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Complete Fishing Lure Guide – Crankbait, Jerkbait, Spinnerbait, Spoons, and Jigs [2021]

It can be confusing when looking through your local tackle store at the thousands on thousands of different types of fishing lures. Different shapes and designs, some with bibs and some bibless, different colors, depths, hooks, and motions.

Thankfully you can narrow down these thousands of options into a few simple categories. This will help you to identify which type of lure you should be looking for and then selecting a few different sizes and colors that you can change during your fishing adventure depending on what the fish are looking for.

I have put together this overview of the most popular types of fishing lures available and how they work, when they should be used, and an example of the best seller product available at the moment.


Crankbaits are one of the most simple and popular fishing lures in North America. They are named Crankbaits because of the way you use them – just crank your reel. The lures are designed to move through the water in a specific way at a specific depth at a normal retrieval speed.

The only thing you may want to adjust is how fast your retrieve your lure – just place it in the water at the surface and retrieve it until you see it begin to dive and move in a motion that would attract fish.

Most crankbaits are hard body lures with a bib on the nose to control their depth. The depth that you select will depend on the species of fish you are targetting and the location – for example if you are fishing in a shallow lake then you won’t want a deep diving lure.

Target Species – Almost all fish species

How to Use – Retrieve your crankbait in a slow and steady motion to the target depth

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Jerkbaits are more suited to retrieving fast for a few seconds and then stopping for a few seconds – hence a jerking motion. 

Jerkbaits often don’t have a nose bib to control their depth and will sink on casting. So to control the depth you have give a few seconds for it to sink before you start retrieving it.

Jerkbaits come in a variety of materials from a hard body to a soft plastic. They are extremely versatile and will suit most water conditions and fish species.

Target Species – Almost all fish species

How to Use – Retrieve in a stop/go motion, allowing the jerkbait to sink in between

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Spinnerbaits have a spinning body that creates a fast moving motion when retrieved. This gives off a noise and motion that attracts nearby fish.

Target Species – Spinnerbaits are primarily used for predatory fish such as bass, pike, and perch.

How to Use – You need to test your retrieve speed to make sure the spinnerbait stays at the correct depth with its proper motion. Too fast and you can pull the lure out of the water, too slow and it won’t move enough to attract fish.

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  • Most anglers retrieve spinnerbaits shallow, these lures can be very effective when crawled across the bottom, and fished in a slow , deep, lift and drop manner


Spoon lures consist of a metal weed guard around a hook. The guard gives the spoon a spinning motion through the water and gives off a lot of reflective light that attracts predatory fish.

The movement of the spoon is based on it’s shape and thickness, so get a few different sizes to give you enough flexibility to adjust depending on what the fish are biting.

Target Species – Spoon lures work best for predator fish like pike, bass, muskies, walleye, salmon, and trout.

How to Use – Retrieve your spoon in a slow and constant motion

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Soft Plastic

Soft plastic lures are similar to jigs. They consist of a plastic body over the top of a weighted body with a hook protruding from it. The hooks often protude upwards which gives it better protection from structure and weed on the bottom.

Soft plastics have gained popularity and are always coming out with new shapes and sizes.

You can also get soft plastic lures in the shape of frogs, mice, and almost any other type of bait that you can imagine. One of the most famous soft plastic lures is the Berkley Gulp!

Target Species – Soft plastic lures can be used for almost all fish species.

How to Use – retrieve the soft plastic in a stop/go motion and allow it to sink in between to reach the target depth.

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Fly Fishing Flies

When fly fishing, anglers use flies to mimic the insects and bugs that are native to the area. This means you need to be looking and aware of the size, shape, and color of your local bugs. The closer you can mimic the food of your target fish, whether it is salmon or trout, the more success you will have.

Fly fisherman often but in hours of work creating the perfect fly. My advice is to make sure you have enough variety so that even if your fish few don’t work you can change and still have a succesful fishing trip.

Target Species – Trout and Salmon

How to Use – Cast your fly onto the surface in your target spot and leave it to float for a few seconds before casting again.

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A jig normally consists of a sinker with a hook attached and covered in a soft plastic. This gives the lure a particularly useful motion as the head moves up and down in the water and the hook/body follows it just like a real fish would.

Jigs have grown in popularity over the last decade due to their variety of shapes and colors. You can truly get a fishing jig that suits all purposes.

You can jig from all locations including a boat, beach, shore, river, or lake. The depth is set by how long you let the lure sink before beginning your retrieve.

Target Species – Almost all fish species will strike a jig similar to a jerkbait or soft plastic.

How to Use – You would normally retrieve it in a similar stop-go motion to that of a jerkbait.

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Squid Jig

As the same suggests, squid jigs are design to catch squid. They don’t have a regular fishing hook, but a series of upwards facing prongs. These get caught in the squids tentacles when it grabs on – which means you have to retrieve your lure in a constant motion so the squid can’t let go and swim away.

Squid jigs often resemble prawn or shrimp in size, shape, and color. But select a design that mimics the bait of your local squids.

Pick a number of different colors and sizes before you head out after squid.

Target Species – Squid

How to Use – Retrieve your lure in a slow and constant motion

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Topwater Lures

Also known as surface lures, topwater lures do exactly as you expect – they stay on the surface.

This is particularly useful for fish that eat insects or bugs like bass as it can mimic the local insect population.

Topwater lures are also great to use where there is thick underwater vegetation like a weed bed or sea grass. You can often get surface lures where the hook is pressed upwards against the body of the lure which prevents it from getting covered in weed.

Target Species – Predatory fish like bass, redfish, and tarpon.

How to Use – Retrieve in a fast constant motion or with a stop/go motion to give time for the fish to strike.

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Skirted Trolling Lures

Skirted Trolling Lures are design to be pulled behind your boat at fairly high speeds when chasing big gamefish like sailfish, tuna or marlin. A lot of modern skirts where developed in Hawaii chasing blue marlin and yellowfin tuna.

The wriggle of the skirts around the bullet shaped head gives off a lot of motion that attracts predator fish from a distance.

My one recommendation when chasing big gamefish – don’t go for the cheapest option. When you are spending all day trying to catch one fish then that last thing you want to do is lose it due to a poor quality hook.

Pick quality every time.

Target Species – Saltwater fish like tuna, sailfish, and marlin

How to Use – Troll behind your boat at a constant speed – often used with teasers.

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That brings us to the end of our overview on fishing lures. I have personally had succesful with all of these types listed above. For the most success you really need to understand what fish species you are targeting, the depth you want to place your lure, and the size you need – both big and small fish can strike a small lure, but only a big fish can strike a big lure.

There are plenty of other resources online if you want some more information about types of fishing lures.

If you have any other types of lures or particular lures that you recommend then please leave a comment below. We love to hear from our readers and learn from their wisdom and experience.

Happy fishing!

Last update on 2021-05-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Russ Egan

Russ is an avid angler. He has fished all over the world, primarily for Saltwater game fish but also for local prize fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Tyrnos for an overhead reel or a Shimano Curado for a baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.

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