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Saltwater Fishing Lures and Baits

Many times, the difference between fishing and catching comes down to the lure or bait on the end of your line. From natural baits to artificial lures, here are eight effective ways to fool a fish.

Live Bait
When it comes to tempting a fish to bite, it’s hard to beat the real thing. But using a live bait requires some effort from the angler. First, you must catch or purchase the bait and then keep it alive in a bucket with an aerator or a circular live well. Try to handle the bait as little as possible, and always rig the bait so it moves freely on the hook.

Dead or Cut Bait
Natural dead bait is a powerful fish attractant as long as you keep it fresh. Perishable bait should be stored on ice, but don’t let it get wet. When rigging a whole bait, it’s usually best to hide the hook with the point exposed. Cut bait should be sliced in strips or triangles. Always pass the hook through the skin and bone to keep it from pulling out of the bait.

Jigs and Swimbaits
With a lead head and rubber body, jigs and swimbaits imitate a wide variety of baitfish. The hook on the lead head should be long enough to pass two-thirds of the way down the rubber jig. A narrow lead head will sink faster, while a flattened head will flutter to the bottom. Swimbaits incorporate a lead head in a rubber body to sink slowly and swim higher in the water column. Work the jig by bouncing it off the bottom, or cast it out and bring it in at a steady pace.

Metal Jigs
Nothing catches a fish’s attention like a flashy metal lure. Bounce the long, narrow lure along the bottom or jig it back to the boat.

Surface Plugs
Topwater plugs are most effective in low-light conditions and over shallow or rocky bottom where other lures would get snagged. Poppers create a large splash each time the rod tip is twitched, while a walk-the-dog style lure is retrieved at a steady pace with a rhythmic jerk of the rod tip. To tempt a finicky fish, stop cranking every few feet and let the lure rest on the surface for a few seconds.

Hard Plastic Plugs
Diving and suspending lures come in shapes and patterns that imitate a wide variety of bait. Troll a diving lure behind the boat, or cast it out and work it back steadily. Suspending lures can be retrieved at a steady pace, or let the lure sink for a few seconds between quick cranks of the reel handle and twitches of the rod tip.

Spoons and Spinnerbaits
Spoons and spinnerbaits draw a reaction bite from aggressive fish. These heavy lures can be cast far and quickly worked back. Or pause the retrieve and let the lure sink slowly.

Scents and Attractants
Modern science has cooked up sprays, pastes, pens and dips that add natural and artificial scent to your lures. Not only does applying one of these products attract fish, but it covers up any human smell on the bait.