Choosing the best saltwater lure is like choosing the best flavor of ice cream; everyone has a favorite, and they’re all good. So, to come up with my list of favorite lures for salty fish, I started with some of the most iconic saltwater lures on the water. Then, I looked for lures that cover the widest range of saltwater fish and most popular fishing locations. Even though my picks for best saltwater lures are all-time favorites, I especially like modern upgrades of proven fish catchers. Unlike trendy lures that are popular one season and gone the next, these lures have stayed at the top of the best of the best list since they first hit the water.
The Best Saltwater Lures: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: MirrOlure 52MR
- Weight: ½ ounce
- Length: 3 ⅝ inches
- Three treble hooks
- Nine colors
- Sinks 1 foot per second
- Built-in flash
- 3D eyes
- Darting action
- Takes practice to use properly
The MirrOlure’s slow sink rate and ability to mimic a stunned baitfish make it a reliable lure to catch a host of fish species. Its versatility and track record make it my choice for overall best saltwater lure.
A classic on the flats and shallows from New England to the Gulf Coast, the MirrOlure 52M is a hard-plastic twitchbait designed to make finicky fish bite. Pro anglers know, when no other lure turns on the action, the MirrOLure’s slow sink, steady retrieve, and darting action are too much for fish to resist.
To cover water in search of hungry fish, cast out the 52M and retrieve steady and slow. For fish with lockjaw, cast out the 52M and let it sink. The lure sinks 1 foot per second, so you can count to keep track of how far the lure sinks. When the 52M is a few feet off the bottom, twitch the rod tip twice to make the lure dart back and forth. Then, pause and count while the lure sinks again. This jerk and pause routine suspends the lure and triggers bites. In the end, the MirrOlure 52 M wins best saltwater lure overall because the resounding thump of a speckled trout or striped bass hitting a suspended MirrOlure is one of the finest experiences in fishing.
Best Topwater Lure: Heddon Zara Spook
- Weight: ¾ ounce
- Length: 4.5 inches
- Two treble hooks
- Walk-the-dog action
- Slow retrieve
- Large profile
- Replaceable hooks
- Takes practice to master the presentation
The Zara Spook has a side-to-side kick that all predator fish cannot ignore. This is my pick for best topwater lure because it’s been producing explosive strikes from freshwater and saltwater fish since 1939. That’s the year Heddon introduced the Zara Spook’s walk-the-dog presentation and the lure became an instant classic. The Spook presents a slow, rhythmic, zig-zag pattern imitating a baitfish swimming across the surface unlike a cup-faced lure’s noisy and splashy retrieve.
To work the Spook, hold the rod tip low and use a rhythmic back and forth twitch of the tip while slowly turning the reel handle to make the lure bounce from side to side. Not only does the Spook swim pretty, but its bullet shape and ¾-ounce weight allow it to fly far to cover more water. The Zara Spook is 4½ inches long: the perfect size to imitate an injured mullet, menhaden, or anchovy. The most popular colors are red head/white body and bone white. Since its invention almost a half-century ago, the Zara Spook has added larger and smaller models. The most recent addition is the Zara Spook Puppy, a three-inch version of the original.
Best Saltwater Jig: Spro Bucktail
- Weight: 1 ounce
- Length: 5 inches
- Gamakatsu hook
- Brilliant colors
- Sturdy construction
- Lifelike head shape
- Design cuts through current to hold bottom
The simple bucktail jig is the oldest trick in the book. From flounder to trophy striped bass, you can’t beat the Spro Bucktails high-gloss finish, full skirt, lifelike eyes, and premium hook. That’s why it’s my pick for best saltwater jig. No one knows when someone first invented the lead head jig with a deer hair body, but the bucktail has probably caught more fish than any other lure. The key to the bucktail’s success is the deer hair, which is hollow and floats. This slows the lure’s sink rate so it spends more time in the strike zone. Also, when the lure sits on the bottom, the buoyant deer hair keeps the tail up where fish can see it.
