It seems like there’s a million different types of lures for surf fishing (also known as beach fishing).
What’s the difference? And which lures are the best for surf fishing? Keep reading to learn about the best lures for your surf fishing adventures.
Poppers are a type of surf fishing lure that attracts fish using sound. There are a couple of varieties of poppers, but what they all have in common is a hollowed-out “mouth.” When you drag the lure along the water, it makes a kind of bubbling noise. This sound will sound like live bait to the fish. Species like bass are especially attracted to poppers.
The two kinds of poppers out there are known as chuggers and spitters.
Chuggers have symmetrical “lips,” which allows a bubble to form over the lure as you tug it across the water. The bursting of that bubble makes a “pop”—hence the name “poppers.”
Spitters have asymmetrical lips. Because of that, they don’t make a proper “pop;” they make a “spitting” sound.
You’ll want to consider adding both chuggers and spitters to your tackle box. Neither type of popper has any inherent advantage over the other—what works best will come down to what the fish want on any given day.
These surf fishing lures are excellent for new anglers because they’re reasonably easy to use. All you have to do is cast them and then tug on your rod every now and then. Go fast when it’s windy and slow when it’s calm. It’s best to use them when it’s darker out.
Plugs are surf fishing lures designed to look like something a large fish might eat. They usually look like baitfish, but they can look like bugs, frogs, or mice, too. Poppers are a type of plug lures—all poppers are plugs, but all plugs are not poppers. These surf fishing lures are ideal for catching bass, mackerel, pollock, and other top-of-the-food-chain fish.
There are two kinds of plugs: floating and diving.
Floating plugs stay at the surface of the water (or, at least, don’t dive too deep down). Like poppers, some types make sounds similar to those live bait would make as they traverse the water.
Diving plugs go below the surface of the water. They have parts, known as vanes, at the tip of their “mouths.” These vanes are what pull the lure down as it crosses the water. The size and shape of a vane determine the depth to which the plug will go.
Whether you choose a floating or a diving plug depends on what you want to do. If you’re going to lurk through deeper waters to find the best fishing spot, go with a diving plug. If you wish to fish in an area with debris along the water’s floor, go with a floating plug.
Lure makers can make plugs out of wood or plastic. It doesn’t matter much which material you choose, as long as the plug is of a suitable build for the type of surf fishing you want to do. They also come in an array of colors. In general, choose lighter-colored plugs for lighter waters and deeper-colored plugs for darker waters. (For general use, you can’t go wrong with a darker-colored plug.)
Here’s a tip: you can tune and rig your plug for an optimal fishing experience. For example, some plugs allow you to adjust their eyes for more movement. This adjustment can attract more fish.
Spoons get their name from their distinctive shape. These utensil-shaped lures are great for catching fish like salmon, walleye, northern pikes, and trout. Manufacturers can make them out of plastic, metal, or wood, and they usually have a shiny side for visibility.
You can find five kinds of spoons:
Jigging spoons are dense and leveled. They’re for deeper waters and are ideal for bass and walleye.
Like floating plugs, surface spoons work excellently in waters that are weedy or rocky. You’ll want to break out these ones for fish like pikes.
Traditional (or Canadian) spoons are known for their quaking when pulled under the water. They come in a range of weights, meaning there are traditional spoons for everything from panfish to trout.
Trolling spoons are very lightweight lures, with a three-inch spoon weighing only 0.125oz. These lures are useful for catching fish that live in open waters.
Just as surface spoons are suitable for thick-bottomed waters, weedless spoons are the best for waters with boggy tops. Usually, these spoons weigh around 0.25oz to 1.3oz.
If you’re fishing in light conditions, choose a spoon. Their flashiness will be most visible, which means more potential fish.
Lead-head jigs, also known as bucktail jigs, are very multipurpose lures. You can use them in various depths of water and weather conditions. It’s even the lure of choice for the U.S. Navy Seals.
Like other lures on this list, lead-head jigs look like live bait. You can get them in lower weights (around 0.125oz) and higher weights (3oz), depending on your needs. They’re among the best lures for bluefish, and they can bring in flukes, bass, and false albacore, among others.
Pack a lead-head jig if you’re not sure what kind of conditions you’ll face. Their metallic build makes them resilient in the face of raucous and serene waters. Make sure you bring along a sturdy float, too: that’ll maximize the jigging action.
Metal lures, also known as tin lures, are dense, aerodynamic lures. They dip into deep waters with ease, making them outstanding surf fishing lures for striped bass and bluefish. These types of lures are the heaviest on this list, weighing up to 6oz. As a rule, they’re a plain chromic color, but you can customize them with whatever colors or accessories you’d like.
These lures dive deep, so choose them for deep-water jigging.
Soft Plastic Lures
Soft plastic lures are—you guessed it—lures made of soft plastic, often vinyl. Lure crafters can handcraft them, or they can produce them mechanically.
(Contrary to popular belief, handcrafted soft plastic lures aren’t inherently more effective. It comes down to the plastic’s firmness and whatever the fish want on a given day.)
Pick a soft plastic lure if you’re looking to fish in shallow waters. Pay attention to the firmness of the lure: anything too hard or too soft won’t give you maximal wiggling action along the waters.
Surface and Sub-surface Lures
By now, you’ve seen a plethora of different surface and subsurface surf fishing lures. Surface lures stay at the top of the water, while sub-surface lures plunge below.
Surface lures include:
- Floating plugs; and
- Surface spoons.
Sub-surface lures include:
- Diving plugs
- Jigging spoons
- Metal lures
- Lead-head jigs
Pick a surface lure for shallow-water fishing and a sub-surface lure for deep-water expeditions.
Hello! My name is Tim and I’ve been fishing for over 30 years. I’ve learned a lot about fishing during that time and I love sharing that knowledge with others. I’m also a member of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). Thanks for checking out the site!