BlogNovember 2020

How to Choose Freshwater Lures

How to Choose Freshwater Lures

By Andy Whitcomb

Nov 16, 2020

There are many freshwater lures to choose from. Here are 5 ways to help with your selection

Your local tackle store easily could have a selection of hundreds of freshwater lures. Big retailer stores or online sources can provide a staggering amount of choices. For example, let’s just consider the spinnerbait, one of the best freshwater bass lures. If they offer 4 weight size options, 4 different head colors, 5 different skirt colors, 4 blade types, 4 blade colors, and the option of tandem blades, that equals, uh, carry the one… A lot of choices. There are so many freshwater bait or lure choices that it can be overwhelming, even for professional anglers. Here then are 5 ways to help select freshwater lures for your tacklebox.


Most sources of the best freshwater lures will have inventory grouped by species. All trout lures will be in one section; walleye, in another. There can be a fair amount of species crossover with lures. For example, I once caught a muskie on a crappie jig, but store arrangements by species at least will get you in the aquatic ballpark.


If targeting fish in shallow areas make sure your lure selection includes topwater or lures that can be worked in the first foot or so of the water column like a spinnerbait. For deeper areas, quick sinking, heavy jigs or crankbaits with the longer bills will help get you in the zone where the big ones may lurk. Most of the other lures for freshwater fishing such as swimbaits, square-billed crankbaits, spoons, etc. usually fall in the mid depth range.

Water Clarity

Bright colors at least help anglers see the lure in murky water, but many bass anglers believe the contrast from dark lures is the better choice and thus select lighter colors for clear water. Lures which make a lot of vibration such as a bladed jig, or make noise like a rattling crankbait, also can help fish locate your lure.


In warm water, fish are actively feeding and will seek your freshwater bait or lure so soft plastics are productive such as small minnow imitations on a drop-shot rig, or the traditional rubber worm, slowly working across the bottom. In colder water, you need to seek the fish and get them to react to your lure such as with a jerkbait, lipless crankbait, or jig.


Some of the most productive fishing areas have a great deal of aquatic vegetation. However, not all of the freshwater lures will tolerate “weeds.” The fewer the hooks, the better. For example, a lipless crankbait with two treble hooks may require some strong jerks to tear away any vegetation it contacts to resume standard action. Single hook spinnerbaits, swimbaits, or spoons like the classic Johnson silver minnow can get through a lot of vegetation. For really thick mats of weeds, topwater or soft-plastics rigged weedless will be the best bet.

Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.