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7 Deadly All-Purpose Lures

7 Deadly All-Purpose Lures
With a tackle box full of all-purpose lures like the Bomber Fat-Free Shad crankbait, an angler can catch almost anything that swims—even catfish. (Keith Sutton photo)

Years ago, I set a goal to someday have a separate tackle box full of lures for each type of fishing I did. I would have one box with crankbaits, topwater plugs, spinnerbaits, plastic worms and other black-bass catchers, and another that held a variety of jigs, spinners and spoons for crappie. A third box would contain everything needed to catch striped bass, a fourth would be earmarked for bream lures, a fifth would hold all my enticements for saltwater fishes and… well, you get the idea.

It took 30 years to achieve that goal, and once I did, I began thinking how much nicer it might be if I had just one tackle box full of all-purpose fishing lures I could use to catch whatever I’m after. If every lure needed would fit in one box, I wouldn’t have to spend hours digging through piles of tackle boxes trying to find the one I need each time I go fishing.

At first, I thought it unlikely I would ever accomplish this. But when I started scrutinizing lures that will catch a wide variety of species, I realized it might be possible after all. Many artificials can be used to allure everything from bass and panfish to stripers and saltwater favorites, including those described in the following paragraphs.

Mepps Aglia


It’s been more than 70 years since French engineer Andre Meulhart invented the Mepps Aglia, the original in-line spinner. But despite the passage of decades, anglers still buy thousands of Aglias annually, and with good reason. There’s hardly a fish that swims that won’t hit one. The lure’s blade rotates around the shaft, creating both flash and vibration, a deadly combination gamefish can’t resist.

Aglias are available in six sizes and many colors. The smaller lures are perfect for bluegills, crappie, trout, white bass and saugers. Mid-size models are preferred by black-bass fishermen and walleye anglers. And the two largest sizes are ideal for steelheads, salmon, pike and giant muskies. You can’t go wrong fishing one of these, no matter what you hope to catch. (

Bill Lewis Lures’ Rat-L-Trap


I’ve fished throughout the Western Hemisphere, and everywhere I go I see anglers casting Rat-L-Traps. In Mexico, anglers use them to nab double-digit largemouths. In Brazil, they’re a favorite of peacock bass and piranha fishermen. I’ve seen them used in Canada to catch smallmouths, walleyes and even trophy-class channel catfish. Rat-L-Traps are popular saltwater lures as well, used for everything from redfish and seatrout to amberjacks and dorados. Pick a fish and there’s a Rat-L-Trap that will catch it.

The Rat-L-Trap is deadly for a combination of reasons, including its baitfish-like shape, tantalizing quiver and a built-in rattle chamber that creates an enticing racket. Another positive trait is the Rat-L-Trap’s user-friendly nature. Anyone, regardless of fishing skill, can tie on a Rat-L-Trap and catch fish. Anglers use them at all depths, in muddy water and clear, and during all seasons. Without changing lures, you can jig over deep-water humps, count down to fish suspended by bridge pilings or buzz across the top of a weedbed. Few baits are more versatile, and fewer still are available in as many styles, sizes and colors. (

Johnson Beetle Spin


Designed in the 1950s by legendary angler Virgil Ward, the Beetle Spin is one of the world’s best-known multi-purpose lures. This small jig/spinner combo has sold millions, helping anglers catch every species of fish imaginable, from reservoir crappie and mountain-stream trout to farm-pond bluegills and big-river walleyes. Snap on the safety-pin spinner and retrieve the lure along weed edges, around brushpiles and through stump fields. Or jig a plain Beetle for deep-water fishes.

Five sizes—1/32, 1/16, 1/8, 1/4 and 1/2 ounce—are available in numerous color choices. The smaller versions are ideal for catching all types of panfish and trout. The bigger lures will entice any freshwater gamefish from saugers to salmon. (

TTI-Blakemore Road Runner


“We just wanted a lure that would catch fish.” That’s how the late Bert Hall described the rationale behind his Road Runner lure. He designed it in 1958, but rather than target only bass, trout or panfish, he wanted a generalist lure that would attract almost any fish.

That’s exactly what Hall produced. A Road Runner slowly retrieved on light line will draw strikes from black bass, white bass, crappie, bluegills, sauger, walleyes, trout, stripers—you name it. Anything that eats minnows or insects is likely to nab it.

The Road Runner is unique among spinner-type lures because the spinner is beneath a horsehead-type lead where it’s more easily seen by fish striking from the side or below. Fish it deep or shallow. Cast it, jig it or troll it. Several body styles are available in sizes from 1/32 to 1 ounce and every color of the rainbow. (

Heddon Zara Spook


Heddon’s Zara Spook is one of the oldest topwater plug designs and still one of the best, consistently pulling in everything from freshwater bass and pike to saltwater stripers and seatrout. To fish one, the angler uses a rhythmic, slack-line retrieve that makes the lure walk back and forth across the surface, a style known as “walking the dog.”

The original 4-1/2-inch model, available in 18 colors, still is most popular, but Heddon has expanded its line of Spooks to include the 3-inch Zara Puppy, the 3-1/2-inch Super Spook Jr., the 5-inch Super Spook and beefed-up 7-inch Magnum and 8-inch Super Magnum Zara Spooks. Also available are the cupped-lip Chug’n Spook, a double-prop Wounded model and versions made with corrosion-resistant saltwater components. There’s almost nothing of size these lures won’t catch. (

Bomber Fat Free Shad


Shad comprise a large part of the diet of many gamefish, so it makes sense a lure imitating shad will catch multiple species. Among the best such lures are the shallow-, medium- and deep-running crankbaits in Bomber’s Fat Free Shad family, all of which are amazingly lifelike in action and color.

The Fat Free Shad “kicks out” of hang-ups and works through cover, a major advantage over similar crankbaits. Add a realistic reflective finish enhanced by 3-D eyes and you have a premier lure for catching an extraordinary variety of freshwater gamefish. I’ve used them successfully for trophy largemouths, chain pickerel, hybrid stripers, slab crappie, big brown trout and even huge bottom-hugging flathead catfish. (

Cotton Cordell C.C. Spoon


One of fishing’s most proven and versatile spoons, the C.C. flutters through the water column like a crippled baitfish. It casts like it’s shot from a gun and dances with enhanced wounded action in the current. It has a hammered silver or gold finish, along with rustproof hooks, and it’s available in 3/8-, 3/4- and 1/2-oz. sizes that make it versatile enough for big fish and small. Drop it into the strike zone and you’re liable to catch anything from panfish such as crappie and white bass to line-busting largemouths and hard-hitting saltwater species that include everything from mackerel and seatrout to tuna and sharks. (

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