A Beginners Guide: Fishing Lures and Great Locations

A Beginners Guide: Fishing Lures and Great Locations

There are many types of live, cut, and artificial baits used around the world in the pursuit of locally sourced, freshwater, cold-water, and warm-water fish species. Live bait for instance includes the likes of leeches, worms, wax worms, and maggots to name a few. Cut bait, at one point was alive, and is typically larger, such as herring, sardines or shad. Other artificial baits include hardbaits, soft plastics, lead jig heads, buzzbaits, and flys. There is no other lure however, more versatile and ubiquitous among fishing novices and experts alike than the fishing spoon.

Today we’ll be discussing the ultimate, universal fishing lure. The Spoon. This artificial bait is designed to be used and reused time and again. Nickel-plated and polished brass lures can be chariot-ed through the water for countless hours and inadvertently beat against rocks in an effort to either chuck and wind with your baitcaster or spinning reel; lopped in a river and fluttered under logjams; jigged while at anchor or drifting; or trolled along lake contours for beautiful, tasty, aquatically foraged for meals.

Now that we’ve decided on the best category of lure, to that end we would like to discuss four global elements of fishing and how they pertain to lure selection. 

  • Fishing Application:
  • Species of Fish:
  • Fishing Location:
  • Lure Size (Length in inches):

  • ________________________________________________________________

    Fishing Applications. A fishing application is a technique used by anglers to attract predatory gamefish. Although there are many application techniques we’re going to be discussing the three of the most popular: These include jigging, casting, and trolling.


    Jigging techniques are done off a pier or boat at anchor or while drifting. The reel’s bail is opened and the lure is lowered to a depth where either you have a hunch fish might be or where your fishing electronics indicate fish are suspended. With the bail of the reel then closed, the tip of the rod is raised and lowered at varying rhythms and at different cadences.When you feel a strike you raise the rod tip abruptly and start winding to set the hook and take up any slack in the line. Slack, or a straight rod tip allows the fish latitude to throw the hook and escape.


    Casting techniques can be accomplished from almost anywhere there is water. A riverbank, a dock on an old pond, a lighthouse boardwalk, from a motorless boat, kayak, canoe, or 100k bass boat. What’s more, unlike both jigging and trolling, you can practice casting in your backyard with hookless lures. There are two primary types of casting reels, spinning and baitcasting.

    Baitcasting reels take more practice to master in both adjusting the drag settings and figuring out how much tension to apply with your thumb while simultaneously casting your lure. There’s an art and finesse to using a baitcasting reel, but proponents would argue they are more accurate and you can pinpoint your lure placement, which is especially useful where there is vegetation since lures are great at getting caught up in tree branches and organic debris.

    Spin casting reels are more intuitive in the sense that you open the bail, place your index or middle finger around the line and sandwich it between the rod. When you cast, you cast and simultaneously release the line from between your finger and the rod. Just like the baitcasting reel once you start to wind the handle the bail closes on the reel, thus setting the drag in preparation for hooking a fish.


    Trolling techniques, best suited for larger, relatively open bodies of water, are accomplished in a variety of ways. All of which involve slowly motoring in a specified direction with your lure or lures in tow. Hand-lining might very well be the original trolling technique; outrigger trolling is much more involved and employs the use of polls and pulleys; many saltwater pros use metal weighted planers that run submerged (referred to as planers, but bear more resemblance to freshwater dipsy divers which are also weighted and submerged); and then there’s freshwater trolling that involves one of three tried and true methods.

    Freshwater trolling can be accomplished by either holding the rod and releasing the line out behind the boat; Rods placed in a gimbal mount or individual rod holders with multiple lines directly behind the boat; or planer board trolling which uses buoyant, surface boards (as in boards that ride along the top of the water) with small weights on the bottom to keep them upright and allow the spread of multiple lines out and away from your port and starboard sides and around your wake. Lures are let out 20-100 feet behind the boat before being attached to a pin and clip on the planer board and the planer board is then let out another 40-200 feet. The fleet of boards should run in unison with each other. When a board lurches towards the center of the stern this is an indication there’s a fish on. Commence reeling and when the planer board reaches the back of the boat a second person should release the board while the individual handling the rod and reel keeps the rod at 10 o’clock and tension on the line by consistently and smoothly reeling and taking up any slack.


    Species of Fish:

    Below you will find a list of some of the more popular fish to catch that are found in the Great Lakes Region. Each State sets their own daily harvest limits and seasons (open and close dates) when species can be targeted so remember to check with the DNR guidelines in your state first.

    Before we dive into each species individually it’s important to have a couple terms committed to your vocabulary. Freshwater and Saltwater. These, self descriptive terms, are pretty straight forward. Saltwater being offshore fishing and anything directly relevant to the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Freshwater being everything else, including the Great Lakes. Coldwater, Coolwater, and Warm Water species are a few more relevant terms in use. A coldwater fish species is any aquatic vertebrae that prefers water temperatures typically below 68 degrees fahrenheit (or 20 degrees celsius). Coolwater species can flourish in most temperatures, preferring temps between 70-80 degrees. Warm water species, on the other hand, are more tolerant of temperatures above 70, and even above 80 degrees.

