In this page I begin with a few simple recommendations. Then I break down every bass lure category and highlight some top picks. Then I aim to provide more context on when and why each lure works.
I’ve noticed that new anglers will often go for lures that are unlikely to work well for UK bass fishing.
If you want top performance, finding reasonably priced lures is hard. Some people make their own imitations of top of the range lures, which is a great solution if you have the time.
For affordable bass lures, check out these. They aren’t as good as the originals and do not perform in an identical way, but they are very good for the price. For example, here’s a classic high end surface lure and here’s the alternative I recommend.
This page contains product recommendations to Amazon from which I earn commission.
Three Bass Lures that Cover Every Scenario
The best deals on bass lures are invariably online. These three options will cover every bass scenario you find yourself in out there.
If I could only carry three lures for the rest of my life, it would be a good weedless paddle tail, a dexter wedge and surface lure for bass fishing. The weedless paddle tail covers you for rough ground and estuary fishing. The wedge can be cast a long way even in the wind and is a classic (and cheap) staple. The surface lure can be fished over the shallowest roughest ground, and is the most fun way to fish in mid to late summer. This is very simple fishing, and it covers all your bases. But we aren’t stopping with the staples…
BEST BASS SPINNERS
‘Spinners’ or ‘metals’ are simply lures that are made from metal. The word is sometimes used interchangably with ‘spin rig’. The classic metal is a dexter wedge. These lures cast better than anything else and since they provide their own weight and are very easy to get fishing with. For this reason, newbies and experienced anglers often reach to metals for their ease of use.
Metal lures allow you to fish a lot of ground because they cast so far, and by adjusting your retrieving speed you can determine the depth you fish. This means you can fish a few inches deep over very shallow rough ground if you wish, or easily plump the depths. Contrast that with plugs, which you need to switch out every time you want to change your lures depth.
The Classic Dexter Wedge
This lure has been around for a long time. Bass hit them. Mackerel hit them. They are best used over clean or at least mostly clean ground, since their trebel hooks dangle below the lure and are therefore somewhat prone to snagging. The smaller the hooks, the more likely you are to get out of a snag.
You don’t see a huge number of bass anglers raving about this lure today, but it is a staple everybody has in their tackle box as it’s earned its place over decades.
Modern Casting Jigs
Modern casting jigs are designed of course for jigging, which is the practice of dangling a line directly down the side of a boat and allowing the metal lure to shimmer and spin down the water column, falling vertically below the boat, before lifing your rod and reeling some more before allowing it to fall once again.
The lure is now used for a much wider range of purposes and is perfect for mackerel fishing. If you’re after bass, you will be using larger lures than are best for mackerel.
Needles are essentially still just casting jigs but the emphasis in the design is on minimising water resistence. These lures are long and thin, cast further than anything else, flutter down the water column as they fall and create very little weight on your rod tip as you reel them in. This allows you to fish right up to your rods maximum casting weight (or possible even a bit over it) since they won’t create as much drag in the water.
Pencil lures are essentially the same as needles, except they may not be made from metal and usually have some level float inside them. This means they cast well because they are reasonably weighty, but they don’t sink too quickly and may even hover in a current and hardly reach the seabed at all.
View Pencil lure here.
Sometimes referred to simply as a ‘toby’, they are classic spinners that have a more elongated body than a mepps spinner, and are almost always silver in colour. They were designed by Abu Garcia for trout fishing in Scandanavia to imitate the Tobis fish – a little slender minnow*.* Due to the larger flat surface on a toby spoon compared to other metal lures, they fall more slowly in the water and create a lot of movement. This is a classic lure often used by anglers seeking to stick to their roots. The first spoon was developed in the late 17th century, also in Scandanavia. They were different from other lures in that they didn’t really look like fish – and yet were still highly effective. Despite being proven over literally 400+ years, I do not use them. Modern casting jigs are best for my fishing style, but many love the toby spoon.
There are no good deals on toby spoons online, so pick them up from your local tackle shop.
