We hear this question often and see it advertised A LOT. Ever wonder why so many pros advocate for so many different soft baits? There is truth as well as misinformation behind this practice. You have probably heard the following on a TV bit or in a magazine, “Buy the X soft bait from Y brand, you are guaranteed to land fish!”
There is No #1 Soft Plastic Lure
Do not fall victim to the pitch there is NO perfect soft bait. There is no single solution to landing fish all the time with a specific soft bait form a specific brand. Do you think the top 100 pro’s are catching a lot of fish? More than the average angler? YES. Are they sponsored by different brands each recommending TONS of different soft baits? YES. So if they are all catching fish on different soft baits how is it possible that a each pro holds claim to the secret soft bait?
Have a Selection of Soft Plastic Lures
There are so many pro’s recommending so many different soft baits because A LOT of them work. However, they work for different situations (species, tactics, and conditions). The key is to have a good combination of soft baits that work for different situations. There is no one soft bait to rule them all, but maintaining a well thought out combination of styles, sizes, and colors will land fish. So there is no secret ingredient but there is a secret sauce. Meaning, there is no 1 soft plastic that will lead to success but there is a combination of soft plastic principles that will get you on the right track. HatCamBass has a great video on picking a selection of baits for a beginner tackle box.
4 Best Rules for a Soft Plastic Arsenal
1.) Maintain an abundance of different soft bait styles
Styles or profiles are dependent on tactics. Would you show up to the Superbowl with just your running-backs and leave the wide receivers at home? Without the ability to adjust tactics, you limit yourself not only to less fish but the potential of getting skunked for the day. Without getting too thick in the weeds on this post make sure to have the basic styles of Worms, Lizards, and Creature Baits for Bass. This arsenal enables the Texas Rig, Carolina Rig, Wacky Rig (Stick Bait). Also include small profile soft baits like Curl Tail Grubs for Trout and Panfish. Having the ability to execute all of the tactics will allow you to stay just as flexible as the pros.
2.) Hold sizes in 3″, 5″ and 6″
Size of a soft bait is not only defined by the target species but also the aggressiveness of the bite. Larger bait = larger fish, however this is not entirely true when factoring in the bite. Larger profile baits should be used to target aggressive bites while smaller profiles can be used to target the same sized fish during dormant periods. Staying nimble and changing size in relation to your results is critical. Often times, the correct approach resonates on the water through trial and error. A 3″ Curl Tail Grub on a jig head has the flexibility to weed out smaller Panfish just as successfully as it can convince finicky Largemouth Bass on slow days. Generally, a good rule of thumb is 4-6″ for gamefish, and 2-3″ for Panfish.
Soft Plastic Lures from our Freshwater Fishing Kit
3.) Alternate 2 dimensions of color
Natural and Neon. While color can get broken down more thoroughly, natural and neon is the most basic approach when defining your color strategy. Natural color types work best in less than 10 ft. of water (Brown, Green, Gray). Greater than 10 ft. you should place more emphasis on neon color types (Chartreuse, White, Red). The deeper you fish, the darker the clarity. It is also more difficult to relate to structure as you are often mapping to your chart rather than physically visible structure like docks and reeds. Your colors need to be brighter not only for immediate visibility, but to call in fish from greater distance as targeting a specific spot is now more challenging. A combination of the two can be a versatile solutions, such as a fire tail or sparkled mixes within the base plastic.
4.) Hold 5-10 pieces of each profile in the correct size
Going back to the Superbowl example, lets say you brought the whole team but the run game really is the most effective approach. You run the ball the whole game, but running-backs get tired and are likely to get hurt from overemphasis. It wouldn’t be wise to only have 1 running back, you need back ups. When on a hot bite, you will likely lose a few with your bait. After 4-5 landed fish you will likely need to replace your soft bait to maintain its original presentation. To take advantage of the hot bite on a particular tactic you need a decent amount of depth in your lineup to avoid missing out. Therefore, we recommend holding 5-10 pieces of each common style.
The overarching lesson is to maintain a diverse mixture of soft plastic lures in style, size and color. There is no 1 soft bait that fits all so use that fact to your advantage. Set yourself up for success by preparing a diverse combination that will allow you to test and learn while you are on the water. A secret formula today can be a skunk tomorrow. Combat these changes by staying flexible.