Springtime means stocking the tackle box with jigs, spinners, twisters, spoons, crankbaits and more; usually more lures than I'll ever need. However, if it came down to it, there is a handful of them I couldn't go without. For whatever species I was pursuing, I would forsake all other jigs, rigs and plastics to have a supply of what follows in my tackle box.
10. Nothing fills the void like a marabou jig. A person could land panfish, walleye, pike and bass all day with just a little easy-breathing marabou. Whether it is a Lindy Fuz-e-grub tail, a ten-cent chenille-bodied crappie jig, a Bass Buster or some other underwater incarnation of life on a lead-head, the marabou jig family is a force to be reckoned with. Try them for crappie in summer and bass and walleye in the spring.
9. What turned me on to the number nine lure in this list was a successful stretch late one summer where both smallies and largemouth smacked the skirts off of every one in my box. The spinnerbait has long been a staple for bass fishing throughout the country. Used to simulate fleeing prey, such as minnows, these flashy, pulsating lures are effective on both bass species as well as pike. White with silver blades is a great spinnerbait pattern for muddy or cloudy waters, but stock up on chartreuse, silver and bluegill skirt patterns to match forage in your area when the water warms.
8. Case Plastics Sinkin' Salty Shad is a minnow-profiled bait that has the look of forage that big bass crave, with the subtle undulation of a stick bait that even the most negative post-frontal bass can't resist. Rigged weightless on a 3/0 or 4/0 hook, these slow-falling salt-impregnated lures are perfect when angling for pre-spawn fish, and for summer bass in cover. I've found bubblegum, pearl and watermelon to be excellent colors.
7. In the past decade, I have trolled a variety of crankbaits for walleye, but the one I keep coming back to is the Storm Thundercrank. In deep and medium diving models, from three to five inches, the Thundercrank possesses a fish-catching action like no other. There is a silver pattern and a perch pattern that have been dynamite on my home lake as they imitate the local walleye forage - juvenile white bass and perch - to perfection.
6. Often copied but never duplicated, the number six lure makes catching lunker bass easy for the inexperienced. The Yamamoto Senko is the most powerful plastic to ever be rigged for, thrown to and inhaled by monster bass. In nearly 100 colors and over a dozen models, the Senko provides a versatile tool that drives fish nuts. I'd never be without one in some shade, but my favorite is a five-inch green pumpkin with chartreuse tip on a 2/0 worm hook for monster largemouth. Downsize to the four-inch model for an effective smallmouth lure.
5. The X-Rap is the latest model of the Rapala family to take the water by storm. Its erratic action when cranked and jerked and variety of sizes - and now specializations - make it a required part of any sportsman's tacklebox. Try the new X-Rap Shad or Subwalk for even more versatility. For smallies, pike and walleye, this lure is beyond effective.
4. When summer is in full swing and bass are tucked tight under docks and trees, nothing gets them out like a creature bait. Though there are many effective baits that represent frogs, salamanders, and crayfish, my go-to is the four-inch Wooly Hawg Craw by Yum baits. Rigged with a 2/0 wide-gap VMC worm hook and a small bullet sinker, these scented plastics are great for flipping into thick cover and under docks where big largemouth and bronzebacks lurk. Top colors are tequila sunrise, green and pumpkin.
3. The bait that reminds me most of warm weather fishing is the Chompers Tube by Table Rock Tackle. These heavily scented tubes are perfect for skipping under docks or along bridges for bass. Texas-rigged with a wide-gap hook, Chompers are irresistible to bass. Try running them on Carolina rigs for those fish holding out in the weed lines, or staging off the channel of your local river after a cooler spell. Or if you get stuck in the winter doldrums, open a bag of these baits in your room to remind you of summer and scare off any vampires with their garlicky smell.
2. Even if trolling is my least favorite way to fish, there's one lure I always count on to land the walleye and perch on my local waters. The JB Lure Company's series of Vibra-flash spinner rigs (the ones with the hole in the blade) are tops for tricking walleye. My favorites are the crawler harnesses that come in three-hook models, but are easily shortened down to two. Like my buddy says, "any one of these will work, as long as it is chartreuse," and that is wisdom I have stuck with.
1. Was there ever any doubt that the classic, potent, and downright versatile jig-and-grub combo would be tops? From tiny one-inch twisters to monster five-inch grubs, there is a curly-tailed lure for every species. I have landed crappie, pike, walleye, bass, bluegill and more on this lure combo that covers the top of my tackle box. With thousands of color options and sizes, these lures can match the hatch or shock the fish into biting. My favorites for the river are pink jigs with white/black dot pattern grubs for walleyes, and orange or black jigs with yellow/black dot tails for smallies.
It is fun to look back on the successes I've had with these lures, and none of them would have made this list if it weren't for many successful outings. By and large, they can all be counted on to catch great numbers of fish, and if you're lucky, a true trophy...in our outdoors.