A fishing lure is a type of artificial fishing bait which is designed to attract a fish's attention. The lure uses movement, vibration, flash and color to bait fish. Many lures are equipped with one or more hooks that are used to catch fish when they strike the lure. Some lures are placed to attract fish so a spear can be impaled into the fish or so the fish can be captured by hand. Most lures are attached to the end of a fishing line and have various styles of hooks attached to the body and are designed to illicit a strike resulting in a hookset. Many lures are commercially made but some are hand made such as fishing flies. Hand tying fly lures to match the hatch is considered a challenge by many amateur entomologists.
Modern commercial lures usually are often used with a fishing rod and fishing reel but there are some who use a technique where they hold the line in their hands. Handlining is an technique in which the line is held directly in the hands versus being fed through the guides of a fishing rod. Longlining also can employ lures to catch fish. When a lure is used for casting, it is continually cast out and retrieved, the retrieve making the lure swim or produce a popping action. A skilled angler can explore many possible hiding places for fish through lure casting such as under logs and on flats.
In early times, fishing lures were made from bone or bronze. The Chinese and Egyptians used fishing rods, hooks, and lines as early as 2,000 B.C., though most of the first fishermen used handlines. The first hooks were made out of bronze, which was strong but still very thin and less visible to the fish. The Chinese were the first to make fishing line, spun from fine silk. The modern fishing lure was made commercially in the United States in the early 1900s by the firm of Heddon and Pflueger in Michigan. Before this time most fishing lures were made by individual craftsman. Commercial-made lures were based on the same ideas that the individual craftsmen were making but on a larger scale.
The fishing lure is either tied with a knot, such as the improved clinch knot, or connected with a tiny safety pin-like device called a "swivel" onto the fishing line which is in turn connected to the reel via the arbor. The reel is attached to a rod. The motion of the lure is made by winding line back on to the reel, by sweeping the fishing rod, jigging movements with the fishing rod, or by being pulled behind a moving boat (trolling). exceptions included are artificial flies, commonly called flies by fly fishers, which either float on the water surface, slowly sink or float underwater, and represent some form of insect fish food.
There are many types of fishing lures. They are all manufactured in different ways to resemble prey for the fish in most cases, but are sometimes engineered to appeal to a fishes sense of territory, curiosity or aggression. Most lures are made to look like dying, injured, or fast moving fish. They include the following types:
- A jig is a weighted hook with a lead head opposite the sharp tip. They are often covered with a minnow or crawfish or even a plastic worm to get the fish's attention. The angler moves the rod to make the jig move. Deep water jigs used in saltwater fishing consist of a large metallic weight, which gives the impression of the body of the baitfish, which has a hook attached via a short length of kevlar usually to the top of the jig. These types of jigs can be fished in water depths down to 300 metres.
- Surface lures are also known as top water lures, poppers and stickbaits. They float and resemble prey that is on top of the water. They can make a popping sound from a concave-cut head, a burbling sound from "side fins" or scoops or a buzzing commotion from one or several propellers. A few have only whatever motion the fisherman applies through the rod itself, though if skillfully used, they can be very effective.
- Spoon lures are made to resemble the inside of a table spoon. They flash in the light while wobbling or darting due to their shape, and attract fish.
- Plugs are also known as crankbaits or minnows. These lures have a fishlike body shape and they are run through the water where they can make a variety of different movements caused by instability due to the bib at the front under the head.
- Artificial flies are designed to resemble all manner of fish prey and are used with a fly rod and reel in fly fishing.
- Soft plastic baits/lures is a general category of lures that are made of plastic or rubber, and are designed to resemble fish, crabs, squid, worms, lizards, frogs, leeches and other creatures.
- Spinnerbait are pieces of wire bent at about a 60 degree angle with a hook on the lower end and a flashy spinner mechanism on the upper end.
- Swimbait is a form of soft plastic bait/lure that resembles an actual baitfish. It can be retrieved like a plug/minnow lure. Some of these have a paddle-shaped tail that emulates a swimming motion when drawn through the water. The development in the finishes in these types of plastic lures have meant that the finishes achieved now look more like a baitfish than ever before.
- Fish decoy is a type of lure that traditionally was carved to resemble a fish, frog, small rodent, or an insect that lures in fish so they can be speared. They are often used through the ice by fishermen and also by the Inuit people as part of their diet. The Mitchell Museum of the American Indian collection includes Native American fish decoys. William Jesse Ramey is considered a vintage master carver of fish decoys whose work has been featured in museums.
Fishing lures can be made of wood, plastic, rubber, metal, cork, and materials like feathers, animal hair, string, tinsel and others. They can have many moving parts or no moving parts. They can be retrieved fast or slow. Some of the lures can be used by alone, or with another lure.
One advantage of use of artificial lures is a reduction in use of bait. This contributes to resolving one of the marine environment's more pressing problems; the undermining of marine food webs by overharvesting "bait" species which tend to occur lower in the food chain. Another advantage of lures is that their use promotes improved survival of fish during catch and release fishing. This is because lures reduce the incidence of deep hooking which has been correlated to fish mortality in many studies.
A daisy chain is a teaser consisting of a "chain" of plastic lures run without hooks. The daisy chain mimics a possible school of baitfish, food for a larger predator. The purpose of a daisy chain is to attract pelagic fish to the stern of a boat into the lure "spread", which consists of a number of lures rigged with hooks.
Typically, the main line of the daisy chain is clear monofilament line with crimped on droppers that connect the lure to the main line. The last lure can be rigged with a hook or unrigged. The unrigged versions are used as teasers while the hooked versions are connected to a rod and reel. The lures used on a daisy chain are made from cedar plugs, plastic squids, jets, and other soft and/or hard plastic lures.
In some countries (e.g. New Zealand) daisy chains can sometimes refer to a rig which is used to catch baitfish in a similar arrangement to a 'flasher rig' or a 'sabiki rig'; a series of hooks with a small piece of colourful material/feather/plastic attached to each hook.
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