Essential Lures - 1

Spinners, Spoons, Jigs and Topwaters

I was struggling to track down a couple of lures for a trip to a trout water last winter and search high and low I couldn't find the ones I wanted. They were there somewhere, but my lure collection had not only grown way to large, it was also in a severe state of disarray. I really should put lures back in their respective storage boxes when making a fresh selection, but I don't. I throw them in a heap to tidy up later, and the heap just grows and grows.

It was then the thought struck me that I really do have far too many lures. It tends to be the same tried and trusty lures that get used over and over again. Lures that I am familiar with and which usually do more than one job, as I have mentioned in the past. So, the time has come to have a major lure cull! How ruthless I will manage to be, I'm not so sure, but I do know there will be some essential lures that are definitely going to stay, and it is those baits that I am going to take a look at in detail in this short series. They might not be your choices, and there will be some I don't mention that you might love. But that's they way it is with lures. What works for one angler doesn't for another.

One lure type that won't get culled at all is the spinnerbait. I have never been a fan of any particular model of spinnerbait over another. In fact most of the ones I have are of my own making. That way I have been able to get them just the way I want them. Because the variations in weight and blade style make for variations in speed and depth control I'll be keeping every single one of them that is still in a usable state. The rest will be stripped down and redressed, or the lead heads melted down and recycled. One good thing with spinnerbaits is that they don't take up a lot of room and I can store dozens in my document wallets. I used to keep my spinnerbaits in wallets containing a number of large sealable pouches such as sea anglers keep their rigs in. They were okay, but I find expanding the plastic document wallets far better. Not only do they keep the lures slightly better separated without tangles, but they don't seem to retain as much hook rusting moisture.

You can fish spinnerbaits shallow or deep, fast or slow. Cast them or troll them. I can't think of a venue type where they don't work, and they are always good fish locators even when they aren't catching. There is one river swim where I seem to get a hit or a follow to a white skirted, nickel bladed spinnerbait every time I cast one in there - if there is a fish or two present. If I don't see a fish to that lure the chances are I won't see one to anything, even though I have yet to land a pike on a spinnerbait from that swim.

I know that in the past I have decried bucktail spinners, but some of these will be staying too. As with my spinnerbaits the ones I will be hanging on to are all home made jobs. There aren't many, but they have all had their day, and have been made to fulfil certain requirements for speed and depth control. A few have monster magnum blades enabling them to be fished very slowly in shallow water. Others are small but heavy, enabling longish casts and a quick burning retrieve. Then there are some other (un-bucktail) in-line spinners that have got me out of a hole a time or two, and some cobbled together oddities that have caught a pike or two and might have a future. I have some which have muppets instead of hair, and resultantly fish a little deeper for a given speed. I had forgotten about these until delving into the dark recesses of my lure boxes. They used to do me proud, so I'll drag them to the forefront again. As with spinnerbaits, in-lines don't take up much room so I can afford to keep a wide selection.

Mostly in-line spinners are at their best in water less than ten feet deep, but with care they can be counted down deeper and slow rolled to maintain depth. They do have a tendency to tangle with the leader on the drop if you aren't careful, so they aren't my first choice for deeper water. In-lines are another good fish finder. However, I do find I catch more on them when searching for fish than I do on spinnerbaits.

Spoons are another lure type that doesn't take up much space, but I don't have many of these anyway. Not because I don't rate or use them, but because a spoon is pretty much a spoon, just as a spinnerbait is a spinnerbait is a spinnerbait. So long as I have a selection of weights and sizes/profiles I'll be sorted.

The seven inch Masterline Mister Musky in two patterns has been my staple spoon for some years. I also take a couple of large Husky Devles with me when boat fishing. Both these spoons cast reasonably well with a following wind, cover shallow and medium depths between them (the deeps too if I can be bothered), and catch pike. I guess I'll also keep the Landa Longas I have for the occasions I want a smaller lure. The light weight ones are good for drain fishing, and the 35 gram ones cast like bullets on a fixed spool outfit.

When it comes to jigs I am in the fortunate position of having plenty of moulds, so I don't need to stockpile jig heads as I can make a few up any time I start running low. These range from 5/8 of an ounce up to two ounces. The things that go on the jigs don't need much sorting out as I already stick to a limited number of plastics for this sort of fishing. I have a Reaper Tails, Curtis Creatures, Mag Grubs and Twin tails - in black, white, silver, orange and yellow or chartreuse. But not all those colours in all the baits. Mostly I throw black, white and silver, occasionally a brighter colour. I also use six inch shads, again in more subdued colours. The good thing with these smallish soft plastics is that you can cram a lot into a few compartmented boxes - keeping the colours separated so they don't bleed into one another.

In addition to the plain jig heads I will retain the ones rigged up with spinnerbait arms - jig spinners - or more likely a selection of unrigged arms ready to be added to jigs if I feel the urge for a bit more vibration. Blades on these are usually kept pretty small both to reduce the lift in order to keep the lures deep. I always think of jig-spinners more as jigs than spinnerbaits, almost always using them to fish tight to the bottom rather than for off bottom presentations. This is the way they have worked best for me, at any rate. I don't see the blade as the primary attraction, but more of a little bit extra - the icing on the cake so to speak.

Although they have never really lived up to their early promise for me, I'll still keep a hold of a handful of larger jig spinners rigged up with nine-inch shads. Maybe it's because they are pigs to cast that I haven't done as well as I might on these lures. Regular tangling tends to put you off a lure. But they have also caught when trolled, so maybe that's where their future lies. Two or three should be enough for now - they are easy enough to make up if I need more!

Sorting out my topwaters will be fairly easy. The Jitterbugs and Creepers can be dispensed when it comes to surface crawlers as I have never done any good at all on them. All I need are a couple or three Hawg Wobblers! Hawg Wobblers are by far the most successful surface crawler I have used. Fished fast they can draw pike out, and slowed down they catch them! Like all topwaters their use should not be restricted to shallow water, pike will hit surface lures over deeper water than you might think, especially if visibility is good.

A one-off surface bait I'll be hanging on to is one which Dave Scarff carved for me that I called the Dicer. There aren't many commercially available surface poppers in a reasonably pikey size, and certainly few (if any) which can also be crawled. Not a lure I have used a lot of late as surface fishing has been poor for me over the last two or three years, but one that has produced the goods in the past and so gets saved. I'll also hang on to my one and only Bucher TopRaider. Not because it has caught me loads of pike, I have never had a sniff on the damned thing, but I know tail spin surface lures do catch pike for other people, so I'd be a fool not to keep one - just in case! They can be helpful search lures, so worth saving for that alone.

Walk-the-dog stickbaits, on the other hand, are a crucial surface bait type, so my two Giant Jackpots will be kept. In fact a Jackpot and a Hawg Wobbler would be more than enough surface lures for me. For some reason my fire tiger Jackpot has caught far more pike than the black one, but my guess is that's because I throw it more often. And I throw it a lot because it catches! I'll also hang on to my original Dave Scarff Top Doctors - partly because Dave made them, but also because they catch. Their action is very similar to the Jackpot but I feel they might have the edge when it comes to hooking pike, as they are much slimmer. Both of these lures cast like bullets and are therefore useful if you have to cast a long way to reach pike - on the shallows in spring say - or to keep encroaching anglers or boats away from your swim. Chuck a 'Doctor at an approaching boat and its occupants should get the message with a bit of luck!

In Part 2 I look at my essential jerkbaits.

(This article first appeared on in Pike and Predators - May 2005 on this site April 2006)