Sea Fishing Plugs

Plugs are a type of hard lure which is most commonly associated with fishing for bass, although they can be used to catch a range of predatory species such as pollock, coalfish, wrasse and mackerel. There is a seemingly infinite choice when it comes to selecting plugs, but as we will see there are a number of features that all plugs have in common.

Design and Pricing

Rapala plug selection

A selection of plugs from the Finnish manufacturer Rapala. They are the world’s biggest supplier of fishing lures, selling 20 million every year across 140 countries.

Plugs are fish-shaped and usually made out of plastic, although traditional plugs can be made out of wood. Poppers and wobblers are also terms used for plugs and plug-like lures, due to the action which these type of lures have, while in America they are known as crankbaits. Plugs are often designed to imitate a preyfish such as a herring, sprat, sandeel or small mackerel. However, plugs are also manufactured in colours that are not usually found in nature such as bright pinks, oranges, yellows and bright greens. There is much debate (and no definitive answers) over which is the best colour/shape combination when it comes to plugs, with most anglers using a trial-and-error method to find which plug works best for them from certain marks and in certain conditions. Plugs can be made in a single piece or be jointed, usually into two but sometimes in three sections. Most plugs are sized between 10 and 20cm and typically come with two or three treble hooks attached to ensure that fish are hooked no matter which angle they attack the plug from.

View the full range of plugs at Sea Angling Shop by clicking here.

Many anglers will have a favourite type of plug which they believe gets the best results. There is however no hard and fast rules to plugs with realistic-looking plugs which mimic the appearance of other fish producing results at times, whereas at other times it is the luridly coloured plugs that will catch the fish. The design and pattern of plugs is therefore a personal choice with different anglers having different plugs which work for them. Plugs range in price from around £2 for cheap plugs (which can still be effective) whereas top-priced plugs designed specifically for bass fishing can cost upwards of £20 – such as these plugs on Amazon. Again it is personal choice as to how much anglers want to spend on their plugs, although few anglers would want to risk losing £20 lures to snaggy marks.

Floating and Diving Plugs

Fishing plugs

The size of the diving vane at the front of plugs will dictate how deep they dive.

Plugs can be divided into two main types depending on the action which they have: floating and diving. Floating plugs are mostly designed to either float on the surface of the water as they are retrieved, or dive just below to a very shallow depth. These type of plugs are also called surface poppers as they often rattle or make some other noise and create disturbance to the water as they are retrieved, as this imitates an injured fish and tempts predatory species into attacking. They are also known as top-water lures, as they work near the top (surface) of the water. Hengjia Coral Plugs are an example of sea fishing plugs that are designed to work on the surface. Diving plugs have a vane on the front which causes the plug dive under the surface as it is reeled in. The larger the vane and the steeper the angle it is set at the deeper and faster the plug will dive. When an angler stops reeling in a diving plug it will float back upwards to the surface (see diagram below). In this way diving plugs can be used to fish at different depths until anglers have located the depth at which the fish are feeding.

Plug action

A diving plug will be driven deeper as it is pulled through the water and then float back up when the reeling stops. This allows anglers to cover a range of depths when using this type of plug.

Both types of plug are effective for catching bass and other species around the UK, with anglers again using trial-and-error to find what produces fish for them. Often anglers fishing snaggy and rocky marks will prefer to use surface plugs as they can be used to fish around rocks and weed beds with less chance of becoming snagged and lost.

Other categories are used to describe what plugs do with even greater accuracy. They may, for example, be described as ‘sub-surface’ – i.e. plugs which although they do dive are very shallow divers and work just below the surface. There are also ‘sinking’ plugs which will, as the name implies, sink under the water but as they have some buoyancy will be retrieved at a higher level in the water than a solid metal spinner. Rapture Shore Gun sinking plugs (which can be viewed at Sea Angling Shop by clicking here) are an example of this type of lure. Luminous plugs are a relatively new development which can be very effective when fishing in murky or coloured water. These plugs can be ‘charged up’ by leaving them in sunlight of shining a torch at them and they will then emanate light which will attract predatory fish. Click here to view and purchase Lixada Lumi Plugs for only £2.29 each from Sea Angling Shop.

