Tips for Fishing Soft Plastics

One of the advantages of fishing all kinds of waters--rivers, lakes, streams, rivers, inshore saltwater and off-shore, and believe me, we fish them all when taping North American Fisherman TV, is you start to notice patterns or situations arising at times when you least expect it.

Want to be a better bass fisherman? Target redfish a time or two this season. Hope to catch more trout? Fish crappie or bluegills. There are some killer methods for striped bass that are also deadly on smallies, and some bass methods that will take walleyes.

We won't get into the basics--you already know how to fish crankbaits and topwaters and spinnerbaits. But many of you will never reach your full potential with soft plastics because you limit how and when you fish these baits. Let's dispel some myths right away:

• YUM soft plastics are not just for finesse situations.

• YUM soft plastics will catch more than just bass.

• YUM soft plastics are far more versatile than most anglers realize.

In fact, in recent times, we've:

• Replaced skirts on spinnerbaits with YUM Garrett Mega Tubes and Vibra King Finesse Tubes (save the rubber band or use Super Glue to hold). Works on in-line spinners as well!

• Trolled a Vibra King Tube behind a dodger for both salmon and trout (alewive is a deadly color on the Great Lakes!)

• Cast Vibra King Tubes to sailfish.

• Tipped a BOOYAH Jig with a nose-hooked tube (falls faster than most craws and great for swimming presentations)

• Fished river walleyes with a leadhead jig tipped with a four-inch YUM Lizard

• Busted some huge Canadian pike twitching a YUM Houdini Worm in shallow back bays.

• Triggered summer walleyes by rip-jigging YUM Wooly Curltails on 3/8-ounce jig heads

• Fished Houdini Shad jerkbaits on a Carolina Rig--and took some giant bass.

When fishing soft plastics, keep an eye out for crossover opportunities--situations where a bait or technique that will work for other species. The first time I fished a YUM Floatin' Jitterworm for spring bass, I knew I'd found the perfect bait for sight-fishing giant pike.

Things can get a bit crazy at times. Trolling a Vibra King tube for trout and salmon? At first blush, it doesn't make sense until you consider that tube does a superb job mimicking open water baitfish--and a scent-impregnated bait will appeal to these species, which both happen to have highly-evolved senses of smell.  

Sometimes, the issue is presentation. Soft plastics are great for fishing slow--even dead sticking is effective at times. Slow, however, is not always the answer. Most soft plastics, especially streamlined models like tubes, grubs and worms can be fished fast. One of the best days I've ever had walleye fishing didn't start out that way. Oh, we found the fish stacked on a deep hump, but they refused everything including live bait. The key, we found, to triggering them was rip-jigging YUM Wooly Curltails with five-foot strokes on the rod! So much for finicky walleyes!

Don't give up the time-proven techniques for fishing soft plastics, but don't be afraid to changes gears when what you are doing isn't working.

Steve Pennaz is the Executive Director of North American Fishing Club and host of North American Fisherman Television Show on ESPN.

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