TIPS FOR USING SOFT PLASTICS
variety of soft plastic baits for bass is mind boggling. The choices
available just in worms alone, are enough to cause confusion with the
novice angler, and hours of debate among the more experienced.
What size? color?, straight tail? curly tail?, salt or no salt?; what
rig to use them on, drop-shot? Carolina rigged?, weightless?, when are
the best times to use each one? Then add in the endless variety of
lizards, grubs, jerkbaits, freakbaits, tubes, and creatures, and you
end up with more questions than answers.
following article I will try to list the most effective plastic baits
and presentations that catch not only numbers, but big bass as well,
whether it is in a lake, pond or river, just about anywhere in the
country. There will always be a new type of bait that one person or the
other claims is better than the others, but the following baits and
techniques will cover most any situation that you are likely to
artificial worm manufactured by Nick Creme, in 1949, was a standard
straight tailed worm, but it spawned generations of worm companies and
hundreds of soft plastic lure designs that are the mainstay of modern
tailed worms are just that--straight, with no bends or kinks in the
middle, no curly tails, paddle tails, no air pockets, no flotation,
nothing special at all, just a worm. Regardless of their plain
appearance, many times straight tailed worms are much more effective
than other fancier styles. This was proven to us first hand one day in
a New York tournament. The bass absolutely refused to hit any other
style of worm except a 6 inch straight tail in black, with a tiny bit
of blue fleck in it. If you didn't have that particular style of worm,
you were out of the money that day. Straight tailed worms are often at
their best when bass are suspicious of anything out of the ordinary,
such as in highly pressured tournament lakes. Many times in these
situations the bass are put off by a curly tail waving in the current.
But the opposite can be true for the same fish, in the same lake, when
they are on their beds during the spawn. Many times, the movement of a
curly tail will cause the extra enticement you need to catch them.
Plastic worms aren't at their best in cold water, but then nothing is.
When the water is cold, bass will feed only occasionally, and whether
it is spring, fall, or winter, the slow, slightly twitchy retrieve with
a straight tail worm will work wonders. But the key to this is working
the worm slowly, only twitching it occasionally, allowing the worm to
stay in the strike zone as long as possible, where the sluggish bass
will notice, and possibly hit it.
worms also work well for bedding bass, but don't hesitate to put on a
small curly tail worm if the bass won't pick up the straight tail. The
fact that most straight tail worms are not floating models can be an
advantage. While floating worms have a lot to offer in terms of waving
around just off the bottom, bass are in the habit of searching and
feeding off the bottom. Eels, worms, crayfish, nymphs, frogs, and other
prey are often found there. Smallmouth in particular make a habit of
routing in the rocks and gravel to find a meal. Plastic worms, rigged
weedless, and worked slowly across the bottom, look more like natural
prey trying to hide and escape than something floating off the bottom
and waving around.
To accomplish this, the standard
Texas rig with a bullet weight is best. The Texas rig keeps the worm
from getting hung up, and the weight gets the worm to the bottom and
keeps it there. The Carolina rig is another option for the straight
tail worm. This type of rig allows for a deeper, slower, even retrieve.
The straight tail worm, and even retrieve, make this rig resemble an
eel, although in smaller sizes, the bass may see it as a slim baitfish,
or even a large dragonfly nymph.
We found that these
straight tail worms are excellent for fishing in the river. We cast
them across the current, using a high rod technique, to minimize drag
and allow the worm to drift with the current. Often a little twitch
will provoke a strike, but the twitch should be subtle, just enough to
move the worm a little bit. We also cast the worm straight upstream,
which works very well in the rivers since they require less weight to
sink naturally and can be fished dead with the current to resemble a
dead or dying shad or other baitfish. Both Texas and exposed hook
riggings work, but the Texas seems to be the best if there are any
snags or it is a rough, rocky bottom. Wacky rigging this type of worm
is another option as well that has taken huge bass when othet
techniques fail. Tackle is important when fishing straight tail worms,
since much of the fishing depends on slow techniques. I like to use a
real sensitive rod, such as a G. Loomis, with the reel spooled with a
sensitive line, such as Stren Sensor, or any other sensitive line.
