from Texas to Georgia that doesn’t have a Silver Minnow or three on hand. It splashes down lightly, features a weed guard that can be repositioned, and has an ultra-strong hook, making idea for tossing in the grass where wary bull reds and gator trout hunt. But this lure plays just as well in sweet water. If you’re after pike holed up in milfoil, throw a Johnson. Bass in heavy pads? A Silver Minnow will run through clean. During a steady retrieve, this spoon wobbles aggressively while rolling from side to side. On the fall, it flutters down gentle while flashing away, and this is often when it gets nailed. The Silver Minnow was also designed to work well with a trailer. Thread on your favorite curly-tail grub to increase vibration and action. Pin a squid strip or pork strip to ramp up flutter and scent. The Silver Minnow comes in a variety of weights and sizes, and they’re inexpensive enough that it’s worth having a few no matter what you like to target.

Keitech Swing Impact

Why it Made the Cut

The Swing Impact has become the gold standard of small soft-plastic swimbaits, harnessing Japanese innovation and a little bit of squid juice to make its mark.

Key Features

  • Ribbed body
  • Squid scent
  • Wide paddle tail

Pros

  • Emits strong vibration
  • Perfectly matches myriad small baitfish species

Cons

  • More expensive than similar baits
  • Material wears out quickly

Keitech has been a household name for Japanese anglers since bass pro Kei Hayashi started the company in 1996. But it’s only been on the lips of every U.S. bass angler for the last decade or so. The funny thing about the Swing Impact is that it looks like dozens of other small soft-plastic swimbaits on the market, but talk to anyone who uses them and they’ll usually agree that the Keitech out-fishes all the rest. While no one can definitively explain why that is, many anglers point to the scent. Even though there’s no squid swimming in the lakes and rivers of the U.S.—or Japan, for that matter—Hayashi figured out that something about the smell of calamari increased productivity, even in freshwater environments, so he began injecting his lures with special squid juice right at the factory. (It doesn’t hurt that these lures also have an action that’s a notch or two above the copycats.) The material is supple, allowing the tail to kick harder and swing wider during the retrieve. Not only does the tail thump, but the body also rolls evenly from side to side when the lure is rigged on a jighead.

Mann’s Little George Spoon

Why it Made the Cut

This old-school lure might look a bit goofy, but it’ll catch just about any freshwater fish that swims from the shallows to the deepest depths.

Key Features

  • Wide tail blade
  • Strong treble hook
  • Heavy lead body

Pros

  • Great for anglers of any skill level
  • Can be used to target fish at any depth

Cons

  • Gets snagged easily
  • Tail post bends easily

The Little George might be one of the most popular “sleeper” lures on the market today. It’s fair to say that many anglers find it a tad hokey or only for beginners, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Little George has been around for decades, and though classified as a spoon, most people fish it more like a jig or in-line spinner. Thanks to its heavy tear drop-shaped body, a George will cast a mile and it sinks like a boulder. That’s why it’s particularly popular with anglers targeting suspended white bass, crappies, and even trout in deep water. As this lure falls, the tail blade spins quickly to amp up vibration. Likewise, it puts out serious vibes during a straight, steady retrieve. Unlike other lures that only work when jigged or reeled, a Little George stays in play when you’re vertically jigging it right below the boat and when you’re reeling it back for a re-drop. In other words, it’s always working to attract fish and it’s not uncommon for deep-dwellers to shoot up and crush it while it’s getting zipped back to the surface.

Mister Twister Curly Tail Grub

Why it Made the Cut

The Curly Tail Grub is one of the most versatile lures ever created, and it’s been hammering everything from crappies to bass, speckled trout to flounder since 1974.

Key Features

  • Undulating ribbon tail
  • Ribbed body

Pros

  • Matches almost any forage
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Material often wears out after a few bites

In black, it’s a leech. In orange, it’s a crayfish. In white, it’s a baitfish or squid. In pink, it’s a shrimp. And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of available Curly Tail colors. All you have to do to catch fish with this soft plastic is thread it on a jighead, cast, and reel. Fishing deep water or through the ice? Drop it straight down and jig it vertically. There’s really no wrong way to work a Grub, and no matter how you retrieve it, its tapered ribbon tail is going to undulate and corkscrew and drive fish wild. It’s difficult to pinpoint the fisheries in which it shines the brightest, because there really isn’t a species that won’t eat one. They’re staples for bass and walleyes in larger sizes, and killer for crappies, trout and perch in small sizes. Headed to the coast? Flounder and speckled gobble them up when hopped across a sand or mud flat. Redfish will pummel them, stripers will clobber them, and even deep dwellers like lake trout can’t resist them. Best of all, a pack of Curly Tails are one of the best lures for the money—which is good because they’re particularly effective when hopped over rocky bottoms where smallmouths and brown trout hunt for forage like sculpins and gobies, but inevitably you’re going to hang up a few Grubs and break off.  

Rapala Original Floating Minnow

Why it Made the Cut

The Original Floating Minnow has accounted for more world-record fish than any other lure ever made.  

Key Features

  • Balsa wood body
  • Strong lip

Pros

  • Can be fished anywhere in the water column
  • Perfect wounded minnow action

Cons

  • Big fish can rip the wiring out if paint chips and body gets waterlogged

History was made when Lauri Rapala’s Original Floating Minnow was covered in a 1962 LIFE magazine article. Why the lucky break? Marilyn Monroe was on the cover, so the issue sold like hot cakes. In short order, every angler in America wanted Rapala’s creation. The truth, however, is that Rapala had been tinkering with the design since the 1930s, when he observed, while chasing pike in his home country of Finland, that big fish love to eat smaller wounded fish. This discovery became the premise behind countless lures to follow, but the Original Floating Minnow started it all and remains one of the best-selling lures of all time. Many decades later, the design hasn’t really changed. Floating Minnows are still made of balsa, which is extremely buoyant and durable. You can twitch a Floating Minnow on the surface, and it’ll get hammered. Crank steadily, and it’ll dive a few feet and wobble enticingly. Crimp a split shot on the line ahead of it, and you can get it to dive and hover at almost any depth. More record fish have been caught on this lure than any other, and it’ll like rack up even more records in the years to come.

Rapala X-Rap Slashbait

Why it Made the Cut

The X-Rap is the perfect imitator of common small baitfish species and features a unique cutting action that fish can’t resist.

Key Features

  • High-quality hooks
  • Dressed tail
  • Holographic body inserts

Pros

  • Looks extremely lifelike underwater
  • Aggressive erratic darting action

Cons

  • More expensive than similar hardbaits

The X-Rap hasn’t been part of Rapala’s line up for anywhere near as long as their classic Original Floater, but it’s already proven its worth enough to become new age staple in tackle boxes the world over. This lure is available in several sizes, but many anglers agree the smaller 2 1/2- and 3 1/8-inch models are the ringers of the group. From smallmouth rivers to trout streams, monster lakes to back bays, there’s no baitfish that can’t be matched given the wide range of available colors. All X-Raps feature holographic scale foil inserts that produce a prismatic flash that mirrors that of live baitfish and smolt. You can reel an X-Rap in steadily and get it wobbling like its cousin the Original Floater, but that’s not really how it’s designed to work. To get the most out of the lure, whip the rod tip down and sideways aggressively and watch it dart, cut, and change direction. Always make sure to impart occasional pauses, as this is often when a tailing predator delivers the final blow. X-Raps are fairly shallow divers, making them perfect for skinnier waters or running over top of submerged vegetation.

