Fishing Plugs Defined & Explained

Ever wondered just what is meant by “fishing plugs”? These lures are the ones that closely resemble a crayfish or bait fish, are made of wood or plastic, and come in many different types and styles. There are two basic classifications of fishing plugs, and those are topwater plugs and subsurface plugs. Both can be excellent for fishing (although I tend to lean toward subsurface plugs), depending on conditions like weather, water temperature, current, water depth, and submerged vegetation.

Topwater Plugs

Within the topwater plug family, you’ll have a selection of popping lures, propellers, crawlers, frogs, stickbaits, and topwater spoons. A popper has a concave depression right at the eye (where the line attaches) of the lure. These lures are best when used with a jerk retrieve. This will create a “pop” or “gurgle” on the top of the water, summoning fish to come and get it.

Propellers are pretty self explanatory, they have one or more propellers attached at the front and/or back ends of the plug. When fishing these lures, use a steady or short stint retrieve, giving the lure the opportunity to cut the water with its blades, attracting nearby fish.

Topwater crawlers are plugs that have a large metal lip or arms in the front, and are designed to wobble violently on top of the water. The sound that these lures make often resembles a gurgle.

Artificial frogs are generally made of soft plastic and include a weedless style setup. Because of the soft plastic, the legs of the frog with shake and dance as you retrieve this lure.

Stickbaits are nearly the same as propellers, but without the propellers. They are basically a straight topwater plug. In order to attract the fish with this type of plug, you’ll need to twitch or jerk your retrieve, perhaps with some stops and starts, in order to create action that will draw a fish.

Topwater spoons are made of metal, and are designed to shake and move through the water, all the while reflecting light, and disturbing the water’s surface. This double action of light and sound can draw the fish in.

Subsurface Plugs

These lures come in three basic styles, minnow plugs, vibrating plugs and crankbaits. Minnow plugs have a long, thing body and resemble small (sometimes large) minnow bait fish. They’ll usually have 2 or 3 treble hooks and small lip, and dive anywhere from 1 to 6 feet down. Many will be naturally colored, although their is a myriad of available color options.

The best example of a vibrating plug that I can think of is the Rattle Trap. This is thin plug, that has less violent wobble that generates sound waves in the water. Fish can pick up on the sound waves, thus these baits can be a good alternative when fishing murky water. The Rattle Trap also comes with rattles, creating additional sound to entice the fish.

And finally, we come to crankbaits. My personal favorite in the plug family, these baits are generally short, stocky plugs with a sizeable lip, allowing them to dive anywhere from 1 to 20 feet. They offer a hard wobble, and sometimes have rattles to offer additional sound. Suspending crankbaits offer the angler the chance to do a start and stop retrieve, offer fish a look at a bait that is getting spooked, and a good target for them to feed on.

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