Every angler has old standby lures that will always have a home in their tackle bag, because some baits never stop catching. But for the fisherman who’s striving to up his game and perhaps discover a new lure that will become a lifelong favorite, we’re here to take the guesswork out of which of 2018’s new baits deserve a spot in your arsenal. We tested a lot of lures in order to narrow the list down to the 25 most innovative, unusual, and productive lures hitting shelves this year. From topwaters to soft plastics, hard baits to hollow bodies, here are the must-haves, whether you’re fishing the pond, river, or deep blue sea.
Castaic Boyd Duckett Bluegill
The Bluegill is set apart from your average swimbait by its soft fiber tail, which produces a unique and incredibly realistic movement; all patterns are custom airbrushed with molded gill plates, holographic eyes, and 3D fins. —Mark Modoski
When you want to make noise, this hybrid pops, but it also dives and wobbles during a steady retrieve. The dual action is perfect for mimicking a dying baitfish, as it lets you decide how much gas you want your wounded shad to have left in the tank. —Joe Cermele
This soft-plastic creature bait for finesse fishing offers bass a bite-size meal with its compact profile. Just 3 inches long, the Hogz has small legs and appendages that come alive with the slightest move of the rod tip. —M.M.
Live Target BaitBall Spinner Rig
Live Target continues to build and innovate on the bait-ball concept with its new Spinner Rig. A combination of an Alabama Rig and a spinnerbait in a manageable, easily castable package, the BaitBall is available in three sizes, each with two weight options. —M.M.
This squarebill moves just like the balsawood baits you love, but it’s tougher. Thanks to a foam-injection molding process and a strong plastic exterior, you can bang this crank off rocks and stumps and it’ll keep on ticking. —J.C.
Yo-Zuri 3DB Series Knuckle Bait
Like a knuckleball flying from a pitcher’s hand, the ball on this lure creates an erratic, unpredictable wobble. And because the ball is heavier than a spinner blade, the bait soars much farther. —J.C.
The Coconut Crab brings high-end engineering to panfishing. For use with specialized jigheads that can handle this ultra-finesse bait, it measures a mere 11⁄4 inches and is available in 10 colors. —M.M.
The running theme of the Juke is versatility. A coffin-shaped bill ramps up darting while minimizing forward motion, so slight twitches get it rolling and flashing while staying in the zone. Retrieved steadily, it wobbles like a crankbait. —J.C.
Sébile Bull Minnow Saltwater
The original Bull Minnow’s unique roll and wobble has already proved itself a killer for just about everything in sweet water. With new colors and beefed-up terminal tackle, it’s now ready to play with king mackerel, redfish, snook, and any other salty species you target. —J.C.
Take topwater fishing into another dimension with the 3D Bat. Bass, muskies, and pike will eagerly blow up on any surface commotion, and this bat has a truly unique walking action complemented by a high-pitched, built-in rattle. —M.M.
Erratic flash and the ability to halt on a dime means the RipStop offers a new presentation for jerkbait fishing. The action mimics baitfish that swim short distances, then become temporarily motionless. It runs between 3 and 4 feet deep. —M.M.
Optimum Baby Boom Boom Swimbait
Optimum follows up its successful Boom Boom Swimbait with a smaller, more versatile model. The Baby Boom Boom is 41⁄2 inches and 3⁄5 ounce. Rigged on a 5/0 to 7/0 swimbait hook, the lure rolls and has a panicked action that can fool a number of gamefish species. —M.M.
The Headbanger is a muskie lure worthy of your notice. It’s a jointed hard bait with a soft tail in floating, suspending, and sinking models. The tails are replaceable and come in Shad (paddle) or Tail (curly) versions. Created as an erratic casting lure, it’s also a great trolling bait. —M.M.
Bomber Jointed Wake Minnow
Note the position of the extra-long lip. Set far back under the chin, the lip keeps the bait waking across the surface. You end up with a large-profile topwater with vibes that stripers can’t resist. —J.C.
Phantom’s Reaper is a weighted soft bait designed to fish up and down through bait schools and over deep structure to target walleyes, lake trout, pike, and muskies. There are several natural forage patterns including bluegill and crappie. —M.M.
Yum had versatility and dependability in mind when it created the new Finesse Worm; it can be rigged shaky-head, Carolina, or drop-shot style. The worm also has a bulbous head to accommodate the newly popular Neko rig. —M.M.
Live Target Mullet Hollow Body
Live Target’s mullet may be the best mullet imitator ever. Why? Because mullet generally swim on the surface in straight lines, kicking a V‑wake all saltwater gamefish recognize. This lure matches that action to a T. —J.C.
Molix is known for its lifelike and innovative lures, and this year’s Sandeel continues that tradition. Some might think saltwater when they hear Sandeel, but this lure works off the premise that bass and pike feed heavily on juvenile eels in tidal water. It will dive down to 5 feet. —M.M.
With a flat-sided body and sharp-pointed head, the Kaera is made to knife its way through the heaviest pads and slop with very little resistance. Extra-wide hooks mean that when a bass strikes, it will stay stuck. —J.C.
Made of solid resin, the 4- and 6-inch lures have a subsurface walking action similar to that of gliders. The Raffal was created with bass anglers in mind, but with a through wire and solid construction, there’s no reason it can’t be used for other species, too. —M.M.
Given the instant success of the 360GT Searchbait, Storm has now adapted it to the salt. The lures of the Coastal 360GT lineup are all preweighted with a jighead and a VMC Coastal Black hook. —M.M.
Need a little rat in your arsenal? With a 21⁄2-inch body, this smallest member of the BBZ family is perfect for smallies and even brown trout. Not a true surface swimmer, the 25 dives a few feet and swims seductively, clacking away to draw heavy-hitter fish out of the most tucked-up hiding spots. —J.C.
Terminator Walking Frog Jr.
Topwater frog fishing produces some of the most heart-stopping hits you’ll ever witness. There’s no shortage of frogs on the market, but the Walking Frog Jr. offers something new with its slimmer profile and a subtle walking action. The 21⁄2-inch topwater comes ready with a VMC frog-gap hook, and in 16 color patterns. —M.M.
This small floating soft bait is a bronzeback angler’s dream. Rig it weedless with a light-wire hook and finesse it over grassbeds. Let the wings pulse away and just wait for the boom. —J.C.
Intended for fish holding close to the bottom, this goby-esque swimbait has a low center of gravity and a paddle tail that puts out plenty of vibes. The hidden hook is a really nice touch. —J.C.