Rebel Crawfish

Why it Made the Cut

This crayfish-shaped crankbait is a trusted killer on small, rocky streams where bass, trout, and rock bass lurk.   

Key Features

  • Lifelike crayfish pattern
  • Diving lip
  • Swims backwards

Pros

  • Great choice from small streams and ponds
  • Affordable

Cons

The Rebel Crawfish was the first mass-produced crankbait with a body designed to look like something other than a baitfish. That design has stood the test of time, though the lure is arguably a bit of a sleeper. It’s wildly popular in some circles, but overlooked by many, and that’s a mistake, especially if you fish smaller streams and ponds. Although the Rebel Crawfish will perform on big water, it shines on those little, rocky streams loaded with smallmouths and rock bass, largely because the biggest model measures only 2 3/8 inches. Plus, in these environments, crayfish are a primary food source. Likewise, largemouths living in small farm ponds go nuts for this lure. Come trout season, don’t be afraid to throw it, because heavy browns and rainbows—both stocked and wild—will give the Rebel Crawfish a chomp. The trick to getting the most out of this bait is casting it on light tackle with light line (6-pound test or less) and not being afraid to lose them. Crayfish dart around in the rocks and stick to the bottom, so you want this lure banging boulders and ticking gravel, but it will mean sacrificing a few.

Rebel Pop-R

Why it Made the Cut

The Pop-R is one of the most popular and best topwater lures ever made, accounting for thousands of fish from the bass pond to the bluegill creek to the striper flats.

Key Features

  • Deeply scooped mouth
  • Dressed tail
  • Large eye

Pros

  • Throws a large amount of water when popped
  • Casts far

Cons

  • Body is prone to cracking

The Pop-R set the standard by which all other poppers are measured. It’s been around for decades and for very good reason: It hammers every freshwater and inshore species that’ll feed at the surface. What makes it so potent is the deeply scooped mouth. Even with the slightest twitch of the rod tip, the Pop-R throws a lot of water forward. This makes the lure louder than others, giving it the uncanny ability to attract fish from a distance. But the Pop-R also has a subtler side. Thanks to its dressed tail, it doubles as a perfect tool for attracting fish more interested in sipping a bug off the surface than smashing a struggling baitfish. In the summer, when smallmouths get tuned into hatches, try bombing a Pop-R as far as you can and giving it just an occasional slight bump. Quite often, the sound will attract the fish, but they’ll actually strike the dressed tail hanging below the bait. The popper just disappears, and even though these kinds of takes are less flashy, you’ll be surprised by the size of the fish that will just give you the old tail nip.

Soft Plastic Tube Baits

Why it Made the Cut

Tubes are one of the most versatile soft-plastics ever created, capable of catching fish of all sizes in any kind of water.

Key Features

  • Hollow body
  • Thin shredded skirt tail
  • Available in a wide range of colors and sizes

Pros

  • Holds liquid and gel scent attractant well
  • Easy to fish

Cons

  • Requires a size-specific jighead to perform

Tube baits have been around for decades, and dozens of companies produce them these days. Truthfully, the design is so simple and uniform across brands that it’s hard to make a case for one company’s tube really producing better than another’s. Though these baits are associated with bass fishing more than anything else, they have high value across many fisheries. As examples, tiny tubes measuring 2 inches or less are staples for serious crappie anglers. On the ice, big 7- to 10-inch tubes are popular for aggressive anglers after trophy lake trout. Even in saltwater, a pink or white tube has a place for redfish, seatrout, and striped bass. The sizes and colors will vary, but the rigging and presentations remain the same. Most often, a tube is rigged by inserting an appropriately sized jighead into the body cavity. The hook eye gets poked through the top of the tube’s head and the hook bend gets hidden in the skirt. When hopped off the bottom or even at mid-water for suspended fish, that skirt flutters away on the fall, mimicking everything from a crayfish’s claws in fighting posture to the tentacles of a juvenile squid. A tube’s hollow body is also the perfect vessel for holding scents like shedder crab oil or shad oil. Some anglers even thread a tiny piece of kitchen sponge onto the hook and into the body to hold scent even longer.

Storm WildEye Swim Shad

Why it Made the Cut

The WildEye Shad was the first pre-rigged soft-plastic swimbait to hit the market at an affordable price, allowing anglers on any budget to harness the power of a bait style that was previously custom made and expensive.

Key Features

  • Large paddle tail
  • Holographic foil inserts
  • Lifelike eyes

Pros

  • Pre-weighted
  • Performs at any depth

Cons

  • Not great for heavily vegetated areas

Released in the early 2000s, the WildEye was a complete game changer. Prior to this lure hitting tackle shop shelves, most soft-plastc paddle-tail swimbaits were produce by small niche companies, which made them pricey and harder to get. Storm set an original price point of about a dollar a bait, which suddenly allowed anglers on any budget to harness the power of a lure style made famous on the trophy bass lake of California by custom lure designers. The beauty of the WildEye is that there’s no complex rigging required; each bait features a built-in weight and hook, so all you have to do is tie one on and fire away. The wide paddle tail does all the work. You can reel steadily and this bait will get crushed. You can also finesse a WildEye, letting that tail thump as it falls, then hopping it up off the bottom in a jigging action. Wildeyes are available in a wide range of sizes, and they have a home in fresh- and saltwater tackle boxes alike. The 2-inch models are bass and walleye killers, while the jumbo 9-inch model is a slayer of cow striped bass, cobia, and trophy snook. WildEyes are also highly effective when slow-trolled, though if toothy fish like pike, barracuda, and king mackerel are around, think twice before hanging one behind the boat—or just make sure you have a whole bunch of them.

Swedish Pimple

Why it Made the Cut

The Swedish Pimple has been catching a wide variety of species on open and hard water for over 100 years.

Key Features

  • Slender profile
  • High-visibility flicker blade
  • High flash

Pros

  • Excels in both open water and on the ice
  • Can be presented a multitude of ways

Cons

  • Prone to fouling when jigged on light line

The Swedish Pimple has been catching all manner of gamefish for well over 100 years. It originated in Sweden—hence the name—where anglers used it for everything from cod to perch in the icy northern waters. It’s fitting that the Pimple was born in such a cold climate, as most people associate its use with cold weather. You can, of course, throw a Pimple into a trout stream in July and it’ll produced, but for many U.S. anglers, the Pimple bite doesn’t start popping until the lakes freeze over. All Swedish Pimples include their signature flicker blade on the tail. These fluorescent accents create a “hot spot,” ramping action and flutter and giving fish something to key on in the dark water below the ice. You can jig a Pimple aggressively for walleyes when they’re all fired up or tip these lures with some wax worm and gently jiggle them for finicky yellow perch. On the fall, Swedish Pimples wobble erratically, but during more subtle presentations when the lure is practically hanging still, their glint alone is often enough to bring hungry fish around.

Zoom Super Fluke

Why it Made the Cut

The Super Fluke is extremely versatile and will perform anywhere in the water column, including at the surface.

