It’s surprising just how many types of fishing lures can be handmade from wood. The hard bait family of lures is very diverse, but many of the basic processes are the same no matter which style of lure you are making. Of course, some styles are a little tricky to make (or fish with) – others are a snap!
One of the first challenges is understanding the naming. Many lures have different names depending on where on the planet you happen to live, which can make things very confusing even for experienced lure makers.
So this article will take you through all of the types of fishing lures that fall into the “hard bait” category. We’ll talk about each of them in turn and give a few tips for making then from wood as well as how to fish with each of them.
Types Of Fishing Lures In The “Hard Bait Family”
Hard baits are those that have a body of wood or plastic, usually resembling a fish or other food item. It’s a big group of lures, covering everything from micro freshwater to over-sized saltwater models.
So let’s break it down.
Group 1: “Lipped Lures” (aka, Crankbaits, Bibbed Lures, Diving Lures)
Almost half of the hard bodied lure varieties fall into the “Lipped Lures” group. Identifying this group is simple: look for a piece of metal or plastic that protrudes from under the front of the lure. This is the diving lip (aka “lure bib“), and always emerges from the lure body on the underside near the head. With hard baits, the only other types of fishing lures that have metal or plastic fittings are propbaits and crawlers. They’re readily distinguished from the lipped crankbaits, as we’ll discuss later.
Group 1a: Plugs
Plugs are usually separated from other types of crankbaits by the body shape. Relatively stout, stocky body shapes define plugs, but they’re not always easy to pick from related styles. In many parts of the globe the term “plug” refers to all crankbaits, irrespective of body shape.
The stocky body shape of wooden plugs often gives them a strong, wide, side to side action. This creates a very distinctive pulsating vibration……. thud, thud, thud! Plugs are great when fishing in low light and dirty water because this vibration makes them easy for fish to find. They’re perfect when fish are feeding on chunky food items like craws, juvenile carp and so on.
Plugs are mostly freshwater lures and can be large or small, deep or shallow diving. Wooden plugs without rattles are (incorrectly) termed “silent”. But many have rattles installed for extra noise and vibration.
The square-bill crankbait and the wakebait are a couple of examples of plugs designed for specific fishing scenarios. Square-bills have the reputation of being highly snag resistant, though I’d argue they’re not always the best option for fishing snags. Find Out Why Here
As the name suggests, the design of a wakebait causes it to run just under the surface film. This creates a surface disturbance in the form of a large wake that fish can home in on. Perfect for prospecting shallow flats!
Group 1b: Minnows And Shads
Among the best known and most familiar types of fishing lures are the diving minnows and shads. Minnows are long and slender, shads are a little deeper in the belly and often a little flatter on the sides.
Like the plugs, these lures can be shallow or deep running and can range in size from micro lures of an inch long to offshore giants of 12 inches or more. Their action varies tremendously depending on the configuration of the diving lip, tow point and body shape. There are 5 different types of minnow/shad style crankbaits:
- Brokebacks (also called jointed or articulated crankbaits). The presence of both a jointed body and a diving lip make this group easy to recognize. Swimbaits are the other jointed lure, but lack a diving lip. Brokebacks tend to have more action than a single piece lure body. This allows them to be worked more slowly and kept “in the zone” longer. The negative is poor casting – broke back crankbaits are notorious for poor castability.
- Diving crankbaits. This is kind of a catch-all term that includes both minnow and shad-shaped floating lures that dive and wiggle when retrieved.
- Flat-sided crankbaits are deep bodies lures usually made of cedar or balsa. They have a tight, stable action and as a result of the flat sides they pump out a strong vibration and plenty of flash, making them awesome reaction lures. They’re generally silent and mostly used in freshwater fishing, especially where shad or herring are common bait species.
- Countdown (sinking) minnows. Of all of the types of fishing lures we’ll cover today, these are the most underused, in my opinion. As the name suggests, countdown lures are weighted so that they sink when they are not being retrieved. If you know the sink rate, this allows you to count them down until they are close to the bottom and start retrieving just before they touch down.
- Jerkbaits. One of the most challenging lures to master, but also one of the most productive and deadly wooden lures you’ll find anywhere. Jerkbaits are usually weighted to suspend when you stop retrieving, so a following fish will often collide with the lure, striking almost involuntarily. Slashbaits and Ripbaits are variations on the jerkbait theme. Find out more about jerkbaits HERE.
Group 2: Types Of Fishing Lures That Don’t Have Diving Lips
Group 2a: Lipless Crankbaits
Lipless crankbaits are one of the most versatile and powerful fish attractors around. Best of all, they’ll often take fish when other styles of hard bodied lures fail to turn a scale. There are two main types:
- Silent lipless crankbaits are relatively rare, which is a real shame. Very few wooden lure makers know how to make a lipless crankbait, and almost zero commercial lure makers produce silent lipless lures. If that’s not a huge incentive to start making your own, I don’t know what is!
