Soft-plastics are a major category of artificial lures. From tiny finesse worms to massive creatures, these squishy baits are responsible for fooling thousands of bass each season. They're also extremely versatile. A soft-plastic can take the place of live bait, serve as the predominant presentation, or act as a hard-bait trailer to amp-up the offering's action. This buyer's guide will overview the various types of plastics available and their common uses when bass fishing.
Basics of Soft-Plastics
The appeal of soft-plastics to bass anglers is multifaceted. The flexible bodies of plastics allow them to appear extremely life-like in the water. Their soft texture also feels more natural in a bass' yap, encouraging them to hold on longer once they bite. Each year an array of new soft-plastics hit the marketplace with more realistic profiles, enhanced actions, and amplified scent — but before getting to specific styles a word on soft-bait creation is in order.
When shaping soft-plastics, manufacturers are only limited by the structural integrity of the plastic used and the molds they design. To make baits, the plastic is heated, causing it to become a liquid. The liquid is poured into a mold, which adopts its shape as the plastic cools and solidifies. At different stages in the bait-making process, several ingredients can be added, including: scents, flavors, colored dye, metal flakes and salt. These attractants appeal to the fish's senses and can trigger strikes as well as cause bass to hold baits longer. The majority of soft-plastic baits are mass-produced, but some are hand poured. The latter allows for intricate layering of colors and detailed designs.
There are many ways to fish soft-plastics. The traditional Texas rig remains a favorite, but new or refined power techniques and finesse approaches continue to arrive each year. Drop-shotting has seen a rebirth in popularity in the past decade. A hot newcomer is the Owner Jig Rig Hook that allows the soft-plastic and hook to swing freely from the weight, giving the bait a lifelike dance. Different models tend to suit certain presentations better than others. Below is an overview of body types and rigging approaches for bass fishing.
The fire is still burning hot on the stick-bait craze. This category of lures includes the Gary Yamamoto Senko, Bass Pro Shops Stik-O-Worm, and YUM F2 Dinger. Loaded with salt these baits wiggle as they fall. Texas-rigging a stick is good choice when fishing heavy cover or to skip under docks and overhanging trees. Wacky rigging a stick-bait (i.e., hooking a stick in the center) is extremely deadly on bass, especially when they're neutral or inactive.
Worms have long been one of the most popular soft-plastics.
These invertebrate impostors represents a huge population of soft-plastics and are one of the originals. Today's worms come in sizes anywhere from 3 to 12 inches with a thin and long body. The bait's main action derives from its tail, which flaps and emits vibrations when the bait is moved. Tail design varies and common types include: sickle, ribbon, twister, paddle or straight.
Worms are typically Texas-rigged with an offset worm hook. This rigging is usually combined with a bullet weight placed directly at the worm's nose, giving the bait a uniform profile. Unweighted, Texas-rigged floating worms are a deadly topwater option. Hooking a finesse worm through the nose on a drop shot rig is a phenomenal smallmouth bass presentation.
There are dozens of worms to choose from but here are a few winners: Bass Pro Shops Drop Shot Worm, Culprit Original Worm 10", Gambler Flapp'n Tail Worm, and Gary Yamamoto Kuhuna Cut Tail Worm.
Creatures are an interesting category as they don't resemble one thing in particular but rather a combination of parts from other plastic baits. Far from a patchwork job, however, their skirts, appendages and odd-looking profiles are highly effective at triggering bass to eat. Examples include Bass Pro Shops Crack Craws, Strike King Kevin VanDam Rodent or Baby Rodent, and Gary Yamamoto Flappin' Hog II.
Skinny ones work on drop-shot and split-shot rigs. Bulky baits are the favorites of hawg hunters whether Texas or Carolina rigged. On lakes where big bass have seen a lot of flipping jigs, using a chunky creature is a wise strategy to fool pressured fish to eat.
Craws are deadly on bass when crawled across rocky-bottoms.
A subcategory in the creature bait category are beavers. These wide plastics often feature ribbed abdomens and a forked tail or chunk-like claws. Again, these baits aren't the easiest to neatly define because of their varying profiles, but the bass don't mind as they inhale these chunky offerings.
Whether you call them crayfish, crawdads or crawfish, these soft-plastics regularly fool bass. Their profile features pinchers, antennae, legs, an abdomen and a tail. The antennas' length varies, with longer ones offering more material to wave and dance as the bait moves. Good bets are Bass Pro Shops Flippin' Craw, NetBait Paca Craw and Berkley Havoc Craw Fatty.
Craws produce in a range of set-ups. Texas-rig them to work around weeds or dance them along bottom on a Jig Rig. Also be sure to try them on a stand-up or football jig and drag or hop them along the floor. Craws can also be added as a trailer to a rubber skirted bass jig to boost the offering's action and profile.