Plug Hitting Water

A plug is cast into the water. Copyright: witoldkr1 / 123RF Stock Photo.

Of course, most anglers who have been using plugs for some time will have built up both a collection of plugs and knowledge of which plug to use in certain conditions. This means that experienced anglers will be able to switch between surface plugs, diving plugs and plugs of various colours depending on the conditions they are faced with and will be able to give themselves the best chance of catching their target species. For example, some anglers may find that natural coloured plugs work best in clear water, whereas the brighter colours come into their own when the water is murkier. Similarly, surface poppers that make a lot of noise and splash water around, or have an internal rattle, may work best when the water is clouded. It is all a process of establishing what works best for the sea and weather conditions the angler is faced with. Plugs can also be relatively light and weight cannot be added to plugs as this would spoil the action of the plug as it is retrieved. Having a selection of plugs means that heavier ones can be switched to if conditions, such as wind strength or direction, begin to change.

Rods, Reels and Line for Plugging

Many anglers use bass rods for plugging, which seems logical as bass are the most commonly targeted species with this type of lure, although spinning rods of 8 – 10ft can also be used. Because many plugs can be less than 20g in weight many anglers find they cast better with lighter spinning rods, rather than the larger bass rods which are designed to cast 2 – 4oz (56 – 112g). Fixed spool reels are the most commonly used when plug fishing, although anglers should ensure that it is a front drag reel as hard fighting fish such as large bass and pollock can prove too much for rear drag reels which are weaker and designed for lighter types of fishing.

Cronus Sandeel Plug

Cronus Sandeel Plugs are 18cm long and their resemblance to sandeels means they will catch species such as bass, pollock, coalfish and other predatory fish. They are available in a choice of four colours from Sea Angling Shop by clicking here.

In terms of line, many anglers are happy to use 15lb or similar monofilament all of the way through, finding this is a good balance between being light enough to allow good casting distance while still having the strength to handle any larger fish which may be caught. There is, of course, and an increasing number of anglers using braided line with plugs, finding the strength, low diameter and stretch-free nature make this line more effective than monofilament. There is no definitive answer to what is the best line for using plugs, with both monofilament and braided line proving effective, meaning that it comes down to the angler’s personal choice over which type of line to use.

Techniques and Methods for Using Plugs

Plugs have their own type of action built-in depending on whether they are a floating or diving plug, whereas wobblers and rattlers will all have additional actions as they are retrieved. Anglers can impart additional action to the plugs they are using. The speed at which a plug is reeled in has a big influence over how it behaves, with diving lures submerging faster if they are reeled in quickly, while surface poppers will create more splashing if they are reeled in fast. Furthermore, anglers can add further action by twitching or pulling their rod to one side as they retrieve the lure which will add erratic movements to the plug which will potentially attract predatory fish looking for an easy meal of an injured fish.

Lineaeffe Top Water Plug

Lineaeffe Top Water Plugs have no diving vane, meaning they float on the surface of the water, with fish attacking as they see the lure silhouetted above. Click here to view these plugs at Sea Angling Shop.

Anglers often get success using plugs from rock marks with submerged rocks, weed beds and gullies being key areas where bass may be present. Other signs which may provide profitable for anglers using plugs include places where two different currents meet as this will churn up the seabed and attract small fish which will, in turn, attract larger fish. Although there can be a bewildering range of plugs on the market anglers can soon work out which plugs are the most effective for the marks they fish. Many anglers describe plug fishing as one of the most exciting forms of UK sea fishing, and seeing a bass take a surface plug, or feeling a powerful bass take a submerged diving plug, is one of the most exciting aspects of shore fishing.

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