5 Must-Have Bass Fishing Lures

5 Must-Have Bass Fishing Lures

Lures are a must-have for anglers, and thousands are on the market for chasing bass. Knowing where to start can be overwhelming for new bass anglers with so many options out there. To help you maximize your time on the water, we've selected five must-have lures for beginner bass anglers to help you start landing keepers.

1. Soft Plastic Worm

A soft plastic worm is an essential lure when the bite is slow. Plastic worms are a foundational lure for any freshwater setup, and there are several ways to rig them. A Texas rig is one of the most popular ways to rig any plastic worm because it’s easy to retrieve through vegetation, trees, and rocks without getting snagged. The key to having success with a Texas Rig is properly outfitting the hook with your bait of choice. The size of the weight on your Texas rig will also impact the action you see on the water. You’ll want to put enough weight on it so your lure reaches the bottom. Heavier weights typically encourage aggressive strikes from bass, who respond better when the bait falls faster into the water.

Another type of plastic worm we recommend guaranteeing bites is a “stick” style worm. Almost every soft plastic lure brand sells this plastic worm shape because it’s versatile and looks natural swimming in the water, perfect for enticing bass to strike. Stick-style worms also work with a Texas rigCarolina rigShakey HeadNed rigNeko rigWacky rig, and more. Popular colors in stick-style worms are green pumpkin, black/blue flake tilapia, and watermelon red flake.

The type of rod you’re using should impact your choice of rig. For example, finesse techniques like the Wacky, Neko, Ned, or Shakey Head rigs work best with a spinning rod. Spinning rods are also excellent fishing rods for beginners because you can use them if you’re casting, jigging, or trolling, giving you a well-rounded and versatile rod.


If you’re using power fishing techniques and rigs like the Carolina and Texas rigs, we recommend using baitcaster rods. Baitcasting rods and reels work best with a 10 lb.+ fishing line. They’re great if you want to fish in waterways with lots of cover. In thick grass vegetation, baitcasting rods help give anglers the power to pull their catch out of the grass and the weeds without falling off. Check out this step-by-step guide to learn how to cast a baitcaster. Whether you’re using a spinning or baitcasting rod, having a soft plastic worm in your arsenal will help encourage some action, even when the bite is slow.


2. Soft Plastic Jerkbait

The second must-have lure you need in your arsenal is a soft plastic jerkbait. Soft plastic jerkbaits have a slim profile and a fork-style tail, making them dart back and forth to look like baitfish. Since it resembles a baitfish, it’s an excellent lure to use year-round. Soft plastic jerkbaits are the most effective during the spring spawn and the fall when bass feed heavily on shad sitting in the shallows.

The most popular way to rig this bait is on a Texas rig without weight. This rig looks much more natural without weight because it falls slower and darts quicker than a rig with a weight. When you rig your bait this way, let it sink slowly. As it sinks slowly, do an occasional twitch of the rod tip, or keep your rod tip pointed up and twitch it fast on top with a few pauses to encourage bites.

When choosing the right rod for this bait rigged weightless, a lighter rod like a 7-foot medium power fast action is typically the perfect one. There are other ways to rig this bait, such as on a scrounger head, chatterbait, or a standard jig head for deeper fish. The shape imitates a shad, and we recommend purchasing soft plastic jerk baits in lighter hues like pearl, blue glimmer, or silver colors.

3. Skirted Bass Jig

Skirted bass jigs come in several shapes and sizes, so it’s difficult to know which one to use. An “Arkie-style” head like the one pictured above is a basic all-around jig effective for many applications. The shape of the head allows it to go through cover and skip well on the water. By putting a craw-style trailer on the hook, all anglers have to do is let the jig work its magic.

Anglers have several options for skirted bass jigs, which are great for making long casts. Anglers can drag these jigs slowly across the bottom, pitch or skip them into heavy cover, or swim around docks, grass, and wood. The optimal rod for most situations with this jig is a 7’2” to 7’4” heavy power fast action rod, and the best sizes for most fishing techniques are 3/8 or 1/2 ounces. The most popular colors in this jig are green, black/blue, brown, and pumpkin. However, you can try out different color skirts and trailers to match the forage bass are feeding on when you’re fishing.

