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February 09, 2011

Using Soft Plastic Baits

From trout to tuna, plastic baits offer unmatched versatility.

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Depths from five to 25 feet require less weight for a lure to reach bottom. This is an environment where shrimp and swimming baitfish imitations, like the D.O.A. B.F.L. (which looks like a mullet), are especially effective. And of course, a jig head with a soft body attached is always effective.

One of my favorite inshore rigs uses a shank-weighted large-gap hook to make the plastic sink and swim more naturally in a horizontal position. This system works best for depths down to 20 or more feet if the current is not too swift. The lure can also be made to swim right at the surface. In many situations, a bait that sinks slowly can be fished with a slower retrieve that gets more strikes.

The venerable soft-plastic shrimp has undergone continual improvement over the years. Since shrimp come in endless colors and sizes, science has yet to identify a game fish that won't eat them. Most shrimp lures are prerigged, with the hook sticking out the back. A weight in the belly provides balance for a slow retrieve or natural drift with an occasional twitch along the bottom or over the top of grass beds. For deeper water it is sometimes necessary to add weight to the leader in front of the hook, creating a so-called Carolina rig. It is also possible to peg the sinker a foot or two up the leader, which allows the weightless shrimp to swim slightly above the bottom in a natural manner.