Key Features

  • Pointed nose
  • Sharp split tail
  • Hook-hiding belly cavity

Pros

  • Runs great in heavy cover when rigged weedless
  • Designed to be rigged multiple ways

Cons

  • Plastic often tears after 2 or 3 fish

From bass to redfish, pike to striped bass, you won’t find a predator species that will pass up a Super Fluke. There are countless ways to rig this soft plastic bait, including Texas style, on a jighead, or on a drop shot. However, a weightless fluke is arguably the most potent. Whether pinned on a wide-gap hook weedless style or rigged with a small finesse hook right through the nose, the Super Fluke glides, darts, changes direction, and jack-knifes during the retrieve. Because these lures sink slowly, they shine in shallow water, or when you want to work just a few inches below the surface. Pause the retrieve, and the bait falls gently in a nose-down orientation; this is often when it gets smoked. Super Flukes catch fish 365 days a year, but they are downright lethal when bass are chasing schools of juvenile shad, stripers are keyed in on peanut bunker, or redfish are hammering finger mullet. A pink Fluke makes a great shrimp imitation as well. If you’re ever in a situation where finicky fish are eating at the surface, rig your Fluke on a light-wire hook and you can get it to walk across the top like a Spook.

The Best Fishing Lures for Bass

Arbogast Hula Popper

Why it Made the Cut

The Hula Popper was the first topwater lure to feature a rubber skirt, and the seductive action it provides has been drawing trophy bass to the surface since 1941.

Key Features

  • Wide mouth
  • Large eyes
  • Flat skirt

Pros

  • Mimics a baitfish, frog, and a bug simultaneously
  • Skirt keeps “breathing” at rest

Cons

  • Rubber skirt dry-rots easily

The story of the Hula Popper begins with its skirt. In 1938, Fred Arbogast patented his Hawaiian Wiggler spinnerbait, the first lure to feature a rubber skirt that bared a striking resemblance to a Hula skirt. While Arbogast created several classic lures that have stood the test of time, the Hawaiian Wiggler wasn’t one of them. That lure ultimately faded away, but in 1941, the company transferred that unique Hula skirt onto its new topwater lure—and the Hula Popper was born. With a unique flared body shape, the Hula Popper looks a little like a frog, sort of like a cicada, and a bit like a baitfish. This was by design, allowing anglers to lean on it regardless of what kind of forage was making a commotion on the surface. For decades, Arbogast even produced a version so small it could be cast on a fly rod. Sadly, the Hula Popper is outshined by myriad modern topwaters, but it’s never been taken out of the Arbogast lineup because it still has cult followers. These lures throw a ton of water and will call up any bass or pike that swims, but the smaller models are particularly deadly on smallmouth streams, especially in black to mimic a dragonfly or unfortunate beetle that fell in the water.

Arbogast Jitterbug

Why it Made the Cut

The Jitterbug has been gurgling its way into the mouths of trophy bass since it was introduced in 1939.

Key Features

  • Wide metal gurgling lip
  • Strong riveted line tie eye

Pros

  • Emits a unique tone fish home in on
  • Creates a thick bubble trail for fish to follow

Cons

  • Easily fouls during the cast
  • Collects vegetation in weedy areas

The Jitterbug is one of many innovations from the legendary Fred Arbogast. To this day, it remains one of the most unique topwater lures ever developed, and while the style has been reworked and imitated, it’s hard to beat the original. What sets the bait apart is the wide, heart shaped metal lip on its face. During a steady retrieve, this lip gets the bait wobbling from side to side, with one corner of the lip quickly hitting the water and then the other. The result is a deep, rhythmic gurgling sound that draws the attention of bass and pike from long distances. That lip also creates a bubble trail that lingers behind the lure, giving fish something to follow to the target. Jitterbugs work best in wide-open water that’s free of vegetation and debris, as their dual treble hooks tend to collect anything they run over. But this lure is also an ace in the dark. Bass continue to feed well after the sun goes down, and a black Jitterbug is a top producer of these late night snackers. Because the lure is so loud, you don’t need to see it to know you’ve gotten hit. Just listen for that sweet, steady gurgle to get interrupted by a pop or whoosh—and set the hook.

Berkley PowerBait Power Worm

Why it Made the Cut

The Power Worm has been fooling giant largemouths and winning tournaments for more than 25 years.

Key Features

  • Infused with proven scent
  • Ribbed body
  • Curly ribbon tail

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Can be rigged myriad ways

Cons

  • Not as durable as other plastic worms

When the Power Worm hit the scene more than 25 years ago, it revolutionized bass fishing. The lure is infused with trademarked PowerBait scent, which triggered fish to grab these worms and not let go. The Power Worm was one of several early PowerBait offerings that lead to the company becoming one of the biggest, most popular lure brands in fishing history. PowerBait would go on to shake up the market many more times, as they did more recently with their Gulp! line. But even though countless other worms are now available, the original Power Worm is still catching loads of fish. Its long ribbon tail undulates with the slightest water movement, coaxing the most reluctant bass to slurp it up. The Power Worm is also versatile, producing when rigged Carolina style, Texas style, or completely weightless. It catches a lot of fish with a subtle presentation, but savvy anglers also know that burning a worm can conjure up heart-stopping hits. Simply cast and reel steadily, making the worm swim quickly as the tail vibrates like crazy and hold on tight.

Bill Lewis Original Rat-L-Trap

Why it Made the Cut

The Rat-L-Trap’s rattle is so loud and tantalizing, it has the ability to trigger neutral fishing into an aggressive attack.

Key Features

  • Extra-loud rattles
  • Tight wobbling action

Pros

  • Can be fished via multiple presentations
  • Casts far and sinks quickly

Cons

  • Body is prone to cracking

For more than 25 years, the Rat-L-Trap has been turning up the volume on the water. Thanks to a body full of metal BBs, it’s so loud you can actually hear it through the hull of a boat during the retrieve. Best of all, you can vary that retrieve greatly. Simply cast, let the lure sink to the desired depth, reel steadily, and hang on. The Rat-L-Trap’s design also makes it deadly when fished vertically with a jigging action. This comes in handy during the colder months when fish are grouped up around a piece of deep structure or in a wintering hole. Work this lure aggressively and fish will hear it a mile away. Or give it some gently twitches, and it’ll click and tick just enough to make a non-committal fish strike. Rat-L-Traps are particularly potent in stained or dirty water, but they’ll turn on bites in clear water just the same. Though most closely associated with bass fishing, Rat-L-Traps will put the hurt on trophy pike, lake trout, striped bass, and even saltwater species like speckled seatrout and redfish.

Heddon Torpedo

Why it Made the Cut

This topwater prop-bait has been buzzing up trophy bass across the country since the 1920s.   

Key Features

  • Rear propellor
  • Strong hardware
  • Torpedo body shape

Pros

  • Works with multiple speeds and retrieve styles
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Often creates line twist
  • Most effective on very calm water

The first version of the Torpedo was introduced way back in the 1920s and featured dual propellors—one at the nose and one at the tail. After years of transformation, Heddon finally landed on the current model, which has been one of their biggest sellers for decades. The Torpedo is unique because it combines the side-to-side walking ability of a Spook with the buzzing ability of a buzzbait. Reel quickly and that tiny tail propellor will spin at Mach 1, creating a high-pitched tone fish can’t resist. If you need at add some finesse, whip the rod a few times and pause, making the lure zip violently and stutter. Of course, you can also gently crawl a Torpedo back, allowing that prop to make a subtle bubble trail reluctant fish can follow. It’s an easy lure for anyone to fish, just be mindful that Torpedoes also roll as they move, which can create line twist. Clipping one on via a snap-swivel can solve this problem, as can fishing one on a short leader with a barrel swivel between it and your main line.

