Best Herring Imitations & How You Fish Them

140 posts in this topic

The single In Line Hook is easily comperable to a treble & way better for catch & release fishing. Trebles are becoming dead to me. You will have a far easier time dealing with single hooks, trust me. But, they will grab your hand if you're not careful. On fact after a few minutes of handling lures rigged with in line hooks, you will easily see they are easily comperable to trebbles.

I find this confusing. Are you saying that inline hooks are easier on the fish but still will end up in your hand just as much as trebles?

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Don't underestimate a silver chug bug :) can be very productive!

Does anyone have a picture of a Chug Bug to include in this thread?

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I find this confusing. Are you saying that inline hooks are easier on the fish but still will end up in your hand just as much as trebles?

YES, wish I could have said it that succinctly! They actually are worse than Trebbles.

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Here in the Northeast we have some really cool Herring Runs and personally, this is my favorite bait-fish for a number of reasons. We have the small Atlantic Herring that create some of the most epic open water blitzes of each season. Their coloration is primarily a dark navy blue back with Silver bodies and a yelloeish hue to their cheeks -or not. I'be seen the 5 inch "Atlantics" as we refer to them with and without the yellow hue in the cheek area. Then we have the mature River Herring that spawns in the late spring in various rivers, a phenomenon that occurs under the cover of darkness & often times right under the sleeping noses of many anglers. Hearing congregation ass numbers in some of the most surprising places. A good way to spot them is to stand on a bridge and just shine a light down into the water and you might be shocked at what you see happening in the dark in the late spring. The flashlight will send them skittering and often times you'll spot large Bass right in with them in skinny water. The common color of this bait fish is a blue back with pink sides & a silvery or pearl belly. We also have Alewives which are a full grown river Herring that lack the pinkish color on the sides and have pronounceD single dots behind their gills. This is primarily a river bait fish and if you ever caught one either by accidental snagging orperhaps when fly fishing, you will marvel at their beauty. They have a bluish green back and their bodies are an incredible pearl color.One thing is for certain Stripers and Blues go bananas for all types of Herring and when their numbers are present in significant they become enough to match species of bait fish. Herring also extremely important in the off shore game as Palagics like them too.I thought it would be cool to do a post where we share our favorite Herring Imitations and describe how we fish them.

attachicon.gifMambo Herring.jpg

Without a doubt the pattern I use the most for full sized Herring is the Mambo Minnow. Weighing in at a little under an ounce - you have to make sure that you throw the Mambo with the right rod. It's an incredible lure that has a lot of flutter to it and it seems to work better when you add a flag tail. I like to reel it in steadily and pump the rod tip to accelerate the lure so that it vibrates and flutters like mad on the retrieve. have spent countless nights fishing all sorts of water with Mambo minnows and the results have been nothing short of awesome. In fact, it's a LETHAL night lure on the Canal. In the spring you will find half my plug bag is various Mambo minnows.

attachicon.gifBomber Herring.jpg

A close second are Bombers or Bomber type lures, which seeing how some are made of wood, are technically "plugs", even though they resemble the silhouette of a typical Bomber. As with the Mambo Minnow, you can use different sizes and entirely different types four different results help deal with various conditions.

The Long Cast Bomber, shown on top in the photo, is one of just getting started with as it came out last year. I had some pretty good nights with this lure and have found it runs a little deeper than the one I'm used to using which is the "all-star everyone knows it's name" Mother of Pearl 17A. Handmade offerings such as the one in the bottom of the photo, tend to run a little deeper and in general I don't find a work as well. Because you are often fishing in skinny water with Herring imitations, the Mambo minnow is always my first choice because it is much less apt to get snagged in weeds or on structure. The Bomber also runs fairly shallow, though not as shallow. It also has a much wider wobble than the Mambo. The Mambo has a better flutter while the Bomber it is better if you want to work it back slowly so slowly in fact- that you literally can crawl it. If you're fishing over a boulder field or a Sandy beach, the Bomber is the one you want to grab and try first.

