My top five surf lures – the fisherman magazine electricity facts history


My desire to write this article stems from a belief that too many of us get too hung-up on carrying a suitcase full of lures lest we should find ourselves without the "magic" lure we think we need. In actuality, my lure bag has been limited and simply packed for decades now. As a result, my back, neck, and shoulders are a lot happier. To make the point clearly: what one really needs to know to be successful is how to get the most out of a limited lure selection. So, if I could only use five lures in the surf, what would they be? In reality, my choices are easy, because five is pretty much all I use anyway.

However, I need to say that there are many other lure styles that are extremely effective and this article is not an attempt to dismiss them or demean them. Each successful lure style has a place in the surf fishing arsenal, but we don’t need to tote each and every one of them in six colors every time we walk the beach. Rather, I hope this article serves as an example of how we can keep things simple while also becoming more successful.

Obviously, I’m not going to select the five styles willy-nilly: I’ve got my reasons. I think my criteria are simple, but I believe there’s one reason that is more important than all the rest put together. That is, they have to be extremely effective over a wide range of conditions, baitfish, gamefish species, and seasons. In short, for purposes of this article, I won’t mention specialty lures that fill up bag space, but are used infrequently. Besides, I’m very, very confident in my ability to get a striper, blue, or weakfish to eat one of the five types in my bag. So, the first criterion is that the lures in my bag are great fish catchers over a wide range of conditions. Second, I must have confidence in the lures in my bag. That’s kind of a given, but I mention it since confidence can only be gained by using a given lure style over and over. Third, the lures I select must cover the water column from top to bottom. It is important to understand that gamefish spend most of their time feeding within a foot or two of the bottom. Surface blitzes are the exception, not the rule. Yet, there are surface feeding episodes, and I want to be ready for that scenario, too. Fourth, the lures I select must be a match for the tackle I intend to use. I don’t want to be stuck with light lures with my 11-foot outfit, or three- and four-ounce lures for my quiet water lighter gear.

My selection process must begin with bucktails. They come in all sizes from the lightest to more than six ounces, they can be fished at any level of the water column, they catch all species of fish all over the world, and they imitate everything that swims. In short, I believe bucktails are the best and most versatile lures in my bag and I have tremendous confidence in them. A bucktail is almost always the first lure I snap onto my leader, and more times than not it’s still attached at the end of my trip. I don’t fuss about colors and

95 percent of my bucktails are white. Of course, I need a jar of Uncle Josh 240-S red and white pork rind too and I consider the pork strip to be an integral part of the bucktail. For me, it’s that vital! A limited size selection would be one, 1.5, and two ounces.

Pencil poppers catch surface feeding fish and fish that are willing to move toward the surface. The slow and rhythmic motion of pencils not only imitates a wounded fish, but also attracts fish and triggers strikes. Pencil poppers come in sizes from a fraction of an ounce to four ounces. The really small ones are only useful in backwaters when cast with very light gear, but one- to three-ounce pencils are effective through a wide range of conditions. If you want blues, then race the pencil across the top; if you want stripers, make a slow and methodical presentation. My favorite pencils are the Tactical Angler’s two-ounce Sea Pencil, the Gibbs 2-3/8th-ounce, and the Cordell one-ounce models. Once again, my color pallet is restricted.

In my opinion, Super Strike Little Neck poppers are the best available. I use the 2-3/8th-ounce Little Neck popper most often, but also use the 1-1/2-ounce, and three-ounce sizes. Back-eyed Little Neck Poppers cast far, are precisely balanced, stand up to even the biggest fish, and swim when not being popped. I prefer all white, but occasionally use blue and white during mullet runs, as well as green and white and yellow and white during bunker and herring runs. When I need a big push of water, Tactical Anglers four-ounce Bomb Popper is effective.

Just as my choice for a standard popper is limited, so too is my choice for metal lures. With the exception of the Spoon Jig (curved metal and tube) that is useful in the spring (Terminal Tackle), I use West End Tackle metal lures. In particular I like the J-series and the D-5, but will also use other styles.

West End Tackle metal lures cast well, and some, like the J-series, are keeled. This design allows the angler to retrieve them very slowly and yet the lures remain stable. These tins can be used high in the water column or low. They are versatile and may be equipped with feathers or tubes depending upon the bait forage. When I need a big metal lure that can be cast to the offshore bar and yet retrieved in the magic zone within 18 inches of the bottom, I grab my Charlie Graves style J-9. This tin has saved my day many times.

There are so many swimming lures available from darters, to bottle plugs, to metal lip swimmers and hard plastic Scandinavian styles, it is very difficult to narrow this choice down to one style. However, if forced to select one of them, I’d select the Bomber. My reasons include, they catch lots of fish, they catch fish when gamefish feed on a variety of baits: big and small, the quality control is amazing, and I can modify them slightly by changing hooks or even shaving the lip to alter their motion and swimming depth. There are a few drawbacks to the lure that includes, they don’t cast as far or may not be as sturdy as some of the others that are through-wired. However, when I consider that I can use them successfully from April through December, in rough water and calm, and I can imitate everything from sand eels to bunker, I’d stick with the Bomber if I only had one choice. My favorites are the A-Salt, and the Long-A (six- and seven-inch models). Bombers, like most swimmers, are most effective at night, but at times will catch fish during daylight, too.