Soft Plastic Fishing Lures – a Complete Guide!


Soft Plastic Fishing Lures

This article will thoroughly cover soft plastic fishing lures. Anglers have many choices when it comes to artificial lures. However, it would be easy to argue that out of all of these choices, soft plastic fishing lures are the most versatile and effective baits.

soft plastic fishing lures

Soft plastic fishing lures have advantages over other types of lures. They are quite economical and most instances, costing less than plugs and spinner baits. Soft plastic fishing lures are also very versatile and can be used throughout the entire water column and in every fishing situation. Finally, and most importantly, no other family of lures looks more natural or enticing to game fish in the water than do soft plastic fishing lures.

Capt. Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He grew up in Maryland, fishing the Potomac River in Chesapeake Bay waters as well as mountain streams for trout and smallmouth bass. He is a well-rounded angler who has fished all over North America and the Caribbean. He has caught as many fish on soft plastic fishing lures as all other baits combined. In this article he will share his tips and personal favorite soft plastic fishing lures.

best striped bass fishing lure

Soft plastic fishing lures fall into several categories;

  • plastic worms
  • grubs
  • swimbaits
  • jerk baits
  • creature baits
  • tube baits

Each of these soft plastic fishing lure types are similar, however there are some differences between them. Therefore, each category will be covered separately along with fishing tips and the best way to rig them.

Rigging soft plastic fishing lures

Anglers fishing with soft plastic fishing lures have a variety of options when it comes to rigging and presenting these baits. They include a Texas rig, Carolina rig, drop shot rig, on a swim bait hook, on a jig head, and wacky style. Some soft plastic fishing lures are best used with a particular rigging style while others are versatile and can be used with all of the above.

Texas Rig

texas rigged worm

The Texas rig is a very effective way to fish a soft plastic bait. It is mostly used with plastic worms and creature baits, though certainly can be used with jerk baits as well. It involves a specially designed hook which allows the bait to hang straight while burying the hook in the body, making it weedless. A sliding conical shape sinker is used to get the bait down in the water column. The weight rides right on the eye of the hook. It can also be pegged to keep it from sliding. The Texas rig is used mostly by freshwater bass anglers.

Carolina Rig

carolina rig

The Carolina rig is similar to the Texas rigged but with a little variation. The same style Texas rig hook is used. However, it uses a sliding egg sinker along with a swivel and a leader. The swivel stops the sinker from sliding. A 2 foot to 3 foot leader connects the other end of the swivel with the warm hook. This results in the worm, usually a floating worm, working just above the bottom as the sinker is crawled over structure. This is an extremely effective presentation over deeper water structure. the Carolina rig is a versatile rig that is mostly used by freshwater anglers for a variety of species.

Drop shot rig

drop shot

The drop shot rig is a relative, to do soft plastic fishing lure seen. Is considered a type of finesse fishing and is used with lighter lines in clear water when fish can be finicky. It uses a sinker at the bottom of the line with a hook tied tight to the running line 12 to 18 inches above the sinker. A bait is usually hooked through the front. When lower to the bottom and jiggle softly, the results in a very effective presentation with the lure suspending a bit off the bottom. the drop shot rig is mostly used by freshwater anglers but it is starting to take a hold and saltwater as well.

Swim bait Hooks

swim bait hook

Swimbait hooks are growing in popularity among anglers as they are very versatile and effective. They are similar to a Texas rig, with the exception that weight is molded in the bend of the hook. This results in a horizontal presentation. Some type of keeper allows for the lure to be inserted near the eye, then the hook is embedded in the bait, resulting in a weedless presentation. Any bait rigged this way can be retrieve steadily or crawled over bottom structure. Swimbait hook are popular ineffective for both freshwater and saltwater species.

Jig Head

ice fishing basics

Jig heads have been used to present soft plastic fishing lures to fish for decades. It remains a very effective technique and is used extensively by saltwater anglers. They are very effective in freshwater as well. The jig head provides both weight and action along with a hook all in one unit. Swim baits, grubs, and jerk baits are commonly used on a jig head.

Wacky Rig

Senko

The wacky worm rig works a little odd at first, but is an effective angling technique. It basically involves a hook with no weight being inserted right in the middle of a plastic worm, usually a finesse type bait. The lure is cast out and as it sinks it undulate seductively, looking very natural and a seemingly easy meal to game fish. It is most often used by bass anglers in fairly shallow water.

Rods and reels for fishing soft plastic baits

fishing

There is no one type of tackle that is best for using soft plastic fishing lures. Lighter lures and finesse baits are best used with spinning tackle. Anglers casting larger baits in heavy cover will do better with fairly stout baitcasting tackle.

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Soft Plastic fishing lure options

Best Speckled trout fishing lures

As mentioned above, there are several different categories which soft plastic fishing lures can fall into. While similar, there are differences in the way they are fished in rigged. Therefore, each will be covered separately along with a couple of Capt. Jim’s personal favorites.

Color choices for soft plastic fishing lures

A lot can be and has been written regarding colors when it comes to soft plastic fishing lures and really fishing lures in general. There is no one correct choice. Green pumpkin is an outstanding all-around color for anglers freshwater fishing. White is a universal and effective color for anglers fishing anywhere.

Sarasota freshwater fishing

Generally speaking, Capt. Jim likes to match the color of his soft plastic fishing lure to the clarity of the water being fished. Light colors such as white and silver work well in clear water. Darker colors such as green, blue and black are effective in darker or stained water. Hot pink and chartreuse will produce when the water is especially dingy or off-color. Chartreuse is an excellent color choice as well and just about every water conditions, despite the fact that nothing the nature really has that color pattern.