Mepps is the old school angling company from the USA that helped popularised the spinner. The Mepps Aglia spinner has been wildly popular and successful for decades for all kinds of sea fish including bass, despite being developed originally for trout fishing. They are used the world over, based on the assumption that if a predatory sees something flashing, spinning and creating a lot of movement, they’re going to hit it. That theory seems to have worked pretty well, but I would argue some modern lures are much better for bass fishing in the UK, particularly for larger, wiser fish that often prefer a better presentation.
If you buy a Mepps spinner, I’d recommend choosing one that provides enough weight that it can be used without adding additional weight.
The 50g version is available here for traditional bass anglers.
There are two main types of surface lure that are popular for sea bass fishing in the UK – poppers and walk-the-dog style lures. The difference is that poppers have concave faces that are designed to spit water as you bring them back in. Walkers are designed to be twitched back in left to right using the rod tip to create a zig zap motion across the waters surface. Both work. Often, poppers are shorter and walk-the-dog style lures are often elongated and therefore more appropriate for our bass fishing purposes (since most bait fish in the UK are relatively long and thin rather than rounded and fat).
Pachenko Surface Lure
The Pachenko is undoubtably the UK’s best surface lure and has been for years. I’ve been recommending it for years and still do today. It combines the best of popper with the best of a wal-the-dog style lure. It does everything all in one killer lure (to rule them all).
Get out there with one of these over shallow rough ground, particularly in the summer months when the water is warmer. If you haven’t fished with a surface lure before, this will change your angling forever.
Savage Gear Lures: The Sandeel Surf Walker
If you’re looking for a surface lure that allows you to cover more ground than the Pachenko, then the Savage gear Sandeel surf walker is the best surface lure for you. This is a walk-the-dog style lure that is designed for fishing in surf (just behind the waves where the bass lurk).
Savage gear sandeel surf walker – avaialble here.
Tackle House Feed Shallow Diver
A legendary shallow diving bass lure is the Tackle House Feed Shallow. It has gained a reputation as one of the most reliable and high performing bass lures out there. They usually set you back a similar amount to a decent restaurant meal with an expensive pint. Now you can now grab a lure that’s inspired by it for a larger audience here or buy in bulk here for a ridiculous deal.
Lures lke this can be twitched back, retrieved and then paused or simple cast out and given a steady retrieve. Even amoung experienced anglers there is a lot of variation in how people work their lures. I like a steady retrieve with the sporadic pausing.
Daiwa Cotton Candy
The Daiwa shore line shiner cotton candy 97F SSR Vertice is a shallow diving bass lure that dives aout 30cm under the water. It’s proved itself over the roughest, shallowest ground. It’s name is likely to ring a bell if you’ve been bass fishing for a while. You can grab a lure inspired by it that doesn’t set you back so much here.
Duo Tide Minnow
This lure is designed for surf fishing for bass and despite being a shallow diver, allows for a bit more depth control than many other bass plugs. Change your retrieval speed and how long you let the lure hang to alter the depth. A similar product is available on Amazon.
The Ultima Artist Swimmer 105mm Sinking Minnow
This is insane value for money in a deep diving bass lure. Technically it’s a sinking lure rather than a deep diver, so you have depth control rather than merely a lure that swims at a certain deeper depth. This is ideal when fishing over deeper water for bass, particularly if kayak fishing for bass. Not every bass mark has shallow roung ground, and sometimes you need to be able to plumb the depths. This is your lure, and it’s insane value for money. Thank God for the internet. Here it is.
A Note on American Hard Lures: Crank baits, spinner baits, jerk baits – wait what!?
The American bass fishing scene understandable dwarfs the scene we have in the UK. In the UK, fishing is generally more about connecting with your roots and going back to basics. In America they are keen on ‘what’s next’, and there’s a lot of money on the line, with sponsored anglers and branded t-shirts everywhere.
A lot of the crank baits – which are basically short fat plugs – would not be well suited to fishing for sea bass in the UK. How many fish do we see in our waters that are short, fat and have green and yellow stripes?!
