Go to any fishing store or scroll through any online tackle shop (shout out Karl’s), and you’ll see an endless supply of soft plastic baits. Some baits take on the look of things found in nature – fish, bugs, crawfish, or amphibians. And other soft plastics look like nothing you will ever see on a lake, river, or pond. But that doesn’t stop people from buying them, and it definitely doesn’t stop them from catching fish.
My point being – there are a ton of soft plastic lures on the market today. While I’m not hear to debate the effectiveness of different nuances between plastics baits and their ability to catch more fish. I just like to simplify things as much as I can when fishing. Life is complicated enough; I don’t need to sit there and worrying about picking the precise soft plastic or hauling bags and bags of tackle with me on a simple fishing trip. And for that reason, I’ve broken down my five favorite soft plastic bait styles.
While you may disagree or think that I am missing something on this list, I get that. But this is my list and I get to make it anyway that I want.
Arguably the most popular and user-friendly soft plastic bait on the market today is the soft plastic stick bait. The first ‘stick bait’ was the Senko designed by Gary Yamamoto which was inspired by a Bic Pen.
Originally designed to be a soft plastic jerkbait, simialr to a fluke – The Senko Gary created offered more of a soft wobble, especially when rigged weightless.
Once word spread about its fish catching ability, anglers began stocking up on these versatile soft plastics, helping many of them cash checks in fishing tournaments across the country. Since Gary’s invented the ”Stick Bait”, almost every bass fishing soft plastic company has developed their version.
A plastic swimbait in the right size will catch any fish that commonly feeds on smaller fish. Micro swimbaits will catch bluegill and crappie. Small swimbaits will catch trout, walleye, sauger, and finicky bass. Medium-sized plastic swimbaits work wonders for fooling bass, pike, and aggressive walleye. And finally, the biggest swimbaits have become increasingly popular for targeting musky and trophy pike. All of these rules apply for saltwater fish as well.
Ice fishing is the only time when I’m on the water when I don’t feel confident in swimbaits. In the spring, I thread a swimbait on a jighead and slowly wind them around points, creek channels, and deepwater areas where bass may be staging before the spawn.
Later in the spring, I cover water using a swimbait in the shallows around docks, rocks, and metal pilings, which often hold bass that are seeking warmer water.
In the summer time, I like to throw the BioSpawn Exoswim weightless and through sparse grass and pads. If you burn a plastic swimbait back to you, it will swim near the waters surfaces, creating a very effective topwater bait.
You can also thread a swimbait on the back of a jig and fish it shallow grass areas or around docks. To fish, it will look like bluegill or shad ripe for the taking. Use casting gear with this technique to help pull fish from vegetation.
In the Fall, try throwing swimbaits on jigheads or Alabama Rigs to target fish feeding heavily before winter. Baitfish will have all year to grow at this point, so the bass are used to bigger meals. Don’t be afraid to rig up big baits during the Fall. It’s the best way to trigger big bites.
If there are craws in any lake, river, or pond, the bass living there will be interested and familiar with eating crawfish. Even if not, crawfish soft plastics provide a lively action that will continually trigger strikes regardless of what the bass primarily feeding on.
I fish soft plastic craws mostly on Texas/Carolina Rigs or on the back of a skirted jig to target largemouth.
I will also use finesse soft plastic crawfish baits on spinning rods when fishing with a shaky head or drop shot.
When targeting smallmouth, I will use the same techniques but typically downsize my presentations.
When the water is cold, I like soft plastic craw with a more subtle kicking action, and in warmer water, I opt for something like Karl’s Hoss Craw or the 10,000 Fish Saw Craw – both of these baits have an insane amount of kicking action and help draw strikes from aggressive fish. Coincidentally, both lures are from Steve Parks, the creator of the Rage Craw brand.
The soft plastic finesse plastic is one of the essential bass baits for fishing in clear water or tough conditions. The slender and subtle profile from a finesse soft plastic can help elicit strikes from fish not interested or too weary to bite other baits.
There are certain times when bass fishing can get flat out tough. Tough fishing can be too much fishing pressure or unfavorable conditions like weather, clarity, or time of day. Whatever the reason is for tough fishing, one lure angler continuously reaches back to the soft plastic finesse bait.
Rig your soft plastic finesse baits weightless, on shaky heads, drop shots, finesse Texas Rigs, Carolina Rigs, or Neko Rigs. Each of these rigs worked correctly and paired with the right finesse, soft plastic will catch you fish.
Picking the 5th soft plastic was the hardest for me. I was going back and forth between internally ribbon tails, tubes, and grub worms, but after thinking about it more – I am confident in my selection.
The Ribbon Tail worm has been a workhorse soft plastic for anglers targeting big bass over the last 50 years. Ribbon tails worms come in many different sizes and colors, with the most common being 7”10” inch ribbon tail worms in colors like black & blue, green pumpkin, junebug, and motor oil.
The most popular method you’ll see anglers fishing a ribbon tail worm will be on a Texas Rig. If you google ‘Texas Rig’, many of the images and videos will contain a classic Ribbon Tail lure.
Even when I keep things simple, I still carry these three honorable mentions with me at nearly all times.
Tubes – Smallmouth candy and a low key killer large mouth flipping bait (just ask Seith Feider)
Grubs – I use grubs in many of the places I use soft plastic swimbaits today.
Soft Jerkbaits – (Fluke Style) – Fluke style soft plastics may have been the toughest lure for me to keep of the list. I like fishing flukes weightless and skipping them around docks and shallow grass. I also rig them Texas-style with a 1/16 tungsten bullet weight and use the same techniques I would when fishing it weightless, the added weight just keeps things moving a little faster for me. Rigging flukes on a jig head is another effective multi-species technique.