The Spro resembles a real fish with a high-gloss finish and lifelike bulging eyes. A large wad of deer hair and the line-tie on top of the head cause the Spro bucktail to sink horizontally, like an injured baitfish. The head is long and narrow to sink fast for fishing the bottom in deep water. The weak point on any bucktail is the hook. Spro guarantees a strong hookset with a premium, super-sharp, super-strong Gamakatsu hook. Most anglers tip these bucktails with a Gulp! Swimming Mullet for added scent and action. It’s a favorite combo to pull a limit of flounder off the bottom.
Best Fishing Spoon: Luhr Jensen Krocodile Spoon
- Weight: ⅙-2½ ounce
- Length: 1¼ inch-4¼ inch
- Treble hook or single siwash
- Wide size range
- Brass and chrome construction
- Flash and action replicates nearly all baitfish
- Single hook only available on smaller sizes
Anywhere fish swim, a metal spoon is a deadly lure. This is the best fishing spoon because it has an exaggerated wobble, slow sink, and corrosion-resistant body. Luhr Jensen Krocodile Spoon is one of the most versatile and popular lures for casting, jigging, and trolling. When the lure moves through the water, the asymmetrical shape causes it to wobble and roll like an injured baitfish.
Cast or troll the lure, and the wide profile keeps it higher in the water column. Or drop the spoon to the bottom, and it flutters as it dives down. The Krocodile spoon comes in 32 colors with a deep flash and a dimpled, fish scale like finish. An oversized, stainless steel barrel swivel allows the spoon to spin freely. The body is stamped out of solid brass with a chrome-plated finish to stand up to tough fish and tough saltwater conditions. Smaller sizes come with a treble and single siwash hook. Larger sizes only come with a treble hook. I like the big split ring that makes it easy to change hooks.
Best Soft Plastic: Berkley Gulp! Paddleshad
- Length: 3-6 inches
- Paddle tail
- 17 colors
- Soft plastic disperses scent trail
- Long lasting scent
- Fish hold onto bait longer than unscented baits
Twenty years ago, scientists working for Berkley Fishing invented Gulp! attractant, and the game changed forever. Unlike other fish-attracting scents, Gulp! works at a molecular level to disperse through the water more effectively. According to Berkley, Gulp! Shrimp tastes like shrimp, and mullet has mullet flavor. They developed their signature scent to be more powerful than even live bait. That scent combined with the Paddleshad’s kicking tail, make it an awesome bait deserving of the best soft plastic title.
Gulp! for saltwater comes in nine shapes from curly-tail to jerkbait, but my favorite is the Paddleshad paddletail with a fish-like shape and scaly texture. Thread the Paddleshad on a lead head jig to work the lure along the bottom. The Gulp! Paddleshad rigged on jig head is my favorite search bait to quickly work an area and determine if anything is biting. If fish are in the area, they will undoubtedly fall for the Gulp! Paddleshad. The only problem is Gulp! isn’t as tough as traditional soft plastics, the tail usually needs to be changed after catching a couple of fish. I chose the Paddleshad over other Gulp! models because the wide body and thick tail lasts the longest.
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Best Saltwater Lure for Trolling: Rapala CountDown Magnum 18
- Length: 7 inches
- Weight: 2 ⅜ ounces
- Hooks: 2/0 Treble
- Balsa wood body
- Stainless steel hooks
- Welded line tie
- Metal lip
When it comes to trolling lures, nothing is more popular than Rapala’s CountDown Magnum 18. This is the best saltwater lure for trolling because it uses premium components and each lure is tank tested for reliable performance. The key to its consistency is the metal lip keeps the CountDown swimming straight and at a consistent depth. Rapala spared no expense in building the best trolling lure with a welded line tie, premium split rings, and a balsa wood body. The final touch: Rapala tank tests each lure to swim true at high speed. On my boat, the Rapala Magnum is the only swimming lure that reliably swims at over six knots without digging to the side or popping out of the water. Not only is the lure effective on king mackerel, cobia, and redfish, but the CountDown Magnum 18 produces offshore fish like dolphin, wahoo, and tuna.
