Soft plastic baits are great fish catchers, but there are so many to choose from. With hundreds of companies producing seemingly endless combinations of body styles, colors, sizes and materials, selecting a soft plastic to rig up can be a little intimidating. So today, we’re going to give you a short list of five great soft plastics to try.
If you can become proficient with these five soft plastics, you’ll be on your way to building a pretty strong angling arsenal.
Likely the most versatile bait on this list, the trick worm can be used in several different ways. Rigged weightless and weedless, this soft plastic can be fished along the surface for shallow feeding bass. Add a bullet weight out front, and now you have a great presentation to fish around cover, both shallow and deep. Put this same worm on a shaky head and now you have a fantastic finesse approach from brushpiles and rocky banks.
Circling all the way back for another weightless and finesse approach, you can run your hook through the middle of a trick worm and create a wacky rig. Stick a little nail weight in one end and now you have a Neko rig. There are so many things you can do with a trick worm. But don’t let that overwhelm you. Instead, embrace this bait’s versatility and take advantage of it, being able to learn several techniques with one pack of worms and a handful of terminal tackle.
One of the best soft plastics when simply looking for a bite, a finesse swimbait is hard to beat in any clear to stained water situation. As long as the water isn’t muddy, you can typically get bit on a finesse swimbait rigged on a jighead year-round.
Particularly effective when bass are suspended, a swimbait like this gives you a lure that can be presented to bass at various depths. You can count this bait down by letting it fall on a slack line before starting your retrieve. Then you can also control the depth the bait stays in by varying your rate of retrieve. With so much control of your presentation, you can effectively fish a swimbait throughout a wide range of depths.
Creature baits are extremely versatile as well. The full-size baits in this genre are great on Texas rigs, wobble heads and the backs of jigs, while the smaller versions compliment shakyheads and Ned rigs well. Both the larger and smaller profile baits like this also make for perfect punching and flipping baits, depending on the thickness of the cover.
If you’re fishing really dense vegetation like matted hyacinth, a miniature size creature bait trailing a 1- ounce tungsten weight can slip into a spot where it might take a 2- ounce weight to pull a full-size creature bait through. While the bigger of the two makes for an awesome bream or bluegill imitation when pitching to more sparse vegetation like water willow with a 3/8- or 1/2- ounce weight.
Soft plastic jerkbait
This is one of the best soft plastic baits to fish around shad, herring and many other baitfish. Rigged weedless and weightless, a soft plastic jerkbait gives you a lure that can be fished at varying speeds and with various actions, on top of or just below the surface. With sharp and fast twitches of the rod tip while simultaneously reeling this lure in, you can mimic a fast fleeing baitfish. With slower, more methodical twitches, you can walk a soft plastic jerkbait, which closely resembles a struggling baitfish.
Though a weightless and weedless soft plastic jerkbait is very effective and versatile, it’s not the only way to rig this bait. You can also slide a soft plastic jerkbait up onto a Scrounger head and add a whole lot more variety to this soft plastic’s effective depth range. Now the bait’s versatility when it comes to depth more closely resembles that of a finesse swimbait, while creating an entirely different action and vibration compared to the swimbait.
The only official topwater on this list, a toad is perhaps the best soft plastic topwater of them all. Reeling a toad along the surface is one of the most effective ways to cover water and it’s just a fun way to fish. You can rig a toad weedless and weightless, with a belly-weighted hook or even on the back of a skirtless buzzbait, but each way has it’s pros and cons.
The weightless version works best in open water, in sparse vegetation or when wanting to fish the bait slowly, as compared to a belly-weighted hook. The weighted hook is great when needing to make long casts, especially way back into thick cover like lily pads, since this cover will help the bait stay on the surface. Then if you’re looking to really cover a lot of water or skip a toad under docks and bushes, the buzzbait combo works really well.
Again, there are hundreds of soft plastic options on the market now, if not thousands when you take into account the various companies and colors. Keeping it simple and sampling from these five to start with will keep you from being overwhelmed. And as you master these, you’ll find they give you a good variety to fish the entire water column and a wide range of cover.