Lucky Craft Squarebill Crankbait

Why it Made the Cut

The Lucky Craft revolutionized crankbait fishing by becoming the first successful squarebill crankbait made from plastic.

Key Features

  • Squared bill
  • Floats high
  • Durable construction

Pros

  • Dives to 5 feet
  • Deflects off hard cover

Cons

  • Not a great lure for beginners

The history of squarebill crankbaits runs deep. The short version is that in the 1960s and ’70s, these baits were hand carved out of balsa and cedar, mostly by small-batch lure makers in the South. This made them expensive and hard to get. Early attempts to make them out of plastic were unsuccessful, but in the 1980s, Lucky Craft figured out the formula. They managed to make a plastic squarebill that performed as well as its balsa cousins while maintaining the durability of wood. Subsequently, molded plastic baits are much cheaper, allowing weekend anglers to harness the power of custom baits the pros had be leaning on for years. So, what’s the secret? A good squarebill is extra buoyant and that namesake squarebill is designed to deflect off rocks, stumps and wood. In the hands of an angler who knows what to feel for, a squarebill will rarely get snagged, because as soon as contact is made, it floats up and away from the structure. Squarebills should be retrieved at a fast pace, and you want them to bang off hard cover, because the knocking sound is what triggers giant bass into slamming them. 

Megabass Vision ONETEN

Why it Made the Cut

The Vison ONETEN is trusted by more top-earning bass pros than any other jerkbait, helping to solidify its reputation as a modern classic.

Key Features

  • Extremely lifelike appearance
  • Quality outward-facing barbed hooks
  • Internal balancing system

Pros

  • Perfectly suspends in place on the pause
  • Performs when jerked or retrieved steadily

Cons

The Vision ONETEN hit the scene in 2009. It was the brainchild of noted Japanese lure designer Yuki Ito. So much went into the design and mechanics that this lure can be considered the Terminator of jerkbaits. An internal tungsten balancer system shifts within the lure, creating two advantages:

  1. During the cast, the weight transfers to the bottom of the lure so you can send it farther than your average jerkbait.
  2. Underwater, the weight shifts when you twitch, creating sharper, more aggressive cutting and darting action than competitors.

The finishes are so lifelike they can be considered works of art, and when you pause a ONETEN, it suspends perfectly. This is what really makes this bait shine—as other jerkbaits claim to suspend when, in actuality, they rise. But true suspension is what you need, especially when the water is colder. You can jerk a ONETEN to depth and literally let it sit still for 30 seconds or more and it won’t budge. When fish are sluggish, it’s often during those long pauses that they make their move. Of course, all these features come at a price—and while many anglers scoff at that price tag, even more pay up because they recognize the lure’s power.

Original Lunker Lure Buzzbait

Why it Made the Cut

Since 1976, the Buzzbait has been churning up the surface with its unqiue sound, calling in monster bass from miles away.

Key Features

  • Propeller-like blade
  • Rubber tail skirt
  • Flat lead head

Pros

  • Easy to fish
  • One of the loudest topwater lures ever made

Cons

  • Air resistance makes long casts difficult

As the story goes, the Buzzbait was invented by Illinois angler Hack Wilson in the 1960s. It didn’t hit the market, however, until 1976, when Lunker Lure began mass producing Wilson’s design. Since then, countless lure companies have come out with their own versions, but the Lunker Lure is still available and hammering bass. The secret lies in its propellor-like blade that spins quickly during a steady retrieve. As it turns it creates a frothy bubble trail on the surface bass can follow, while sputtering and clacking away to alert fish to its presence. You can work a Buzzbait at slower speeds, but it’s arguably most productive when cranked at a steady clip. And when a bass decides to make a move, the take down is often violent. That wide blade, however, makes this lure air resistant, so you’re not casting a Buzzbait across the lake or very far into a headwind. But that’s OK, because the design allows the blades to start spinning very quickly upon touch down, helping it be effective during short flips into pad openings or along docks at close range.

Rapala Shad Rap SR07

Why it Made the Cut

The Shad Rap has been wiggling its way into the mouths of trophy largemouths and smallmouths for 40 years.

Key Features

  • Balsa-wood body
  • Durable diving lip
  • Classic foil finishes

Pros

  • Can be cast or trolled
  • Premium hooks

Cons

  • Wood can become weak if the finish gets chipped

Innumerable amounts of crankbaits have hit tackle shop shelves since the Shad Rap was launched, yet all these years later it’s still one of the most trusted by anglers worldwide. A key reason for this is the balsa wood body—a signature material for the Rapala brand. Balsa is light and extremely buoyant. It always wants to float back to the surface, so, when the Shad Rap’s heavy diving lip is pulling it down, these opposing forces product a tight rolling wobble underwater that’s unmatched. That extra-thick lip can also take serious abuse, allowing you to bang it off rocks, stumps, and rip-rap to trigger bites from the biggest bass. Of course, the Shad Rap isn’t a one-trick pony. It’s equally popular for trolling walleyes, pike, and lake trout, because it maintains its wobble at slow speeds and performs when trolled on downriggers or lead core line. Many bass anglers have Shad Raps that are scratched, faded, and dented, but they’ve caught so many bass that they’re like old, trusted friends. Some tournament anglers even reserve certain Shad Raps for crunch time because they don’t want to risk losing them when not in a high-pressure situation.

Scum Frog

Why it Made the Cut

The Scum Frog lead the hollow-body frog revolution, and though many imitators have followed, this one is still catching piles of big bass.   

Key Features

  • Soft, hollow body
  • Double hook
  • Supple rubber skirt

Pros

  • Works in the heaviest cover where other lures can’t go
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Takes practice to fish effectively
  • Material can tear, causing the body to take on water

To be fair, the Scum Frog was not the original hollow-body frog. That honor goes to Snag Proof, however, the original designs are hard to find, and the company has gone through several iterations over the years. Meanwhile, Scum Frog has been producing their baits for decades, and not much has changed with their original design. It doesn’t need to. These light, buoyant frogs have been getting trashed by monster bass from Florida to Maine, California to Kansas for decades. With a double hook positioned over the bait’s back, the Scum Frog can slide over lily pads, across thick weed mats, and over wood without getting hung up or collecting debris. This is what allows it to go where other lures can’t. It’s also what allows it to get in front of those tucked-up giants hiding in the nastiest cover. There’s a caveat to these lures, however. They take practice. Working them is easy enough—simply reel and pop the rod tip simultaneously. But when one gets sucked under, it’s critical to give the bass a few seconds to turn, swim down, and compress the frog in its mouth. Swing too soon and you’ll miss every time. Getting good at frog setting takes focus, and it’s harder than you think.

Yamamoto Senko

Why it Made the Cut

The Senko is practically foolproof for bass, regardless of your fishing skill level.

