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Fishing With Lures

“I want to try to catch fish with lures!”

We’ve had quite an active fishing season on bluefish, shad, and
stripers so far this year. Sea trout are just starting to bite. All these
fish will bite on bait during the day, but they will also readily take
lures. Lures are especially good to use at night.

“What makes lures work so well at night?”

Little baitfish such as shiners, smelts and bunkers are
attracted to the bright lights on places like the Rt. 50 and the Oceanic
Pier. Bigger predator fish see these baitfish and swim close to the surface
to feed on them. Throwing a lure that looks and swims like the baitfish that
are in the water is the ticket for fishing success.

“Do lures work during the day?”

During the daytime, the Ocean City Inlet and the Indian River
Inlet are good places to use lures because the baitfish tend to come up to
the surface, even during the daytime in the turbulent swirling water.
Anywhere the water is churning or swirling is a good place to try a lure. A
keen eye is the ticket to daytime lure fishing. Always be on the lookout for
diving sea gulls or splashing fish. This means the fish are feeding and that
the baitfish are jumping out of the water to try to get away from them. In
turn, the sea gulls dive down and feed on the baitfish. Remember, sea gulls
aren’t feeding on the big fish you see splashing, they are feeding on the
baitfish that the big fish have running towards the surface!

“What kind of lures should I use for what?”

A lot depends on where you are fishing and what fish you are
targeting. If you are fishing the inlets or Oceanic Pier for snapper blues
and shad, your best bet is Spec Rigs (a tandem shad rig made by Bett’s) and
Got-cha Plugs. Shad run with the blues and actually look similar in color to
the blues. The shad do not have teeth, while the blues, of course, do. In
Maryland, you have to release the shad, but they are still a lot of fun to

Usually shad are mixed in with the blues and trout. They like
smaller lures such as the one-eighth ounce spec rigs, small spoons, and the
smaller of the Got-cha Plugs. Both the shad and the blues like lures that
are silver in color. The chrome colored Got-cha plugs work well for both.
Some anglers say the shad also prefers chartreuse colored lures. The
chartreuse colored spec rigs and Got-cha Plugs will also work for the trout
and blues. Trout in the early season are not large, so keep your lures on
the smaller side.

Bluefish are not generally picky and will take almost any kind
of lure. Spec Rigs, Got-cha Plugs, Spoons, Hopkin’s Lures, Stingsilvers,
Rattletraps, bucktails with plastic curltail grubs attached will all work.
The size of the lure depends a lot on the size of the bluefish. If the blues
are running in the 10-15 inch size range, keep your lures on the small side.
Use Spec rigs, 7/8 oz. Got-cha Plugs, and half-ounce bucktails. (These are
also good for trout, as they do not run large in the spring) If there’s
some 3-6 pounder blues in the mix, throw the larger lures. Try ¾ ounce to 1
oz. Bucktails, 1-¼ ounce spec rigs, and 1 ½ to 2-ounce spoons or Hopkin’s

Some people get excited and just start throwing and reeling in
lures as soon as they hit the water. You’ll get better results if you cast
the lure up-stream, wait 10 seconds or so until it sinks and let it move
with the tide. When it passes you start jigging it back in. All lures work
differently, and it is always best to keep the package of the lure so you
can refer to it. For example, Got-cha Plugs say right on the package to
work the lure with short, sharp jerks of the rod tip. Always use the tide
to your advantage and let the current take your lure with it. You want the
lure to be moving just like a baitfish, and baitfish move with the current,
not against it. Concentrate when lure fishing, and think “fish!” Fish are
facing into the current so you want the lure to imitate a baitfish that is
moving with the current and passing right by the fish you want to catch.
Most fish aren’t just sitting there looking up, waiting for a lure to skip
across the surface; they are moving with the current, or swimming just to
stay in place, looking straight into the current. Thus, if the lure is
thrown somewhere in front of the fish, then falls downward and with the
current, it will look natural AND the fish will see it.