Best Saltwater Lure for Deep Jigging: Nomad Design Streaker Jig
- Length: 7 inches
- Weight: 7 ounces
- Hook: 4/0 5X Stinger
- Premium hook
- Hook eye and line tie at both ends
- Exaggerated action
This is the best saltwater lure for deep jigging because it has a premium finish, high-pitch vibration, wide-gap hook, and a streamlined design to sink fast. Vertical jigging is a proven tactic for catching fish in deep water with light tackle. Nomad Design’s Streaker Jig is streamlined to sink fast and swim erratically. Drop the jig to the bottom, and retrieve fast while pumping the rod to make the lure dart and jump with a unique high-pitch vibration.
When you execute that technique properly, big fish hit the vertical jig hard. The Streker’s wide-gap, 4/0, 5X strong BKK hooks, and high-strength Dacron and components are up to the abuse of those vicious hits. What sets the Nomad Design Streaker Jig apart is the premium finish. Bright colors and deep metallics draw in the fish and take the punishment from strong jaws and sharp teeth.
Best Saltwater Surf Plug: Tactical Anglers SubDarter Smart Lure
- Length: 7 inches
- Weight: 3 ounces
- Internal rattles
- Through-wired hooks
- Durable clear coat
- Recessed, holographic eyes
This is the best saltwater surf plug because it has large rattles, plenty of casting weight, and unique reversed gills for maximum vibration. A subdarter lure swims a foot or two below the surface. Cast out and retrieve to make the lure dive. Pause the retrieve, and the lure floats to the surface. It’s a simple and effective lure for surfcasting. Tactical Anglers improved on the subdarter design with the SubDarter Smart Lure. It’s tougher thanks to its durable finish.
It also has a unique action created by the reversed gills on either side of the head, which add vibration and water disturbance. The lure’s wide body, internal rattle, angled head and narrow tail add to the slow and wide wobble. You can bomb this lure out past the breakers because of the casting weight that slides forward on the cast to make the lure fly farther and land accurately. This feature makes the SubDarter Smartlure popular with surf anglers looking for every inch of casting distance.
Best Saltwater Popping Cork: D.O.A. Deadly Combination
- Weight: 3 ounces
- Length: 3 inches
- Conical popper
- Pre rigged and ready to fish
- Flavored/scented lure
- Plastic clacker beads
This best saltwater popping cork features the famous DOA shrimp, high-visibility popping cork, and a flexible wire. The classic popping cork is an unlikely fishing lure. Consisting of a foam float sliding on a short piece of wire with a two-foot length of monofilament dangling a small soft plastic, the popping cork doesn’t look like it would catch fish. But, anglers fishing the marshes and tidal creeks of the South and Southeast, know that the loud popping and slashing of the cork accompanied by a small lure, attracts fish. Cast out the rig, wait for it to settle on the surface and give the rod tip a strong jerk to make the cork splash and the lure dart. The sound and action draw in fish.
D.O.A. Lures are designed, produced, and sold by hard-core anglers. They’ve created the ultimate Deadly Combo with a cone-shaped popping cork and 3-inch soft-plastic shrimp. The cork slides on sturdy flexible wire with two plastic beads to provide extra noise and commotion. The D.O.A. Shrimp is infused with real shrimp scent and flavor to keep the fish hooked. To imitate an injured baitfish, the shrimp is weighted to sink naturally. When it comes to the best saltwater popping cork, the noise and commotion from the bright orange popping cork and the life-like looks, taste, and smell of the D.O.A. shrimp is a deadly combo.
How to Choose the Best Saltwater Lures
Search for “saltwater lure” on Google, and you get nine million results. The same search produces over 700 hits on Bass Pro Shop’s website. I estimate there are thousands of lures to target hundreds of species of saltwater sportfish. So, isn’t it odd that only a handful of these lures are in almost every saltwater angler’s tackle box?
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My picks for the best saltwater lures are among the most iconic lures on the water. There’s a reason these lures have been around for years; they work when nothing else gets the fish’s attention. Not to say my favorites haven’t been updated and improved over the years. The best saltwater lures are better than ever with modern technology and components. Often imitated but never bested, these lures are effective from coast to coast, inshore to offshore. Here’s what I consider when looking for the best saltwater lure.
