Lure recommendations to keep it simple and budget friendly

There are thousands of lures out there that you can buy to target just about any fish. Some of the lures are designed more to catch fisherman than fish. For the beginner or casual fisherman, it can be incredibly difficult to know which lures work, and which ones will collect dust in your garage. There are thousands of fishing guides in South Florida and all of them have lure suggestions that may differ—slightly or radically—from mine.

I’m sure all of the other opinions are as good as mine, however I hope to give you options that will keep your lure inventory small and your wallet happy.

Here are the lures I have found to be effective when fishing the clear water canals of South Florida, organized by the fish you might be targeting. I am not sponsored by any lure manufacturers, so I won’t make any manufacturer recommendations. If you want those specifics, you can hit me up in the comments section and I’m happy to make further recommendations.

Bowfin

Inline Spinner in any color. For some reason, I have caught a great many Bowfin on a blue fox inline spinner. The color doesn’t seem to matter much as they most likely are attracted by the vibration. I recently took my neighbor bank-fishing on the Tamiami Trail. I was using a hard bait and a topwater frog with no luck. He used the inline spinner and caught five Bowfin within an hour of us fishing. The inline spinner is one of the best Bowfin lures I’ve seen.

Gar

Inline Spinner with a feather tail in any color and sight cast to them. The spinner must have a tail on it or it won’t be effective. Roll the spinner at the top of the water and try to make it buzz right past their noses. They usually take a sideways swipe at it and the treble hook will do its thing.

Chain Pickerel

4” diving suspended minnow in natural colors.  The Chain Pickerel is hit-or-miss for the most part. When they’re biting, they’re all biting. When they’re not biting, good luck. I almost always catch one by accident when I’m bass fishing. When I do land one, it’s almost always on the 4” suspended hard bait, and sometimes on the inline spinner bait. If I do land one or see them chasing the bait to the bank, I will target them specifically as they are a great fish to catch.

Peacock Bass

Year round, the best bait to use for Peacock Bass is live shiners. Lures will work too, but I’ve had the best success with live bait. There is one time of year when lures will outperform: March through June. When Peacock Bass are on the nest, they become incredibly aggressive. They will hit just about anything that resembles a fish. The 4” diving suspended hard bait is my go-to lure for this time of year. When I can’t find them sight fishing, I will break out the live shiner and freeline it.

Bullseye Snakehead

Topwater soft plastic 3.5” frog on a 2/0 wide gap hook with a spring lock. It doesn’t matter what color you use in my opinion however I’ve had a great deal of success with white. Screw the main body of the frog onto the spring lock and rig the hook weedless. Throw very close to the bank and use a steady retrieve. When the strike happens, give it a two count and then put the hammer down. For a little more information on this technique, check out Stalking Bullseye Snakehead or this quick tutorial.

Snook

I like to use a 6” to 8” shad colored soft plastic swimbait. And yes, there are snook in the freshwater canals here In South Florida. I like to use a weighted 4/0 hook and slow roll the lure in front of brush and cover. Shane Riley is a master of catching freshwater snook and on our last outing in the Everglades, he bagged a 38” beast on a swim bait. I have also had fairly decent success using the 4” hard bait but for some reason the soft plastic seems to generate bigger fish.

Clown Featherback or Clown Knifefish

I have never caught one on a lure. The only way I have ever caught one is with using live bait. The best strategy is to find them rolling on the top of the water and fish that area. Either free line the shiner or put it under a cork. I have caught them both ways. The key thing to remember is that these fish are only located in the Lake Ida chain and its connected canals. They feed on shad and are most active at night. If you know how to throw a cast net and can use your electronics, you can locate schools of shad and get free live bait. As a bonus, when you find the shad, you most likely find the Clowns as well. When fishing live bait and targeting Clown Knifefish, it is not uncommon to catch Largemouth and Peacocks. That makes for a very fun day indeed.

Tarpon

Like the Snook, we do have Tarpon in the canals here in South Florida. They are as finicky as their saltwater counterparts and just as difficult to catch. Live bait is the way to go but if you want to give lures a go, I suggest using the 6”- 8” soft plastic swimbait and make sure it looks like a mullet. I don’t target the freshwater Tarpon all that much because there are so many other fish to target that are less work. If I want to go after tarpon, I’ll typically hire a guide in the Keys.

Mayan Cichlid

Inline Spinner is one of the better baits for catching Mayan Cichlid, however I have caught them on hard baits, spinner baits and even topwater frogs. Inline spinners have the ability to roll slowly past them which generates more strikes and the trailer treble hook results in many more catches when they are active. These are fun to catch all day long and when I’m in a slump, I’ll throw on an inline spinner and get to catching.

Largemouth Bass

I saved the best for last here because this is such a versatile fish when it comes to lures and what they will bite on. The 4” diving suspended minnow hard bait, Spinner baits, Jigs, Topwater Frogs, Crank Baits and Inline Spinners all work well. All the lure combinations previously mentioned will generally net you a Largemouth Bass or two. The best lures I have used to date is the 5” Senko in Pumpkin/Watermelon or dark green color combinations. I Texas rig on a 10-15” Fluorocarbon leader and use the same hook for the topwater frog setup. I’ll screw the head of the Senko onto the screw lock and rig it weedless. The key to this is to have patience and be able to feel when the fish picks up the bait to know when to set the hook. Learning this type of fishing can be difficult but I promise you it is hands-down the best way to catch bass in South Florida.

Lures in Review

In My tackle box, I have these basic components:

  1. 4” diving suspended minnow hard bait
  2. 2/0 wide gap spring lock hooks
  3. 30lb fluorocarbon leader line
  4. Inline spinner
  5. Topwater frogs
  6. Senkos (lots of them)
  7. Bullet weights
  8. Weighted hooks for swimbaits
  9. Swimbaits if I’m targeting snook
  10. #2 bait holder hooks for freelining live bait

I also have other assorted lures and materials however these are the basics that I bring with me no matter of I am walking that bank, cruising along in the kayak or blazing along in my boat. This gear is like the American Express card in that I never leave home without it. You can check out my YouTube channel hit the subscribe button if you like what you’re hearing.