    • Bass
    • Cisco
    • Brown Trout
    • Lake Trout
    • Musky
    • Pike
    • Salmon
    • Steelhead
    • Walleye


    Common types of bass are Smallmouth (Smallies), Largemouth, and White bass (aka Silver bass). They are a warm water species that live in freshwater. Bass are voracious feeders which is why you can catch them all day and all night long. Bass are opportunists which not only means they will strike about anything you throw at them, but they put up a good fight as well.


    Brown Trout (aka Browns)

    If a two (2) year old Brown trout looks almost indistinguishable from an Atlantic Salmon it's no mystery that they come from the same subspecies family. Browns are a coldwater species that are far more tolerant of warmer waters than their competition (Brook and Rainbow trout). This means this somewhat elusive species of trout can not only be found in rivers and streams, but found lurking the shallows of the Great Lakes every spring when the ice is first out.



    If you fancy the Resort towns of Northwest Michigan as much as we do, then Cisco is the choice local white fish for you. Outmatched only by the size of Lake Trout taken in the Leelanau peninsula, Cisco in and around the East and West Bays of Grand Traverse are delicious. It makes sense why. The waters these fish maturate in are so clear and picturesque they could be mistaken for tropical water of the Bahamas if not for their lack of saline


    Lake Trout (aka Lakers)

    Lake trout are another type of coldwater species. In fact, Lakers prefer very cold waters. As bottom dwellers they feed along lake beds and deep shelf contours. Lake trout aren’t jumpers, when hooked they prefer to stay deep so if you’re trolling don’t put the engine in neutral, keep your speed to avoid the line getting tangled in the propeller.


    Musky (aka Muskie)

    Musky are cooler water fish and among the largest freshwater fish in North America. Known as the fish of 1,000 casts you’ll need to put in your time to harvest one of these trophies. Like Pickerel, Musky are in the Pike family. When a Musky breeds with a pike the offspring is the chameleon colored Tiger Musky. Many anglers will troll right in the propwash of their boat and find success with large, dark or perch colored lures.


    Pike (aka Water Wolf)

    Pike are also Cooler water fish. Like Bass, Pike are all-day foragers. You can therefore fish for pike during any time of the day. Similar to Musky, if you locate the baitfish you are bound to locate your target species when fishing for Pike. If all else fails, find the cabbage (i.e. seaweed) along a significant contour drop and you’re bound to be onto lurking water wolves.



    Salmon are another coldwater species. They grow rapidly, run the rivers the fall of their third year and die after spawning the next generation. Salmon are one of few species that can navigate both fresh and saltwater territories. Reaching lengths of over 40inches and weights of 30-40lbs they are a popular sportfishing species.


    Steelhead (aka Rainbow Trout)

    Steelhead are a majestic coldwater species. They spend the first few years of their existence in rivers, streams, and tributaries before making their way downstream to larger bodies of water. Early in their life they wear rainbow markings down their sides, but once they reach open water they morph into silver bullets.Known for their ability to leap into the air, when you hook a Steelhead chances are you’ll know it when you witness them take flight.



    Walleye are a cooler water species whose behaviours are pretty unique. Similar to Salmon they feed mostly early morning and late evening. Like Steelhead they have annual migration patterns and run the rivers in the spring to produce fry offspring in places more conducive for their survival. Walleye is a popular whitefish for consumption and second only to Bass for popularity within fishing specialists.


    Fishing Locations:

    Where there’s water, there’s fish. More often than not this is true. For a species with over 450 million years of experience it’s not a stretch to conclude that they are the world’s greatest survivalists.With some exceptions, generally speaking there are techniques better situated to be performed at different fishing locales. Below is a synopsis of what works and where.

    • Inland Lakes and Ponds

    From shore you’re going to be casting. This means using a spoon with a little more weight to it. It doesn’t need to be large necessarily, but the gauge of the metal used to form the lure will be thicker than a trolling spoon. A spoon with a thickness in inches of +/-.045 does nicely.

    From a boat, float, canoe, or kayak chances are you’ll be casting or jigging. The same casting rules would apply as from shore. Jigging, on the other hand, you have the option of using lighter spoons within your arsenal.

    • Great Lakes and Large Bodies of Water

    On the Great Lakes, Large Straights, and on Big Bodies of water is where trolling spoons do the heavy lifting. Trolling spoons are made from lighter gauge metals with a range between .016 and .025 inches thick. The lighter material along with the cupped design allows these spoons to be trolled at speed without ‘spinning out.’

    Trolling spoons are able to maintain the erratic flutter action they’re known for while being taxied around and when combined with planer boards, downriggers, and dipsy divers with the ability to run 15 to 18 lines simultaneously, offer a deadly combo.

    • Pier Heads, Rivers and Streams

    From pier heads you’ll be using casting techniques. Oftentimes, depending on your target species, you’ll be using heavier gauge, smaller spoons.

    In rivers and streams it’s much the same as from pier heads. Smaller profile lures seem work best. The exception to the rule is where a river or stream meets a backwater or river mouth. In those situations you’ll probably want to employ the use of a larger, heavier Chatter-style Bass spoon.


    Lure Sizes:

    Lure size, when matched with technique and the right fishing location can make a world of difference on your catch rates. Below is a very cut and dry way of looking at what is an appropriate lure size depending on the fish species you’re after.

    Whether this beginners guide to fishing lures and locations has helped you catch just one more fish, or helped to completely reshape how you think about and approach the sport of fishing, then we have been successful in putting proverbial ink to paper.


    Happy fish and Tight lines. Welcome to the Evolution,

    Article written by Mike (Fish Mitts) Hiller

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