On rare, awesome days, it feels like fish will hit anything you throw in the water. The rest of the time, the lure on the end of your line is one of the most important variables in the catching equation.
Tackle shops offer thousands of lure options. But which ones should you bite on? As you load up your tackle box for fishing in southern Idaho, here are five lures you should never leave home without.
1. Tube Jig. Tubes can do it all. Tiny tubes slay crappie. Mid-sized models hammer bass. Bigger baits tempt giant Mackinaw trout. That’s because tubes mimic a small, wounded prey item, which means almost any predatory fish will eat them. The basic concept of tube fishing is simple: slip the tube over a jig head, cast it out and work it back in using short, quick swimming motions. You can also use jig tubes vertically from a boat (or through the ice), drift them through river current or rig them weedless and fish heavy cover.
2. Prince Nymph. A must-have for any fly box, the prince nymph is an all-seasons killer that seems to catch fish in any water conditions. While it is meant to imitate a cold-water stonefly nymph, fish easily mistake the prince for all manner of insect larvae and underwater invertebrates. Fish them solo, or as a dropper beneath a small dry fly. Peacock green with white wings is the standard presentation. If you tie your own, don’t be afraid to experiment with other colors to match the habitats you like to fish.
3. Spinner. It has always amazed me how many fish can be fooled by a spinning hunk of metal. Spinners are effective, easy to use, and affordable enough that they won’t break the bank. Panther Martin, Blue Fox, Mepps and Rooster Tail are among the most popular brands. Spinners are a versatile lure, too. Try varying your retrieve with pauses, twitches and jigs to entice stubborn fish, and don’t overlook them as a lure for catching bass and panfish or, if the occasion calls for it, aggressive saltwater species.
4. Plastic Worm. If I had to bet my tackle box on catching a bass with one lure, I’d tie on my favorite plastic worm. Thanks to their realistic profile and lifelike feel, plastic worms are a deadly bait that bass readily gobble. There are countless ways to fish with them, too. Texas-rigged worms, deep water drop-shots and wacky rigged Senkos are just a few options. Best of all, any worm can be rigged weedless — giving anglers the freedom to fish in the thick cover that big bass love to inhabit.
5. Crankbait. Crankbaits are another versatile lure. Casting countdown Rapalas from a drift boat is one of the best ways to tempt big trout. Bluegill-colored crankbaits like Berkeley’s Pit Bull elicit huge strikes from bass. Trolling with Shad Raps, Wiggle Warts and Hot Shots is a great way to catch walleye, salmon and steelhead. And downsizing to a small Rebel Crayfish or perch-colored crank is a great way to target big panfish. Fishing at the right depth is critical — most crankbaits list a dive depth on the box or the lure itself.