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Basics in Lure Fishing


As an old fishing adage goes, A lure is a lie told by a fisherman to a fish !. Lure fishing is an active sport. Unlike the "chuck and chance it" approach of bait fishing, lure fishing requires constant movement and activity. A lure must be repeatedly presented and constantly moving in the water. This means to catch a fish on a lure requires a lot more physical effort.

In most situations, The number of fish you will catch on lures will be less that those caught on bait, however the quality of fishing is better. For example, it's probably ten times easier in most fishing environments to catch a Bream on a piece of bait than it is to catch one on a lure. The challenge of lure fishing is what is normally appealing to the fisherman.

When starting out on lure Fishing, you should use small lures and fish for predators such as Tailor, Flathead or Bream. Target a species that is common within your fishing locale. Then, when you learn to catch one species proficiently on a lure, it is much easier to later adapt to new species after you've learnt the basics.

Lure fishing requires persistence. Perseverance and practice will eventually lead to a hookup. There is nothing more rewarding than catching an elusive fish, on a lure, after several dozen casts.

Metal Lures

Understanding common lure types or styles available is fairly important, as it is your selection of lures that is dependant on the fish you are aiming to catch. Metal lures are mainly used for casting. They work by "flash", which is attractive to most pelagic fish by imitating the silver side of a small bait fish. The advantage of metal lures is that they are relatively cheap to purchase, and their casting weight gives them the ability to sink and work at great depths.

Sometimes, metal lures are used for "jigging", which is a vertical type of spinning. In jigging, rather than casting a lure a great distance, the lure is simply lowered to the bottom and then retrieved at a rapid rate. Sometimes the lure can be yo-yo'd up and down but more often it's retrieved at quite a rapid pace to the surface.

On superficial examination, metal lures sometimes don't look very similar to the baitfish they are supposed to imitate. This is partly overcome by matching lure size with typical baitfish and by the speed of retrieval. Species such as tuna, lures only work well when cranked in at extreme speed. This excites the tuna to chase it. Perhaps the tuna are fooled because they only get a glimpse at a speeding lure, rather than a good hard look.

Diving Lures

In a lure shop, you will see a wide range of pretty coloured plastic and timber lures that are characterised by a plastic or metal diving plate at the front of the lure body. This diving plate is commonly called a bib. This style of lure is used for a wide variety of applications, from light tackle game fishing to chasing trout and Barramundi. In general, this group of lures is known as Minnows.

In addition to the bibbed minnows, there are also bibless models where vibration is achieved by having a counter weight mounted forward from the tow point. At speed, this slightly offsets the harmonics of the lure and causes it to wobble in the water.

A bib, or a diving plate, does a number of things to a minnow. The bib, by water pressure, causes the lure to roll and wiggle. This vibration causes a flash and sound to emanate, and the pressure exerted by the water against the bib also determines the type of action. There are differences between wide actions and tight actions, and different fish respond to to different vibrations. A tight vibration means that the side-to-side sway of the lure is short in distance but rapid in frequency, where as a wide vibration has a longer sway and therefore slower. It has been much quoted that a tight action lure is suited for Barramundi, where as wide and slower action lures are more suited for fish such as Murray Cod.

Water pressure on the bib causes the lure to dive. Some highly developed lures have the ability to dive to more than eight metres. These lures are ideally suited for deep water trolling. It's important to know the exact depth to which the lure will dive. The correct running depth of a particular lure, especially when trolling, is a much more important factor than colour. For example, when luring for Flathead, you need to know that the lure is working close to the bottom. This also applies to Barramundi as well.


Spinnerbaits are an interesting concoction combining flash, vibration, colour and jig. A spinning blade in combination with a single hooked skirted jig works well on a number of species, particularly Bass and Trout. These lures have become increasingly popular in the past several years as anglers have realised the lure's great fish catching ability.

Colour, Flourescence & Luminescence

The colour of lures is a topic of constant debate. Rather than look at particular colours that a fish may or may not see, even though is has not been determined whether fish are colour blind or not, it's important to look at what colour really is. Basically, colour is reflected light. Some specific colours penetrate greater distance under water.