“How about stripers?”

A keeper striper at 28-inches is a pretty big fish, around 6-7
or even 8 pounds. The smaller throwback stripers will take small lures, but
if you are targeting keeper stripers, use a larger lure. Swimming shad lures
have become very popular for stripers. They work at the inlets, on the Route
50 Bridge, or from a boat. They are very versatile and pretty much make
their own action. They come in a variety of brands such as Calcutta,
Tsunami, Chesapeake and Storm. They also come in a variety of colors. The
mullet, bunker, golden bunker, or golden mullet are always good colors. In
the Chesapeake Brand, the Golden Dot and Spotted Shad are popular. At
certain times white will work and occasionally pink becomes hot. BUT, you
can never go wrong with a mullet or bunker type color. (Rule of thumb is:
dark stained water- dark colors; clear, clean water- light colors.)

Swimming shad lures come in different lengths as well. Use the
larger heavier 6-inch shads in the spring and fall when the stripers are
running the largest and the baitfish are larger. In the summer, go with the
4 and 5-inch sizes. When fishing from the Route 50 Bridge, or casting
anywhere you want to get down closer to the bottom fast, tie the 4 and
5-inch Swimming Shads into a “tandem rig.” Use a fairly sturdy 3-way swivel
in the #1/0 to #2/0 size range and tie one shad on the swivel about 12 to 18
inches long and the other shad about 20 to 30 inches long. This gives you
smaller baits but gives you the advantage of more weight to get you down
fast. This can be important, especially on the Route 50 Bridge where lots of
big stripers are caught. (Lots of anglers make their tandem rigs out of
Fin-S Fish soft bodies and ½ to 1 ½ ounce lead heads.)

(Most of the big stripers around the Route 50 Bridge are caught
near the pilings. Anglers cast against the tide and let the lure fall back
towards the Bridge Pilings. Or they cast diagonally and let the lure work
back towards and along the Pilings. You’ll get hung up some for sure, but
you’ll catch fish as well.)

What other lures for are good for stripers? A bucktail jig with
a plastic worm or curltail grub is the old tried and true lure. It
especially works especially well at the inlets. Any kind of diving plug
works well, though this can get expensive when throwing around the pilings
and inlet rocks. Long A Bombers and Rebel Windcheaters are examples.
(Windcheaters and MirrOlures are great in the surf.) Anglers also use the
larger Got-cha Plugs in the 2-ounce range.

“Do I put on a steel leader or a swivel?”

You want your lure to look as natural as possible. Putting on a
swivel directly to the eye of a lure will just ruin the action. Most lures
you want to tie directly to your line. If you have to use a swivel use a
strong but small black swivel. The only lure you would want a swivel on is
a spec rig. The spec rig is a tandem shad dart rig. You attach the swivel
to the loop of the leader. Thus the swivel is not right next to the head of
the lure but further up the line.

“I use Power Pro.”

If you use Power Pro or other spectra type lines that may be
abrasive in the rocks I would suggest learning the uni-knot to tie two lines
together. I always tie a three or four foot piece of Fluorocarbon leader
directly into my Power-Pro with the uni-knot. (Thus, no swivels to scare off
the fish) and then tie the lure directly into the Fluorocarbon leader.
Fluorocarbon leader is invisible in the water, making for the best
presentation possible. The clearer the water and the spookier the fish, the
more important this is.

Steel leaders? I hate them. I’d rather lose a few lures than
ruin the action with the steel leader. If you are only catching bluefish,
and don’t care about catching trout or stripers, go ahead and use the steel

“Do I put bait on lures?”

No, it will ruin the action. The lures you might want to use
bait on are spec rigs to also catch flounder, and a bucktail. On a bucktail
you can put on a strip of squid or chunk of peeler crab.

Lures…. They catch fish if you do it right!….

Good fishing….