It’s easy to walk into a bait shop and get sucked right in by duckling lures that look so real, they do everything but quack. And, sure, I own trout lures that swim more naturally than a wild rainbow, flies with more plastic components than a jointed crankbait, and crawfish so lifelike, you might accidentally sprinkle them with Old Bay. Technology in the lure and fly arena is all well and good, but there are countless patterns and baits that haven’t changed in decades—and for good reason: They’ve never stopped pounding fish. If I had a buck for every time I clipped off a new-school streamer in favor of a white Clouser Minnow on a smallie stream, or switched from a modern propbait to a Hula Popper on a largemouth pond when I needed to get it done, I’d be rich. Those are just a few examples of classic killers on our list of iconic lures and flies you shouldn’t be without. Our picks may not be fancy, but they’ll crank up the heat on the water every time.
No doubt that foam poppers catch plenty of largemouth bass. But the subtler gurgle and push of a big, bulky hair bug is what’ll often call up the real hogs.
Simple to tie and even easier to fish, let this foolproof pattern jig its way through a run on a smallmouth river and watch the bronzebacks pounce.
There are loads of grasshopper patterns, but there’s something nostalgic about watching Dave Whitlock’s classic beauty get sipped on a July evening.
Summer bluegill fishing is as American as barbecue, and duping one into smacking an old-school mini popper on a glassy pond never grows old.
Whether this fly is stripped or drifted, on a lake or creek, there’s not a rock bass, trout, smallmouth, largemouth, or perch that won’t slurp a fluttering black Bugger.
This simplistic baitfish imitator will trigger strikes from North Woods pike and smallmouths as well as Low Country bull redfish and monster snook.
The rhythmic gurgle of this old-time topwater is an unmistakable sound of summer for a lot of anglers, and the bass smacks that interrupt it sound even sweeter.
This balsa jerkbait has been dancing its way into fish mouths for nearly a century, and today’s bass, walleyes, and big browns are just as quick to crush it.
Don’t let its smiley, Muppet-like face fool you; this classic from Arbogast has the ability to draw up monster bass when nothing else will.
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Stick a few of these in your pack—some dressed, maybe some plain—and you won’t come up short wet-wading any trout or smallmouth stream anywhere.
The distinct clack of a walking Zara draws in cow striped bass on a salty flat as fast as it does trophy northern pike along a deep-lake weedline.
Arguably the most iconic American lure ever made, this red-and-white beauty still wallops big summer trout, pike, walleyes, bass, and more.