Best Lures for Spanish Mackerel

Here are some surefire picks when hunting this species

Fast, sleek and scrappy, Spanish mackerel provide countless hours of light-tackle fun. But what are the best Spanish mackerel lures and baits, and what rigs work best? Over the years we’ve pretty much figured out what works and what doesn’t, and we’re sharing these tips with you.

Each year we look forward to the autumn migration of these speedsters throughout the Carolinas, Georgia and Gulf states as schools make their way south before setting up winter residence in South Florida. Spanish mackerel love a variety of small prey and lures that mimic glass minnows, sardines, plichards and other bait easily fools them with a fast retrieve. Interested in techniques for when you’re flyfishing or trolling for Spanish mackerel? We’ve got tips on that too.

A trace of light wire leader minimizes cut-offs. If the bite is timid, switch to 30- to 40-pound mono leader. Swivels allow for quicker connections, but use black or bronze finishes to avoid fish hitting them and clipping the line. Medium-light spin or bait-casting rigs or 7- to 8-weight fly outfits provide plenty of sport. Learn how to catch mackerel with this selection of proven Spanish killers:


Casting Spoons

Casting spoons for Spanish mackerel
Aerodynamic and shiny, casting spoons like those made by Kastmaster, Krocodile and Hopkins make a perfect match for glass minnows, a favorite mackerel snack. They cast long distances and can be ripped back through water for an irresistible presentation. Capt. Dave Lear


Jigs for Spanish mackerel
Similar to the flashy spoons, lures like small diamond jigs and Gotchas have fooled many Spanish. A fast retrieve is essential and keep reeling on short strikes. Mackerel travel in packs and the competitive nature between fish often results in follow-up hits. Capt. Dave Lear

Trolling Spoons

Trolling spoons for Spanish mackerel
Perfect for kids, mackerel can be easily caught by trolling. The venerable Clark spoon and similar lures flutter and skip just like small bait. Rig with leader and a small egg sinker above the swivel to run just below the surface. Trolling speeds should be adjusted to sea conditions but 1,000 to 1,500 rpm or between 2 and 4 knots is a good range. Capt. Dave Lear

Mackerel Trees

Mackerel trees
Designed to portray a school of bait, this trolled multiple presentation is hard to resist. A small egg sinker will keep the rig in the water and the same trolling speeds as the trolled spoons will entice the predators. Capt. Dave Lear

Soda Straw Rig

Soda Straw rigs
Long a Cracker favorite and easy on the wallet, this set-up starts with a 3- to 4-inch plastic soda straw with an angled cut on one end. The straw segment slides over a long-shank J-hook crimped or tied to the leader. A small egg sinker on the running line held in position by a swivel completes the set-up. This rig can be trolled or cast and is a dead ringer for a glass minnow. Capt. Dave Lear

Bubble Rig

Bubble rig for Spanish mackerel
Borrowing a trick from freshwater anglers, attach a clear bubble float to the running line above the leader swivel, and add a soft-plastic shad tail, minnow or shrim. Partially filling the float with water increases casting distance and the bubble trail it creates on the retrieve helps draw the fish. Capt. Dave Lear

Jerk Baits

Jerkbait for Spanish mackerel
Smaller profile plastic jerk baits like CALs, Gulp! or Bass Assassin rigged with light jig head, weedless with a worm hook or even nose-hooked with a light-wire circle hook are effective lures when the mackerel are harassing bait pods on the surface. A heavier mono leader imparts the most action. Slip into range on a drift or use the trolling motor, then cast on the edges of the pods and retrieve with an erratic, darting cadence. Capt. Dave Lear

Bucktail Jigs

Bucktail Jigs
Simple yet effective, the pulse and profile of bucktail jigs attract a mackerel’s attention. Cast and retrieve with short twitches of the rod tip to make the jig swim and dart. White and chartreuse patterns get the nod. Capt. Dave Lear

Clouser Minnows

Clouser Minnows
Spanish mackerel offer fast fly rod action. With a weight forward or intermediate sink tip on a fast-action rod, work the bait pods in the same manner as the jerk baits. The mackerel have a hard time telling Clouser minnows with bead eyes in chartreuse-and-white with a couple strands of silver flash apart from the real McCoy. Use a fast strip to keep their attention. Capt. Dave Lear

Epoxy Minnow Flies

Epoxy Minnow Flies
Also created with glass minnows in mind, these epoxy flies cast well and sink quickly to get into the strike zone. Capt. Dave Lear