Saltwater Fishing Lures

When choosing saltwater lures or bait, consider how fish feed. Fish detect a meal in three ways — by scent, sound and movement. Discover the different types of saltwater fishing lures available.

  • Lead-headed Jigs

    Lead-headed Jigs

    Jigs are probably the most popular artificial saltwater fishing lure. Consisting of a hook with a lead head and a trailer, jigs imitate everything from saltwater bait fish to crustaceans to invertebrates. A streamlined jig head will sink faster, while a wider head will flutter down or work higher in the water column. A jig with deer hair tied to its head is called a bucktail. The size of the hook on the jig should match the size of the trailer. Thread the trailer on the jig so that the hook comes out of the trailer ahead of the bend. When using a strip bait trailer, pass the hook once through the wide end of the trailer.

The newest generation of jigs, which feature squid-shaped heads and living-rubber skirts, make great saltwater fishing lures. “Living rubber” is extremely pliant, soft rubber that moves in a lifelike manner. Drop one of these rubber jigs to the bottom and crank it up a few feet, then pause for a few seconds before dropping it again. Fish see the jig hovering over the bottom and come in to investigate. They will often nibble their way up the skirt to the hook, so use a light drag and a soft-tipped rod to feed the fish.

  • Metal Jigs

    Metal Jigs

    Metal jigs can be bounced across the bottom or cast out and worked back. Deeper jigs will be narrow, while casting jigs are wider. It is a good idea to add a short piece of leader and a swivel to the jig to keep it from twisting the line. The latest generation of jigs, called vertical jigs, is designed to be worked through the water very quickly while jerking the rod up and down. These jigs usually have a hook attached to a short piece of braided line and a split ring at the top of the jig. Always tie a leader to the split ring on these jigs so that when you're fighting a fish, you're not also fighting the weight of the jig.

  • Poppers


    Popping plugs, or “poppers,” are saltwater fishing lures that splash across the surface, drawing a reaction bite from aggressive predators, and work best at dawn and dusk when fish are more likely to feed on the surface. To work a popper, reel at a steady pace while jerking the rod tip to make the lure splash and chug. “Walking the Dog” is a special technique used with torpedo-shaped top water plugs. Hold the rod with the tip pointing toward the water and retrieve line while jerking the tip from left to right, making the fishing lure zigzag across the surface.

  • Plug Fishing Lures

    Plug Fishing Lures

    Plug fishing lures are carved out of wood or molded out of plastic to imitate the shape and action of a swimming fish. Some plugs use a plastic or metal lip to dive deeper. Other plugs use rattles, even lights and electronic vibrations, to attract fish. Most plugs are specially designed to troll or retrieve at a specific speed. Since plugs get their action from their design, they don't usually require any extra action from you. Simply cast the plug out and retrieve at a steady pace. Offshore anglers troll big plugs with hard plastic heads and rubber skirts. These lures can be rigged with a natural bait or left bare.

  • Spoon Fishing Lures

    Spoon Fishing Lures

    Like the name implies, spoons are metal saltwater fishing lures that are usually wider at one end and concave so they wobble and flash like a swimming fish. Spoon lures come in two styles: casting and trolling. Casting spoon lures are heavier than trolling spoons so they can be thrown a long distance. Trolling spoons are either high speed or slow speed. High-speed spoon lures are narrower and heavier than slow-speed models.

If you're trolling a spoon behind a weight, use a long leader to get the lure far away from the other tackle. Casting spoons work great when you need to imitate a small bait, as they can be cast out and retrieved, or dropped to the bottom and bounced. Casting and trolling spoons should be used with high-quality snaps and swivels to avoid line twist.

  • Spinnerbaits


    Stealing a tactic from the freshwater playbook, saltwater anglers are using spinnerbaits on a variety of inshore species. Featuring a leadhead, wire arm and metal blade, a spinnerbait does not look like anything that swims; instead, it fools a fish's sense of sound and movement. The leadhead is usually dressed with a soft plastic jig or rubber skirt. The arm and blade should be made out of non-corrosive material. Cast out a spinnerbait and work it quickly to propel it across the surface, or retrieve it slowly to drag the jig along the bottom.

  • Soft Plastic Lures

    Soft Plastic Lures

    Soft plastic lures come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes and can be used in many ways. Twister tails and shad bodies make good lure additions to jigs and bucktails. Flukes also look good as a trailer, or they can be rigged on a hook without any weight to sink slowly or shoot across the surface. Swimbaits feature a lead-head jig molded inside a soft plastic body. Use a soft plastic that matches the size of the bait.

These baits come in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes. Bright colors work best on sunny days while darker colors present a better silhouette against overcast or dark skies. Soft plastics can be cast and retrieved, dropped to the bottom and bounced, even used in place of live or cut bait. The only limit to the way soft plastics can be used is your own imagination.

Learn about different types of saltwater fishing plugs. Find out which types of fishing plugs are best to use when fishing on the saltwater flats or trolling offshore in our next section.