Red is the first colour to disappear and deep diving red lures may infact appear black to a fish. Blue, indigo and violet colours penetrate the furthest under water. Purple lures are popular for many species of fish, and this may be due to the lure's visibility at depth. Fluorescent green and chartreuse are also popular because they also penetrate a fair distance under water.

Probably the most useful concept in colour does not relate to individual hues or shades, but is found in the scientific enhancement of colour by fluorescence and luminescence. Fluorescent colours absorb white light and re-emit it in a particular wavelength and at a greater intensity. Underwater fluorescence can greatly increase the attraction of a lure by making it visible from a greater distance.

Luminescence is a further extension of this concept. Luminous lures absorb white light and re-emit it in a focused wavelength but with a prolonged time delay. This allows lures to be "charged up" with a torch or bright light and then remain highly visible, emitting their own light source for a period, under water, in any depth. Luminous lures, even in daylight, are highly visible to fish. To a fisherman, a luminous lures look dull, pasty green or white. To a fish, they are highly visible.

Although individual hues and colours may not make a difference, every colour has its day. At times, fish can be so specific in their colour requirements, that they will single out a particular coloured lure and hit it repeatedly. The next day, they may be less selective. For this reason, it is quite common to see a range of colours in the same lure type being carried by many experienced anglers.

Contrast & Silhouette

Contrast is also an important factor to the colour of lures. Contrast between dark and light colours, combined with the vibration of the lure, gives a shimmering effect under water. Contrast can also break up the length and profile of a lure. Many natural baitfish use contrast to a great effect to hide with. Contrast is the reason why in many bait species, a black eye stands out against a silver background. Some predatory fish expect to see a visible eye in their food.

Silhouette is a useful concept. Some fish hunt at night and their prey may be small creatures swimming across the surface of the water. Silhouette is an important means by which some fish locate their prey. When fishing under a moonlit sky, a good silhouette of a lure makes it easier for a fish like a Barramundi or Murray Cod to find. For this reason, one of the most successful colours at night is black. Black gives the most distinctive silhouette and, particularly in surface lures, works extremely well.

Smell, Sound & Vibrations

There are three important methods by which fish find their food. Vision is not nearly as reliable under water as it is above the surface. As a means to hunt, it works well for fish in clear water environments. Sound and vibration travel much better under water than they do above it. For this reason, the sound and harmonics of a lure travelling through the water are extremely important.

Different fish species respond to different types of vibrations. Some types of lures incorporate a built-in rattle. The wiggle or "action" of a lure is important in transmitting vibrations through water that are easily detectable by fish. Smell is also important under water. Many species such as sharks can detect microscopic concentrations of fish oils and blood. Some lures incorporate an in-built smell to help them attract fish. There are also a number of additives that can be painted or smeared onto a lure to attract fish by scent.

In most situations, fish will use a combination of all the above mentioned factors to track down their food. For example, a Flathead sitting in clear water on top of a sand bank at high tide may hear a lure travelling along as it bumps its way across the bottom. To a Flathead, any noise from a nearby creature is probably of interest and Flathead have quite a varied diet. Almost anything that fits in the mouth of a Flathead is fair game, so for this reason, many strange looking lures that bear no resemblance to any marine creatures catch Flathead.

When a Flathead "hears" the lure, it's clearly able to detect it from a considerable distance. On hearing the lure, the fish will move into a position to ambush the oncoming prey. It'll use its vision only in the final metres to localise its attack. The sooner the Flathead sees its potential prey, the more likely it is to line up an accurate attack.

Many anglers ponder why brightly coloured fluorescent pink or bright green lures, totally different to a Flathead's normal food, are so successful. Its probably because in the turbid waters of a mudflat, a Flathead is able to see the lure from a greater distance and can line its attack up more accurately. This also explains why pink is regarded as one of the most attractive colours for this species of fish.


If you are getting started, don't buy too many lures until you have done a little research. The best approach is to ask local anglers what they use, what they prefer as to which lures work best for specific species of fish. Many lures have strong local followings for good reason. The best lure to use is generally the one sold by the local tackle shop in the biggest numbers.

Remember, that both small fish and big fish will eat a small lure, and the lure should imitate the size of your commonest baitfish. When you look at a lure, do it from the fish's perspective. Look at the colour, contrast and vibration and the noise the lure will create. Consider how deep it will travel and what species of baitfish it is designed to simulate.

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