How to use and retrieve lures

How to use and retrieve lures

How to use and retrieve lures is maybe the most pressing question for the beginner angler. You buy a brand new shiny new lure, but you’re not sure what to do with it. That’s what we’ll talk about here with broad guidelines and in greater detail in the blog entries. But if I had to sum it up, and with only a few exceptions, the less you do the better.

Topwater lures

Surface lures are not only very efficient and fun but also a great place to start because obviously, we can not just see the lure but how the fish react to it. A good place to start is stickbaits. They are designed to walk the dog. It probably got its name from the annoying tendency of dogs to want to go left when holding the leach with the right hand, and right when holding the leach with the left hand!

So in essence, walking a stickbait consists of a series of cadenced small twitches of the rod tip on a slackline. The trick is to catch up the line with the reel just at the right pace to keep the right amount of slack in the line so the lure can go left to right. It’s not hard but there’s a small learning curve.

Poppers are built to be popped and create noise and commotion without moving forward much. It is done with a quick wrist snap. Beware not to do too much, as more often than not, less is better! A popper can also be walked the dog. It is often good to alternate between a few loud pops and a quick walk the dog over a meter or less followed by a pause.

Other topwater such as buzzbaits, wakebaits, and crawlers will work best with a straight retrieve with the rod and reel. The key here is to create a ripple on the water surface that looks like an arrow pointing to the lure. Nothing to do with the fishing rod, only the reel dictates the retrieval methods.


Sometimes dubbed “dumb lures”, just throw them out there and crank them back to the boat; hence the name! And that’s pretty much it. Or is it? The first thing to consider is speed. Each fishing situation calls for the right speed. And each lure is designed to work at a certain speed range. Some tight wobblers will work at a fast clip while wide action lures are better suited for a slow retrieve. With a little experience, you will quickly find the right speed for the correct lure action.

It’s also important to break the rhythm every now and then. Think of it like skipping a beat. Introduce some irregularities in an otherwise regular pattern. Hitting cover or structure can accomplish that better than anything else, for lack of contact, create it yourself.


Basically, the type of fishing with a jerkbait is similar to a stickbait we described earlier. Only you need to hit them with much harder wrist snaps. Think of it like hitting a drum with a stick, or dribbling a basketball. The fishing line is important too, the best choice is fluorocarbon. However, the key phase is the pause between each series of jerks. Sometimes only a few seconds, sometimes as much as half a minute.


The first thing to remember is that spinnerbait is a contact lure. A lure bounced on cover increases its efficiency tenfold if not more. Beginners tend to slow down when the bite is tough, and indeed it can work; but a faster retrieval creates reaction strikes. This is when spinnerbaits shine, fast pace, hard-hitting target covering lots of water. Put your trolling motor on steady fast and turn yourself into a fast casting machine and purposely hit every grass, wood, dock pilings, moored boat, rock you can find. It’s fun and super efficient!


When the water is clear, on a windless day, a spinnerbait might not work so well. But you can fish the same aggressive strategy, just swap your spinnerbait for a swim-jig. Rig it with a sickle tail grub and work it the exact same way as described above.

Texas rigged worm

The title reads worm but really just about any soft plastic lures can be Texas rigged. Some are intended to be swam like swimbaits or swimming worms. But the most common retrieve is hoped and crawled on the bottom. Once the lure hits the water, re-engage your reel and let the bait sink on a tight line, watch it cause you can catch fish as the bait is falling. Once it hits the bottom, I usually give it a few seconds as the dust settles. Then with your rod tip up, lift it off the bottom, bring it forward about thirty centimeters then drop back down. Catch up the slack while lowering the rod tip and repeat.

Jig head rig

When the bottom is clean, you can do essentially the same thing with a soft lure on a jig head. You can drag the bottom with a worm on a shaky rig or just swim the lure with a faster retrieval at mid-depth. This is the most freedom you can have lure fishing. Just cast, let it sink as deep as you choose and crank back to the boat.

Weightless soft bait

This is my favorite summer technique. For perch, bass, and pike, it’s dynamite around weed beds, boat docks or wood cover. You can essentially rig this way any lure you wish. Frogs for fishing around matted grass or pads. Fluke-type soft jerkbaits around…well, anything really! Big heavy grubs can be used like spinnerbaits and retrieved straight. Use heavy braid around grass and monofilament around wood.

A paddle tail swimbait rigged weightless or with a wide gap weighted hook. This is a very effective technique in the summer and early autumn. Use a slow and steady retrieve with the rod tip pointed at the lure for a powerful hook-set.


Regardless of the type of lure you’re using, keep in mind that anglers tend to overwork their lure. With a couple of notable exceptions, it is best to slow down, pause the lure often and minimize your action. Always make a short cast in front of you after tying a lure to see how fast you should fish it and how much action you need to impart it. And again less is often better than more.

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