Bass Fishing Lures: A Complete Breakdown
Consider for a moment the number of different lures available to the bass angler. It quickly becomes overwhelming, with dozens of styles in various colors and sizes.
You cannot buy every bass lure in the tackle shop. So we’ve provided a breakdown of the most popular styles, including when and where they are best used, along with what it takes to fish them effectively.
For this article, we’ve categorized the lures into two main sections: soft and hard baits.
Hard baits represent a technical group of bass fishing lures made from a combination of plastics and metals. Bright, noisy, and often incredibly lifelike, these lures are as attractive to bass fishermen as they are to bass.
Hard baits are less adaptable than soft baits but, when fished correctly, are second to none in terms of the results they can produce. Every angler who has spent even a few seasons fishing for bass will have a lure that they swear by. More often than not, this miracle lure will be a hard bait, and for good reason.
Understanding the various hard bait types and when to use them will help you make the right choice on the day.
Spinnerbaits wield metal blades that produce a distinctive flash and vibration when pulled through the water. Spinnerbaits are composed of four main parts – the head, the arm/wire form, the blades, and the skirt.
The spinnerbait’s head is the attachment point for the hook and also holds the skirt in place. The skirt is made from rubber and can be easily swapped out for another with a different size or color, depending on the water conditions.
The arm/wire form refers to the metal wire that connects the head to the blades and holds these metal blades above and away from the skirt. The arm is also where the line is attached to the lure.
A diagram highlighting the main components of a spinnerbait
When & Where to Use Spinnerbaits
Spinnerbaits can be modified to perform better in different water conditions by using different blade styles. In clear water, a flashier willow leaf blade is preferable. Whereas in murky conditions, Colorado blades will be more effective, as the extra vibration allows bass to hone in on the spinner.
While spinnerbaits can be fished in open water, they excel when fishing weedlines. The wire arm of the spinnerbait acts as a weed guard, keeping the lure snag free in most types of cover. Throwing a spinnerbait around stumps and docks is another excellent way to harness their snag-free ability.
For more advice on spinnerbaits and how to best use them, check out our killer spinnerbait tips for bass.
Swimbaits can be either soft bodied or hard bodied (hard bodied swimbaits are also known as glide baits). Hard bodied swimbaits are segmented lures, usually fished in the middle of the water column to target cruising bass.
Soft swimbaits are similar to fish-shaped creature baits (covered later) but are pre-rigged. These lures resemble baitfish and require no additional weight or hooks.
When & Where to Use Swimbaits
Swimbaits are highly realistic bass lures, making them ideal for clear water conditions when matching the natural forage is vital to encourage bites. Summer and early fall make for fantastic times to use large swimbaits that require bass to chase them down. Fish them around cover, such as undercut banks or sunken timber.
Matching the hatch often comes down to color selection. Take a look at our guide on how to pick the right lure color.
How to Use Swimbaits
Swimbaits are great for locating fish and can be used in open water where you may not understand the makeup of the bottom. Retrieve them with a steady, medium speed.
If you suspect bass are following the bait but not biting, adding a quick stop and start to your retrieve can trigger that all-important strike.
Jerkbaits are hard bodied baits comprised of a single, minnow-shaped body. When pulled through the water, jerkbaits have an erratic motion that mimics a wounded or dying fish. This “dying” motion triggers bass to strike, hoping for an easy meal.
When & Where to Use Jerkbaits
Jerkbaits are a mid-water lure. As such, the best time of year to use them is during early spring and late fall, when bass are found suspended in the middle of the water column. Clear water conditions are optimal for jerkbaits, as the bass can easily spot the “dying” action.
Jerkbaits are not weedless, and their treble hooks will snag easily, so fish them away from trees and weeds. This fact further cements spring and fall as prime jerkbait time because cover and weed levels are reduced in these periods.
For more information on how to use jerkbaits effectively, check out our complete guide to jerkbait fishing.
4. Topwater Lures
The term ‘topwater lure’ can refer to many different lure styles. The most common are poppers, spooks, and frogs. Both poppers and spooks are hard bodied lures with treble hooks to accommodate a strike from below. (We’ll take a look at frogs separately in this article.)
Poppers and spooks work by creating a commotion on the water’s surface, similar to that of a wounded baitfish. Topwater lures allow anglers to fish a wide area regardless of the time of day.