Key Features

  • Unique undulating action
  • Salt impregnated to achieve perfect fall rate
  • Requires little skill to work

Pros

  • Draws strikes even while laying still on the bottom
  • Casts far without additional weight

Cons

The term “do-nothing bait” is relatively new in bass fishing, but it was coined because of the Senko worm. Lure designer Gary Yamamoto modeled this bait after a Bic pen, and when you look at it, you can’t help but wonder why it appeals to fish. The magic, however, lies in the engineering. Yamamoto tinkered with density, elasticity, buoyancy, and several other factors until he achieved a soft plastic with the perfect fall rate and undulation to entice any bass whether it’s hungry or not. Senkos naturally quiver and flex with the slightest water movement, hence the name “do-nothing,” because you can literally cast out a Senko, let it sit still on the bottom, and a bass will slurp it up. There are countless ways to rig one of these lures, but none is more popular than wacky style. All this means is running a finesse hook directly through the center of the bait perpendicular to the body. As a wacky rigged Senko falls, it wobbles and undulates. Pop the rod tip and it folds into a U shape before straightening and wobbling back down. Why this action and presentation is so appealing to fish nobody can say for sure. But when in doubt—when nothing else is drawing a strike—fire out a wacky rigged Senko, work it back painfully slow, and hang on.

Z-Man Fineesse TRD

Why it Made the Cut

The TRD introduced the angling masses to Ned rigging, which has become one of the most productive ways to target pressured bass.

Key Features

  • Tapered profile
  • Buoyant body material
  • Can match wide range of forage

Pros

  • Tough material that can survive many fish
  • Easy to fish regardless of skill level

Cons

  • Requires specific jigheads to perform properly

What does TRD mean? It’s up for debate. The company claims it stand for The Real Deal. Anglers, on the other hand, just say it’s a play on turd. Turd is actually kind of fitting. The shape is right, and measuring just 2 ¾ inches, a few brown ones on the lawn would fool anyone into thinking a fox or Pomeranian let loose. But the Finesse TRD is no joke. It was responsible for bringing Ned rigging—a rather low-key, niche tactic—to the forefront of bass fishing. TRDs are designed to float, so, when paired with a mushroom-shaped Ned-style jighead that lays face down on the bottom, the buoyant TRD stands straight up. Ned rigging is so potent because it allows you to work a bait in place until reluctant fish bite. Water movement alone gets a TRD quivering, and just the slightest shake of the line really makes it dance. This presentation proved lethal in ultra-clear water and for fish in highly pressured bodies of water, however, the TRD is killer anywhere, especially when water temperatures are cooler and sluggish bass need a little coaxing.

Z-Man Original ChatterBait

Why it Made the Cut

The ChatterBait has become such a staple in bass fishing that it’s overtaken long-time classics like the spinnerbait in terms of popularity.

Key Features

  • Hexagonal chatter blade
  • Rubber skirt tail
  • Strong hook

Pros

  • Creates unmatched vibration
  • Can be tipped with a variety of soft-plastic trailers

Cons

  • Blade can deform after repeated connection with hard structure

The ChatterBait is one of those lures that took the bass fishing world by storm. Popularized in the early 2000s, it was so effective that it practically knocked spinnerbaits—one of the oldest and most proven blade baits—out of the picture. The retrieve is the same as a classic spinnerbait: Just cast, let it sink to your desired depth, and reel steadily. But with a unique hexagonal blade positioned at the head of the lure, the ChatterBait brought much more to the party than a traditional spinnerbait. For starters, that blade creates an incredible amount of vibration, so much that you’ll actually see your rod tip shake during a retrieve. As the blade vibrates, the skirted jig behind it kicks back and forth wildly. If you add a soft-plastic trailer to the bait, such as a curly-tail worm or creature bait, action and vibration bumps up a few more notches. Though not quite as weedless as a spinnerbait, a ChatterBait is still designed to deflect off hard cover. So, if you want to see your ChatterBait get smoked by monster bass, don’ be afraid to let it knock off a few stumps and dock pilings.

Zoom Brush Hog

Why it Made the Cut

Though there are many creature baits on the market these days, the Brush Hog has been wiggling its way into the mouths of big bass longer than most of them.

Key Features

  • Long appendages
  • Slim body
  • Soft-plastic wings

Pros

  • Effective when rigged in multiple styles
  • Great for coaxing sluggish fish

Cons

  • Appendages break off easily

Though bass fishing historians credit legendary lure maker Bobby Garland with inventing an early creature bait in the 1980s, these lures didn’t evolve into what they are today until the 1990s. It was during that era the Brush Hog hit the scene, solidifying its place as an original true creature. So, what does “creature” mean? Exactly what it sounds like. The Brush Hog doesn’t mimic any particular forage; it just looks like some alien creature from another planet. Ironically, however, while creature baits don’t match one specific forage, they mimic dozens simultaneously, making them extremely versatile. With all those appendages and wings and arms flapping away on the fall, a Brush Hog can represent a crayfish, a lizard, a juicy hellgrammite, or a sculpin to a hungry bass. But don’t get caught up in what you want a creature bait to look like, because the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter. Those waving, undulating body parts simply create motion and vibration and trigger fish into thinking the bait is something alive and good to eat. You can rig a Brush Hog on a jighead, send it down Texas-rigged, drag it along the bottom on a Carolina Rig, or even use them for more modern techniques like drop-shotting.

The Best Fishing Lures for Trout

Blue Fox Vibrax

Why it Made the Cut

The Vibrax shines in big bodies of moving water, making it a staple for monster trout—and salmon and steelhead—across the country.

Key Features

  • High flash
  • Tough construction
  • Emits low-frequency vibration

Pros

  • Blade angle reduces line twist
  • Casts far and sinks quickly

Cons

  • Can be prone to fouling when fished on lighter lines

Though Vibrax spinners are used all over the country and the world, many anglers associate them with the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and for good reason. A Vibrax in a larger size is ideal for attacking the big, wide, swift rivers in these areas that get seasonal runs of steelhead and salmon. A Vibrax flies far, allowing anglers to cover a lot of water, and the extra-wide blades arguably produce more thump and vibration than some smaller cousins. Combine the vibes these lures put out with the variety of neon colors they come in, and you’ve got the perfect lure for off-color and fast-moving rivers. Though you’ll catch plenty of bass and pike casting and retrieving a Vibrax in still water, they are super-effective on the swing in moving water. The idea is to cast straight across, reel to get the blades spinning, then let the current sweep the lure in a downstream arc—and hopefully right into the faces and holed-up steelhead, trout, or salmon. When a swinging Vibrax gets hit, it’s often violent. Luckily, these lures are also extremely tough, so they can handle the abuse.

Joe’s Flies

Why it made the Cut

Joe’s Flies have a cult following, as they combine the power of an in-line spinner with the ability to match the hatch—a practice more reserved for fly anglers. 

Key Features

  • Hand tied fly bodies
  • Rear stinger treble hook
  • High flash

Pros

  • Can be fished on a spinning rod or fly rod
  • Easy to work

Cons

  • Not good for distance casting

Is a Joe’s Fly a lure or a fly? Technically it’s both, however, these days your average devoted fly guy snubs his nose at the idea of tying something with a spinner blade on the end of his line. It’s all kind of silly, because if you go back to the 1950s and ’60s, lure makers routinely produced smaller, lighter version of their most popular lures for fly anglers, and anglers of that era had no problem using them. Regardless, Joe’s Flies have a big cult following, particularly among anglers fishing small trout streams on foot with ultra-light spinning tackle. While some newer models of Joe’s Flies feature weighted bodies, the originals don’t. There’s simply a long clasp-lock post with a spinner blade pinned through the eye of fly, making the overall package very light. Those flies, however, are hand tied and come in classic patterns like the March Brown, Woolly Bugger, and Black Gnat. They also feature a treble stinger hook that does a terrific job of pinning trout that short strike in fast current. Despite the lack of ability to launch a Joe’s Flies across the river, their weight creates little splash on touchdown, making them less obtrusive than other spinners and ideal for wary, selective trout in clear water.

