Using Lipped Lures

In the summertime (and all year) fish are often deeper than most lures can reach. These deep divers do the job and do it well

We've been talking to a lot of anglers from other countries, and are amazed to read about fish that we've never seen. Even more amusing than instructions for catching the elusive wolf fish is the names people come up with for things we already know about. Wobblers are an example. They're called Wobblers in Europe because they wobble. Makes sense, but you don't hear them called that here.

There are plugs meant to splash around on the surface, there are plugs designed to suspend in the water at various depths, and there are plugs that wobble. In this article, we're going to talk about how they work and how to use them to catch fish.

DIVING Cabo Skipper

Diving or "Wobbling" lures have lips that utilze hydrodynamics to cause the lure to dive when it's retrieved by an angler. The angle relative to its position on the lure's body determines how deep it dives, and to some extent the motion it makes when it's swimming. Like all lures with treble hooks, make sure to bend/crush the barbs. It will definitely increase the odds that a fish will live after you've fought and carefully released him. Barbs catch flesh and often cause injury far beyond simply battling the fish, which seems not to have negative side effects if done quickly, but with proper drag settings to tire the fish, not yank them out of the water.

Hydrodynamics and Lure Design

When I was about ten, my uncle told me we were going to go for a ride. What he didn't tell me was that the ride was in his friend's Piper Cub. Frightened half to death for all of three seconds but nervous for three days afterwards, I never quite got over not being on the ground. Millions of Frequent Flyer miles later, there is a part of me that just doesn't get it. I understand the whole concept of aerodynamics – the air pushes onto the front of the wing, flows over the back, and as long as that very rusty-looking piece of steel turns up or down at exactly the right time, the pressure of the air flow actually picks that big piece of (equally-rusty-looking) metal and plastic and human flesh into the bright blue. But getting it up there because invisible air is pushing really hard still amazes me.

Lips on fishing lures I understand way better. While aerodynamics still pushes a special button deep in the bottom of my stomach, I can get on the shabbiest of airplanes. My wife and me went to a remote island chasing bonefish one time and the pilot asked if it was OK that he keep his door open as we took off. The air conditioner in the four-seater was broken. Another time in a helicopter in Hawaii we came over a rise and it was only then that the pilot noticed his friend in the other aircraft coming over the other side of the ridge. The only reason I did not drop the camera out of the side of the chopper as it tipped hard close to the rock to avoid the mid-air crash was because I froze with the camera in my frozen hand. Wanna see Maui from the sky? Use GoogleEarth.

Angles aside, it's easy to see how a lip on a plug works. I can see and feel water. If the plug doesn't have a lip, or I am fishing with a spoon, I reel the line in and the lure comes towards me. Easy. If it has a lip on it and I pull it, it still comes toward me but the water pushes it down.

The Lip Determines the Depth

When you first think of how lures work, you would think that if the steeper the angle – the more it points towards the bottom – the deeper it would go. Water pressure and the shape of the lip result in exactly the opposite. The steeper the drop – the more the lip points towards the bottom – the shallower it runs. The deepest runners are the ones with lips that point almost straight forward. The best visual for this is this FX Knuckle 60 from Megabass Premium Japanese Fishing Tackle.

Using-Lipped-Plugs-FX-KnuckleAn adjustable lip on this Megabass® lets you adjust the depth the lure reaches

At a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price of $21.99, this Knuckle-60 is not a lure I would use in a school of aggressive Amberjack in 100' of water, but for largemouth bass makes a great deal of sense.

You can see that the Knuckle has an adjustable lip. You can set the lip so the angle is steep and the front of the lip points towards the bottom, and the lure will swim down about a foot below the surface (it floats if you leave it alone). Set the lip higher, so it points more towards the front of the lure – and you – and it dives considerably deeper – five times deeper, in fact. This adjustable measurement and the result it has on the lure's action will help you pick the right lure for the right conditions and the fish you're targeting.

Working the Lure

Like all lures, wobblers have built in action. Some might sink until you begin the retrieve, while some float to the surface. Some wobble more than others, and some hardly wobble at all (if we consider a wobble to be a slight side-to-side motion when seen from above). And of course based on the angle of the lip, some dive deeper than others. They all dive deeper and show more of their built in action if you retrieve them faster, but they're not meant for fast retrieves.

Action aside, all lures allow the angler to impart what we called "Cadence", or the dance of the lure. Changing speeds, diving deeper on some pulls than on others, snapping, allowing the lure to sink or float, and other variables come into play with lipped plugs just as they do any artificial lure.


This graphic will give you an idea of variable retrieves during a single cast. As the angler allows the pause to take place, the lure floats straight up; as she pulls it towards where she's standing, the lure dives. And wobbles. Vary the retrieve and you add cadence to the lure.

In closing, all lures can improve if you work them properly, and plugs with lips are no exception. Impart the right cadence for the conditions and the water and the fish will ask for a turn on the dance floor.

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