Plug Fishing – A complete guide

What is Plug Fishing?

Plug fishing is an angling technique that has been around for a very long time, it used to be that plug fishing described fishing with hand-carved lures from pieces of wood. However, modern plug fishing can also involve plugs that are made from either hollow or moulded plastic.

There are a number of avid anglers who claim that wooden plugs are much more effective than those made from plastic, and there are still manufacturers out there that make some lure bodies from balsa wood, pine and some other hardwoods.

What do Fishing Plugs resemble?

Plugs come a range of different shapes that include baitfish, crayfish, mice, frogs, snake, and insects that different types of fish prey on.

How do Fishing Plugs attract fish?

It is not just the shape of the plug that is important, it is their flash and action in the water that produces sounds that draw Pike and Zanders attention. Whether it is the vibration of minnow bait in the water attracting trout to your hook, or the splash and gurgling sounds that a surface plug makes, or just the beautiful clinking sound that the hook makes against the body of the lure. There are even some models of plastic plugs that have a chamber inside them that is filled with small shot. This rattles inside the lure, making a noise that attracts fish to it.

Plug Fishing
American Bass Caught on a Topwater Frog

What are the different types of Plug Fishing?

There are two different categories you want to use when plug fishing – Surface, also known as Topwater, plugs, and Subsurface, also known as diving plugs.

Surface or Topwater Plugs

Experienced anglers know that there is nothing more exciting than watching a fish strike at a surface lure. Surface lures work best when fish are shallow, and the temperature of the water is warm.  Still, waters are needed as too much disturbance on the surface means that the fish won’t notice the action on the plug. If you want to make the most out of surface fishing, it is best to use them either early in the morning or around dusk into the early evening. Though, it is not impossible to catch fish using surface plugs in the middle of the day.

In terms of colour for a surface plug, black is your best bet as it works well in all water conditions, and the black of the lure gets silhouetted against the sky when the fish looks up at it.

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Type of Surface lures for Plug Fishing

There are a number of different Topwater lures you can try when plug fishing, these include:


These types of plugs create a great plopping and gurgling sound, are perfect for calm water and require a steady, slow retrieve. Crawlers are sometimes known as creepers when they have wings mounted on either side that allow the lure to swim across the water. A large faceplate on a crawler body can be moved back and forth to generate a great wake on the surface.


There is an indented cup on the face of these plugs. These cups catch water when you jerk the lure, and this produces the popping (or chugging) sound.


Though their proper name is centre rotating blade plugs, they are most commonly known as Globe plugs. On these plugs, the centre blade rotates which creates a stream of bubbles when it is retrieved.


This plug doesn’t have a lip, propeller or built-in wobble. It is also known as a torpedo lure because it requires the angler to use sharp and short cadence pulls when retrieving. This creates a side-to-side action on the surface that you may have heard referred to as “walk the dog”.

Surface Wobbler

This jointed plug creates a clicking sound as the lure rocks back and to on retrieval. It also has a tail propeller that creates a nice little wake making this lure perfect for use on slow and calm water when angling in the evening.

Rotating Tail

With a tail section that has a blade attached, this lure makes a popping sound when the blade on the tail rotates in the water. It works brilliantly in calm water as well as water that has a slight chop. It is used effectively when fishing for pike.

Subsurface or Diving Plugs

There are two different types of subsurface plugs, and both of them have floating and sinking models.

The first type of subsurface plugs is diving lures that dive. They have plastic or metal lips attached to help them dive, or the design of the lure body allows them to dive. They have great wiggle action as they move from side-to-side as they travel through the water and are better known as crankbaits.

The second type of subsurface plugs are referred to by the action the plug has when the angler retrieves them. They are grouped into the subgroups of gliders, twitch baits, and jerkbaits.

Diving plugs will catch fish in any type of water and at any time of day. The depth the plug sinks to is determined by the angle on the lip of the lure. They are generally grouped by manufacturers to make it easy for you to find the plug to are looking for. Shallow subsurface plugs will have a range of 1 to 3 feet, mid-range has a range of 5 to 10 feet, and deep runners are classified as 10+ feet.

Types of Subsurface Plugs

Again there are a number of different types of subsurface lures made for Plug Fishing that include:

Floating Minnow

The most versatile type of crankbait, it is also the most popular type of subsurface plug. It is thin and designed to imitate baitfish with similar characteristics.

Floating Shad/Perch

This type of plug is very similar to the floating minnow, but it comes with a diving lip. The body of the lure is made to imitate the forage of perch and shad in the water. Generally made from hollow plastic or balsa wood, they come with the chamber of shot that creates a great rattle to attract attention.

Floating (Jerkbait)

Perfect for fishing pike, these plugs float at rest then dive before floating back to the surface when you give them a strong jerk. They have a metal tail that can be bent to change the action and depth.

Sinking (Gliders and Twitch)

Gliders and Twitch baits are both lipless but sink, and the action on the lure comes from the angler. Retrieve the twitch with a few short twitches that generate a random motion that slips between up, down, and side-to-side. The Glider requires short pulls that make the lure glide from side-to-side, under the water, which gives the plug a dart and flash action.

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