Mepps Agilia

Why it Made the Cut

Mepps claims its lures have caught more world-record fish than any other lure ever made.

Key Features

  • Squirrel- and deer-hair-tail dressing
  • Turkey-quill accents
  • Wide blade

Pros

Cons

  • Tail dressing can become tattered after a few fish

The Mepps Aglia was invented in France in 1938, by Andre Meulnart, but it wasn’t until 1960 that the lures really took hold in the U.S. That was thanks to Todd Sheldon, who discovered Meulnart’s baits in 1951, and began importing them to sell in Wisconsin in 1956. These days, there’s not an angler in the world who doesn’t know the name Mepps. The Aglia is available in several sizes, and it will put the hurt on everything from crappies to pike, bass to walleyes, though it’s fair to say it’s most associated with trout fishing. Featuring natural squirrel and deer hair dressings, the Aglia is a staple on trout streams across the country, and it hammers wild fish and stockers alike thanks to its wide blade. That blade gets turning quickly when you start reeling, producing a vibration trout can feel from a long way off. The heavy body beads also allow the Aglia to drop quickly so you can run it deep in those big slow holes where the trophy trout hide.

Panther Martin

Why it Made the Cut

The Panther Martin is one of the most trusted and best trout lures ever created, and it’s so effective that the design and classic patterns haven’t changed after decades in production.

Key Features

  • Clasp-free post-mounted blade
  • Teardrop body
  • Compact design

Pros

  • Wide blade rotation creates extra vibration
  • Weight distribution allows for long, accurate casts

Cons

  • Post wire can get easily bent of shape
  • Hooks on small models can pull out of bigger fish

From the stocked streams of the Northeast to the wild waters of the West, you’ll be hard pressed to find a trout angler wielding a spinning rod that doesn’t have a Panther or two on hand. Modeled after a lure he had seen during a visit to Europe, Cecil Hoge began marketing the Panther Martin in the U.S. in the 1950s. What set it apart from other in-line spinners was that the blade spun freely around the post instead of relying on a clasp. This not only allowed a Panther to start spinning faster in the water, but it also created a wider blade rotation that ramped up vibration. Thanks to the teardrop body design, the Panther carries its weight at the bottom, which allows even the tiniest models to fly far and land on target. This is especially useful in trout streams where you might be trying to get a fast, clean run through a small back eddy or short seam. These days there are dozens of color schemes to choose from, but don’t ever overlook the classics: silver blade with the yellow-and-red polka dot body and gold blade with the black-and-yellow polka dot body will fool everything from giant browns to high-mountain cutthroats anywhere in the country.

Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue

Why it Made the Cut

The Rogue was one of the first hard jerkbaits on the market, and after 50 plus years in production, it still catches more fish than some modern versions.

Key Features

  • Sharp, erratic darting action
  • Offset hooks grab faster and firmer
  • Strong, thick lip

Pros

  • Rises very slowly so it’ll hold at depth longer on the pause
  • Gets to desired depth quickly

Cons

  • Taxing on the arms when worked properly

The Rogue rose to fame along the trout rivers of the Ozark Mountains. As these fisheries were first developing, the good old boys from the South weren’t fluent in the dainty trout tactics used by anglers in the north, so they fished as aggressively for trout as they did for their bass and saltwater species and a funny thing happened—the Rogue emerged as a slayer of trophy brown trout. To this day, you’ll be hard pressed to find an Ozark tackle shop that doesn’t stock Rogues, and there are plenty of Rogue zealots still in the area that would rather go big and go home with one trout you can measure in pounds than mess of little ones you measure by the inch. The thing about the Rogue is it takes work to make it work for you. It comes to life when fished hard by whipping the rod tip toward the surface of the water. The more aggressively you whip, the more pronounced and erratic its twitching, jerking, and flashing action. These lures, of course, are also favorites in the walleye and smallmouth scenes, and when a fish drills one it’s a slam, not a kiss.

Trout Magnet

Why it Made the Cut

The Trout Magnet is a simple lure, but it’s extremely potent and arguably the best imitator of small worms, micro baitfish, and aquatic insect larvae.

Key Features

  • Shad dart head
  • Split tail
  • Ribbed body

Pros

  • Water current imparts action without needing to work the rod
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Hooks can bend out under the strain of big fish

Don’t let the word “trout” in the name fool you—this beautifully simple soft-plastic will also get hammered by any panfish that swims. The secret to their effectiveness? It’s all about that 1/64-ounce shad dart head. Shad darts have a conical body and a sharp sloping face. This design makes them fall perfectly horizontally, instead of nose down, while also deflecting water. What that means is when you hang a Trout Magnet under a float and cast it out into current, the water movement alone is enough to make the lure quiver and glint. This is as close as you can get to fishing a real mealworm without fishing a real mealworm, and many anglers agree the Trout Magnet is more effective. The Trout Magnet is available in a massive array of colors, and you can use this lure to match anything from micro minnows to itty-bitty crayfish to black stonefly nymphs and beyond. Of all the colors, gold and pink are the two must-haves for trout. The lure is designed to be drifted downstream below a small bobber, but you can also jig them solo with an ultra-light rod and reel spooled with 2- or 4-pound test. Dirty secret: They’re also light enough to be cast with a fly rod.

Worden’s Rooster Tail

Why it Made the Cut

The Rooster Tail has been a staple on trout streams across the country since the 1950s.

Key Features

  • Hackle feather tail
  • Willow leaf blade

Pros

  • Blade rotates widely to ramp vibration
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Blade doesn’t always start spinning right away

Developed in Wisconsin in the 1950s by Howard Worden, this in-line spinner has become a go-to for trout anglers across the U.S. What you’ll often find is that trout guys pledge allegiance to a particular brand. Some guys are Panther Martin zealots, others consider Mepps their ride-or-die. But it might be fair to say that there are more Rooster Tail loyalists out there than all the rest. Part of that may be because Rooster Tails are one of the most affordable in-line spinners on the market. They also catch a lot of trout. Their extra-long blade spins in a wide rotation, helping this tiny lure produce some big vibrations. The hackle feather tails also hide the trebles, providing a bit of extra stealth and flutter. Rooster Tails hammer in all river and lakes, but they shine on smaller trout streams—pressured ones, in particular—because they splash down gently and provide the right flash and action to trigger trout that have snubbed everything else that’s been drifted their way.

The Best Fishing Lures for Saltwater

Acme Kastmaster Spoon

Why it Made the Cut

The Kastmaster has been putting trout in nets and stripers on the beach for decades, aided by its ability to fly significantly farther than other spoons.

Key Features

  • Precision machined
  • Highly reflective
  • Aerodynamic shape

Pros

  • Casts a mile
  • Won’t bend or deform

Cons

Though the Kastmaster is classified as a spoon lure, it’s a bit of a stretch. Traditional spoons have an actual kitchen spoon shape and scooped profile; the Kastmaster is more like a thick slab of metal. But its angled design and heavy weight are exactly what make it so much more lethal than traditional spoons. This lure, which has been around for decades, is aerodynamic—so with just a little oomph in your cast, it’s going, going, gone. This bombing ability has huge advantages in the surf or when fishing big lakes from shore. Once a Kastmaster touches down, those same sleek angles make it deflect water on the retrieve, causing it to wobble, dart, and flash brighter than competitors. Because this lure is so thick and solid, it’s practically unbreakable. You might have to give old ones the occasional polish to keep up the gleam, but there’s not a rock, hunk of wood, or set of nasty bluefish teeth that are going to deform the body. While the Kastmaster might be most prized in the saltwater scene, they’re available in models as small as 1 1/8th-inch. If you need to cover a wide swath of swollen river for spring trout, this is the perfect choice. Likewise, you can hit a distant pool or eddy without wading halfway across a stream.