When swimming, a lizard's four limbs and long twister tail flutter and flap; that's five movement areas on the bait to peak a bass' curiosity whatever their feeding mood. Texas-rigging a lizard, such as a Bass Pro Shops Squirmin' Lizard or Chompers Lizard, is productive for probing pockets in thick vegetation and along weed edges. A Carolina-rigged floating lizard will hover off bottom and works well to mine deeper areas for fish.
Grubs and Shads
Grubs are composed of a cylinder body with a smooth or ribbed exterior. Common bass grub sizes range from 3 to 6 inches. The body is combined with a single or double twister-tail. Bass Pro Shops Spring Grub and Bass Pro XPS Double Tail Grubs are examples.
Mister Twister Sassy Shad and other shad baits are classified as grubs because they are similar in size and usually fished on jigs; however, many of these are now referred to as swimbaits (see below). Regardless of how you label, bass love these baits.
Swimbaits have become a popular lure for bass.
Grub and shad bodies are almost always fished with a weighted jighead. Ball, stand-up, bullet and shad are examples of commonly used jig heads. Grubs can be hopped along bottom or brought in on a straight, swimming retrieve.
Double twister-tail grubs can be trailers for rubber skirted bass jigs, and all bodies can be used as spinnerbait trailers.
In the past five years, swimbaits have exploded in popularity for bass. There are many variations of these lures. Some are massive, pre-rigged realistic decoys. Others are internally weighted shad-style versions, like the Storm WildEye Pro Paddle Tail. A hollow-bellied swimbait, like a YUM Money Minnow, rigged on specialized, weighted keeper hook is another deadly bass presentation. Bodies feature a paddle-tail or boot-tail that are fished on a jighead are other variations. The Gary Yamamoto Swimbait and and Berkley Havoc Grass Pig are examples.
Jerkbaits feature a slim, minnow style profile with either a fluke, dolphin or straight taper tail. A few hot baits are the Zoom Super Fluke, Bass Pro Shops Shadee Shad and Strike King 3X ZTOO.
Like a hard-plastic minnow jerkbait, softies should be fished with a twitching and erratic retrieve to imitate an injured baitfish. Their flexible bodies gives them a life-like wiggling action. Four- to 8-inch baits are the standard size ranges for bass. Jerkbaits are often rigged Texas or Tex-posed with an off-set worm hook.
A soft-plastic jerkbait is also effective on a drop shot rig, while threading one on a jighead and swimming it along bottom is deadly as well.
Tubes can be Texas- or Carolina-rigged and flipped into weeds or used on drop-shot rigs.
Almost every soft-plastic company makes a tube. These baits have a hollowed body with tentacles at one end. Bass sized tubes range from 3 to 6 inches, with 8 inches used by trophy hunters. These baits spiral when they fall on slack line. This mimics a disoriented and injured baitfish and can trigger opportunistic bass to hit.
A tube jig inserted into the bait's body is one rigging option. A tube dragged along bottom is a sure-fire bass producer.
Like any bait, anglers are always looking for alternative presentation methods. Tubes are no exception. Beyond a jig, they can be Texas- or Carolina-rigged and flipped into weeds or used on a drop shot rig.
Frogs and Topwaters
Frogs feature two legs. H&H Lures Swamp Frog and Stanley Jigs Ribbit Frog are examples of plastics that must be rigged on a wide-gap, offset hook. Another category of frogs are pre-rigged hollow plastics, like the Trophy ScumFrog or Spro Bronzeye Frog. The term "rat" is often used to describe a soft-plastic topwater featuring a tail or a rubber skirt instead of legs. The Bass Pro Shops Lazer Eye Floating Mouse and Stike King King Rat are examples. Weedless topwaters are perfect for probing dense vegetation, slop and floating debris that bass frequently hide under.
A soft-plastic trailer will enhance the action, profile and scent of several hard-baits. Jig trailers come in a range of shapes and sizes and are sometimes called "chunks" or "craws," such as Bass Pro Shops Triple Ripple Craw Trailer or Strike King Rage Tail Chunk Softbait Lures.
There are also trailers specifically made for spinnerbaits, like Bass Pro Shops Cajun Trailer or Luck "E" Strike Clunn Spinnerbait Trailer. These plastics feature a body, much like a grub or a slightly thicker worm, which has either one long twister tail or a straight, twin or split tail. Threaded onto the hook, they pulsate and wave in the water when retrieved and help trigger fickle bass to bite.
Whether you're fishing a soft plastic on its own or using it as a trailer for another lure, these baits regularly fool bass. With the wide selection of baits available and plenty of rigging options, anglers can be confident there is a soft-plastic presentation for every fishing situation.