Looking for the best topwater lures? We have you covered with our recommendations!
When & Where to Use Topwater Lures
Topwater lures are a good option when fishing shallow shorelines, weedlines, or just about anywhere where bass are known to ambush their target from below. Topwater bass lures rely heavily on the sound produced during the retrieve, meaning they are effective in overcast and nighttime conditions.
These lures depend on bass chasing or ambushing them, so they work well when the fish have a lot of energy – making summer and early fall great times to use them.
How to Use Topwater Lures
Some topwater baits like jitterbugs and wopperploppers are best fished with a steady and constant retrieve. Others, such as poppers, are best fished by bouncing the rod tip, pausing, reeling in, and repeating the process.
For spooks, the most popular retrieve is known as “walking the dog”. Check out our in-depth explanation of this technique here.
Of all the types of fishing lures for bass, the crankbait is perhaps the most misunderstood. Crankbaits fall into three types, characterized by their lip: lipless, shallow diving, and deep diving.
Regardless of the lip, all crankbaits draw in bass through the production of sound and underwater vibrations. Both result from their wobble and bouncing the lure off submerged structures/cover.
Each style of crankbait can be explored further in our complete guide on how to fish crankbaits.
A lipless crankbait compared to a lipped crankbait
When & Where to Use Crankbaits
Each crankbait style is best used under slightly types of cover and water conditions.
Lipless crankbaits are best fished on hard or rocky bottoms. In these conditions, the crank is often used to mimic a crayfish jumping away from a predator. Lipless cranks are generally used in cooler months, such as early spring or late fall.
Bass are known to hunt deep water spots
Shallow diving crankbaits come in two forms: squarebilled and flat-sided.
Squarebill cranks can be fished in dense cover such as weed beds or blowdowns and are best used with a fast retrieve. These factors make squarebills an excellent lure in warm, summer conditions when bass are actively pursuing bluegills and other large baitfish.
On the other hand, flat bodied crankbaits are a cold-water lure well suited for fishing stump fields or mudflats.
Metal spoons are one of the oldest bass fishing lures still in use today. The oblong metal body flutters when retrieved, mimicking a startled baitfish.
Admittedly, spoons are not the most popular bass fishing lure, but in the right situation, they are an excellent option because of their ease of use. They cast easily and only require a steady retrieve to generate their distinctive flash.
A common approach is to vertically jig them, as this gives the appearance of a wounded baitfish falling to the bottom.
When & Where to Use Spoons
Spoons draw in bass by reflecting light and so are best used in clear water conditions with plenty of sunlight. They can be fished all year round but are particularly useful in winter when the water is clear, and vegetation is reduced (they will snag easily). When fishing spoons, target mudflats or areas with schools of baitfish for the best results.
How to Use Spoons
When you buy a spoon from your local tackle shop, it will likely include information on fast it should be retrieved. On the retrieve, the rod tip should bounce as the spoon wobbles back and forth.
To vertically jig a spoon, let it drop to the bottom, then pump the rod and lift the spoon several feet up in the water before letting it flutter back to the bottom.
Spoons are best fished with monofilament or fluorocarbon line.
The buzzbait is a classic bass lure. This lure style takes the best parts of a spinnerbait and combines them with a topwater lure. The buzzbait includes a wire arm with a mounted triangular blade. The blade, in this case, isn’t for reflecting light; it’s for pushing water and creating a whole lot of commotion on the surface.
Buzzbaits are almost weedless and are an excellent option when searching for bass and covering a lot of water.
When & Where to Use Buzzbaits
Buzzbaits come into their own during late spring and summer, as temperatures push bass into weedy and shallow waters.
To target bass with a buzzbait, look for weedy shorelines and dock pilings where fish can ambush or chase lures. Buzzbaits create a tremendous amount of noise on the surface, making them good bass fishing lures in overcast and even choppy conditions.
How to Use Buzzbaits
Buzzbaits need to be retrieved quickly to get the blade turning. With that said, it can be worth slightly altering your retrieval speed as you go, to trigger strikes.
Because buzzbaits are often fished in heavy cover, a 7-foot or longer rod paired with a heavy braid is an ideal setup. Regarding reels, I recommend using a fast retrieve baitcaster like a 7.1 or even an 8.1.