Bomber Saltwater Grade Long A

Why it Made the Cut

The Saltwater Grade Long A has been a top producer of giant striped bass in the surf since it was introduced in the 1970s.

Key Features

  • Tough polycarbonate body
  • Shallow-diving lip

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Moves well at a slow retrieve rate

Cons

  • Lacks distance casting ability

Bomber Long As catch a mess of fish when trolled. Tow one behind the boat and it’ll wobble away, enticing everything from king mackerel to dogtooth tuna. But its trolling ability isn’t what put this lure on the map. The Long A rose to popularity along the Atlantic Coast where striped bass feed close to shore. It was one of the first plastic Finnish-style minnow plugs specifically engineered to stand up to big fish and take a real beating. The Long A, however, was lighter than metal lures and jigs; get a little onshore wind in your face and you’re not sending one super far. But that’s okay, because where these plugs work best is on sandy, trough-laden beaches where stripers feed right in the wash. Colors like School Bus and Chicken Scratch have become iconic in the Northeast striper scene, but the solid-black model can be considered the true ringer of the Long A family. After dark, when the heaviest cows come in tight to the beach, these black lures create a sharper silhouette, making them easier for fish to see. Furthermore, you can reel at a snail’s crawl, letting the pull of the waves impart most of the action. This gentle wiggle at slow speed drove big bass wild, quickly making a black Long A a must-have for late-night surf pursuits.

Cedar Plug

Why it Made the Cut

Though one of the oldest and simplest trolling lures ever made, the cedar plug still catches boatloads of tuna   

Key Features

  • Cedar wood body
  • Conical lead head
  • Extra-strong hook

Pros

  • Pre-rigged and ready for use
  • Inexpensive compared to other offshore lures

Cons

  • Wood can soften and degrade over time

The use of cedar plugs dates back more than 150 years, to the coast of France, where anglers trolled them for tuna on sailboats. Skip ahead a more than a century later: By the early 1980s, cedar plugs had become staples for tuna chasers up and down the East Coast of the U.S. Pacific anglers soon caught on and found that these simple cigar-shaped hunks of fragrant cedar outfished many of their more traditional skirted trolling lures. You’d never guess that a lure so uninteresting is so potent, but when it’s riding in the prop wash, a cedal plug darts, whirls, and changes direction like no other trolling lure. They’ll produce a mile behind the boat, but one of the most popular positions is the corner short flat line—15 to 20 feet back, just past the first curl of the boat’s wake. Cedar plugs are available in many colors, and they all catch fish, but perhaps none more effectively than the traditional unpainted version.

Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper

Why it Made the Cut

Pencil poppers draw huge gamefish to the surface and are designed to reach them, whether you’re on a boat or standing on the sand.  

Key Features

  • Tapered body design
  • Scooped, angled mouth
  • Strong hooks

Pros

  • Works well in chop, waves, and current
  • Durable construction

Cons

  • Requires a stout rod to cast and retrieve effectively
  • Takes practice to retrieve correctly

There’s no shortage of pencil poppers in tackle shops these days, many of them turned in wood by local custom lure makers. But the Cotton Cordell was the first mass produced and widely available plastic version, which subsequently made them more affordable. The tapered design of these lures puts their weight at the rear, so when you fling one, it’s going, going, gone. This ability to be bombed a great distance is what made pencil poppers staples with surfcasters the world over, but they’re ability to call up mammoth fish didn’t hurt either. To work a pencil the right way, a long surf rod helps, as you want to reel steadily while aggressively and rhythmically whipping the rod back and forth. This gives a pencil popper its signature action, where the nose comes forward and slaps the surface and the weighted tail makes it roll back to a near vertical bobbing position. This all happens very quickly, but the result is a loud, bubbling surface presentation that screams, “I’m a wounded baitfish! Come get me!” Given that pencil poppers are large, they’re ideal for mimicking big forage like menhaden and mackerel.

Diamond Jig

Why it Made the Cut

The classic diamond jig is one of the oldest, most versatile, and most effect lures ever cast into saltwater.

Key Features

  • Wind-cutting body design
  • High chrome finish
  • Rubber tube tail

Pros

  • Gets to depth quickly
  • Can be jigged or cast

Cons

  • Has a tendency to foul
  • Prone to rusting

For our purposes, we’ve selected the Tsunami Diamond Jig, though the truth is that over the decades, countless companies have produced this simple lure and they’re all just as effective. In fact, the origins of the diamond jig stretch back so far that it would be very hard to pinpoint who or what company produced it first. It’s kind of like a public domain lure, and that’s a good thing because you can find them in pretty much every coastal tackle shop in the country. There’s nothing exceptional about the design; it’s a slender chunk of diamond-faceted lead with a chrome finish and a rubber tail. But it’s also unstoppable. If striped bass or bluefish are breaking past the waves where most lures can’t reach, send a diamond jig and reel fast. If you’re marking a school of feeding tuna on the boat, there’s a high likelihood a diamond jig will match the forage they’re eating. If you need to hit a grouper in 80 feet of water, there’s a heavy enough diamond jig for that. If you need to fool small Spanish mackerel at the surface, send a tiny model. Cast and reel, drop and jig, work fast, crawl slow…it doesn’t matter. Diamond jigs just produce lots of fish.

DOA Shrimp

Why it Made the Cut

The DOA Shrimp has caught more tarpon, snook, sea trout, and redfish than any other soft-plastic shrimp ever created.

Key Features

  • Internal weight
  • Lifelike legs
  • Impregnated with real shrimp scent

Pros

  • Swims like a live shrimp
  • Consistent drop rate

Cons

  • Not great for distance casting

Created by renowned captain Mark Nichols in the 1990s, the DOA Shrimp has held its place as the top-producing shrimp imitation ever since. There is no shortage of other soft-plastic shrimp on the market, but none of them have become more trusted. The thing is, when you look at a DOA next to a more modern offering, it looks very stiff and plain. To see it come to life, you need to get it wet. Nichols spent years studying how real shrimp swim before setting to work creating a lure that would match that action to a T. The DOA is perfectly balanced so it always sinks horizontally with the legs facing down. Those legs might not look too impressive dry, but underwater they flicker and undulated delicately just like the real thing. Nichols also engineered these baits to fall at a consistent rate that’s not too slow and not too fast, resembling how live shrimp ride the tide as closely as possible. You’d be hard pressed to find an inshore angler in Florida, Georgia, or along the eastern Gulf Coast that doesn’t have a few of these candies on hand for trout, tarpon, flounder, snook, and redfish.

Gibbs Danny Surface Swimmer

Why it Made the Cut

The Danny has been putting cow striped bass on beaches along the entire Eastern Seaboard since 1945.