- Rattlebaits. These are common in the tackle stores, with most major brands having at least one or two lipless rattlebaits in their range. But again, it’s a huge opportunity for the wooden lure maker! Wooden rattlebaits have a different and unique sound that fish are suckers for – and almost nobody that I know makes them.
The majority of lipless crankbaits are sinking lures, cast like a bullet and create a massive vibration without feeling like you’re dragging a brick through the water. The sides are often flat, giving great flash. They can be made in micro to giant sizes and are a “must-have” in every tacklebox.
Group 2b: Swimbaits
Swimbaits are multi-jointed (at least 3 body segments) lures that don’t have a diving lip. Lures with diving lips fit better with jointed crankbaits than swimbaits.
Well made swimbaits have an amazing, lifelike action. I read somewhere that it’s kind of like a flag waving, which isn’t a bad description. Like many bait species, the head of a moving swimbait doesn’t move much, but the tail wriggles very enticingly behind it. The key to fishing these lures is to work them slowly and keep them in the zone as long as possible.
These lures can be floating, but are more commonly slow sinking. The action of swimbaits is caused by the proper placement of internal weights and the flexibility created by the 2 or more body segments.
Group 2c: Lipless Jerkbaits
Lipless jerkbaits are one of the most common and popular types of fishing lures. They may look simple compared to other styles, but they are anything but. With no diving lip or other appendages to create an action, they a bit of skill to fish well. These lures are dynamite when you know how to use them!
This group of lures often gets confused with the lipped jerkbaits, and in many ways they are similar. The fishing techniques for both require lots of rod tip and plenty of pauses. They also tend to get confused with the closely related stickbait. The main difference is that the stickbait is a floating (topwater) lure, while lipless jerkbaits are fished beneath the surface.
Slow sinking or suspending lipless jerkbaits are very deadly when worked slowly. Faster sinking styles can be fished deeper and require a little more rod action to get them working. More About Jerkbait Types Here.
Group 2d: Wooden Topwater Lures
Also called “surface lures”, the name says it all! There are many types of fishing lures within this group – and they have many applications in fresh and salt water. Weighting is almost always important when making topwater lures. The amount and location determining the attitude of the lure in the water and the manner in which it can be fished.
- Popper lures are recognizable by their square or cupped face with the tow point located somewhere within it. They are often cylindrical, lathe turned lures, but not always. I personally prefer hand shaped lures that have more lifelike body shapes and extra action. There are a few different types:
- Chuggers (also called “Bloopers”) tend to have a cupped mouth. A slow, jerky retrieve is typical and throws a splash forward each time the lure is moved. But in saltwater fishing they can also be used at high speed to create a splashy bubble trail. Weighted around the belly or slightly towards the tail, the face of these lures is presented to the oncoming water for high speed work.
- Skipping poppers (aka “casting poppers”) are usually tail-weighted with a small, flat face. Long casts and high speed retrieves are possible for targeting speedy saltwater pelagics.
- Goose-neck poppers have relatively long and slender bodies with oversized heads and cup shaped mouthes. There are some small versions around for targeting aggressive freshwater species, but most are designed for large saltwater predators.
- Stickbaits are relatively simple floating lures. They can be anything from lathe turned, cigar shaped lures to fish shaped styles. Stickbaits that are tail weighted for casting are then worked back to the angler with a side to side “walk the dog” retrieve. Or, they can be cranked at high speed or gently twitched on the surface or in the surface film. “Walk the dog” lures are a kind of stickbait subset, usually shaped like an inverted banana and tail weighted to create an enticing zig zag surface action.
- Walkers (aka “crawlers”) are topwater lures that have some kind of appendages that make them waddle from side to side across the water surface in a series of gentle and subtle pops. These are mostly freshwater lures and are best retrieved slowly to tempt surface feeding species.
- Propbaits (aka “fizzers”) have one or more small plastic or metal propellers at the front or back of the lure to create surface disturbance. They can be worked quite quickly, although it’s often best to work them in slow, gentle jerks with decent pauses. Again, these are largely a freshwater lure
Other Types Of Fishing Lures
No doubt there are many other types of fishing lures that I haven’t mentioned here. But usually if you look closely they’ll fit under one of the above categories. I think too many lure makers and lure companies like to over complicate things by creating fancy new names for minor variations on existing lure styles.
And of course, at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter too much what a lure gets called or which group it fits best. All that matters is how you use it and whether it catches fish!