Five Great Artificial Baits
Heddon One Knocker Spook, 4½-inch, ¾-ounce, $9.49
This is my all-time favorite year-round lure, although it proves particularly effective this time of year when thrown at first light or just before sunset. This is a good artificial bait to toss when you are looking for fish because you can cover a lot of ground. The action is simple — classic "walk the dog." Use it around schools of mullet, mangrove islands and oyster bards. A common beginners mistake is stopping the action after the lure gets hit. Keep moving the lure until you feel some resistance. Setting the hook too early will cost you fish.
Storm Wild Eye Swim Shad, 3-inch, ¼-ounce, $4.79
It doesn't matter if you are walking the beach for snook or fishing your local spillway after your typical afternoon thunderstorm, the swim shad will trigger a bit. This user-friendly lure is easy to master. Just cast and reel, cast and reel, until you feel a strike. Some of the more popular colors locally are pearl, olive shad, baby bass and chartreuse. This is my go-to lure in a variety of situations.
D.O.A. BaitBuster, 1-ounce trolling model, $5.39
A great life-like swim bait that is easy to use. This artificial, ideal for kids and those new to fishing, also comes in a "shallow runner" model. But we picked the trolling model because it is ideal for snook in the passes and tarpon off the beaches during summer. Come fall, the shallow runner will be equally effective on the flats for tailing reds and gator trout. Whether you are bouncing the bait buster off the bottom or swimming it through the water column, this lure is a sure bet for monster fish.
MirrOlure 17MR 49 "MirroDine" Suspending Twitchbait, 2 5/8-inch, 3/8-ounce, $8.99
Anywhere, anytime, the should-be the motto for the MirroDine, a good choice for the angler who needs one lure to do it all. This suspending twitchbait will hang in the water column down to a depth of 3 feet. An ideal summer lure that will take you from the flats to the beach, the No. 49 looks just like a pilchard. These lures really take a beating — I have several in my arsenal and you should too.
Johnson Silver Minnow, ¼-ounce, $4.89
The Johnson gold spoon has always been a fan favorite when it comes to redfish. In fact, if you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one artificial lure to suit all of your needs, the Johnson spoon would be the top choice of many anglers. The two most popular weights are 1/8-ounce and ¼-ounce. A common mistake many anglers make when working this artificial is reeling too fast. A slow, steady retrieve will force the spoon to sway back and forth like a fish. But reel too fast and the spoon will spin and leave your line a twisted mess.
Terry Tomalin, James Takas, David Bayes, Colton Rice