4. Paddle-tail Swimbait

The paddle-tail swimbait mimics baitfish swimming through the water and is an effective lure any time of year. However, the prime times to use your paddle-tail swimbaits are late winter to early spring. During these pre-spawn and spawning periods, bass are super active and feed heavily on baitfish. The most common sizes range from 3-5 inches. The most common swimbait colors are pearl, sexy shad, and gizzard shad. Also, paddle-tail swimbaits pair up perfectly with standard jig heads or belly-weighted screw-lock hooks, depending on the size of the baitfish in the lake you’re fishing.

If you’re using smaller swimbaits, we recommend choosing a lighter jig head like a 1/4 ounce with a light wire hook and putting it on a 6’10” medium power spinning rod with a light 6-8 lb. line. Sometimes, going lighter and smaller in your tackle will allow you to entice more action when the bite is challenging. If you’re using larger swimbaits, pair them with heavier hooks on a baitcaster rod with a 15-20 lb. fishing line. The most common size jig heads for paddle-tail swimbaits typically range from 1/4 ounce to 1/2 ounce, depending on how deep the fish are staging.

The paddle-tail swimbait also pairs well with chatterbaits, spinnerbaits, swim jigs, and buzzbaits. One thing to remember when using swimbaits is to let the rod load up before you set the hook because sometimes fish will keep biting the tail without eating the whole thing. When you feel something tapping on your rod, keep reeling the swimbait, and eventually, the rod will load up and get heavy if the fish wants to eat it. The optimal baitcasting rod for most swimbaits is a 7’2” medium-heavy rod with a moderately fast tip. Regardless of how you decide to rig your paddle-tail swimbait, it’s a must-have lure for beginner bass anglers.

5. Medium-diving Crankbait

To finish your beginner bass lure set-up, ensure you have a medium-diving crankbait. These crankbaits are effective for catching bass year-round and allow anglers to quickly cover a lot of water, which is perfect if you’re scouting unfamiliar territory. These lures create a wobbling action that mimics distressed baitfish, which bass love to feed on. Whatever depth-diving crankbait you decide to use, your crankbait must be hitting the bottom or deflecting off some cover. If you’re reeling in your crankbait without it hitting anything, your chances of getting a bite are slim. Also, it’s important to pause your retrieve and let your crankbait float up after deflecting off the cover. Sometimes, when you pause your retrieve, it causes a reaction bite from a nearby bass.

It's best to have a rod that's not too stiff or heavy when fishing a crankbait. For medium-diving crankbaits, the ideal rod ranges from a 7' medium power or 7'2" medium heavy power with a moderate action tip. Anglers need a rod with a soft tip when cranking because there are fewer opportunities to pull the hooks out of the fish's mouth. Unlike other lures, fish are usually hooked outside the mouth on a crankbait. It's typically a quick reaction bite compared to a setup where bass can look at a worm or a jig and swallow it. For your reel, ensure you have a slow gear ratio reel, like a 6:2:1 to a 6:8:1, to control your retrieve and avoid losing your catch. Popular colors in crankbaits are sexy shad, gizzard shad, chartreuse, and red and brown crawfish. Check out this medium diving crankbait gear guide to learn more.

With these versatile lures at your disposal, all that's left is finding a storage solution for your gear. Fishing tackle bags come in various shapes and sizes, but a staple option for beginner anglers is the AFTCO Urban Angler Backpack. The Urban Angler Backpack features a main compartment with a 3600-tackle tray, five storage sleeves for hooks and baits, and a rod holder perfect for anglers scouting fishing spots. Also, we recommend stopping into your local tackle store or retailer before hitting the water to ensure you're prepared properly. These local experts can help give you additional tips specific to your local lakes and rivers. To stay updated on the latest releases and freshwater blogs, sign up for the AFTCO newsletter, and best of luck on the water.