You’ve got to be good to fool a finicky saltwater fish. The best saltwater lure has proven action that gets bites when other lures don’t work. Maybe it’s a slight roll of the head, twitch of the tail, or flash of color. When this lure hits the water, fish pay attention. Consider how the lure casts and swims. The best saltwater lure is weighted and shaped for a long and accurate cast. Then the lure’s shape and balance give it an alluring action as it swims through the water. What sets the best saltwater lure’s action apart is the slightest wobble or wiggle that drives predators crazy. Don’t forget, these lures don’t work themselves. The best saltwater lures are easy for an angler to use. With a flick of the wrist or a rod-tip jerk, my favorite lures hop and dark like an injured baitfish.
To survive the violent strike of a predator and the harsh attack of salt, sand and rocks, the best saltwater lures have to be tough. Look for a lure with a sturdy body, either hard plastic, corrosion resistant metal or stretchy plastic. The hooks should be solidly attached with stainless steel or titanium hardware. At the business end of the lure, the hooks are corrosion-resistant metal with welded eyes and razor-sharp points. The best saltwater lure gets extra points if it is easy to replace worn-out or rusted components.
There are loads of saltwater lures popular for one or two species of fish, but the best saltwater lure is effective on a long list of targets. When shopping for the best saltwater lure, look for a lure you can use for almost anything that swims. On the ocean and inshore, conditions can change in an instant, and opportunity may only present itself for a moment. It’s important to be ready with a lure any fish would eat. Don’t leave the dock without a topwater, metal spoon, jig, soft plastic and hard plastic lure rigged and ready. My picks for best saltwater lures match the widest range of bait most predators eat, so you’ll be ready when opportunity knocks.
Q: How do I choose a saltwater fishing lure?
With so many options, you’re probably asking: how do I choose a saltwater fishing lure? First question: where are the fish feeding? If the fish are primarily on the bottom, then a spoon or jig might be the best choice. If the fish are closer to the surface, a hard plastic or topwater lure doesn’t sink as fast as a jig or spoon. Next, observe the bait the fish are eating. Are you marking anchovies on the fish finder? Can you see mullet swimming nervously on the surface? Match the lure shape and size to the local forage. A long, silver spoon looks like a narrow baitfish while a bushy bucktail has the wider profile of a menhaden, shad, or squid. Hard plastic lures are molded to perfectly match a real fish’s color, size, shape, and appearance. The last step is trial and error. The best test is to tie on the lure, cast it out, and see what the fish think.
Q: What color lures are most effective in saltwater?
Once you have figured out what type of lure to use, you’ll want to know what color lures are most effective in saltwater. The natural answer is to match the color of the bait the fish are eating. Use a pink lure for shrimp, black back and silver belly for mullet, blue over silver for anchovies or menhaden. This doesn’t explain some of the most popular lure colors, such as pink and green, redhead with a white body or chartreuse. In full sun and dirty water, a bright bait stands out. In low-light conditions, use a dark lure. A natural lure will fool sharp-sighted fish when the water is super clear.
Q: Are spinnerbaits good for saltwater?
If you’re a freshwater angler coming over to the salt, you probably wonder if spinnerbaits are good for saltwater. Spinnerbaits are one of many crossover lures between saltwater and freshwater. Anglers use spinnerbaits to target redfish and striped bass. One of the most popular blade baits for saltwater fish is the Z-Man Chatterbait. Picture a jighead and soft plastic tail with a quarter-sized blade clipped to the nose of the jighead. The soft plastic tail swims like a baitfish, and the flashing blade makes the lure vibrate violently. The Chatterbait is easy to use, just cast it out and reel it in—the blade does all the work. The Chatterbait has proven effective on a wide range of saltwater fish, including redfish, speckled trout, and striped bass.
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Final Thoughts on the Best Saltwater Lures
Choosing the best saltwater lure overall is really difficult and a lot of fun. After years of fishing and hours of deliberation, I picked the MirrOlure 52M for the award. Not only is the 52M a classic fish catcher from coast to coast, but it is also fun to use. The careful patience required to work the lure, then the resounding thump of a big fish taking the suspended bait, make the MirrOlure 52M my favorite lure. The 52M comes in dozens of enticing colors and several similar models to cover various baitfish and fishing conditions. With so many options, choosing the best MirrOlure is as much fun as fishing with it.