attachicon.gifHwrring Specials.jpg

I'm sure everyone has a specific imitation or perhaps a great searching pattern above are two of the ones I use one is a little more realistic & the other is one of my favorite Atlantic searching patterns. Both are very light lures & ok for skinny water.

attachicon.gifSebile Herring.jpg

When you have a little bit deeper water and the water is extremely clear, Magic Swimmers like the Sebile & Live Target can be good, but expensive for what you get, options.

attachicon.gifMikes Herring Swimmers.jpg

Now if you really want to get expensive you have options. These are both made by Mike's Custom Plugs and his magic swimmer might be the coolest full sized Herring I have ever seen in my life! It also swims beautifully and works great.

attachicon.gifHerring Swimmers.jpg

Herring Metal Lip Swimmers come in all shapes and sizes and can be good and frothy wavy water or deeper calm water even in the daytime. These types of plugs move a lot of water & can be effective having a metal lip or two is a very good idea if you have big Herring around.

attachicon.gifHerring bottle darters.jpg

Because Herring are found in rivers and in current oftentime in an outflow or at the mouth of a river having a bottle darter that you can drift out over 100 yards or more and then bring slowly back has it wobbles and digs into the current is a must. These lures are best fished on conventional surf rods with conventional reels - a lost art these days.

attachicon.gifHerring Darters.jpg

Anothe "best fished on a conventional surf rod/reel lure, I also like a small Darter for Atlantic Herring and when storms blow these bait fish in close this can be a great night time lure. Also pictured in the above photo is a Super Strike Stubby Bullet 1 5/8 ounces. With the right rod a "Stubby" will go a mile when you cast it. The Stubby is an absolute go to for me but not in the heavier weight I like the one I just mentioned best by far. It doesn't get hung up and it cast really far. With this lure, the action you give it is everything. If you just try to cast it in real again it will work awful. But, if you throw it let it settle and begin to work it back with a jerk and another jerk then a pump of the real the Stubby begins to zigzag. I have caught hundreds of big bass on the Stubby in conditions when I thought a pencil popper at daybreak might be the ticket - but since no fish were showing and I knew they were feeding - I went to the Stubby and sure enough, keeper bass were taken. If you see me on the Cape Cod Canal or working the shores of Rhode Island this year, you will notice a Stubby most likely tied on one of my rods.

attachicon.gifSuper Strike Herring.jpg

Most of us recognize these Super Strike Sinking Little-Neck Poppers and for fishing current or slack water and for when you want to do things that no other paper can do the sinking Little Neck is probably the most deadly of all Herring imitations, not to mention it is one of the farthest casting most durable lures ever made. I have spent immense amounts of time learning to swim this plug slowly after it pops up onto the surface, you can also stop it and let it sink, bring it back up - pop it once or twice gently and then retrieve it at the pace of a snail as it wobbles back and forth seductively. It's even greatbon the swing. No other lure can be fished like this bad boy & this is my number one producer every season. In fact if I had to pick one plug it would be an all white sinking Little Neck popper. O'course I modifiy mine slightly with a sexy flagtail, because I like to swim it slowly and it certainly helps make it even more effective.

attachicon.gifLeft Hook & Guppy.jpg

When you're fishing big water be it the Cape Cod Canal or a big open beach & you're fishing at dawn, reaching the fish is a big deal. In order to cover blitzes you need very heavy pencils like the Left Hook Raptor or the Guppy Pencils. These style of pencils feature the Cape Cod Canal flat bottom, whuch makes them hydroplane as they slash back & forth. Both of these pencils are expensive but they work so well that I always have one in my bag if I'm expecting Herring. Besides, they last forever man, they'resemble wood! With pencils like this a lot of effort is required to keep them splashing back and forth you have to bounce the rod tip constantly as you reel the plug in. Pencil popping is an art form and if you're going to use pencils and all purpose rod is a bad choice. A good pencil rod has a very soft tip something that's not easy to find in a surf rod. Also you need distance and soft tips & distance rods are very hard to find. I use a Lammy Tri-Flex, a couple Ron Aara's & a couple Century Rods, all of which do the job superbly.

