All of us have our favourite lures. Whether it’s a battered spoon that enticed a personal-record pike or the first spinner your dad gave you, some lures just never leave your tackle box. But what are the very best baits for fishing in Canada? To find out, we asked some of the most experienced anglers in the land—our field editors and staff. Here are their choices, ranked in order of popularity.
1. The Jig
The most unpretentious and uncomplicated lure is also the most versatile. Dress a miniscule 1/64-ounce ball-head jig with a maggot or tiny soft-plastic bait and there’s nothing better for bluegills, crappies, perch and sunfish. Or tip a 1/8-ounce jig with a lively minnow, leech or crawler and you have one of the finest lures for walleye, bass, pike and trout. Ditto when you use even larger dressings on heavier jigs for trophy lake trout, muskies and pike. Whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter, the simple jig is often the only lure you’ll ever need.
2. Original Floater
Do you have one of Lauri Rapala’s balsa-wood beauties in your tacklebox? If you do, you know that the 3½-inch, 3/16-ounce model in original silver finish works best for any number of species. You’ll also know that the shallow-diving, septuagenarian minnow doubles as a great surface bait, especially for bass. Clip it to the end of an ultralight rod, cast it under a tree branch or by the edge of a weed patch and let it sit. Once the ripples have completely vanished, give it a twitch—and watch the world explode.
3. Yellow & Red
Ask around in any camp in northern Canada about the hottest lure for lake trout, pike or walleye, and the chances are the consensus will be the Len Thompson Yellow & Red. Often called the Five of Diamonds, these brass spoons produce a legendary wide wobble, making them ideal for casting and trolling at a broad range of speeds.
Invented in France back in 1938, the Aglia spinner first came to North America with GIs returning home from the Second World War—and to this day its popularity endures. Considering the vast numbers of various fish species and record catches to its credit, the Aglia certainly lives up to its boast as the world’s number-one lure. Bass, crappies, salmon, trout, walleye—you name it—virtually any fish that takes a lure will succumb to these dynamos. Ranging in sizes #00 through to #5, dressed or undressed, this is one versatile lure.
Nothing in fishing tops the excitement of a frenzied hit on a topwater, and the Jitterbug has been contributing to temporary heart stoppages since 1937. Originally designed with night fishing for bass in mind, the unique double-cupped lip creates a plopping wobble that’s now a favourite of bass and pike anglers at any time of day. Available in six sizes, 11 colours and a jointed version, the Jitterbug is a great go-to lure whenever surface-feeding fish are on the agenda. And once you see the boil of a fish in attack mode, the only trick is to resist setting the hook before it actually strikes.
The red-and-white Dardevle spoon is one of the most famous lures of all time. Its inventor, a Detroit taxidermist named Lou Eppinger, went on a fishing trip to Ontario in 1906 with the hope of designing a great fishing lure. Spoons of the day twisted the line as they turned, but Eppinger finally broke the spin barrier with the Dardevle, named after a company of fighting Marines. Fish just love the red-and-white spoon, and though hundreds of cheap imitators are on the market, the genuine Dardevle sports a devil’s head, telling anglers they’re getting the real thing.
7. Zara Spook
In the 1930s, the Heddon Lure Company set out to develop a topwater for triggering bass and other surface feeders. The result? A slender wooden plug that wiggled its rear end seductively when retrieved in the testing laboratory water tank. One of the designers said the action reminded him of the scandalous girls on Zaragoza Street in Pensacola, Florida, and so was born the name Zara Spook. Now made of plastic, the lure still walks in a provocative manner that excites fish—and guys who don’t get out of the lab enough.
8. Shad Rap
Offered in a variety of sizes and diving depths, the Shad Rap dates back to 1982. When first introduced, the lures were in such high demand that tackle shops quite literally rented them out to eager anglers. The secret of the Shad Rap is it represents a wide variety of baitfish. Whether cast or trolled, it has a slow-rolling, tail-wagging action, making it the perfect crankbait for muskies, pike, trout and walleye all season long. Each Shad Rap is hand-tuned and can be worked extremely slowly or at a fast pace, with larger models diving to 20 feet or more.
9. Black Fury
The popularity of the iconic black blade with the yellow, orange, red, green or chartreuse dots is surely due to the fact it tricks everything from panfish to salmon. That’s because the narrow blade spins close to the body, allowing it to be easily fished in shallow water, as well as mid-depths. Then there’s the vibration and flash, making it deadly in low light and murky water. And on bright days, the dark blade provides an enticing profile. Finally, that spinning flash of colour, along with the single red bead, is subtle enough to elicit strikes from the most discriminating feeders.
10. The Spinnerbait
The Mepps Aglia and the lead jig head are two of the deadliest lures of all time. So it’s no surprise the spinnerbait—inheriting the best properties of both—also ranks as one of Canada’s best-ever baits. And it’s versatile in the extreme. You can slow roll a spinnerbait along the bottom, swim it at a moderate speed in mid-water or bulge it quickly just under the surface. The wire arm renders the lure amazingly weedless, making tiny spinnerbaits popular with panfish fans, medium sizes favourites for bass anglers and bigger styles great for pike and muskie aficionados. —Gord Pyzer