Somewhere amoungst the jitterbugs, various top water baits, jointed swimbaits, blade baits, suspended jerkbaits ad infinitum – there will be lures that work magic in our waters too.
As a very general rule if you’re looking for bass lures and are shopping for US style lures, look out for plugs with longer bodies and check how deep them dive. There will be some absolute gems you could discover if you put in the hours. I myself would like to experiment with a popper fly.
Rapala have earned a name world-wide as makers of reliable lures, and one you should check out for applications to your bass fishing is the Rapala X-Rap – aimed specifically at salt water anglers.
Soft plastics are soft lures made from a variety of types of plastic – some that feel like stretchy gum and others a harder kind of plastic with much less movement. These lures are lower cost, particularly when rigged on a simple texas rig with a cone weight and a single weedless hook. More commonly, soft plastics are rigged on jig heads which allows the weight to blend in with the lure itself for superior presentation.
They are deadly for bass fishing whether they be paddle tails or straight tails. I explain below why I’m not so keen on curly tails.
The early soft plastics include designs like the Red Gill, which was invented in Mevagissey, Cornwall in the 1950’s. The lure imitates a sandeel and is made from a hard robust plastic. It has a paddle tail that swims upon retrieval.
A lure like this works. However, changes in soft plastics since then have made significant improvements.
For instance, on the red gill, the hook is always relatively large compared to the size of the lures body, which is thin. This oversized hook relative to the size of the lure body makes for a poor presentation to fish. The hook is too visible and oversized and the profile of the lure is a bit thin, making it somewhat less visible. The lure is a classic and works, but is now dated in its design.
A paddle tail soft plastic developed in more recent decades is the Sidewinder sandeel. This has a fatter body and a more appropriately sized hook for its body. The thickness of this lure compared to an old fashioned Red Gill makes it more visible to fish. The hook is also appropriately sized.
The Sidewinder fish imitation in the Rhubard and Custard (red and yellow) colour is hugely popular when boat fishing for cod. The position of the hook is still suboptimal in my opinion for a lot of shore fishing for bass. This is because the lure is prone to snagging, so is best used over cleaner ground. However, at least the hook point is above the lure and not below it (therefore less prone to snagging), which is a feature the red gill didn’t always have.
Savage Gear Sandeel
An even more recently developed lure is the Savage Gear sandeel. It’s become a modern classic. The main improvements made on a Sidewinder are the hook quality, superior movement and better design for casting and moving through the water. Savage Gear sandeels literally swim like fish in a way older lures simply do not.
The one thing that is superior about the Sidewinder over a Savage gear lure, is that a sidewinder will last a lot longer in the sharp mouths of fish. The soft plastic in many modern lures, including the Savage Gear Sandeel, means that chunks of plastic are easily biten out by fish, which eventually means the lure doesn’t move properly or has its tail bitten off. The main culprits of this problem are members of the cod family or wrasse. Bass are more forgiving on soft lures. This very soft plastic does however allow for better lure movement, so it’s a worthwhile tradeoff for durability. It’s also possible that a softer lure is more realistic in the mouth of a fish, should the fish bite and not be hooked the first time, but I have no evidence to support this.
View the Savage Gear Sandeel
Now, where do we go from a savage gear sandeel?
The Fiiish Minnow of course. It’s a painfully good lure, because it come with a price tag that indicates its makers know its worth to bass fishermen. You can view the Fiish Minnow here.
To show why the Fiiish Minnow has some major advantages to anglers, lets look at everything that can be WRONG with a soft plastic.
How to blank with sp’s
- The hook can be the wrong size for the body of the lure, limiting the lures movement by being too large, or resulting in fewer hook ups by being too small.
- The weight can be too light for the soft plastic, meaning that the lures tail doesn’t move naturally as the lure falls through the water column (on a paddle tail, the tail should wag as the lure falls, not just as its retrieved).
- The weight can be too heavy for the soft plastic, usually through the use of an additional weight. Generally, it’s much better to use lures that provide their own weight for a superior lure presentation (there are exceptions).
- Soft plastics often don’t cast well because they’re so light.
