An often-heard comment from casual anglers who also love to boat is, “I don’t understand the difference between lures and I have no idea what I should use when and where.” The answer to that statement probably lies in a 1,000-page book but what follows is a highly shortened version.

 According to most casual anglers, selecting lures is one of the most confusing tasks in tackle selection. Too often, they make purchases based on how ‘fishy’ or pretty the lure is but experienced anglers know each lure type is a tool designed to fish a certain depth.

 Family boating accessories often compete for stowage space with fishing tackle. In an average-sized bowrider or fish-and-ski boat, space is usually at a premium, so the obvious answer is to keep it simple.


An often-heard comment from casual anglers who also love to boat is, “I don’t understand the difference between lures and I have no idea what I should use when and where.” The answer to that statement probably lies in a 1,000-page book but what follows is a highly shortened version.
 According to most casual anglers, selecting lures is one of the most confusing tasks in tackle selection. Too often, they make purchases based on how ‘fishy’ or pretty the lure is but experienced anglers know each lure type is a tool designed to fish a certain depth.
 Family boating accessories often compete for stowage space with fishing tackle. In an average-sized bowrider or fish-and-ski boat, space is usually at a premium, so the obvious answer is to keep it simple.
There are three basic rod and reel combinations; spincast, spinning and baitcast. Spincast is easiest to use but sometimes lowest in quality. Spinning rigs are easy to use plus they offer a choice in quality and can make long casts.
 Baitcast rigs are more difficult for inexperienced anglers to cast because of their propensity to backlash the line, especially the inexpensive reels. On the plus side, they are durable and can cast a variety of lures. In choosing one rig over another, angler experience should determine the kind of rod and reel selected.
Rods are designated light, medium and heavy with medium being a good selection for all-around fishing situations.
Lures weighing 1/4- to 1/2-ounce are popular weights and work well with a medium action rod.  
Four basic lure styles dominate the fishing industry, surface, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs or bottom bouncers. Here are their descriptions.  
Surface or topwater?
Without a doubt, surface lures are the most fun to use. Bass are especially vulnerable to this style of fishing – they obviously mistake the surface object to be a bird or small animal splashing on the water during dawn or dusk.
Nothing is more exciting than when a largemouth or white bass smashes the surface trying to swallow a lure. The explosion of water causes an adrenalin rush hard to duplicate in any other outdoor sport.
Examples of surface lures are Berkley’s Frenzy Popper, Rebel’s Pop-R, and Smithwick’s Zara Spook.
Some of these have cupped mouths to create a gurgling sound when snapped forward.
Other surface lures include Heddon’s Crazy Crawler, Arbogast’s Jitterbug and Scum Frog’s Little Bigfoot. They are easy to fish because anglers just cast the lure, reel it in and hold on.
Crankbaits
Another easy-to-fish, cast-and-crank lure is the crankbait. Often resembling a small fish, anglers only need to cast this lure and reel it back. Likely spots include lake points and straight shorelines. Cast across the point or parallel to a straight shoreline.
Its front lip determines the running depth of a crankbait. A small lip indicates a shallow runner and a heavy lure with a large lip runs deeper, up to 20 feet. Large lipped crankbaits can be very tiring to reel in for more than a few minutes at a time.
Some crankbait examples are Bagley’s Balsa B, Norman’s N’, Rapala’s DT and Storm’s Wiggle Wart. Each of these cast and retrieve easily using a medium weight rod and reel.
Spinnerbaits
Spinnerbaits resemble an oversized safety pin with round blades at the top and a lead head, hook and synthetic skirt at the bottom. They cast like a bullet and sink like a rock which means anglers should start reeling them in immediately after they hit the water.
By design, spinnerbaits are quite weedless and snag free unless they are allowed to sink to the bottom before the retrieve is started.
Keep spinnerbait selection simple by choosing 1/4- or 3/8-ounce models with Colorado style blades and minnow or bluegill colored skirts.
Jigs and bottom bouncers
Jigs are best described as a hook imbedded in a lead head with a hair or synthetic skirt to cover the hook. Inexperienced anglers are reluctant to fish with a jig thinking it will snag often on the bottom.
They do snag but they catch many fish. If a jig does become snagged, move the boat forward until it is beyond where the jig is snagged and jiggle the rod tip until it comes free.
More examples of bottom bouncers are plastic worms and other soft plastics fished with a slip or bullet sinker.
Jigs and bottom bouncers are most effective when retrieved very slowly across the bottom, stirring up small clouds of silt. Some anglers describe the retrieve as “so slow you can count the rocks”.
Color selection for any lure isn’t complicated. Use natural forage colors like minnow, frog or bluegill in clear waters and bright chartreuse and yellow colors for heavily stained waters.
Keep the tackle simple. One or two rods and a half-dozen lures of each type in a small tacklebox should leave room in the boat for other watersport toys.
Make it a habit to buy lures like an auto mechanic, choosing the right tool for the right job.