< Artificial Fishing Lures- Florida Go Fishing
Florida Go Fishing man holding snook fish

Artificial Fishing Lures

marlin fishing lures large skirted hooks for trolling offshoreFishing lures. For the uninitiated, getting your head around these iconic fishing tools can go from confusing to completely overwhelming. There’s a good reason for this, which we’ll explain later.

However, you can rest assured that getting started with lure fishing is not as complicated as the diversity in lure shapes, designs and terminology might suggest.
Before you start to grapple with the basics, it’s important to remind yourself of a few key motivators.

Fishing with lures will change the way you fish. It will elevate your skills and understanding of fishing exponentially. Moreover, being able to use lures appropriately will make you a better angler, and ensure you become a more successful angler.
The most important thing to remember is that fishing with lures is fun and exciting. It’s by far the most active style of fishing there is.

Today we’re going to focus on identification and core terminology. With these skills under your belt, you will be able to successfully navigate the oceans of lure styles with strong fundamentals.

You have probably read or heard that books can (and have been) be written about lures and lure fishing. This is a gross understatement. The grandest of libraries could be filled tenfold with all there is to know and learn.

In that regard, this beginners guide/introduction, should not be considered exhaustive, indeed, not even close.

The aim of this introductory venture into the world of lures is to arm you with enough information to continue your own research successfully. As a bonus, we would expect you can make your first lure purchase, and deploy it with serious intent.

Let’s go lure fishing.

Lure Terminology

In the world of fishing, weights and measures are a prominent feature. It would seem counterintuitive that standardized weights and measures can be, and are, pretty loose in fishing.

For example, a particular 5000 size spin reel made by Shimano might be a completely different size to a particular 5000 spin reel made by Daiwa.

In some respects, fishing gear terminology can be a little loose also. And this pertains to lures especially, resulting in confusion for a beginner.

The reason we say this is because some terminology might be outdated, regional, brand-specific, technically wrong yet widely accepted, and so on. You will also find many anglers refer to lure styles by brand name only, not type. Mepps is a great example here. Anglers will often say Mepps, instead of spinner bait. Much in the way we say Band Aid, instead of adhesive bandage.

You may find a lure is labeled in a particular way for marketing purposes, yet is technically inaccurate. To add further chaos. Many of the lures we purchase in the US are imported and have names specific to their country of origin.

More broadly, as has happened in the last couple of decades, a new technology might cause a reshuffle of lure terminology hierarchy.

Here is a good example of how terminology changed with the introduction of the now-ubiquitous soft plastic. A non-metal lure made of timber or hard plastic was traditionally (and still is) referred to as a plug, or, the plug category of lures. However, with the incredible proliferation, and now dominance, of soft plastics, the lure category of ‘hardbodies’ and ‘soft plastics’ has, in many ways, relegated the use of the term “plug.”

There is a qualification here, however. This “relegation” may well depend on where you grew up, how long you have been fishing, where you learned and who taught you.

If your confused now, that’s OK. It was our intent to illustrate the reason confusion exists, as we stated we would in the introduction. In the following paragraphs, we will commence lure demystification. Firstly, we will address the issue of freshwater lures and saltwater lures.

a variety of artificial fishing lures on a blue towel

Fresh and Saltwater Lures

The concept of lures being designated freshwater or saltwater has aged. While it is true that there are lures designed specifically for salt and fresh, the level of crossover these days has significantly blurred the distinction.

There are exceptions, but it’s usually obvious. For example, huge skirted trolling lures designed for our biggest ocean species like marlin, have no place in the freshwater.

Breaking lures into categories of fresh and saltwater lures will send us down a very deep rabbit hole. It will require a lot of words to deliver clarity and justification, destroying any chance of simplicity.

For example: A spinner bait would be for all intent and purpose designated a freshwater lure. However, something like a spinner bait is incredibly potent on any number of saltwater species. Many a flounder angler would find spinner baits critical to their success.

Many anglers chasing whiting, a legendary table fish, would have never considered using lures a decade or so ago. Now, however, there are many traditionally freshwater lures that are perfect for the species.

a table full of artificial lures laid out nice and even

The Categories and Subcategories of Lures

To illustrate the categories and subcategories of lures, let’s use birds as an analogy. Birds might be categorized as flightless or flying. A penguin is flightless, but also aquatic, therefore putting it into and new sub-category. Lures work in a similar way.
Increasingly, and thankfully, lures are categorized based on construction materials and features. This makes it so much easier to identify a lure. It is also the reason “plug” is kind of a useless lure term to the beginner. It tells you nothing.

To make things easy, we’ll start with 4 main types or categories: metal, hardbody, soft plastic and flies.

General Explanation of the Types of Artificial Lures

Metal Lures

Metal lures have been with us for a very long time and were perhaps the first lures to hit mass production for the wider angling market. Metal lures are often the most affordable lures.

Metal lures are predominantly made of shiny or painted metal. Often the metal part of a metal lure is only part of the lure, but a very critical part, as with spinner baits.

Usually they have a trailing treble hook. However, jigs will often have single hooks and/or assist hooks.

