Those who know me (people and fish included) know that my favorite lure for
catching virtually anything is the jig. Sometimes I use jigs that are dressed
with feathers and marabou. Other times hair jigs seem to have the magic appeal.
But more often than not, my weapon is a simple lead-head jig with a soft
plastic body threaded on its hook.
Soft plastic bodies go well beyond jig applications, however. Plastic worms
on hooks -- rigged Texas, Carolina, Wacky, or Drop-shot style -- are
bass-catching machines (in addition to other species). Soft plastics can be
added to other types of lures too, to increase the profile size of the bait and
add extra action.
Soft Plastic Variety
However you fish them, no tackle box is complete without a decent assortment of
soft plastics in the following categories: grubs, tubes, worms,
"creatures" (representing crayfish), and swimbaits.
There are more styles than these out there, but if you have a selection of
sizes and colors within all of the major plastic categories, you'll be set to
tackle whatever the fish or conditions throw at you.
It can get pretty expensive to amass a selection that you'd find in a
professional tournament angler's boat. So for the regular Joe, I recommend a
couple sizes/styles in each category -- in three colors ranging from pearl
white to dark (black, purple or dark blue). This will pretty much cover you for
virtually any water clarity or condition you'll experience on the water.
Hooks And Jigs
Being equipped with the terminal tackle you need is critical. That means having
the jigs (traditional and tube), hooks and sinkers necessary for rigging soft
plastics in a variety of ways -- from the classic Texas rig to the more
specialized drop-shot rig. Don't skimp on your terminal tackle either. Strong,
sharp hooks are an absolute must!
When anglers thread soft plastic baits on hooks or
jigs, they typically run the hook dead-center through the body of the bait. And
that's just fine. It's the strongest way to rig the plastic for the longest fishability.
But if the fish are biting light and you're having trouble hooking them, try
"skin-hooking" the plastic. That means running the hook shank just below the
surface (skin) of the plastic. This opens up the hook gap between the hook tip
and the body of the bait. It helps the hook point find tissue inside the fish's
mouth more easily. However, it also increases the likelihood that the bait will
tear, so use the tactic only when times get tough so you're not burning through
your plastic supply faster than you want.
Dress It Up
Lures such as spoons, spinnerbaits and even crankbaits can be turned up a notch with the addition of a
soft plastic "trailer" applied to the rear hook. It makes the lure
bigger, adds more vibration and if the plastic is scented, it makes the
presentation more attractive to the fish's sense of smell.
More Abrasion Equals More Scent
Many soft plastics today are impregnated with
fish-attracting scent/taste. Many anglers have reported that the more they fish
with a particular jig or worm body, the more productive that bait gets. One
reason for this is the abrasions made on the bait by the fish's teeth. The
abrasions create more surface area on the bait, which equals increased scent
So a little tip is to keep some coarse sandpaper in your soft plastic box
and when you bring out a new bait, scuff it up good
with the paper. This pre-abrades the bait so it immediately begins emitting
There's a lot of debate about whether fish actually follow a bait's "scent trail." I'm not sure. But I do
believe that if a soft plastic bait tastes agreeable
to a fish, they'll hold onto it longer before spitting it out. A longer bite
means more time for you to detect the strike and get a good hook set! So if
scuffing the bait buys you an extra second or two inside the fish's mouth, then
it's well worth the effort.
I hope these tips help you enjoy a more productive fishing season. Soft
plastics have always been my favorite weapons for bass, walleye, pike, and panfish -- so I highly recommend using them in a variety of
ways to catch more fish.
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