Using an outfit like this makes it easier to detect strikes, but you
should always maintain contact with the worm, even when Deadsticking
it. I like to use a small weight to accomplish this. Cross-stream casts
in the current will usually maintain some tension, but upstream casts
require a retrieve as fast as the current to keep slack out of the line
and make sure that you detect all the strikes.
tail worms are also great for deep jigging. The jigging action makes
the worm seem alive without a curly tail waving around in the water.
Again, the key here is sensitive tackle, as the bass will often hit the
worm on the fall. Straight tail worms are serious bass takers. If a
bass follows another type of worm but doesn't take it, then try a
straight stick of a worm. They may not look like much, but can take
serious limits of bass when they are off their normal feed.
Worms/Floating Worms, & Critters
almost all plastic worms float. Usually, just adding any hook to the
worm is enough to sink it. This allows a variety of bottom
presentations, but they are not that great for working on the surface
as a topwater. True floating worms have air blown into the PVC mix to
create enough flotation to keep them on the surface. Many times over
thicker cover these worms shine. When the bass are active, and would be
hitting a buzzbait, or other topwater bait, but the cover doesn't allow
it, these floating and curly tail worms, can be fished right on the
surface, and worked quickly over thicker vegetation like a buzzbait.
This has drawn some tremendous strikes throughout lakes and rivers all
over the country. Most of these floating worms will float with a hook
up to about a 3/0. Some of the more popular companies that manufacture
these worms are Riverside, Bass Pro Shops, Culprit, Bass Assassin,
Creme and others. Carolina Fish and Fur offer some great hand made
floating worms. Most of the companies also make other floating baits,
such as Mann's, who calls them Floating Creatures, and they come in
frog and lizard shapes.
pocket worms have a bunch of pockets of air, such as the Riverside Air
Worm, and others have single large pockets, like on the Culprit Burst
worms. Bass Pro Shops sold some worms a few years back that we had a
lot of luck with, that were called Caterpillar worms. They have a
prickly or spiny exterior that holds air bubbles. Most of these worms
not only take numbers of bass, but also take big bass. We have been in
many tournaments where the big bass was taken on a small worm or
creature bait. These floating baits also work well when rigged to work
over deeper structure such as brushpiles or weedbeds. A lot of these
worms are designed to hold different scents also. Some are designed to
have the scents injected right inside of the worm. All floating worms
vary in their flotation ability with various hooks, so some
experimentation is necessary to produce the desired results. One
problem with floating worms is that they look no different than
standard worms. Keep your floaters in a separate bag or box in the
original bag to keep them from getting mixed up with the regular worms.
"critter" baits such as the soft plastic crayfish, lizards, frogs, and
hellgrammites, also catch a lot of big bass. The craw type baits often
have air pockets not only in the main body, but in the claws as well.
Claws with air pockets float up off the bottom, putting it in a
defensive posture that triggers strikes from bass that are fooled into
believing it is a real crayfish. Experiment with different rigs,
scents, and rattles in these baits until you find the most productive
in that particular area. The floating worms and critters don't replace
the old standbys, but they add another dimension to your fishing.
are as many different tube baits as there are worms, and more and more
variations arrive each year. Some of the best tube baits we have used
for catching bedding bass, and bass that are holding in tight to cover,
are listed below.
bait manufacturers have incorporated rings into their tube designs.
Rings add bulk, trap air bubbles, and feel soft and lifelike to the
bass. They allow for better hookups by reducing the amount of plastic
that the hook has to penetrate. The first tube we ever bought that had
this feature was a 4 1/2 inch tube made by Larew. These baits are made
with an injection-mold, rather than a dip process, which is what you
need to do to make a ringed bait. A lot of manufactures are now adding
a skirt to the ringed tube, which gives it even more bulk and a slower
fall. The pulsating motion of the skirt and tail seem to come alive
when rigged Texas or Carolina style, or used a jig trailer.
first solid head tube was introduced right after Denny Brauer won the
classic. It is made by Strike King, but now there are many more
manufacturers. This was a great innovation, since it gave standard worm
hooks enough plastic in which to gain a firm hold. The main problem
with finesse tubes is that the thin noses won't stay put on worm hooks.