Plastic worms

women bass fishing in Florida

Plastic worms are the lures that started the whole soft plastic fishing lure phenomenon. The original lures first hit the market in the late 1960s. They were very stiff and inflexible. That has certainly changed today! Modern plastic worms are very seductive and lifelike in the water. Many are scented, resulting in the fish holding onto the bait a little longer. Plastic worms are available in a wide variety of sizes and colors.

Read more from Capt Jim about fishing with plastic worms

Plastic worms can be rigged a variety of ways, making them a very versatile bait. Anglers can rig them Texas style and work them through the heaviest cover. The Carolina rig is a great option when working deeper structure such as channel edges and points. Smaller finesse worms work very well on a drop shot rig or hooked wacky style. Finally, plastic worms can be fish in a swimming retrieve on both a swim bait hook or a jig head in open water.

bass fishing

Click the links to shop Amazon for Zoom Trick and Senko worms

Capt. Jim’s to favorite plastic worms are the Zoom Trick Worm and the Yamamoto Senko. He is not alone in his choices as these are two of the most popular soft plastic fishing lures used by anglers all over the world. He fishes the Trick Worm Texas rigged, Carolina rigs, or on a swim bait hook. The Senko is deadly fish the wacky style or on a drop shot rig. It can also be fish Texas style using a slightly smaller hook.

Grubs

Grubs are very effective soft plastic fishing lures. They are used extensively by anglers in both freshwater and saltwater applications. These are very versatile baits that can be chosen to mimic a wide variety of prey including bait fish, shrimp, crayfish, leeches, and other crustaceans. They are most often fished on a jig head using a “hop and fall” retrieve.

Sarasota fishing report

Grubs have been around for quite a while. However, there was a resurgence of them in the late 1970s when the Mister Twister line of curly tail baits hit the market. The action that these lures produced with a very simple retrieve is phenomenal. They are great choice for novice anglers as they have so much built in action. This bait is Capt. Jim’s favorite freshwater soft plastic grub lure.

Sarasota fishing report

While curly tail grubs work in saltwater fishing, there is a durability issue. Often times, saltwater anglers will encounter small fish which will quickly nip off the twister tale. Therefore, a more durable rub is required. Many saltwater anglers refer a flat tail grub or a shrimp, which realistically mimics shrimp and other crustaceans. Capt. Jim’s favorite saltwater grub is the 3″ Gulp Shrimp. The scent is incredible, resulting in the fish finding the lure and holding on to it longer. It really is almost like fishing with live bait!

Click the links to shop Amazon for Mister Twister and Gulp Shrimp lures

Swimbaits

redfish lures

Swimbaits are very effective soft plastic fishing lures for a variety of species in both freshwater and saltwater situations. They consist of a body with some type of tail that gives the lure its natural swimming action. Many of these baits work best with just a simple slow steady retrieve, letting the lure do all the work. They can be hopped sharply and allowed to fall as well. Where possible, angler should match the size and color of the bait to the locally available forage.

Florida bluefish

Swimbaits are most often fished either on a jig head or a swim bait hook. This applies to anglers fishing in both freshwater and saltwater. Jig heads are a great choice when fishing in open water where snags are not a problem. Anglers fishing in heavier vegetation or around structure will do better using a swimbait hook where the lure can be presented weedless.

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flats fishing

Capt. Jim’s favorite line of swimbaits is the Bass Assassin line of baits. He uses the 4 inch Sea Shad baits on the majority of his fishing charters in Sarasota. It is an extremely effective saltwater fishing lure. Anglers can also choose from the Bass Shiner and Die Dapper series of baits for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. They are available in several different sizes and a staggering color selection.

Jerk Baits

spotted sea trout fishing

Jerk baits are a bit of a mix between a swim bait and a plastic worm. They are long and slender and most have some type of a split or fluke type of tail. They can be rigged in any of the same ways that other soft plastic fishing lures can, depending on the application. Anglers saltwater fishing in open water often rig them on a jig head. Freshwater anglers often use them on a swim bait hook or a Texas style hook with no weight. Smaller jerk baits are extremely effective when fished on a drop shot rig as well.

Click the links to shop Amazon for Bass Assassin and Gulp jerk baits

Capt. Jim’s to favorite jerk baits are the Bass Assassin Split Tail Shad and the Gulp Jerk Shad. Both of these fishing lures have excellent action and catch a lot of fish. The added benefit of scent can give the Gulp baits an advantage with the bite is tough.

Tube baits

Michigan fishing

Tube baits are primarily used by anglers fishing in freshwater. They are extremely effective soft plastic fishing lures for a variety of species, though many anglers associate them with smallmouth bass. However, tiny models are deadly on panfish while larger versions will catch walleye, pike, and other fish species. They are also effective for anglers ice fishing as well.

ice fishing for lake trout

The many split tales of a two bait give it outstanding action and the water. Anglers can match the color and size of the bait along with how it is best to mimic both bait fish and crustaceans. A dark green to bait bounce along the bottom looks very much like a crayfish. Capt. Jim’s favorite line of to baits is the Berkeley Powerbait tube bait.

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Creature baits

Basically, any soft plastic fishing lure that does not fit into the above categories can be deemed a creature bait. These lures can mimic crayfish, leeches, helgramites, shrimp, crabs, and even baits that resemble nothing that lives in the water. Generally speaking, creature baits are a bit bulkier and have some type of appendages or tentacles that waive seductively in the water.

fishing for largemouth bass

Creature baits are often used by anglers bass fishing while flipping in heavy cover. They can be fished Texas style or on a bass jig as a trail. Salamander type baits are often used on a Carolina rig for spawning bass is incredible success. Capt. Jim’s favored creature bait is the Strike King line of baits

Click the links to shop Amazon for Strike King creature baits

In conclusion, this article on soft plastic fishing lures will help anglers choose to write bait and rigging for their particular fishing application, resulting in more success!

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