With the seemingly unbelievable variety of artificial lures available, the idea of limiting the vast selection down to three lure types would seem critically shortsighted; destined to fail in its purpose of providing useful fishing information on account of expressing a far too limited view of a subject. This article is not going to suggest that there are only three specific artificial lures to use. Rather, consistent with the title, there are three top artificial lure types for use when fishing off of Florida’s Gulf Coast. If you have these three types of artificial lures described below, you will be well prepared to fish under any conditions and in any area of the gulf. This article will make suggestions for specific lures that meet the types described, but final specific lure selections will be up to you.
Topwater Lures & Surface Baits
Whether you’re fishing for bass on a lake, or taking to the saltwater fishing arena for redfish, seatrout, snook, amberjack, cobia, or bluefish, a topwater lure is one that can cause these game fish to strike. Arguably, there’s no more exciting way to fish than when using a topwater lure. As the name suggests, this is a lure that remains on top of the water while fished. Game fish come up from underneath the lure to strike. Making a sudden and heart–stopping display of splashes and swirls. The intense strike and resulting splash is much more noticeable and exhilarating during topwater angling techniques when compared to those that mimic subsurface prey. When working topwater lures, the type of lure will determine how to best work your rod and reel together in order to achieve the desired effect. The two main types of topwater lures are known as poppers and chuggers, and walk the dog type stick baits.
Fishing Poppers & Chuggers
The best way to fish a popper or chugger style topwater bait is to cast the lure out, and then jerk the lure back with short swift movements of your rod tip. This action will cause the bait to, “pop,” meaning it will displace water and make an audible sound and splash. As you’re fishing, experiment with different rates of retrieve and how hard, and how often, you’re jerking your rod tip. An good example of a rhythm to emulate is “pop, pop, pause, repeat.” The noisy, splashy effects that poppers exhibit can draw strikes from fish that are not close to where your cast landed, and they can be most effective when fished around shoreline cover. When fishing with poppers, be sure to target overhanging brush, docks, laydowns, and seawalls to draw out those elusive predators hiding in the shadows.
Fishing Walk the Dog Type Stick Baits
Walk the dog type stick baits can also be referred to as “spooks.” The name “spooks,” comes from the tried and true Heddon Zara-Spook topwater lure made by the Heddon lure company. Zara Spooks were first made by Heddon back in 1939, and they continue to be one of the industry standard topwater lures today. Proper lure action for this type of bait is achieved by pointing your rod down towards the water and moving the tip quickly from side-to-side to create a “walk the dog” like action while on the retrieve.
The Bomber Lures Badonk – A Donk is another topwater lure that can be worked in a walk the dog style. These topwater stick bait type lures draw strikes because their surface action emulates that of an injured baitfish, splashing around and frantically trying to escape on the surface. Such distress signals from the splashing lure are the same as ringing the dinner bell for hungry predators. Stick baits are effective any time the bass are chasing minnows, but become especially deadly in the fall, once baitfish have formed massive schools.
Jigging involves fishing with an artificial type of lure that has been popular for years. If you’re looking for a complete history concerning fishing and using jigs, click here. A jig consists of a weighted head attached to a hook. You fish the jig by attaching various kinds of soft baits as the, “trailer,” or, “body of the jig.” A jig is cast out and reeled in while making occasional jerks of the rod tip. Movement of your rod tip results in the jig rising and falling through the water column. This rising and falling motion mimics the movements of an injured baitfish and naturally draws the attention and curiosity of predators. Jigs can be used on both inshore and offshore fish species. Grouper and snapper are known to go for jigs, and so are redfish, seatrout, and snook. Jigs also remain one of the best lures to use when the weather isn’t cooperating. Rough seas and high winds will not impact a jig in the same way as fishing a topwater lure or crankbait.
Common Jigging Mistakes
One of the biggest mistakes anglers make when fishing a jig is reeling it in too fast or working your rod tip too hard. Work it too fast and no fish will be interested enough to take a bite. Jerk your rod tip too hard and you’ll wind up pulling the jig too far out of the strike zone before a fish can take it. Movement of the rod tip within about a 1 to 1.5 foot arc should be sufficient. You can, and should, move the jig up and down even less when the water temperature is below 70º Fahrenheit. Fish are a cold-blooded species and as such, their body temperature remains within a degree or two of the surrounding water, causing lethargic behavior in colder environments. Common gulf coast species like redfish prefer 70º F water and spotted seatrout prefer temperatures between 70º and 75º F.
In addition to fishing the jig properly, the body of the jig must be one that is the proper color and design to attract fish. The best color choices can vary based on the species you’re fishing for, and the environment you’re fishing in. If you’re unsure about whether the body of your jig (the trailer) is one that is known to work given the type of fishing you intend to do, we encourage you to contact us. We will answer any questions you have to help ensure you’re prepared for a successful day on the water.
Crankbaits are fish imitating lures that have evolved into incredibly lifelike patterns and actions over time. The crankbait is arguably the most successful type of artificial fishing lure ever created. Crankbaits are also extremely easy to use, you simply cast the lure out and crank it back to you. The swimming action is made possible by the shape of the lure, the angle of the forward lip, and the design of the body.
Common Crankbait Mistakes
Even though they may be easy to use, you can still make errors with crankbaits if you select one that is designed for a different depth than your chosen fishing environment. For example, some crankbaits are designed to fish the water column at depths of 10’ feet and below. One example of such a lure is the Rapala Countdown Magnum, Size 14 Red Head. If you happen to be fishing this lure in 5’ feet of water or less, retrieval of the line will cause it to drag along the bottom and catch debris. Any time seaweed, or any other type of debris ends up on your lure, you must remove it immediately before your next cast. Think about it – baitfish, the exact type of fish you’re trying hard to imitate, NEVER swim around with seaweed stuck to their bodies. Fishing a lure encumbered by debris will look more than just odd to a game fish and therefore discourage a strike.
Selecting the Right Crankbait for the Job
When considering which crankbait is best, make sure know what depth it’s designed to swim at. Learning at which depth a lure will run and how it will react to different types of cover is the foundation for learning to crank productively. The simplest way to understand the different depths is to look at the bill of each bait. The length of the bill in relation to the size of the bait tells a lot about the depth at which it will run. Generally, a crankbait with a short bill angled slightly down will run shallow, especially if it’s noted as a floated bait. Floating crankbaits typically run shallow and rise back to the surface when they’re not being retrieved by the angler. Should you come across a crankbait exhibiting a larger, flatter bill, you’ve likely found one designed to run deeper than others. When making a purchase, check the specifications on the package for information concerning how deep the crankbait is designed to swim.
Have any questions about the lure types we’ve mentioned in this article? Contact us or post your questions below. We’ll help out in any way that we can.