7 Essential Surf Fishing Lures – Tips to succeed!

surf fishing lures

7 Essential Surf Fishing Lures – Tips and Techniques

This post will feature the 7 essential surf fishing lures. There are so many artificial lures which anglers have to choose from, that it can be quite confusing and even overwhelming. The purpose of this article is to simplify that process and give anglers a list of a handful of proven lures which will cover every surf fishing situation.

The 7 essential surf fishing lures are:

  • Kastmaster spoon
  • jig and grub combo
  • pencil popper
  • Spro buck tail jig
  • Gotcha
  • Rapala X-Rap jerk bait
  • Diamond jig

While any artificial lure can certainly produce in the surf, there are features that make some lures better than others for surf fishing. The two main elements that anglers have to contend with are wind, which is usually blowing into the angler face, and waves. This results in heavy, lower profile lures being better choices in most situations. A lure that is heavy and can be cast through a stiff breeze will allow anglers to get their offering out to where the fish are.

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Capt. Jim Klopfer is a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. He grew up in Maryland and has surf fished the coast of the United States from Maine around to the Gulf of Mexico. He prefers to fish with artificial lures, and these are his favorite surf fishing lures that have produced fish for him all over the country.

Surf fishing lures

There are three basic types of artificial lures that anglers will find productive when surf fishing. These are jigs, plugs, and spoons and metals. These three artificial lure families will cover every situation and angler will encounter, from the surface, through the mid-depths, and down to the bottom.


Jigs are simple yet very effective artificial lures for just about every fishing situation. A jig is basically a hook with a piece of lead molded near the eye. This weight gives the angler both casting distance and gives the lure its action. Anglers can purchase jigs as light as 1/16 of an ounce and as heavy as several ounces. Conditions and forage size will dictate which jig an angler uses. Jigs are very versatile and can be used to cover the entire water column.

Anglers fishing with jigs have a couple different choices in how they proceed. Some jigs have hair or dressing attached, such as bucktail jigs. These are easy to use and very effective. However, they are not as versatile or as durable. Anglers can also purchase the jig heads and soft plastic bodies separately, and combine the two. This is a very versatile and cost-effective approach when surf fishing with jigs.


Plugs are hard bodied lures that mostly resemble wounded bait fish. They can be carved from wood, but most plugs these days are manufactured from plastic. Some plugs spend the entire time on the surface, these are called top water plugs. Other plugs have a lip on them which causes them to dive below the surface. They put out flash and vibration and act in a very erratic manner which mimics a wounded bait fish. The size of the lip determines the depth that which the plug will run.

Spoons and metals

Spoons and metals are very effective lures for surf fishing. For the most part, they are slender and dense which aids dramatically in casting distance. They are available in a wide range of sizes and weights to match the current forage and fishing conditions. While available in many colors and finishes, most anglers opt for silver or chrome. Gold can be effective as well, especially in low light conditions and in stained water.

Surf fishing tackle

While the traditional longer surf fishing rods can be used to cast artificial lures, most anglers scale down the tackle a bit. 7 foot to 10 foot rods are best, with an 8 foot medium action rod and 4000 series reel is an excellent all round combination. Many anglers do fine with their normal inshore tackle when using lures in the surf as fish are often found quite close to shore in the first trough, or the “wash” as experienced anglers call it.

The 7 essential surf fishing lures

Here is Capt Jim’s list of his favorite surf fishing lures, in no particular order.

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Kastmaster spoon

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Number one on the list of seven essential surf fishing lures is the Kastmaster spoon. It is Capt. Jim’s favorite fishing spoon. This is a dense, aerodynamic bait with an excellent fish enticing action. It is available in several sizes and multiple finishes. Most anglers opt for the silver or chrome finish. The half chrome/neon blue is also an effective bait fish pattern. As an added bonus, the Kastmaster spoon is available with a single hook dressed with bucktail as opposed to a treble hook. This greatly aids and releasing a fish unharmed.

This lure is quite versatile and can be used in just about any surf fishing application. It works quite well when game fish are feeding on the surface. The angler simply begins reeling as soon as the lure lands, using a sharp erratic retrieve. If fish are not seen on the surface, the spoon can be used to ply the mid-depths in search of fish. It can even be allowed to fall all the way to the bottom and worked back in using a series of hops.