these tubes came out, many other new innovations followed, such as
longer and fatter tubes. Now there are many tubes in the 4 1/2 and 5
inch sizes. There are even bigger tubes than that, they are Saltwater
tubes, which we have used successfully in the California Delta for BIG
bass. Oversized tubes also are easier for bass to find in cover or
The 5 inch
Sala Tube from Mister Twister, features a solid head and a body shaped
like a salamander. This bait also has eyes. This is part of the Exude
line of baits, which contains a water soluble scent that gives the
plastic a slimy feel when wet. These baits work very well on bedding
bass in lakes all over the country. Because it has a lizard type shape
it produces a stronger reaction from bedding bass than a regular tube
does. We like to use this tube in heavy cover also, on 20-25 pound test
line. When we fish real nasty cover, we use it on a jig with braided
type of tube is the tube craw. This bait mimics a crawfish well, and
can be worked in all types of cover. Another craw type tube bait is the
Yum Craw Bug. The tail of this bait is curled under like a crawfish on
the move. We always use this tube when fishing for bass that have
received a lot of pressure. It seems to get strikes from heavily
pressured bass that you wouldn't normally get. We usually rig this bait
on a 3/0 or 4/0 Gamakatsu hook, with a 3/16 ounce bullet sinker, and
14-20 pound test mono. They make a small 2 inch craw now also, which we
use for drop-shotting. I like to use the Craw tube in muddy water,
because it is more buoyant than regular tubes and moves more water.
Rattles can also be added to this tube to increase it's effectiveness
in muddy or stained water. There is also a tube now called a Fork Craw,
which I like to use when fishing grass. It is thinner and slides
through vegetation more easily and presents a smaller profile which is
great for clearer water.
Another new type of tube is
the Double-tail tube, which has two curled tails that appear as wings.
Luck "E" Strike also makes a new tube called a "Ring Daddy." It was
designed by Rick Clunn who believes the rings give off a hydrodynamic
signal that appeals to bass. I have used this bait effectively when
pitching and flipping. When we need to skip a tube under docks, we like
to use Strike King's new baits called the Tube Craw, Wild Thang and
Tube lizard. They have smooth bodies which make them ideal skipping
baits. I use them on a 4/0 hook with a 5/16 ounce bullet weight. The
Wild is a great bait for after the spawn, and it catches huge bass. It
is 5 inches long, has a hollow body, and a shredded tail. I always use
this bait when I believe the bass are looking upward. I like it in the
summer months, and I have fished it with a swimming motion very
successfully. The tube lizard is a great bait for the spawn, through
the post spawn period.
Jerkbaits like the Zoom Super Fluke are great substitutes for a hard
Jerkbaits when the grass is too thick to use a hard bait with treble
hooks. This bait was the best producer for the top ten finishers in the
finals at Lake Gaston. We had tried many other baits that day, but the
Fluke was the winner, hands down.
There are a variety of
different rigging techniques for soft plastic Jerkbaits, but I want the
maximum action I can get with this bait, so I use a really large offset
hook made by Eagle Claw. This hook is bigger than what most anglers use
for the Fluke, but the bigger hook not only adds casting weight, but it
shifts the weight to the rear of the bait and causes an exaggerated
"walk-the-dog" action on the retrieve. It's a great bait for bass in
weed pockets, or in deeper, thinner grass like the situation we ran
into on Lake Gaston. This bait definitely gave you an advantage that
day. I use a light/dark pattern with these baits, but occasionally go
to colors like watermelon and green pumpkin, in the clearer water
sometimes. I use this bait a lot in place of a surface bait like a rat,
and if a bass blows up on it and misses, which happens a lot in heavy
scum and grass, then I just maneuver the bait to the hole created by
the bass and let it sink. Most of the time the bass will still be there
and take the Fluke on the drop, something I can't do with the rat.
of these baits and more can be very effective for big bass at times. At
night I use a 10-12 inch worm by Yamamoto for some huge bass. But none
of these baits will work for the beginner or intermediate angler unless
you are fishing in the right spot. Some of the best advice I can give
is: Fish slowly, when you think you're fishing slowly, slow down some
more. Fish some of the smaller lakes and rivers. With emphasis on
tournaments, many anglers forget about the great fishing in some of the
smaller lakes and rivers that you can't fish in a bass boat.
make your fishing too complicated. Use a few basic baits to start, then
expand after you have learned how to use those starter baits. Find the
right depth; You can't catch fish if you fish above them or below them.
Learn how to use the electronics on your boat properly.
as often as you can, nothing can replace the knowledge you get from
being on the water a lot. The first few years I started fishing, we
spent at least 8 hours a day, 3 or 4 days a week fishing. Get out on
the water as much as you can, nothing replaces hands on experience.