- Lures fished over rough ground get snagged a lot, unless the hook point is hidden with a weedless design. Many predatory fish live in the kelp.
- The colours on a lure can be inappropriate for the day – there is personal preference here, but the trend in British lure fishing for bass has been a movement towards more natural colours and away from America’s extravagantly coloured fresh water bass lures and styles. My personal belief is that pollack appreciate bright and whacky colours and sea bass in the UK are less keen.
- You have to spend time rigging soft plastics on a hook. It’s a small thing, but it does take time to rig a soft plastic correctly. The soft plastic should be rigged so there’s no tightness in the plastic and the hook should sit right in the middle of the lure so that the lure doesn’t swim on its side or move in an unatural way. It sounds easy to get this right but it can be fiddy. Anyone can do it, it just takes a bit of time to rig a soft plastics really well.
- The soft plastic may not be proven to work, so it’s somewhat experimental whether it will work or not. If you’re a hardcore lure angler, experimentation is part of the game, but if you fish a handful of times a year, don’t you want to know that your lures are reliable and working for you?
Now, consider the Fiiish Minnow. This lure always has the right sized hook for the body, it’s easy to rig perfectly, it casts like a dream, it moves in the water so realistically it could fool a human. It rarely gets snagged due to the weedless design, it has hyper realistic colours for a natural presentation. Finally, it’s proven to work on just about any predatory fish, particularly when shore fishing for bass with lures in the UK. It takes seconds to tie one on, and you don’t have to think.
The only flaws of this modern perfection? They burn a hole in your pocket if you fish with them all the time and they are so easy to fish with it can limit your progression and remove some of the enjoyable complexity from lure fishing.
One solution of course, is to use very similar lures that come at a mid-tier price point while delivering all the same value. In the case of the Fiiish Minnow, that means a Momolure pack.
Personally, I think it’s a good idea to use a mixture of higher end lures, mid tier lures and cheaper lures. In my book it’s ok to buy the nicer ones as long as you don’t use them all the time and mix things up.
Popular straight tailed lures
The 5” senko was originally designed for the US market. The word senko means ‘flash’ in Japanese. It was designed to be a twitch bait – a bass lure that is cast out and retrieved with twitching. This works, but it turned out to work best when fished on or near the bottom, with limited movement. This lure is the king of Wrasse lures, and works for bass too.
It’s very simple to use and rig. It works and can be rigged on a standard texas rig, or more experimentally, rigged as a whacky rig with no weight at all. The second of these approaches may be more amusing, particularly when sight fishing for wrasse on a clear day. However, the texas rig is the go-to for the senko.
An extraordinarily popular soft plastic – perhaps one of the best bass lures ever made. The minimalistic design of the dolive stick would have made it seem unrealistic in the past, but today we know better. Rig it weightless with a size 5/0 weedless hook and drift it over the kelp. The lure weighs 12.5g which is far more than most soft plastics (without jig heads). The lure is scented and deadly. The tails can be bitten off by Wrasse but that’s a fairly good problem to have. Dolive sticks have salt in the lure itself so don’t leave them with hooks rigged until you’re going to use it to avoid rust. They are much more affordable bought in multipacks from Amazon but are still very much a high performance lure for serious anglers best used with a very light spinning rod or specialist bass rod. With added weight, they can be used on any rod.
Xlayer / Ultima Stick
This lure’s popularity is in my opinion a mixture of hype and genuine excellence. Let me explain why. It’s been claimed that the ribbed body of the lure creates additional vibrations in the water which help to attract fish. In that vein, it’s also claimed that the internal rattle helps to create noise. I believe the noise makes a difference, particularly for Wrasse – but the ribs? Perhaps it’s made in the same factory they make…
Anyway, the lure has earned its place in the bass lure hall of fame. It works wonders.
