Soft Plastics for Bass

June 2, 2010 by  

By Nick Simonson

Fishing fast is a fun way of covering water and targeting active largemouth bass. Ripping crankbaits and burning spinnerbaits back to the boat triggers reaction strikes and puts a solid bend in the rod when largemouth are in a feeding mood. This fun-n-gun presentation also helps anglers key in on areas that hold fish. But when short strikes occur, or the fish are in a funk, there’s a go-to lure that requires a little more patience in order for it to pay big fish dividends. But as Aesop said, “slow and steady wins the race.”

Since they hit the market nearly a decade ago, “do-nothing” plastic sticks like the Yamamoto Senko, Yum Dinger, Northland Dip Stick and the subsequent flood of cheaper home-poured versions found on eBay have become a popular option for bass. When Texas- or wacky-rigged, these baits have a subtle shimmy on their slow drop through the water column. While it is tough to say exactly what it looks like (beyond a worm) to a bass, it’s easy to see that the bait sets fussy fish off, and elicits strikes that speed baits might not. As a result, it takes a different kind of presentation to use these sticks properly.

Generally, a soft plastic stick bait is dense and heavy and requires no added weight to fish. The lure is easily castable over longer distances and provides enough weight on its own so that it can be lightly pitched to open pockets in emergent vegetation or even skipped into tight quarters, such as around docks or boat lifts. Once the bait has broken the surface, that’s when the test of an angler’s attention to detail begins.

The stick will slowly fall through the water column, and depending on how it is rigged, will wiggle one or both ends in a subtle, tantalizing fashion, drawing the attention of bass holding nearby. However, it might take the fish awhile to move in and decide to bite, or it might take some repositioning to get the bait into the strike zone. As the bait falls, the line laying on the surface of the water will slowly follow it down. Unless sight-fishing bass in the shallows, monitoring the bait’s fall is of the utmost importance. When the line stops moving, the bait has hit the bottom. Allow the bait to rest on the bottom for a bit before reeling up the slack in the line and lifting the rod tip from the four o’clock position to the one o’clock position, lifting the bait three or four feet off the bottom.

Drop the rod tip back down and allow the bait to pull the line as it begins its descent again, keeping the line semi-tight and watching it for any sudden twitches or movement. Repeating this process up and down a breakline or over a flat will take some time, but will present the bait in all depth ranges where fish might be holding. If fishing structure, like a laydown, rock pile or dock, it might not take as long to explore the structure.

Ultimately, the keys to fishing soft plastic sticks are to be patient and stay observant, monitoring the line and feeling for any dead weight or movement that may signal a fish has taken the bait. For the latter, it is important to keep that semi-tightness in the line to allow for a good set-up and hookset when it is determined that a bass is on the line.

From May to October, I’ve landed bass of both varieties by fishing soft plastic sticks, and while I opt to Texas-rig them on 4/0 wide-gap worm hooks a majority of the time, the wacky presentation on a circle hook can certainly make the baits require even less work in the water. By allowing a fish that has taken a bait rigged on a circle hook to swim off and slowly tighten the line against its motion, the hook will slide up and set in the corner of the fish’s mouth automatically – further enhancing the “do-nothing” nature of these baits.

While a slowly fished soft plastic isn’t prone to rod-busting strikes, it works in triggering bigger fish, which tend to be more finicky. So when others are burning up the water and only showing a few fish for it, you can pick up the big ones they left behind with these popular staples, using a slow and steady presentation that will hook bass all summer long, making you the big winner…in our outdoors.


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