A trip to your local bait and tackle shop or big brand sporting goods store can elicit a wide range of emotions from joy to overwhelming anxiety when you step in front of rows upon rows of fishing tackle. When looking at the soft plastic baits, the anxiety might be even worse… but if you have an idea of what you’re after, it’s much easier! What criteria you use in making your selection is crucial in the difference between a phenomenal day on the water or wasting your hard-earned money catching nothing.
However, with choices abound, this task can become daunting for even the most seasoned of anglers. This article will help alleviate some confusion and narrow down these choices to the essentials required to make any day, during any season, as successful as possible.
Soft Plastic Baits: The Stick Bait
We begin with one of the most well-known soft plastic baits ever created: the soft stick bait, or the Senko, which was invented by a popular tournament angler named Gary Yamamoto. This revolutionary creation made in the 1990s has gained a loyal fan base due to its legendary performance as an all-time fish-catcher. This salt infused plastic bait does not resemble anything in nature upon first glance; but it’s action, falling through the water column providing a subtle horizontal flutter, entices bass to strike.
The senko was actually created to be used similarly to a soft plastic fluke style bait, but over the years, anglers found great and versatile ways to put this bait to work!
As one of the most versatile baits available, you can wacky-rig it for skipping under docks and structure or use it as a weightless or weighted Texas-rigged bait. Some anglers will also use it with swing heads, carolina rigs, drop shots, and shaky heads!
When texas-rigging, I prefer to use a snell knot on a Gamakatsu 3/0 Extra Wide Gap hook as it provides the most strength, stability and control of the hook’s direction increasing more successful hooksets.
Selecting colors ultimately depends on your fisheries’ water clarity. The general rule is clear to gin clear water requires a very natural, subtle color to mimic the local forage such as Green Pumpkin, Watermelon, Smoke or a shade of brown. In darker, stained or murky water, the water necessitates darker or more flashy colors such as Black, Junebug, Blue, Pumpkin or something with a lot of glitter on sunny days. As with anything, variables exist and experimentation will be key in determining the pattern the bass are currently on.
Soft Plastic Baits: The Soft Plastic Worm
Next, we take a look at the original soft plastic worm invented by Nick Creme in 1949. The Creme Scoundrel; and later incarnations like the Zoom Trick Worm, the Roboworm, Berkley PowerBait Power Worm and so on, perfectly imitate a bass’s favorite snack.
Rigging one of these baits is as simple or as complex as you want to make it due to its limitless applications.
These baits usually float on top of the water column or sink very slowly. The most popular ways to rig a worm are Texas-rigged with a bullet weight on a 4/0 Offset Round Bend hook, wacky-rigged, Carolina-rigged or using a drop-shot rig.
Again, choosing colors is mostly based on water clarity and a bass’s personal preference. But a bass (and fish in general) will only hit a bait they can see. Patterns can change day to day or even hour to hour. Let the bass tell you what they want.
Soft Plastic Baits: The Soft Swimbait and Jerkbait
If the bass are not hitting worms, a swimbait or soft jerkbait are great choices especially during a shad kill or during a panfish spawn. These baits are used to mimic baitfish and can produce a very life-like presentation. The key to fishing a swimbait or jerkbait is a slow, straight retrieve with several twitches of your rod tip to create some erratic action.
Floating baits work great when imitating a dying fish while sinking baits swim deeper along weed edges and other types of structure for a hungry bass to ambush.
There are many variations of these lures with some pre-rigged with hooks while others can be weighted, Texas-rigged or used as an excellent jig trailer. I recommend checking out the Zoom Super Fluke, Keitech Easy Shiner, Yamamoto Zako and the Phenix Anthony 150.
Choosing the right size bait is the most important factor with color being secondary. Knowledge of your fisheries’ native baitfish and the typical size they are at that moment will provide the best chance for success. Bass know instinctively if something is not right and too large of a bait will typically be ignored. Natural colors will work most of the time unless you have very muddy or heavily stained water to which dark colors are your best option.
Soft Plastic Baits: The Crawfish Imitator
During certain times of the year such as Pre-Spawn, Post-Spawn and Autumn, bass will search for a more satisfying meal and there is nothing more satisfying than a crawfish. These freshwater crustaceans can be found in almost every lake, river and creek in the United States. Usually hiding in-between rock crevices or buried in muddy burrows, crawfish only come out when needing to feed or spawn. Spawning is triggered when water temperatures consistently reach into the fifties after ice-out or when the water cools down in the fall and lasts for about two to three weeks. Immediately after spawning, male crawfish begin the molting process with females molting after their eggs have hatched and their offspring leave.
Crawfish shed their hard exoskeleton and change colors from a greenish-brown to a bright orange. This process makes them susceptible to attack by predatory fish. After the transformation is complete, crawfish retreat back to their burrows and rocky habitats.
Since crawfish are only found at the bottom, rigging a soft plastic craw is simple by using a jig or weighted texas rig.
Just like with swimbaits, it is recommended that you “match the hatch” and use the water temperature to your advantage by selecting baits with a lot of movement in warmer waters and the least amount in colder waters for the best results.
Soft Plastic Baits: The Creature Bait
Lastly, the most unique but effective of all soft plastic baits is the creature bait. These odd little lures’ appearance ranges from the quasi-natural to the downright alien. The creature bait features a bulky profile with multiple appendages that provide the erratic action bass crave. Some popular examples of these baits are the Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver, Zoom Brush Hog, Googan Baits Bandito Bug and Trench Hawg, Yamamoto Hula Grub, Z-Man TRD HogZ, Berkley Havoc Pit Boss, Gambler Ugly Otter and many, many more.
Fishing a creature bait is much the same as using a jig or craw. One of the most effective ways is by flipping and pitching it into heavy cover or next to laydowns.
Dark colors seem to work best for this application. I tend to go with a Green Pumpkin, Bama Bug or Junebug color when flipping through matted grass or hopping in and out of weed beds. Bass are curious and will oftentimes swipe or peck at a bait; that is when you have to be ready to set the hook.
There you have five soft plastic baits you can use year-round for bass and other fish species. These simple but highly effective baits will put fish in your hands and won’t break the bank.
Good luck and tight lines!
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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