attachicon.gifMike's Herring Pencils.jpg

attachicon.gifMike's Loud Mouth Herring.jpg

Having a floating Pencil that is not quite as aggressively weighted is also a great idea for when you want to work a pencil and then let it hang in the zone for a second and then work it again and then let it hang again and so forth. Two of the best floating pencils I've seen are made by Mike's custom plugs and are pictured above.

attachicon.gifAfter Hours Atlantic Herring.jpg

When you have Atlantics around the above after hours pencil is really good, it doesn't cast ten miles but the action on it is terrific and you can hang it in the zone all morning long.

attachicon.gifSmack It Herring.jpg

A lot of guys like the Stillwater Smack-it Herring for, well...still water. I'm not going to argue they work great.

attachicon.gifTalkin Poppers.jpg

The Tsunami Talkin Poppers are very popular as they are dirt cheap - but the finish cracks off badly even after a few hours of fishing and by the end of the season you end up spending more money buying replacements then you would have if you just bought a couple of nice wood poppers, which by the way you could use year after year to me these types of lures have very little value. That said lots of people will say they are the greatest thing since Wonder Bread.

attachicon.gifLoaded Cotton Cordell.jpg

Now if I wanted to save a fortune & fish with a durable pencil that would spank fish all season long and outcasts everything on the market - even the vaunted Left Hook... well, I go by myself a Cotton Cordell blue and silver pencil popper.

Then I would run to the nearest hunting department & buy me some Number 8 Lead Bird Shot. Take your proper home & drill a hole in the back end of it get out the postal scale and you can begin to weight it between 1 1/2 and 4 ounces. Seal up the whole of some epoxy and you are now the proud owner of an intergalactic ballistic missile. In fact you can load any rod with one of these suckers - they are incredibly durable, they don'T chip, they are hollow inside so the bird shot rockets from one end to the other as you cast & if you swap out the hook and put on a little flag all the better.

If you think that a little flag hurts the distance on a three ounce pencil you are insane. It in no way affects it. I have practically hit the other side of the Cape Cod Canal with one of these things. Of course it was a 4 oz. job on a 12 and a half foot Century Sling Shot rod & a fancy long cast reel. Still. Just sayin!

attachicon.gifHydro Pencil.jpg

The Yozuri Hydro Pencil! Now let's have a little chat. Anybody fish from a boat? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the best guide on the Long Island Sound (that I know) has one of these rigged on a guest rod all season long. Has he caught over 10,000 Bass and 10,000 Blues since this lure was invented? All I know is he's caught tons of fish over 30+ years and so have I on this particular lure. Everybody knows the Bone White & the Tutti Frutti are the two best colours with this lure but if you want to imitate Atlantic Herring this bad boy makes Bob your uncle. Nuff said!? This is also a great lure for shore fisherman who tosses around structure alot. Move it stop it move it stop it. This is a classic walk the dog lure probably the best one ever made. Every year I replace the hooks after they get eaten off then I do it again and again and again. I can't say enough about this lure. Bass will tail-slap it up into the air swing back around and grab it & when this happens you have to just wait a second. If you have a boat this lure needs to be one of your primary lures - period. You will crush fish. In fact you don't really need a fishfinder either, just swooped in on a squall of birds and throw this thing it really isn't complicated.

attachicon.gifOcean Lures Herring.jpg

Ocean lures makes a nice Herring plug for surface or just under the surface blitzes and this particular lure has an amazing foil job that drives 'em crazy!

attachicon.gifYoziri Herring.jpg

Yozuri makes an interesting stick darter for lack of a better term and I've taken quite a few Bass on this little gem of a lure. It casts nicely too and if you fish it on a lighter action rod you can really make it come alive. Obviously if you just cast it and reel it in you'll be sorely disappointed.

Now if I'm fishing from the beach into some real deep water on a very windy day or when nothing's showing at all I'll often go to a metal "Dart Stlye" Jig.


The Shimano Colt Sniper is probably the single most effective lure I have ever seen. Not only does it catch literally everything but the edges are beveled, allowing it to flutter as it drops and it's incredibly multi prismatic finish bounces light like nothing I've seen yet.

