The Best Saltwater Lures for Pier Fishing

By Ken Schultz

Jul 04, 2018

Why popping and swimming plugs, bucktail jigs, soft-bodied jigs, casting spoons, and jigging spoons are the best saltwater lures for pier fishing.

Photos © Ken Schultz

Saltwater pier fishing is a popular way for anglers to access coastal fish without being on a boat and can be productive even when high winds and big waves keep boaters in port. There are various ways to pier fishing, and diverse species to catch, but you need to make sure you have the best saltwater lures for pier fishing and specific fishing rigs for saltwater pier fishing.

Most anglers use bait fishing rigs for saltwater pier fishing. These are fishfinder or high-lo rigs with some form of hooked natural bait (squid, clam, eel, fish chunk, etc.). Sinkers keep bait on or near the bottom, and rods are propped against or tethered to pier rails or placed in secure holders.

Many anglers, however, prefer mobility and more personal activity while saltwater fishing, opting to cast-and-retrieve fishing lures either exclusively or in conjunction with using a bait rig. The best saltwater lures for pier fishing vary depending on species, season, and region, but include the following.

  • Hard-bodied plugs. For surface-feeding fish, the most exciting option is popping plugs. As surface-only lures they seldom get snagged and are less likely to tangle with other lines; and they can be cast a long distance. Otherwise, shallow-swimming plugs (floater/divers), which also cast well and seldom get snagged, are a good choice for top predators. Sizes range from ½-ounce to 1 ½-ounces.
  • Bucktail jigs and soft-bodied leadhead jigs. Overall these are probably the best saltwater lures for pier fishing. They cast easily, and their single hooks result in less netting and unhooking trouble. Because they sink, such fishing lures are more prone to snagging on rocks and pilings, and a lot get broken off, but they’re inexpensive, versatile, and very effective for a multitude of species. Sizes generally run from ⅜- to 1 ounce.
  • Casting spoons and jigging spoons. These usually bright metal products are among the best saltwater lures for pier fishing for several reasons. Thick-bodied casting spoons work well for covering a lot of territory as well as distance and can be retrieved at varying depths and speeds. Jigging spoons are best at vertical fishing (you need a bit of depth from surface to seabed) and covering the vertical water column, but can be cast far and swum rapidly, such as when there’s a distant school of breaking fish. Sizes run from ½-ounce to 1 ½ ounces.

When angling at a saltwater pier it’s generally best to have your own fishing license, but at some you may be covered by a pier operator’s license. Here’s more info and tips about pier fishing.

Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz
Ken Schultz was a longtime staff writer for Field & Stream magazine and is the former Fishing Editor of He’s written and photographed nineteen books on sportfishing topics, plus an annual fishing tips calendar, and his writing has appeared on various websites for more than two decades. His author website is