The term "artificial lures" refers to the man-made, non-natural objects used to attract game fish and entice them into biting. The majority of artificial lures are designed to imitate some form of "live" or "natural" forage found in nature, though some simply impart a look or action that triggers a feeding response or other instinct that may cause certain game fish to strike. Lures are manufactured in many shapes, sizes and styles and are constructed from a variety of materials, such as wood, metal, lead, hard and soft plastic, feathers, fur and yarn - often a combination of more than one material.
Not every species of fish is inclined to strike an artificial lure, which for some anglers excludes them from the popular definition of "game" fish. Virtually all fish classified as game fish can be caught on artificial lures at least some, if not most, of the time. That does not mean, however, that one particular type of lure will be more effective than live or natural bait, or even another type or color of lure. However, certain lures develop a history of success on particular species over time. Many prove successful on a local level before gaining widespread popularity, while others are fashioned to imitate a specific forage species found only in a limited geographic range, which may limit their effectiveness when used elsewhere.
Freshwater vs. Saltwater
Many of the same basic artificial lure types are used in both freshwater and saltwater fishing. The primary differences lie in the size, design and color of lures used in each environment. For example, jigs, plugs and soft plastic lures are all popular lure types. But a freshwater version of each lure type will likely be smaller and colored differently than one used for salt water.
There are, however, certain lure types or specific styles that are used only in fresh or salt water. A rubber-skirted leadhead jig with a pork-frog trailer is an extremely popular lure for freshwater bass but rarely, if ever, used in salt water. Likewise, large trolling lures used for offshore saltwater fish have little or no value anywhere in fresh water.
In general, there are more variations and styles of the same lure type in freshwater fishing, with many lures designed especially for certain species. In saltwater angling, however, there are fewer variations and styles, but each one may appeal to a wider variety of game fish. One particular style of diving plug may only work well on largemouth bass in fresh water, while one style of diving plug may attract several different saltwater species.
Saltwater lures also tend to be more brightly colored, often times in a color scheme that doesnt mimic anything found in the water. Another key difference is the type of material used for a lures hooks. The majority of freshwater hooks are carbon steel coated with a bronze finish. Due to the highly corrosive nature of salt water, most hooks used on saltwater lures are stainless steel with some sort of corrosion-resistant finish, such as cadmium-tin or chrome-zinc.
The range of food consumed by fish is obviously large. When choosing the most effective lure, the angler should become familiar with the behavior of the fish being sought and the food they consume, and then match the lure to that behavior and diet. Secondly, a solid understanding of the characteristics of each lure will enable the angler to make each work to its designed ability.
A second major factor in lure selection is the condition of the water being fished. Depth, temperature and clarity should all be considered. In general, deep water necessitates the use of a lure that can reach the desired depth and perform in its designed fashion once there. Warm water temperatures often call for lures that can be worked at a rapid pace, while cold or hot temperatures may require lures designed for a slower presentation, depending on the species of game fish being pursued. Clear water generally calls for visible qualities like bright, shiny colors and finishes or a lure that produces a lot of flash; in stained or dingy water, where visibility is less important, dark colors and lures that vibrate tend to be more effective.