Soft baits (often called soft plastics) are characterized by their flexible construction. These baits are commonly made from salt-impregnated polyvinyl, which gives them enough density to sink gently. Soft baits move with the water current or when retrieved, and their material gives them an enticing action in almost every presentation.
Most soft baits require the addition of a hook in order to be rigged. This enables the angler to choose the best presentation for the situation, making them incredibly versatile. This versatility and low cost make soft baits a highly popular category for both novices and seasoned pros.
Within the soft bait category, there are many other different types of fishing lures for bass. For this article, we’ve also grouped frogs and jigs in. Frogs are sometimes pre-hooked or pre-rigged. While jigs are used in tandem with a soft plastic trailer.
Three of the soft baits we will be looking at
1. Plastic Worms & Stickbaits
While this article covers individual lure styles, it makes sense to look at plastic worms and stickbaits together, despite technically being considered two different styles.
Plastic worms are tapered soft baits with a ribbon or diamond tail that flutters when retrieved. Stickbaits have the body of a plastic worm but lack the tail. The stickbait’s subtle wiggle, when retrieved or left to sway in the current, is its claim to fame, but both lures have proven deadly on large bass across North America.
Plastic worms and stickbaits are inexpensive and cost the angler as little as a few dollars for a dozen unrigged lures. Both are very versatile and can be fished throughout the water column, depending on how they have been rigged.
When & Where to Use Plastic Worms/Stickbaits
Plastic worms are best fished in and around cover. In summer, anglers usually fish them over grass beds. Whereas in the colder months, plastic worms are fished close to the bottom, particularly around submerged logs and rock piles.
Imparting movement to your plastic worm is the key to getting the most from it. This is done by either reeling them in or fishing them in an area with strong currents. This focus on movement makes worms great for locating fish and covering a lot of water.
They excel at targeting fish
Stickbaits are effective because of their distinctive wiggle. They can be used in most water conditions, but clear water is optimal, as it ensures fish can take note of this subtle movement. Use them in spring and summer, as bass move into shallow water and select cover for feeding or spawning.
How to Use Plastic Worms/Stickbaits
Without a doubt, worms are best rigged in a weedless fashion. An offset worm hook allows the lure to travel through grass and weedy areas without getting snagged. These zones are where large bass like to hunt.
By Texas rigging a plastic worm with a bullet head weight, you can get your lure deep into cover and fish from the bottom. Work up and down the water column by lifting and reeling in before letting the bait settle again.
Provides plenty of movement
The stickbait is a finesse lure and should be fished slowly to allow the bait to flutter naturally. Stickbaits can work with most gear setups, but the floating nature of fluorocarbon prevents the lure from sinking as intended. Always use mono or braid when fishing stickbaits.
2. Craws & Creature Baits
Designed to mimic critters that bass naturally feed on, creature baits are one of the most varied types of fishing lures for bass. Instead of generic worm shapes, creature baits resemble other animals like leeches, fish, lizards, and crayfish.
Crayfish-shaped baits, also known as craws, are commonly used as trailers on jigs. The combination closely resembles a frightened crawfish moving across the bottom and can be deadly in the right scenario.
When & Where to Use Craws/Creature Baits
Creature baits work best to locate fish. Fishing weedlines and areas with changes in depth, like sandbars, are ideal locations. Spring and summer are great times to target these locations with craws and creature baits. Go with a slow retrieve if you’re fishing them in colder months.
How to Use Craws/Creature Baits
As mentioned, craws are an excellent bass lure when paired with jigs.
Flukes, lizards, and leeches can be fished using Texas or Carolina rigs to target fish higher up in the water column. When using these baits, a slower retrieve works well in moving water, where the current will give the lure additional movement. With that said, if bites are hard to come by, don’t be afraid to experiment with your retrieval speed.
3. Curl Tail Grubs
Curl tail grubs are soft baits that resemble squished worms. Compared to a plastic worm, grubs are much shorter, and the tail is at least equal to the length of the body. The curled tail gives the lure maximum movement when pulled through the water.
When & Where to Use Curl Tail Grubs
Curl tail grubs are ideal baits for heavy currents and deep water. Grubs are best fished in the spring and summer months when bass congregate around structures, but they also have a place in winter angling when used appropriately.
For the best results, use them around submerged rock piles, stumps, and fast-moving water, especially around boulders.
