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Probably more fish, freshwater and saltwater are caught on soft plastic lures. Since the invention of plastic baits over 70 years ago they’ve changed shape, sizes and had a dramatic increase in colors and actions. Nick Crème of Akron Ohio had the idea which would forever change the fishing world. It was 1949 and bass fishing was a popular activity for people across the country. The original worms came in limited colors and sold five for a dollar. Material was crude and the worms not nearly as supple as todays baits.

Flipping the pages of almost any fishing catalog reveals that the soft plastic bait business is booming with no signs of slowing down. For example, my friends and sponsor Strike King offers their brand of Ragetail soft plastic on over three dozen shapes and an impressive 80 colors. Worms like the traditional straight tail finesse bait which range from a five-inch model to the monster bull worm or the Anaconda stretching to a full 10 inches.
In my own case my first “big” bass, a four pounder, came on what we called at the time, a “rubber” worm. Cast along a rock wall in a spot that quickly sloped from three feet to about twelve feet, I felt a distinctive double tap and my line started swimming toward deeper water. In those days the specially designed worm rods were described as “pool cues” and I leaned back hard, and the fish responded with an immediate deep dive towards an escape route. After what seemed an eternity (realistically probably 30 seconds) I secured my catch with a death grip on her lip. Heart thumping, hands shaking I sat down to calm myself and an addiction was born.
Bass fishing friends Michael Vines and Nathan Burnett chime in. Vines originally from the north country states, “smallmouth love soft plastic in the color chartreuse and oddly enough pink. In late spring I start using paddle tail worms and have had great success.” Burnett, a Tennessee native and avid outdoorsman suggests, “practice fishing soft plastics in a farm pond or any place that holds lots of fish so you can learn to feel the hit. Start shallow to learn how the bait reacts to every twitch of the rod.” My constant companion on the water Debbie catches the majority of her fish, bass, crappie and bluegill on soft plastics and has become adept at several presentation styles. She describes her style, “I love the feel of the fish taking the bait and then watching the line swim off. I like the challenge of finding the fish and the possibility on every cast of catching a big bass.” The developer of the Ragetail line of soft plastics Steve Parks shares his view of the magic of plastic. “Soft plastics work because their versatile and can be fished from top to bottom. There’s a size, color, profile and look that fools fish anywhere. Soft plastic baits do what crankbaits and spinnerbaits can’t with their limited action.” The Ragetail baits come in over three dozen variations and 80 colors.

It’s a little difficult at first in determining the difference between a bite and an underwater object. My recommendation is to start with a simple Texas rigged worm (slip sinker and a medium size worm hook) * SEE PHOTO or a straight tail bait threaded onto a leadhead for sake of simplicity and ease of strike detection. A key to the catch is maintaining constant contact with the bait regardless of size, shape or color. You are moving the bait with the rod and taking up slack with the reel. Spinning, baitcasting or even spincasting are all acceptable for fishing what I characterize the “feel” baits. At the moment you sense a strike, hit, pick up or whatever you choose to call it, lower the rod tip a few inches. If a fish feels an unnatural tension it will normally expel (okay spit) the artificial bait. After lowering the rod, take up some of the slack and then set the hook with a quick snap of the wrist. Strong line, a good knot and the efficient hook set are your best friends in this style of fishing. Don’t be tentative or shy on the hook set, everyone still swings and misses at times.


Choosing baits without going broke is part of the struggle. Load you tackle box with a few of each of these. Choose a few sizes, shapes and colors, experiment and find a style of soft plastic fishing that best fits you.

The Soft Plastic Secrets

The two most important aspects of soft plastic success are these:

1. Random action, everyone will fish these baits applying a different amount of swimming motion thereby giving the bait a personalized look. With no sound, a little vibration and a life like movement random action supplies a look fish never catch on to. Falling, crawling, creeping along the bottom, swimming each angler has a favorite or varied presentation that looks different. Spinners, crankbaits and other have a “mechanical” action that remains the same regardless of who is fishing it. There’s only one other variable for any bait.

#2 Is retrieve speed. Making any artificial lure look alive is the job of the person at the business end of the fishing rod. Gamefish decide or have a reaction to the visual clues offered by the lure. Does it look alive and more importantly does the bait give any indication as to being injured or trying to escape. The retrieve speed can be a trigger or a turn off to the fish. When any fish is aggressively feeding speed matters very little. Unfortunately, this is only true for short periods of time. Fish in a neutral or negative feeding mode must be convinced that there’s an easy meal in their feeding zone in order to elicit a response.

Lots of options as to rigging, presenting and targeting multiple species, that’s why soft plastic is fantastic.