It’s a fairly common question: What’s the best lure for catching snook, or redfish, or trout, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera? Usually the answer has a lot of depends: It depends on the time of year, time of day, what the fish are feeding on, and many other variables.
But that wasn’t the question I was asked a few weeks ago. No, this woman wanted to know what was the best lure, period. Huh. That’s an interesting question.
My first thought was a walk-the-dog topwater bait. These lures are great for many different species. Any fish that eats other fish near the top of the water is susceptible to the allure of a Zara Spook Jr., and I love using them because the way fish blow up on them.
But then I thunk on it a little more and realized topwaters can’t be the best lures overall. First, they have to be worked in very specific ways to be most effective. The back-and-forth darting drives fish wild, but only if you know how to do it. The best lure should be intuitive to use.
Second, they work best in low-light conditions. Yes, you can catch a fish with a topwater under a sunny sky, but it’s the exception. If a lure is really the best, you should be able to use it more or less whenever and still have a good shot at fish.
Next, I considered soft plastic shad. Like topwaters, these baits have broad appeal to predatory fish (in fact, one of my favorites is the DOA CAL, which stands for “catch anything lure”). And, they can be used at any time of day because they offer both visual and sound appeal. Rigged onto a jighead of appropriate weight, they can also be fished at any depth.
But these lures also have limitations, and the biggest one is getting the right action out of them. Many times I have watched an angler get frustrated because others around them were catching fish and they weren’t, and it was simply because they weren’t giving their shad the right twitch. So once again, maximum effectiveness requires skill. Although the learning curve is not particularly steep, there has to be a lure that is equally effective but easier to use.
I briefly thought about and then rejected silly jigs and bucktails, for the exact same reason: Work them wrong, and forget about catching fish. I contemplated lipless crankbaits and hard jerkbaits, which are hard to fish incorrectly, but then dismissed them because the treble hooks catch a lot of weeds and they are of limited usefulness in our shallow waters.
Then I hit on the answer. I know what the best lure is. It’s dead simple to use, even in completely inexperienced hands. You can fish it at different depths and speeds, and it comes in many sizes to mimic any baitfish or to target specific predators. It’s mainly a visual lure but also has enough vibration to get a fish’s attention in stained or dark water, even at night.
It’s a weedless spoon. While all of the other options mentioned above are in my tackle bag (seriously, at all times), if I could have just one lure to catch fish, a weedless spoon would probably be it. And if I were to have just one lure to give a beginner, it would definitely be a weedless spoon.
Not all weed guards are made equal. In open water, it doesn’t really matter. But over grass, it’s a major issue. For those times when there are actual weeds to be guarded against, the Aqua-Dream spoons are my top pick. They use a flexible plastic-coated cable weedguard that does the job far better that solid wire versions.
Of course, if you want to talk about the best bait for catching fish, that’s a whole other discussion. Let me know if you think that’s a discussion worth having.
As the Fish Coach, Capt. Josh Olive offers personalized instruction on how and where to fish in Southwest Florida. Whether you’re a complete beginner or just looking to refine your techniques, he can help you get past the frustration and start catching more fish. Lessons can be held on your boat, on local piers or even in your backyard. To book your session or for more information, go to FishCoach.net, email Josh@FishCoach.net or call 941-276-9657.