USES OF STRAIGHT TAILS
The straight tailed soft plastic is a fairly new invention as far as I’m area. In the past it was thought that the key to attracting fish was to use lures that have big actions and make lots of noise and movement. We all prioritised getting attention, over realistic presentation. It’s since been pointed out by seasoned bass guides and divers, that real bait fish often appear more or less straight in the water, with only subtle tail movements to keep them moving. If you observe a tiny pollack for instance, it will mostly hover over the kelp – motionless – suspended – with only subtle twitches of its tail.
Well, if that’s what the bass are feeding on, it’s no surprise that straight tailed lures that make this more subtle movements are extremely effective for catching sea bass – regardless of the what our American friends are using for their bass.
If you’ve ever been so unlucky as to release a small fish you caught by accident that was a little worse for wear, you may have noticed that it also does very little moving, with only occassional twitches. Sad to see – but this movement is actually what’s going to trigger a bass to strike. Bass and all predators are aiming to get maximum energy for minimum energy expendature. An injured fish – or a twitching straight tailed soft plastic – allows you to imitate a severely screwed bait fish. In winter, when the water is colder and life is less abundant and the metabolisms of bass have slowed down, their feeding behaviour will also slow. They will stop chasing fry all over the place, like a shoal of hungry mackerel, and start behaving wiser, looking not just for food – but for an easy meal.
It’s for the same reason perhaps that bass and other species prefer to hit lures that are falling through the water column, as opposed to being retrieved. Falling lures mean easy meals, moving lures mean energy expendature.
Straight tails can be cast out, left to do nothing but gently twitch in the current on the sea bed, and bass will seek them out and smash them to bits. As I’ve said elsewhere, you’ll find you get a lot of bites when you aren’t concentrating. Often this is because you’re working your lure less, thereby actually making it more appealing to lazy bass.
I like to use curly tails for pollack fishing (and Perch) and that’s it. I don’t use them for bass fishing and don’t find them particularly effective for either wrasse or bass. I believe the curly tail actually freaks out a lot of bass unless they’re really on the feed. The curly tail is also liable to be bitten off completely by wrasse. The tail can also act as a distration from the body of the lure where your hook lies. This isn’t a problem for pollack, which seem to love the way curly tails fall through the water column and engulf the whole lure indisciminately. Curly tails fall with that irrestiable helecopter motion. My preference is for orange or green varieties for pollack.
It’s a personal preference, but not many bass anglers reach for curly tails in the UK.
Soft lures with curly tails used to be very popular – in particular the curly tail worms. These lures have long, wormlike bodies with a curl tail on the end. They were often fished on a texas rig for pollack and wrasse back before the use of soft plastics had really taken off within shore fishing for bass in the UK. These old school lures work well still today, and have been joined by an absurd variety of curly tailed creature baits. If you are partial to classic lures and shun the modern varieties – stick with the curly tail worm baits and you can’t go far wrong. An advantage of the long thin curly tails is that very big fish will take them seriously, where as many less worm-like curly tails are aimed at smaller fish (and have superior hook up rates for the majority of inshore pollack).
Curly tails are found in many pre-made budget tackle box sets online, which were developed for the US market in China but are also sold in the UK. I do not recommend these, except for fresh water fishing.
BASS HOOK SIZES & TYPES
For lure fishing from the shore, most people will stick with hooks size 1/0 – 5/0.
Sizes 2/0-5/0 are really just for bass and larger fish which have large mouths. Even a small bass can take a large hook, and using larger hooks for this species helps you avoid catching other smaller species like pollack as bicatch. I do find that using larger lures does help to focus your catch more around bass, as a lot of bass won’t bother with smaller soft plastics (as much as I enjoy LRF fishing).
Anglers fishing very light will sometimes use size 6 or 8 hooks, which are usually only used in fresh water fishing or mullet fishing.
If you do not already understand hook sizes, I suggest buying lures that come with hooks ready to go. It’s a lot easier than figuring out hook sizes. The other alternative is just to buy a collection of hook sizes from size 6 through to 5/0 so you’re prepared for every shore fishing occassion.
Weedless hooks are a must for fishing over rough ground. Barbs should be removed for Wrasse fishing, as these fish will be released and are tricky to unhook with barbed hooks.