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Fish ID and Lure Art

Grade Level(s): 3-8
Time: 30 - 45 minutes
Group Size: one class

NYS Learning Standards Core Curriculum

The Arts Standard 1: Creating, Performing and Participating in the Arts
Students will actively engage in the processes that constitute creation and performance in the arts (dance, music, theatre, and visual arts) and participate in various roles in the arts.

  • Key Idea 1: Students will make works of art that explore different kinds of subject matter, topics, themes, and metaphors. Students will understand and use sensory elements, organizational principles, and expressive images to communicate their own ideas in works of art. Students will use a variety of art materials, processes, mediums, and techniques, and use appropriate technologies for creating and exhibiting visual art works.

MST-Standard 4: Living Environment

Students will: understand and apply scientific concepts, principles, and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment and recognize the historical development of ideas in science.

  • Key Idea 1: Living things are both similar to and different from each other and nonliving things.


Students will learn to identify 3-5 local freshwater/saltwater species while learning about the types of artificial fishing lures they can use to catch these species.


After this presentation, students will be able to

  • identify 3-5 different local fish species
  • compare and contrast 2-5 different artificial lures
  • re-iterate where and when to use the different artificial lures


  • Tackle box with lures (e.g. spoon, fly, spinner, rubber shad, bucktail, pencil popper, crankbait, soft plastics)
  • fish models/pictures of local species
  • scrap paper
  • crayons; markers/colored pencils
  • 3-4 pictures of each type of lure or actual examples with hooks removed (soft plastic, pencil popper, spinner, rubber shad);
  • Soft Plastic, Pencil Popper, Spinner, and/or Rubber Shad worksheets (one for each participant)

Fish ID and Lure Art Lesson Plan Complete with Worksheets (PDF) (556 KB)

Fish ID and Lure Art Worksheets (PDF) (352 KB)

A variety of fishing lures


  • Artificial bait - manmade material used to attract fish, commonly referred to as lures
  • Bait - either a material found in nature or artificially made to attract fish
  • Bucktail - metal head with single hook; colored hair protruding backwards from head; cast and jig; fresh or saltwater
  • Crankbait - tube or fish-like shape with at least 2 treble hooks; usually made of wood or plastic; may dive at various levels (surface, shallow, deep); cast and retrieve; fresh and saltwater. (plugs)
  • Fly - handmade, small lure; often looks like a fly; used for fly fishing; cast and float; fresh or saltwater
  • Jig/Jigging - method of retrieving a lure; "dancing;" bounce up and down slowly and smoothly or quickly and erratically
  • Lure - artificial bait used to attract fish
  • Natural bait - something living or once living used to catch fish (ex. Worms)
  • Pencil Popper - long, slender lure with at least 2 treble hooks; usually made of wood or plastic; cast and splash on water's surface; does not dive into water; usually saltwater
  • Rubber Shad - rubber lure shaped as a fish with a single hook; cast and retrieve; fresh or saltwater
  • Spinner - lure has a spinning piece with a treble hook; cast and retrieve; metal and usually colored; usually freshwater
  • Soft Plastics - made out of soft plastic; often shaped as a worm, small fish, frog or lizard; cast, let sink to the bottom and slowly bounce or cast, let sink and retrieve slowly, jigging; fresh or saltwater
  • Spoon - spoon shaped lure with a treble hook; cast and retrieve; metal; fresh or saltwater


There are hundreds of different types of fishing bait. Bait comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and materials and is generally put into two categories; natural or artificial. Bait is either a material found in nature or artificially made to attract fish. Anglers use varying types of bait in order to target certain species when fishing.

Natural Bait vs. Artificial Lures


Natural bait is something living or once living. For freshwater fishing this includes earthworms, leeches, and crayfish. For saltwater fishing, this includes bunker, spearing, squid, and sandworms. In most cases, natural bait is a better choice, but this depends on your location, the weather, and fishing conditions. Most fish will go for something that looks and smells natural, with natural movement.


Artificial bait is manmade. Commonly referred to as lures, examples include soft plastics, spinners, spoons, flies, bucktails, poppers, rubber shads, and crankbaits. There is a large variety of lures, which can be quite intimidating to the beginner angler. However, lures can be quicker and easier to use. Simply tie or snap on your lure and start fishing! In addition, if that lure is not producing, then switch the color or type and see what happens. Although natural baits are usually chosen first, there are times when artificial lures are a better choice. For example when fishing at night, in murky water, or quick moving water an artificial lure can come in handy. In dark or murky water, a fish's field of view is lessened; therefore the display (color, sound, vibration) of artificial bait can improve your chances of attracting and catching fish. When using artificial bait, you must move the lure so that it appears real to the fish. Using lures is all about practice. Before using any lure, check out its movement by jigging, or making it "dance," in the bathtub or at your local water body.


Freshwater (FW)

Freshwater lures include flies, spinners, spoons, bucktails, rubber shads, crankbaits, and soft plastics that resemble worms, smaller fish, or amphibians.

Saltwater (SW)

Saltwater and freshwater lures share commonalities in type such as spoons, flies, bucktails, and soft plastics; however, saltwater lures are heavier and bigger as they are made to cast farther and catch larger fish. Common lure types and their descriptions are listed on the following page.

Selecting a lure

Match the hatch

"Match the hatch" means to choose bait, artificial or natural, that resembles the diet of the target species in both color and size. Commonly a fly fishing expression, match the hatch has become a general term from trout fishing to tuna fishing. Remember that light levels and water clarity play a significant role in the presentation of a lure. For example during a hard rain storm, the clarity of the water will be altered. Thus, be sure to have different types and colors of lures when fishing.