All of my buddies and I had a terrific season with the Colt Sniper this year. Man, I will tell you what, if you fish from a boat you need a whole box of these suckers & good luck getting them because they're always out of stock because they are so popular amongst boat fisherman. The cool thing about the Colt Sniper is that you can cast it and reel it back! This makes it the best metal you will ever find. They are weighted in grams, not ounces.


Of course you could place an order with the Washington-based company Point Wilson and grab yourself some Point Wilson 3oz. Darts. Have fun opening them because they shrink wrap these heavy little "blips" - it takes about 15 minutes per dart just to get it out of the package. For Atlantic Herring though, you won't find a nicer jig that you can also cast. They make a couple different styles of jigs & for Herring you're going to want the Anchovy body style. (Not the Herring, which is much stubbier & more for salmon species).

In fact if you want to slay Albies & Bonito this fall, you may want to grab yourself a few of the Glow Back Chrome Belly 1 oz. Anchovy Darts as well, you probably won't need another lure all fall long & it casts like a missile, you won't even notice if it's windy or not and the fish crush these things. There is a reason they are so popular on the West Coast why they haven't caught on here on the East Coast is beyond me.

Soft Plastics are another Herring Category unto themselves and no other imitations offer the versatility of these baits, thanks to the array of jig heads and worm hooks that are available. The most popular jig heads are 3/4 oz to 2 oz., with 3 & 4 oz. for calmer water and 3 oz. & 4 oz. and heavier reserved for current & depth.




The most popular soft plastic for imitating an Adult Herring is the amazingly effective Lunker City Sluggo. The above photo shows a few ways to rig a Sluggo. When fishing top water I prefer a double rigged Sluggo as they swim the best. I don't think I have see a soft plastic that swims side to side better than a Sluggo.




Another choice for imitating both Atlantics and full sized Herring is the Lunker City Fin-S Fish. They have a terrific profile.




...and they come in all sorts of sizes that are compatible with jig heads that let you get down.




Paddle Tails can also be effective Herring Imitations.




You can fish Paddle Tails deep or near the surface & in any size you need.




The Connecticut River is home to a massive Herring Run & after living at the mouth of the river for so many years, I developed a love affair with the Yum Houdini Shad, whuch is unfortunately not made any more. This particular bait was the single best Herring Imitation ever made & is/was deadly. The tail features a cut out and the bait can be fished three different ways. Someone rally ought to buy the mold off of those knuckleheads at Pradco & start making these themselves. What a great bait! They were available in a wide range of colors including Blueback Herring, Bubblegum, UV Pearl, Blurple, Black, Chartreuse. ..etc.



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Great Post ... well written and lots of pictures. What I like most is the use of single hook / stinger hooks on the lures. With catch & release in mind ... treble hooks should be banned, IMO.


Thanks for the article.

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Posted (edited)

Great Post ... well written and lots of pictures. What I like most is the use of single hook / stinger hooks on the lures. With catch & release in mind ... treble hooks should be banned, IMO.


Thanks for the article.

My pleasure Kirona Fly! Together we are a pretty fun & informative community!





Another very popular way to imitate in Atlantic Herring is to use everybody's favorite Daiwa SP Minnow, the Mother of Pearl color is the way to go here and if you equip this lure with a sexy flag tail it does a very nice job and will out-cast every lure in its class. It's a lot of fun to make the tails too!



Edited by CaryGreene

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Great read! Thanks for putting all that info in one place. You make me want to go spend some money ;)

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Singles are awesome but yea, gotta be careful. Only having one point they hook deep easily and quicker than trebles. Great for hooking fish, not so much for your hand. Quality ones are super sharp too.

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Posted (edited)

Good post. Away from the herring runs up in Boston we get a ton of Brit or Sea Herring. These can range from 3" to 8". When bass are actively pursuing these speedster bait fish my number one is the 182 Stick Shadd. These plugs catch but they crack...and I believe it has been discontinued. I have 15 left and fix the cracked ones. Hands down one the best plugs for me when the action is on. Prefer the sinking for me.

Edited by The Riddler

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