Streamlining Your Strategy: The Versatility of Soft Plastic Lures
Professional bass anglers often bring a dozen rods and several tackle boxes when spending the day on the water, ensuring they can put fish in the boat, regardless of the conditions. You don’t want to tell the missus that Junior won’t be getting braces because you didn’t bring your swim bait rod or your crankin’ rod was too stiff and the lunker that would have put you over the top pulled free. Pros simply can’t afford to be unprepared for every conceivable need.
What about Amateurs?
Fishing for a living is undoubtedly a good way to spend your time on Earth, but the stakes are incredibly high.
On the other hand, casual anglers – who certainly want to catch fish, but will not encounter domestic difficulties if they go home emptyhanded – rarely have the time or resources to spend their weekends fishing until the sun goes down, firing an unthinkable barrage of lures into all parts of the water. Casual anglers have kids, jobs, school and a variety of other demands on their time and money. They get an hour or two at the local fishing hole, and then it’s back to the real world.
This being the case, it makes little sense to haul every rod in your garage and three boxes of tackle to the local bass pond; you will spend more time futzing with stuff than catching stuff. Instead, casual anglers must seek to travel light and streamline their equipment. Grab a rod or two, a handful of soft plastic lures and get to it.
Practical Plastics: Soft Plastic Lures
Versatility is the name of this game, and nothing offers the versatility that a collection of soft plastic lures does. While spinnerbaits and jigs are also quite versatile, neither can be used in as many different ways as soft plastic lures can. Plastic flukes, jerk baits, curly tail worms, finesse worms, floating worms, grubs, snakes, frogs and lizards all work in the right circumstances, and you can rig most of them with similar tackle.
In keeping with the “streamlined” mantra, limit yourself to about a dozen different types of soft plastic lures. Pick a few different styles, in two or three different colors. For example, you may bring a couple of soft jerk baits, finesse worms and flukes, and carry each in silver, pumpkinseed and chartreuse. If you are always fishing in clear water, you may opt for gold instead of chartreuse, or if you work a local weed-choked pond, you may sub out the flukes for some soft plastic frogs.
Rod and Reel
A 6 ½ to 7 foot, medium or medium-heavy, fast or extra-fast action rod is good for all-around soft plastic action. Load it up with either braid or fluorocarbon line (in exceptionally clear water, you may want to throw a fluorocarbon leader on the end of your braid to avoid spooky line-shy fish). You can use a baitcaster or a spinning reel; both work fine, although some anglers struggle to cast unweighted plastics with baitcasting rigs.
You may need a variety of different hook styles and sizes, depending on the lures you choose. Hooks don’t take up much space, so bringing several styles and sizes is not a big problem; however, you can try to select a group of lures that work with a single type of hook if you like. In all cases, use the manufacturer’s recommended hook style and size.
Add a few bullet weights in the ½- to 1-ounce range, a few beads and some swivels for Carolina rigs, and toss a few nose weights and toothpicks (used for pegging the weight to the lure in dense cover) for Texas rigs. If you intend to do a lot of wacky rigging, a few hooks with wire weed guards may save you some frustration.
Match your presentation to the current conditions. If you’re working a weedy pond on an early fall afternoon, start with floating frogs and jerk baits. Alternatively, if you find yourself working sloping points in the dog days of August, drag a Carolina-rigged fluke along and across deep points. Texas-rigged worms work well around log piles for most of the year, while few things anger bedding bass more than a Texas-rigged lizard, snooping around the shallows. Wacky rigs are most commonly used when presenting soft jerk baits vertically or skipping them under docks, but you can also rig a finesse worm wacky-style to give the bass something new to look at.
You may have to try several different presentations and colors before you pattern the fish, but if you persevere, success is quite likely. So when you feel that bass inhale your soft plastic lures, count to three, set the hook hard and reel that bad boy in.