Today, plastic baits take up most of the space in our tackleboxes, and for good reason.
I'm old enough to remember when anything made out of plastic was regarded as a cheap imitation of the real thing. Not so anymore, especially when it comes to bass lures. Today, plastic baits take up most of the space in our tackleboxes, and for good reason: they catch bass and plenty of 'em.
If you're serious about catching more and bigger bass, here are eight plastic baits — four hard, four soft — you've gotta try.
Stick it to 'Em
Ask any bass pro worth his entry fee what's the deadliest topwater lure ever created, and most will say a stickbait. These cigar-shaped plugs have an enticing action that calls big bass to the surface from spring through fall.
Unlike poppers, chuggers and prop baits, stickbaits require a good deal of angler expertise to work correctly. Legend has it that Missouri pro Charlie Campbell can actually make his Spook walk backwards!
Fish stickbaits across points, flats and stump fields. In clear lakes, bass will swim up from 30 feet to nail 'em!
Lipless vibrating baits like the Rat-L-Trap can comb large areas of water quickly. Their two most popular applications are on shallow flats with isolated wood cover and over the tops of submerged grass beds.
These are hands-down the noisiest of all bass lures. Their flat-sided bodies contain hollow chambers filled with buckshot. When retrieved quickly, they wobble frantically and create a tremendous racket. You can actually hear 'em coming halfway back to the boat!
A well-used bait among anglers, the Rat-L-Trap has proven itself over and over.
Most anglers wait to fish vibrating baits until the water warms. For a lunker largemouth, try 'em on calm, sunny days in late winter. Big bass will slide up from their deep haunts to warm themselves in the shallows, and won't hesitate to chomp down when one of these chatterboxes happens by.
Here's a common bassin' scenario: a shallow cove littered with laydown logs. Sounds like the perfect spot for a spinnerbait, right? That's what your competition thinks. Pull a fast one on 'em by tappin' timber with a shallow crankbait.
Stubby-billed shallow cranks like the Mann's 1-Minus are popular on the pro bass circuit. They're four-wheel drive crankbaits, capable of crawling across stumps and logs without hanging up.
If your local lake has been spinnerbaited to death, whip out a stubby-billed crankbait. Big bass eat 'em like candy.
Deadly Down Deep
Big deep-diving plastic crankbaits are designed to probe structure in the 10- to 20-foot zone. This makes them especially deadly from late spring through early fall, when the water warms and bass go deep. A long rod and small-diameter line will let you cast these baits a country mile so they can attain their maximum depth.
The key to catching big bass on deep-diving cranks is to bump the lure against cover. The oversized bill acts as a deflector, causing the bait to careen erratically off its target, triggering a feeding response from bass.
Lunkers Love Lizards
Soft plastic lizards are Dixie's No. 1 bass lure. We Southerners fish 'em throughout most of the bassin' season using a variety of rigging methods.
When a pro basser reaches for a lizard, he's usually in a bind — either his crankbait pattern has dried up, or the jig bite has slacked off. Experienced bass hounds know they can count on a lizard to deliver enough keeper fish to put them in the money.
Experienced bass hounds know they can count on a lizard to deliver keeper fish.
To get more strikes on lizards, stick to natural colors like watermelon, pumpkin or black. In murky water, dipping the tail in chartreuse dye will trigger bites.
Tubes are Terrific
Always a hot lure on the pro bass circuit is the 5-inch tube bait. This is one of the most versatile bass lures ever created — you can literally fish it from top to bottom.
The secret of the tube bait's appeal to bass lies in the odd way it sinks. Most soft plastic lures rigged with sinkers drop straight to the bottom, but a tube bait falls in a spiral; for some unknown reason, lunker bass can't resist this. To achieve the proper spiral, never peg the sinker when fishing a tube. And to combat line twist, tie a small swivel two feet ahead of the lure.
One of the newer styles of soft plastic lures is the centipede, a many-legged creature bait designed to be flipped into weeds or brush or fished on the business end of a Carolina rig.
Think of centipedes as lizards on steroids. Most have more, bigger limbs than a lizard and a beefier tail. This makes a centipede the smart choice in murky to muddy water, where it takes a bulkier bait with maximum action to attract a basses' attention.
Stick to dark contrasting colors with centipedes: black and blue, green and brown, etc. It never hurts to stick a glass worm rattle in 'em, either.
I've saved my favorite plastic bass bait for last: the floating worm. Most bassers agree that topwater plugs are exciting to fish because you can see the bass plaster the lure on the surface. I vote for floating worms — not only can you usually see the fish swim out and eat the bait, they tend to catch more big bass than do surface plugs.
A 6- to 8-inch straight-tail worm impaled on an offset or wide-gap hook, then fished on a spinning rod, is all you need for the most exciting bass fishing you'll ever experience. Simply cast the weightless worm around flooded bushes or across submerged logs, twitch it a couple of times, and wait for Mr. Big to swim out and take it.
Natural colors are recommended with most plastic baits, but not floating worms. Pros fish the wildest colors they can get, like bubble gum and hot orange. Go figure.