Metal lures, depending type, are fished from the rivers and ponds to the beaches, rocks and deep blue water. They can be used as a target to fish bass or to fish Tuna.

Common Metal Lures

Metal Slices
silver metal slice lure

Easiest lure to use by far. Designed for long casting. Inshore and offshore.

offshore jig with 2 hooks in shiny blue

The offshore jig pictured is designed for larger pelagic species.

yellow lure with spinning spoon

Salt and fresh, inshore, from bass to flounder and many more.

yellow skirted buzz bait

As for spinner baits.

Blades / Vibes
gold and silver blade lure

Inshore salt and fresh. Usually worked deeper in the water column.

white and red spoon lure

As per metal slices, but more inshore.

Hardbody Lures

At the risk of stating the obvious, hardbody lures have hard bodies. The category excludes lures made of metal, however. This is by far the biggest family of lure types.

Hardbody lures are commonly made of various plastic, and traditionally wood. Wooden lures are still popular today yet not nearly as common as hardened plastics.

Predominantly, hardbody lures have fish-like shapes, but can be shaped like frogs, lizards and even mice and birds. They range in size from an inch or smaller up to as much as 12 inches.
Many hard body lures will have a plastic protrusion on the nose, called a bib. A bib is primarily used to get the lure to swim at certain predetermined depths beneath the surface.

Hard body lures come in a seemingly endless color range. They frequently appear anatomically correct but just as often look a little like a cartoon fish.

Hard body lures are designed for specific applications, such as game fishing or river fishing, or for certain fish such as reef, or pelagic species.

They usually have one, sometimes two tow point’s and commonly have two or three and sometimes even four treble hooks anchored at strategic points along the body. Increasingly, hardbody lures are armed with multiple single hooks or assist hooks.

Hard body lures are designed to float, sink or suspend. They are designed to be worked right throughout the water column, from the riverbed, to the surface, or, topwater.

Hardbodies are used everywhere from ponds and babbling brooks to the deepest blue water, and everything in between.

Lures such as jerkbaits and stickbaits have no real built-inction. Whereas bibbed and diving lures, cranks and swimbaits have particular swimming actions built into the design.

Common Hardbody Lures

silver and blue lure with 2 treble hooks and no bib

No bibs, no action all sizes. Inshore and offshore.

brown and gold hard lure with bib and 2 treble hooks

Bib and no bib. Often a fat pudgy shape. Inshore.

green and yellow lure with white belly and fish eye

Fished anywhere in the water column, usually on the bottom, usually inshore


green frog soft bait

Inshore and offshore. Small and huge. Designed for surface / top-water fishing.

gold and turquoise hard lure with treble hooks

Much like stickbaits with subtle differences.

colorful hard lure with 2 hooks

The jig pictured here is for offshore and nearshore or reef fishing.


Skirted Trolling Lures
yellow and orange skirt jig

Dedicated offshore lure for the oceans biggest fish.

Bibbed / Diving
blue and silver lure with long bib

Huge variation in sizes and shapes. Inshore and offshore.

blue and silver swim bait lure

Can be used anywhere. They’re big lures, generally designed big inshore fish.

** (Vibes are frequently made from metal but increasingly plastics and hybrid)

Soft Plastic Lures

Soft plastic lures have become the darling of lure fishing. Designs and profiles include everything from minnows to crabs and shrimp and worms. It’s fair to say they dominate the inshore waters, but they are certainly prolific nearshore. Less common in the blue water.
The shapes, sizes and profiles of soft plastic lures are seemingly endless. You can cast a soft plastic and expect just about anything with scales to attack it.

Soft plastics are often identified by their profile or shape, particularly their tail profile. More often than not they are fished with a special weighting device called a jig head. Jig heads combine a led weight and hook as well as retaining barbs.

Frequently, jig heads have painted designs that mimic fish heads. However, when the weather or application suits, soft plastics can be fished free of any weight - i.e. without a jig head.

There are countless hook designs for holding soft plastics. The choice depends on the fish you are chasing and the soft plastic you wish to rig.

Common Soft Plastics

Paddle Tail Shad
yellow and blue soft lure with eye and side spot

A legend inshore and nearshore allrounder. Ideal for countless fish species of all sizes. A must have soft plastic profile.

Crab Profile
realistic plastic crab lure in red

Perfect for targeting all species with crab in their diet. Usually inshore.

Shrimp Profile
realistic shrimp on a hook

Mostly inshore. Everything eats shrimp. Note the incredible detail and realism in this lure.


Frog Profile
green frog soft bait

This is definitely a freshwater lure for ponds and streams. Highly effective.

Soft Plastic Swimbait Mullet
gold and silver swimbait mullet

Fantastic inshore versatility for a larger class of fish. Again, note the incredible anatomical detail.

Worm Profile
colorful plastic worm lure

Brilliant inshore profile, with big sizes available for a larger class of fish.


Jig Head
yellow jig with red eye

A typical jig head. There are countless types available.

anise oil jar with stopper for fishing

Fish attracting scent is applied to lures to further enhance performance. Many soft plastics come already impregnated with particular scents of a secret formula.