Grubs rely on motion to attract bass and so are most effective in clear water conditions.
How to Use Curl Tail Grubs
Grubs require a jighead (or a similar weighted hook) to be fished properly. This rigging method makes the curl tail grub an excellent bait for vertical jigging, a fantastic approach for the colder months.
Jigging or bouncing the grub across the bottom is advisable when fishing open water.
Jigs are soft baits that feature a weighted head attached to a hook. They have rubber skirts and often include a “trailer” or a creature-style bait to enhance their action in the water.
When & Where to Use Jigs
Jigs can be worked along the bottom to locate fish or “pitched” to target a specific structure or piece of cover.
They disturb the water as they hit the bottom, but their most significant attraction is the flutter of the skirt and trailer. Many jigs intended for murky water conditions also include a rattle to create further disruption and increase their allure.
How to Use Jigs
Whether you’re fishing deep water or near to the shore, jigs should be fished with a baitcaster, spooled with a relatively heavy braided line. A great technique to use when fishing a jig is to try pitching and flipping, this minimizes the disruption caused as your jig hits the water.
Take a look at our total guide to pitching and flipping for more information on how to get the most from your jig.
5. Tube Baits
As the name suggests, a tube bait is a soft plastic tube with an open and closed end. The open end is often decorated with frills or tentacles. These hollow bodied lures can mimic several types of prey but are most often fished to resemble crayfish.
The tube bait’s hollow body gives it a very subtle presentation and makes it a deadly lure for pressured fish. The lightweight and neutral buoyancy of the tube allows the tentacles to flutter even when fished very slowly.
Tubes also tend to spiral when sinking, a movement that is iconic to the lure and triggers fish to strike.
When & Where to Use Tube Baits
Tubes are best fished over hard bottoms and are an effective choice when fishing around underwater creek beds or rocky shorelines.
Tubes are perfect for fall and winter fishing when the lake is low on vegetation, and the bass are concentrated in deep water. Clear water conditions are preferable, as bass are more likely to spot the tube’s fluttering tentacles.
How to Use Tube Baits
Tubes can be presented on many different rigs. The most popular is with a jig head, as this setup is great for fishing around cover.
The drop shot is another popular approach for tubes. This is a finesse technique where the bait is positioned six to eight inches above the weight. Drop shotting allows the angler to give the slightest wiggle to the tube, perfect for clear days and sluggish fish.
Tube baits are great for experimentation and can produce results with a spinning or baitcasting reel.
6. Topwater Frogs
Frogs are topwater baits most commonly available in two forms:
- A hollow bodied frog that is pre-rigged
- A soft bodied frog that the angler can rig up
Frogs function by creating a ripple and splash on the water’s surface as they are delicately retrieved through cover. This splashing nature replicates the action of a real frog and is what draws in bass to strike. A frog is a well-respected lure style that can be used day and night.
When & Where to Use Frogs
Frogs are most productive in warmer conditions with plenty of plant cover. Summer and early fall are great times to use them – once lily pads and hydrilla have proliferated.
Frogs excel in weedy conditions and can be thrown in areas where other topwater lures would become snagged.
How to Use Frogs
Frogs are fished in heavy cover, where the rod is used to leverage fish out of the weeds. Because of this, go for a medium-heavy or heavy rod to give the frog good action and enough power for a strong hook set.
For a complete look at frog fishing, check out our guide on how to use topwater frogs effectively.
Understanding the different types of fishing lures for bass is essential to becoming a great angler. While the information here won’t make you a lure master overnight, hopefully, you’re now up to speed on the various lure types at your disposal. The information and advice here should serve as a starting point for selecting the right bass lure for the job and the key aspects to get the most out of it. Tight lines!
- 11 Killer Spinnerbait Tips for Bass
- The Complete Bass Fishing Lure Color Selection Guide
- The Complete Guide to Jerkbait Fishing For Smallmouth Bass
- 15 Killer Topwater Bass Fishing Lures
- Pro Bass Fishing Techniques: Walk the Dog
- A Total Guide to Bass Fishing Crankbaits
- The Top 10 Best Bass Fishing Lures You Need To Know About
- A Total Guide to Pitching & Flipping Techniques
- Answered: When Is the Best Time to Frog Fish for Bass?
- Frog Fishing for Bass: Everything You Need to Know