Key Features

  • Buoyant wood body
  • Metal lip
  • Dressed tail hook

Pros

  • Best imitator of adult menhaden
  • Premium hooks and hardware

Cons

  • More expensive than many other striper lures

Metal-lipped surface swimmers are one of the most trusted lures in striper fishing. These days, custom lure builders from Massachusetts to New Jersey and beyond produce them, but they’re all ultimately homages to the Gibbs Danny. Since 1945, Gibbs has been making these lures in Rhode Island, and they all start with wood sourced from the Pacific Northwest. Though you can get a Danny to dive a few inches below the surface, it’s technically a topwater lure, and, given that they’re large baits, when a striper attacks it’s usually not a small fish. The trick to working a Danny properly is reeling very slowly. The lure will waddle and roll back and forth along the surface, creating its calling-card V wake. This wake perfectly mirrors the one made by an adult menhaden—a.k.a. bunker or pogy—when it’s in distress and fleeing. You can throw a Danny into a midday blitz and it’ll get hammered, but they are very effective in the dark when the bigger fish move tight to the break line on the beach to hunt. Just make sure you’re firing one on a heavier 9- or 10-foot rod, because these bulky lures need some extra oomph to send and your favorite light-tackle outfit won’t get it done.

Green Machine

Why it Made the Cut

The Green Machine has been trolling up monster marlin, tuna, and wahoo from Hawaii to Cape Hatteras for decades.

Key Features

  • Strong hook
  • Heavy-duty vinyl skirt
  • Holographic head

Pros

  • Produces solo or when run behind a teaser
  • Mimics a wide variety of offshore forage species

Cons

  • Hook spacer beads break easily

The origins of the Green Machine are hazy at best. What muddies the waters even more is that nowadays, several companies produce this big-game trolling lure, and while they may have different names in the catalog, they are all carbon copies of the original Green Machine with its green vinyl shirt and simple conical green head. A series of red spacer beads runs up the skirt to position the thick, razor-sharp hook right at the end of the tail. You can send a Green Machine out behind the boat alone at any distance and it’ll produce. You can create a daisy chain of multiple “Greenies” and it’ll get clobbered. As offshore lures go, there are much more modern, advanced offerings, but this old-school classic has an uncanny ability to draw bluewater gamefish up from the depths when nothing else will. Many offshore anglers attribute it to the color, which helps a Green Machine match everything from juvenile bonita to mackerel to flying fish, all of which are staples in Gulf Stream waters. But a Green Machine, despite its length, also has a slimmer profile than similar lures, possibly making it appear to be a more fragile, bite-sized target.

Sebile Magic Swimmer

Sebile Magic Swimmer

Why it Made the Cut

The Magic Swimmer revolutionized what could be achieved with a mass production hard swimbait with its unique ability to continue shimmying forward when paused.

Key Features

  • Triple-jointed body
  • Tapered nose
  • Humpback head

Pros

  • Performs at any retrieve speed
  • Casts long distances

Cons

When modern lure savant Patrick Sebile unveiled his Magic Swimmer in the early 2000s, jaws dropped. This triple-jointed hard swimbait had an uncanny ability to wag its entire body constantly, even during the slowest retrieve or when paused entirely. It was all thanks to some very slick and forward-thinking engineering. Sebile designed the tapered nose and humpback head to slice through the water, creating turbulence on one side of the bait and then the other as it moved. The beauty is that the head keeps creating that turbulence whether the bait is being burned or slowly creeped through the water. This made it a game changer for a plethora of species, though it was particularly impactful in the striped bass scene where strong tidal currents required quick cranking and nighttime pursuits called for a painfully slow crawl. Sebile also didn’t skimp on hooks, fitting each bait with high-end trebles that wouldn’t bend or break under the strain of brutes like peacock bass, barramundi, and giant snook. Magic Swimmers are available in floating, sinking, and fast-sinking models, and while their weights may vary, the action remains true across all versions.

Shimano Butterfly Jig

Why it Made the Cut

When this Japanese import hit the scene, it revolutionized fishing for everything from tuna to stripers, grouper to yellowtail.

Key Features

  • Holographic finish
  • Flat profile
  • Strong assist-style hook

Pros

  • Triggers almost every large predator species in saltwater
  • Has the durability to stand up to huge fish

Cons

  • Requires specialty rod and reel to perform to full potential
  • Expensive

When the Butterfly Jig was introduced in 2006, it changed the way American saltwater anglers jigged. It also opened their eyes to the idea that monster fish like tuna and grouper could be beaten on much lighter rods and reels than traditionally employed. The Butterfly Jig was invented in Japan, where anglers delivered them on light, whippy rods made of carbon fiber that had incredible backbone. The slower tips allowed them to jig aggressively, coining the term “speed jigging,” which is what makes the Butterfly come to life. Its flat profile allows it to wobble erratically on the fall, while a sharp upward snap of the rod makes it dart in every direction. Giant fish couldn’t leave it alone, and thanks to a unique assist hook that stops fish from using the jig’s weight to throw the hook, this small jig proved it could land behemoths in short order. Between the jig’s productivity and the advent of specialty rods to fish them, anglers were suddenly able to fight longer and land more fish in a given trip because they weren’t getting worn out wielding heavy broomstick rods all day.

Best Fishing Lures for Walleye

Reef Runner Cicada

Why it Made the Cut

The unique shape of the Cicada gives it a darting and fluttering action on the fall unmatched by other lures.

Key Features

  • Tough construction
  • High flash
  • Concave blade

Pros

  • Great for casting or jigging vertically
  • Works in open water or on the ice

Cons

The Cicada is kind of a sleeper. It’s been around a long time, though it’s never achieved the popularity of other metal spoons and jigs. Of course, it hasn’t gone away because it’s a trusted ringer for many anglers. It’s one of those “if you know, you know” deals, and what many fishermen know is that the Cicada’s unique design give it an action unlike any other lure. With a weighted belly and shark fin-like blade on its back, the lure wobbles naturally on the fall, and it’s during the drop that it often gets smoked. Though you can retrieve steadily to produce a tighter wobble, the Cicada is largely considered a vertical jig, which is why it’s equally effective through the ice. If you give the rod a sharp snap, the Cicada will dart widely and wobble as it comes back to center. Even subtle twitches, however, create a burst of flash thanks to the high chrome finish and holographic decals. Walleye anglers arguably lean on the Cicada the hardest, but it’s also deadly on early-season smallmouths when they’re schooled and suspend after ice-out.

Reef Runner Deep Diver 800

Why it Made the Cut

Born on the shores of Lake Erie, this diving crankbait is one of the most trusted lures for trolling up trophy walleyes.

Key Features

  • Banana-shaped body
  • Loud rattle

Pros

  • Gets to depth fast
  • Premium hooks

Cons

  • Often requiring tuning right out of the box

Ohio-based Reef Runner hit the scene in 1988, founded on the shores of Lake Erie, which is arguably the greatest walleye fishery in the country. The Deep Diver’s unique banana shape made it stand out from other hardbaits on the market, but what sealed its reputation as a new classic was its ability to outproduce its competitors. Though this lure can be cast and reeled, it’s really designed for trolling, and it gets to depth at lightning speed. Unassisted—meaning without using any extra weight or lead-core line—the 800 will hit 28 feet. It’s all thanks to its sharp, slender lip; but what really drives big walleyes crazy is its aggressive kicking action. The Deep Diver catches walleyes all season long, but when the water is cold in spring and late fall, it’s extra potent because it maintains its action even when trolled painfully slow. Suspended, sluggish fish may not even be in feeding mode, but when an 800 gets in their faces and does its signature dance, they can’t help but slam it.

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