By Jim C. Arness

  When it comes to fishing, I love using lures, plain and simple. The thrill, challenge, and excitement that comes from fishing with a lure is where it’s at. I now have a very impressive collection of lures from plugs, to twitch baits, to jerk baits, spoons, crank baits you name it, or as my wife would call them “those smelly things.”

In today’s market there is a lure to fit every conceivable condition, fish, and situation imitating every other fish, shrimp, crab, and a few things I can’t even recognize.This can be very intimidating to a person new to fishing or to someone new to fishing with lures.

Combine this with all the information that you hear about lures; presentation, match the hatch, color, shape, size, water displacement, buoyancy, scent, latitude, attitude, walk the dog, curb your dog, it’s mind-boggling. No wonder many of you fish with bait. It does simplify things a bit. In this article, I will demystify lures for everyone. Really. Well, most everyone. I’m sure wives everywhere will still call them “those smelly things.”

First, the vast majority of all lures out there will catch fish, under the right conditions. This part is up to you, the angler to figure out and locate. Now, some lures will catch fish more than others, but all lures will catch fish in the right circumstances. This is the rub. How do you know the right circumstances? There is a lot of information out there on this. Besides the instructions on the box –do not under estimate the power of instructions on the packaging- this was put there by the people that made that lure and moreover want to SELL that lure. When they developed it, they tested it and that’s how it caught the most fish for them. To me, this is the best advice on using a particular lure. Now we have all heard the generics, “walk the dog,” light colored worms on sunny days, darker colored lures for cloudy water, etc. I learned much of this information from articles in magazines and the like. The article goes something like this, the guy went to this place, used this lure, just like this, and caught MOBY DICK, NEPTUNE, 5 GREAT WHITE SHARKS, 23 MERMAIDS, and even hooked into THE TITANIC, but had to throw it back because it wasn’t slot. Hey, I’m not denying he did, except the Titanic, our waters are too warm. The thing to realize is that is what worked for HIM, on THAT DAY, in THAT SPOT.

I have had days where I would toss lures in every color in the rainbow, white, pink, rootbeer, funky chicken, motor oil, toxic waste, burnt umber, magenta sunrise, Marilyn’s panties, but the only color that the fish would bite on was silver. Silver. Silver. Silver. Fish. Fish. Fish. Lost the silver, didn’t catch anything the rest of the day. Went back to the same spot exactly one week later, it didn’t matter what color I threw at them, I caught fish.

Another thing you hear a lot about is presentation. How to move the lure the right way at the right time. Again, look at the package. I heard about a guy that went fishing off the St. Petersburg Pier about a year ago. He walked up to the railing, tied on a generic jerk bait worm, cast out, and let it sit on the bottom for 45 minutes. At the end of the 45 minutes, he reeled in the line, muttered out loud that “they aren’t biting,” and left. This is an example of bad presentation.

Now, there is one thing that all these articles that I have read –and I have read a lot- have left out. Throughout all of this the one element missing is this, the FISH has something to say about this as well. Don’t leave them out. If your using say a topwater plug, and you want to catch pompano, your going to be there a real long time. I know this is a rather obvious example, but take it further. This is match the hatch. Fish eat what is around them. When they are feeding on 2-inch minnows that’s what they want. You toss out a 5-inch lure and they will ignore it because they know that small fish all swim together in schools.

Well here it is, the moment you all have been waiting for. The secret of lures finally revealed. Now at first, this might not make very much sense, but I will explain. This is a concept that is so simple it is complicated. In light of everything else out there that you have heard, this is it.


That’s it. I told you it was simple. Here’s what I mean. All the things I was talking about above, about color and presentation and matching hatches and all, this is NOT WRITTEN IN STONE. IT IS A GUIDELINE. They are good advice, and tips to live by but they are not law. When I started to use lures, I would latch on to any new product that came along. I would buy one and tie it on and go fishing. I would fish all day with that one lure. I would change LOCATIONS if I didn’t get a bite, but not the LURE. After a while if I didn’t get a bite on a certain lure, I would change to something else. And that is what I do now. I try a lure for a few casts, and if nothing happens, I try a few different retrieves and if still nothing, I switch to something else and try again. Now I’m not saying to switch lures every 30 seconds and buy 1,000 lures to have on hand. (I tried that for a while and strained my back carrying them all) Just before you go, stop and think about where you are going and what you hope to catch and based on that, bring a handful of lures that will perform the best in your mind using the guidelines above, plus one or two “wildcards.” A wildcard is a lure that you don’t think would work in the given situation. Maybe even the opposite. I once caught my limit of trout and released many others (I stopped counting at 30) on a “tomato” colored bass worm. This assortment of lures gives you a good chance of having something that will work. Pick one and start using it. Alter retrieves and speed and if nothing happens, try something else. Sooner or late you’ll find what works in THAT SPOT, on THAT DAY. (And you can write the next article about it). That’s all you’re looking for. It’s like the saying that the item your looking for is “in the last place you’ll look.” Of course it is, because once you find it, you STOP LOOKING.

Mix things up, this isn’t science, there is not exact way or procedure to use a lure to catch fish every time. If there wassome all magic lure using formula, all the fish would have been caught long ago and we’d all be racing lawnmowers or something. (Hey don’t laugh, people really do). If nothings biting, it’s time to try something new. Experiment. Put on a freshwater bass worm. Try a bass spinnerbait. Hey, the worst thing that could happen is you still might not catch anything. Or you could CATCH SOMETHING. A little variety is good. Come on, these snook, trout, and reds, have probably seen more yozuris than most tackle stores. All your doing is finding out what works right there right then. See?


As a favorite chef of mine likes to say,

Hey, this isn’t rocket science