Jig and grub combination

The jig and grub combination is perhaps the best saltwater fishing lure and is second on Capt. Jim’s list of the seven essential surf fishing lures. It is versatile and effective on just about every saltwater game fish species. Anglers can choose from many jig head sizes, shapes, and colors to match the fishing conditions along with just their personal preference. Obviously, heavier jigs are required for longer casts.

The jig head is then adorned with some type of soft plastic body. These can imitate bait fish as well as shrimp and other crustaceans. The best approach is to use a body that matches the locally available forage. 4 inch to 6 inch swim baits on a 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce jig head is a good all-around combination. Capt. Jim prefers of the Bass Assassin line of baits.

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As mentioned above, anglers surf fishing often find fish quite close to shore in the first trough. When this occurs, a large heavy lure is not required. This is a perfect situation to use the jig and grub combination. Anglers can increase their odds of success by going to a scented soft plastic bait. Capt. Jim has found that the Gulp products are by far the most effective scented saltwater fishing lures. The 3 inch Gulp Shrimp and the 5 inch Jerk Shad are his personal favorites.

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These lures are very effective all along the Gulf Coast for spotted sea trout, pompano, redfish, flounder, jack crevalle, and other species. On the Atlantic side, the same species along with striped bass and bluefish will take these lures.

Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper

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Cotton Cordell Pencil Poppers are third on the list of the 7 essential surf fishing lures. They are top water plugs, which means they float on the surface when cast and spend all of their time there. Top water plugs are effective when fish are feeding on the surface. When the rod tip is jerked sharply, the lure digs into the water and produces a loud “popping” sound which attracts game fish. Top water plugs are not as versatile as other baits. However, when fish are feeding on the surface or when they will come to the top for a bait, it is a very exciting and productive way to fish.

Spro bucktail jig

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The buck tail jig is a proven saltwater fishing lure. The Spro jig is Capt. Jim’s favorite buck tail jig. It can be worked throughout the entire water column to produce fish. It is a versatile lure that can be used to imitate both bait fish and crustaceans. White is by far the most popular color. Anglers can work it quickly near the surface under breaking fish or hopping along the bottom when fish are feeding there.

Smaller jigs fished on the bottom produce pompano. They can also be tipped with a small piece of shrimp to catch whiting, drum, flounder, and just about every other species. Spro jigs and sizes from 1/2 ounce to 4 ounces will cover most fishing situations. The only downside to bucktail jigs is that they are not as durable. Once the bucktail dressing has been torn up by fish, it is basically ineffective.

Gotcha lure

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The Sea Striker Gotcha is an odd looking fishing lure. However, it is productive and effective for several reasons. The Gotcha is fairly heavy and aerodynamic, which means it can be cast a long distance. When retrieved erratically, the shiny finish puts off a lot of flash and vibration. It is number five on the list of 7 essential surf fishing lures. It is particularly effective for aggressive game fish such as bluefish and Spanish mackerel. However, it will catch just about everything that swims. Most anglers opt for a silver or gold finish with a bright contrasting head.

Rapal X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait

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The Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait is Capt. Jim’s favorite hard body plug. It comes in several sizes and a lot of different color patterns and finishes to cover every fishing situation. Ideally, anglers match the size of the lure to the size and color of the bait fish that are in the area. Local shops can be helpful when choosing the best ones to use.

This lure floats on the surface then dives down several feet upon retrieve. The best technique is to reel several times quickly then give the rod tip a sharp twitch, followed by a pause. Many strikes occur during this pause, which simulates a helpless and dying bait fish. The X-Rap puts out a lot of flash and vibration. The downsides to this bait are that it does not cast as well as some other lures and it is also the most expensive lure on this list.

Diamond jig

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Diamond jigs are legendary saltwater fishing lures. They work very well for anglers surf fishing, just as they do in boats. It is similar to the Kastmaster spoon, with a more slender profile. Heavy models are very aerodynamic and will cast a long distance, making them a great choice when fishing in a stiff wind. It is an excellent lure that can be worked from just under the surface down to the bottom. It can also be effective when fish are a bit more finicky and respond better to a presentation with a bit more finesse.

In conclusion, this article on the 7 essential surf fishing lures will help anglers simplify their tackle boxes and catch more fish!

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