2 ounce bottle with needle for injecting bait

Bait injectors have a slim needle for injecting your favorite scent, oil or fish attractant into soft baits.

Common Fishing Flies

2 fishing fly lures on lineThe fly is an esoteric world of lures, and a library of art, skill, and knowledge all unto itself. Traditionally, flies were meant for catching trout in the lakes and streams. Modern angling has expanded the use of flies, however, and they are now used for great sport in the saltwater.

Fly anglers chase everything from bonefish to GT’s in the salty stuff with flies. However, they are predominantly deployed against trout in the fresh rivers, lakes, and streams.

Tying flies is considered a highly regarded skill - even an art. Mass produced flies are available, but one must first learn the ancient sport of fly fishing to use them correctly.

Basically there are 3 types: wet flies, dry flies, and saltwater flies. They are constructed by tying cotton and feathers, squirrel tail hair, goose feathers and other such materials around a smaller sized hook.

Wet Flies
a wet fly fishing fly

Wet flies are bigger than dry flies, and mimic insects that develop beneath the water surface. These are generally considered fresh water only.

Dry Flies
a dry fishing fly

Dry flies mimic mature insects that float on the surface of the water. Dry flies are smaller than wet flies.

Saltwater Flies
a saltwater fishing fly

This shrimp profile is amazingly realistic. The perfect general purpose saltwater fly.


Bonus Lure! The Squid Jig

The squid jig is a design you may well be familiar with. Most beginners tackle packs will include a couple of squid jigs. Their purpose is simple. Catching squid. You will notice the significant difference in the hook arrangement. They are designed to catch the squids soft flesh. Targeting squid is exploded popularity. Known in the modern age as EGI fishing, there are now rods and reels designed especially for chasing squid.

white and pink squid jib
This is by far the most common style of squid jig. They are very easy to use once you get the hang of it.
colorful squid jig
As squid fishing has become more popular, squid jigs have become more advanced and finely detailed.


Critical Lure Tips

1. As a rule of thumb, use bigger lures for targeting a larger class of fish.

shrimp oil bottle2. Applying a small amount of fish attractant to your artificial lure greatly increases the attractiveness of your presentation. Attractant oils and sprays come in many flavors - menhaden, anise oil, shrimp, garlic, squid, etc. Choose a flavor for the fish you wish to attract.

3. Use this article to understand the terminology then do your research. When you want to target a species with a lure do this online search: Fish species + location + lure + season. This will really help narrow your lure choices. Once you have done that. Get on fishing chat sites and ask questions about particular lures relative to location and species.

4. There are no rules. EXPERIMENT. Think critically, logically but also think creatively.

5. Most lures will have their target species printed on the pack. It is usually exaggerated but use it as a guide.

6. The better the finish and finer anatomical detail of a lure will generally suggest a more expensive lure.

A Brief Lure Glossary

Profile: Pertains to the shape of the lure. With soft plastics, the tail profile will often be singled out or mentioned

Tow Points: Refers to the locations you tie your leader to your lure. Sometimes there will be multiple tow point to alter the lures action or position in the water column.

Bib: Bib refer to the plastic protrusion on many hardbody lures. The bib will make the lure dive to a particular depth as well as control the action of the lure in the water. Many hardbodies do not have bibs.

closeup of a fishing lure's bib

Top Water: Refers to a lure that is worked along the surface or the near-surface of the water. Poppers and stickbaits are good examples.

Action: Action refers to the type of movement the lure has in the water. Particular types of retrieves will impart a particular type of action. A lures design and profile will have a large impact on its action, if not determine it entirely

Buoyancy: Buoyancy describes whether a lure floats, sinks or suspends. Many sinking lures will be designed to sink at a particular speed.

Suspending Lure: This is a lure that will hold its position in a particular place in the water column as determined by the desires of the angler.

Treble Hooks: Treble hooks are particularly vicious looking 3 point hooks that are commonly found on hard body lures and spinner baits. Because of the design treble hooks can be made lighter, with a thinner gauge wire. Penetration is better and it detract or interfere with the lure’s action.

chart showing different sizes of treble hooks

Assist Hooks: The use of assist hooks are very common with blue water jigging. They are used to ensure a more secure hook-up as the fish has greater difficulty breaking free of a hook attached to a chord or wire. Here’s an example of a jig with an assist hook.

an assist hook jig

Wrapping it Up

By now you should be familiar with the key lure terminology, and poised and ready to discover more.

Refer back to this article. It will help you navigate as you punch through the seemingly endless variations on themes, as well as the countless brands and crazy lure names.

Research, ask questions, talk, listen and investigate. This is how you will become a successful lure angler.

The key to mastering lures, however, is to practice and experiment. Follow the paths well worn, but don’t be afraid to make your own discoveries.

It is through experiment and discovery that we become better anglers. This takes time. But were not saying be patient. On the contrary, you haven’t a moment to lose. Get outside right now a get fishing. Anglers learn by angling.