Common Artificial Lure Types
Lure Type Description Target Species
Soft plastics
Soft plasitic baits
Many shapes/colors meant to look like worms, amphibians, or crustaceans; FW or SW Fish with little to no teeth; example: largemouth bass, weakfish
Inline spinner baits
Metal or plastic blade that spins around; sometimes colored feathers or beads; treble hook; emits vibration and flash much like a baitfish in distress; usually FW Predatory species; example: trout
Spoon fishing lures
Thin metal piece with single treble hook; roundish shape with side-to-side movement; reflects a lot of light, resembles baitfish; FW or SW Toothed fish; examples: trout, walleye, pike, bluefish
Fly fishing lures
Made from wool chenille, fur, hair, feathers, tinsel, and others; fly fishing only; imitates insect, worm, fish egg; FW or SW Depends on location in water; examples: mostly trout and striped bass
Bucktail fishing lures
Colored hair on metal head; single hook; FW or SW Any; examples: striped bass, summer flounder
Plugs (also crankbaits, diver)
Plug fishing lures
Surface or diving; depends on placement of metal lip; wooden or plastic body; 2-3 treble hooks; frog, mice or baitfish mock; FW, larger in SW Predators; examples: striped bass, bluefish, black bass
Poppers (also pencil poppers)
Popper fishing lures
Type of plug; only on surface; imitate baitfish splashing at the surface; two treble hooks; usually SW Predators; examples: bluefish, striped bass
Rubber shads
Rubber shad fishing lure
Soft rubber lure shaped as a small baitfish with single hook; FW or SW Fish with few to no teeth, e.g., : striped bass, largemouth bass, large panfish

Main Activity


  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Introduce day's activities:
    1. Fish identification
    2. Artificial lure identification
    3. Artificial lure artwork

Bait Introduction

  1. Discuss the two different types of bait.
    1. Natural/real: live and dead
      1. Worms, fish, etc.
    2. Artificial/not real: artificial, fake bait
      1. Crankbait, spoon, fly, spinner, pencil popper, etc.
        Say: There are two types of bait, real and not real. Can someone give me an example of real bait, either live or dead? What about an example of artificial bait?
  2. Tell students today we are going to focus on artificial bait.

Artificial Bait and Fish Identification

  1. Show students 3-5 different types of artificial bait. Be sure to pick lures based on the fish found at the body of water in which they will be fishing.
    1. Name
    2. Safety
    3. How it moves
    4. When to use it; i.e. color, time of day, weather condition
  2. After each lure, show students different type(s) of fish that can be caught using that lure. Use fish models/pictures for a visual example if desired.
    1. Be sure to discuss proper handling of fish and safe removal of lure, e.g. use of pliers
  3. As the lesson progresses, begin to ask the students to identify the name of the fish of those already covered.

Lure Activity

  1. Tell students that they are going to create their own artificial lure based on the fish and artificial lures they just learned.
    1. Say: You have just been promoted to the marketing manager of REEL DEALS Lure Company. Your task is to create a new lure for the anglers of New York State. Be sure to select or create a lure based on the fish you want to catch and when you want your lure to be used. Remember the information we just reviewed.
  2. Invite students to draw their own lures or to complete the already created outlines of a pencil popper, spinner, rubber shad or soft plastic.
  3. Hand out laminated lure cards or examples without hooks for students to use as an example.
  4. Instruct students to answer the questions on the bottom of the worksheet.
  5. Ask if there are any questions.
  6. Time permitting, invite a few students to share their work.



  1. There is a lot of flexibility with lures; however one needs to be patient and creative when using them.
  2. Practice makes perfect!

Wrap Up

Relationship to fishing

Bait is either a material found in nature or artificially made to attract fish. There are hundreds of different types of fishing bait. Bait comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. Anglers often try to "match the hatch" by using bait that resembles the natural prey of the fish they are targeting. If the lure you are using isn't producing, switch the color or type and see what happens.


  • Ask the students to identify the 3-5 species of fish they learned about
  • Have the students explain when and where to use certain lures
  • Have the students compare and contrast two lure types

Questions for Discussion

Q: What is the difference between artificial bait and natural bait?
A: Artificial lures are synthetic (manmade) and made to attract fish, and natural bait occurs in nature

Q: Name a type of natural bait
A: Worms, clam, squid, fish, crustaceans

Q: Name two common artificial lures
A: Answers may vary: spoons, spinners, poppers, rubber shads, flies, bucktails, plugs, soft plastics

Q: Why do lures come in so many shapes and colors?
A: Artificial bait is made to attract fish and often resembles the fish's natural prey. Certain color lures will produce better in daylight, at night, or in inclement weather.

Q: Why might an angler choose a bright colored lure over a dark lure?
A: to "match the hatch" or to make sure the lure is visible at a certain time of day or in certain weather conditions

Q: What does "match the hatch" mean?
A: to choose bait, artificial or natural, that resembles the diet of the target species in both color and size

Q: Why should we handle fish with our bare hands instead of a rag?
A: to protect the slime layer of the fish

Q: Name one external anatomy feature of a fish
A: Answers will vary: mouth, eyes, nares, dorsal fin, pelvic fin, anal fin, caudal fin, pectoral fin, lateral line, operculum, scales, slime layer
Q: Name a common local fish species (freshwater or saltwater)

Q: Which lure is your favorite, why?

Web Resources

(All links below leave DEC website)

Live Baits or Artificial Baits for Striped Bass - Background information on striped bass with a comparison of artificial and live bait

Match the Hatch - Provides information on bait type and color selection

How to Select Lure Colors for Successful Fishing - Provides extensive background information on how fish see in color, and what types of lures to use in various light conditions.