Choosing Soft Plastic Fishing Lures: Bass Fishing 101
I remember the first time I went shopping for tackle. Aimlessly strolling down the aisles without an idea of what I needed. I turn down an aisle that has a huge sign hanging from the ceiling above reading “SOFT PLASTICS”. After feasting my eyes on literally hundreds of little bags hanging on shelves, I became overwhelmed and decided not to try them.
After reading articles in bass fishing magazines about how some guys were having lots of success with these so called “soft plastics”, I built up the courage to give them a shot. Boy, am I glad I made that decision! I have learned that soft plastic lures are a must for any angler that wants to increase his/her success on the water. In this article, I’ll be breaking down some of my favorite and most effective soft plastics and how I use them to maximize my experience on the water!
Don’t overlook these plain looking baits like many other anglers. In fact, many B.A.S.S. and FLW tournaments are won on this style of lure. They are usually cigar-shaped and are available in a plethora of colors and brands. Some anglers avoid them and believe there is no way a fish would be attracted to such a simple-looking lure. Absolutely not true! These baits are very effective for the ones that do use it.
French fry baits imitate one of a bass’s favorite meals- insect larvae and clusters of eggs. These plastics are usually molded in lengths from 2 to 6 inches. French fry baits can be fished in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, texas rigs, carolina rigs, and drop shots.
Stick baits, or more commonly known as “senkos”, usually resemble elongated cigars. Senkos can be fished as a Texas or Carolina-rigged worm, but are most often fished “wacky” rigged. Wacky rigging involves running the hook directly through the middle of the worm.
My preferred method of presentation involves rigging the lure weightless. The bait is then fished with short jerks and pauses to make the bait dart through the water like a minnow chasing food or jerking the lure quickly and letting it fall slowly and “shimmy” as would an injured baitfish.
Tube Style Baits
Today, tube baits are sold in many sizes, and with or without eyes. Many big name companies produce and sell tube baits. Tubes can be fished on a split shot rig, jig head, or weightless. They are used mostly as a baitfish imitation and has proven to be successful throughout the year. The light-weight body allows for the bait to fall very slowly as the attached appendages flutter in all directions.
The hollow body of the tube bait is also ideal for holding after-market spray scents. I usually use one of these spray scents to lubricate the plastic before slipping in a jig head. When rigged with a jig head, you can fish them as you would any other swimming type jig. Also, be prepared for a fish on the end of your line as soon as you reel up your slack. Tubes fall in a spiral motion with lots of action, so some fish may actually take the bait as its falling.
Lizards are baits which are usually most effective during certain times of the year and on specific bodies of water. Salamanders are major bass egg predators during the spawn and can be very effective this time of year. Lakes that have a good natural population of salamanders are good bets for lizard style baits.
Lizards are most often flipped or pitched and on a texas rig just like a regular worm. The lizard is primarily a reaction bait and this is reflected in bright contrasting colors like black/chartreuse and black/orange that the manufacturers produce.
Fluke Style Baits
Flukes, or soft jerkbaits as they have become known, have gained tremendous popularity in recent years. This is partly because they are a very fun lure to fish and mostly because they catch fish! Flukes are fished with a larger than normal worm hook due to rigging requirements. Not only is the larger, wide-gap hook necessary to pull through all the plastic, but the weight of the hook also acts as a keel to keep the bait upright in the water. Some anglers who need to add casting distance or depth to the lure, will use insert weights in the nose or body of the bait. I usually retrieve a fluke with short, quick jerks. Doing so will make the bait dart in one direction, then slowly fall as would a struggling, injured baitfish.
Grubs have long been a favorite among anglers. These lures can be equipped with a straight tail, split tail, beaver tail, single curly tail, or double curly tail and come in various lengths. These lures are most often fished using a Carolina or split shot rig and are effective when the fish seem to be a little on the finicky side. Some people will also occasionally use a curly tail grub as a trailer on a spinnerbait or jig. Grubs are also popular to fish as a dropshot bait.
Creature baits are types of plastic baits that don’t fall neatly into the standard worm, lizard, or fluke category. These baits normally have a number of appendages and have a “creature-like” appearance. The beauty of the creature style bait is its versatility. It can be used as a flipping or pitching bait, fished as a trailer on jigs, or simply on a jig head. A majority of anglers, including myself, prefer to fish creature baits as Texas-rigged pitching style baits. In this application, the bulk of the plastic makes it easy to pitch or flip into small areas where fish like to hide, and also helps the bait to sink slower, keeping it in the strike zone longer.
Soft Plastics have helped me become an all around better angler. Even though choosing soft plastic fishing lures can be intimidating at first, I promise you they will increase the number of fish in your boat if used in the correct situation. Always remember the rule of thumb, “Match the Hatch.” Take a minute to observe your surroundings for signs of forage. Minnows, insects, frogs, and crawfish are just a few items on a bass’s diet. If you can imitate some of these creatures, you will be surprised at how many bites will follow.