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Soft plastic baits have been around for what seems like eons. The reason for such longevity is, of course, they catch fish! In the world of artificial baits, soft plastics have probably caught more fish than any other type or style of bait. Now that may not be a fair comparison since there are many “types” of plastic baits as well, but our point is, soft plastic baits are fish-catching machinery.
“I remember when I was young, reading about plastic worms in Bassmaster magazine,” says Pete Bowman “thinking that there’s no way those things would work in Canada. Wow was I naive and man was I wrong!”
Pete goes on to say, “so one day I had two pre-rigged Creme 6” Scoundrel (nicknamed the “Tourist Worm”, thanks to Ang) purple plastic worms in my box and told my buddies I was going to go out and try them… the boys laughed at me… we were all of 16 years old… lots of wisdom. Long story short, on my buddy’s spin-cast outfit, I quickly caught two or three gorgeous Largemouth Bass (right beside our campsite) on those silly-looking worms. My buds freaked, and the rest was history for me!”
At a totally opposite spectrum of the plastics wheel, Angelo Viola literally fed his family with plastic baits… well, sort of.
“My brother Reno and I started a fishing retail business called Barklays many years ago,” says Ang “and in that store, we had SKU upon SKU of plastic baits. Some for Walleye, some for Bass, big plastics for Pike and Muskie etc, etc. I have literally sold more plastic baits than the average angler could ever throw in a lifetime. And let me tell you, through that time I learned a bunch about the differences and subtleties of these great fish catchers.”
So, without further adieu, here are our “Top 10” plastic bait choices. Some are old, some are new, but they all will work!
#1 – Mann’s Jelly Worm
Along with the Creme worm that Pete mentioned earlier, the Jelly Worm has been around an exceptionally long time. In that time, it has caught Bass upon Bass and then more Bass. WAY back in the day, the Jelly Worm was the standard go-to for tournament anglers.
Today, it has lost some of its popularity due to competition in the bait manufacturing world, however, if you put a Jelly Worm against any comparable plastic, the JW would most definitely hold its own!
They are still available on the Mann’s site in 8”, 9” & 12” models.
#2 – Yamamoto Senko
We cannot think of another soft plastic bait that has done what the original Senko has. Let’s be honest, at the premium price that one pays at a tackle shop for a pack of Senkos, they better be good.
Well, good they are!
It seems no matter how you rig them, a Senko will catch fish when all else fails. We say fish because although these gems were invented with the intention of Bass (actually Largemouth if you want to be exact), we have caught Smallmouth, Walleye, Northern Pike, Muskie, Striped Bass and even Arctic Grayling on Senkos.
Nonetheless, it is the Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass that really love this plastic wonder.
“I love rigging a Senko Wacky style,” says Ang “it gives the bait a whole different personality than Texas or Texposed.”
“That said,” Ang continues “Pete will fire a Texposed Senko in and around docks and man is it snag-proof, and a fish catcher as well”.
The “normal”, or more popular, colours of Senkos are the natural hues like greens, blacks, browns etc. However, Angelo has had great success on white/chartreuse and even red.
Wait… did we just say red???
Yep, Pete and Ang have used everything from 3” (those Grayling mentioned above) Senkos all the way up to the gigantic 8” model in just about every colour produced, and all of them caught fish!
Gary Yamamoto nailed it with this great bait.
#3 Culprit Worm
When a new product comes along in the world of fishing, we take note. The Culprit bait company turned the tides, as well as our heads, in plastic worm fishing when they introduced their 6” curly-tailed worm. In a world of mostly straight worms, Mr. Twister (as you will read about below) came out with a curly-tailed worm called the Phenom. It had a small curly tail, and it caught fish. This little beauty added a whole new dimension to the plastic worm profile as well as the action.
Culprit took the “curly” aspect to a whole new level. They took a large proportion of the worm’s body and made it all curly… meaning tons of swimming action.
With proper advertising showcasing the fluid motion of this great bait, the Culprit Worm took off like gangbusters.
“I remember way back,” says Pete “when I was fishing Rice Lake frequently for Largemouth Bass. One of my deadliest tactics was throwing a dark-coloured (I believe purple and or black) 6” Culprit curly-tail, and I remember days when I would literally smash em’!”
Of course, now there are so many curly-tailed worms to choose from that Pete and Ang have a whole slew in their arsenal. However, the Culprit was, and still is, a huge part of their worm fishing history.
The Slug-Go was another of those radical soft plastic baits that turned the tables in the fishing world. There is not much of a distinct profile here, it’s pretty much a piece of straight plastic shaped like a… honestly, we don’t know what.
It is the action of this bait, however, that changed things drastically. This bait had a similar action to a “normal (hard)” jerkbait, but it is as soft as a real minnow or a worm. A soft plastic jerkbait… WOW!
“I’ll tell you a Slug-Go story here,” says Ang “I used to fish Lake Scugog (reminder that the lake does not allow Walleye fishing at this time) almost daily for Largemouth Bass. During those trips, I’d throw pretty much anything I could at em’. But it wasn’t until I discovered the Slug-Go that I found the true meaning of loving a bait. And get this, the absolute-best colour was bubble-gum PINK! Now, what in the world lives in Lake Scugog that is as pink as a chunk of Hubba Bubba… your guess is as good as mine, however, that pink Slug-Go was the bomb!”
The swimbait is a marvellous creation for anglers. It can be simply cast out and reeled back, it can be cast out and worked back while contacting the bottom like a jig, it can be vertically jigged, and the list goes on.
With such a variety of sizes, swimbaits can be used for anything from Panfish to Muskie, and Snapper to Shark. Its use is endless.
“Our first encounter with swimbaits,” states Ang “was a way back when brother Reno and I got hold of some custom hand-poured, Castaic works of art. I say this because I still remember the Rainbow Trout pattern… it was bang on.
“From that day on,” continues Ang “we have loved every minute of fishing swimbaits.”
Through time, anglers found that they did not “need” those perfect-looking (expensive) baits all the time… (although they sometimes do help… and they’re so damned pretty!)
As long as that floppy tail did its thing, fish are about to commence eating.
Swimbaits are the real deal!
#6 Mr. Twister Grub
The 3” twister tail grub is one of the most efficient Walleye baits ever invented. It was first introduced to the fishing community back in 1975 by Mr. Twister, a company that remains strong in the market to this day. Their first twister grub was actually the 4” model but they soon found a consumer need for 3” and even 2”.
It can be fished on a jighead as a stand-alone bait or anglers can add a small piece of live bait for scent and taste.
Sometimes back-stories are a great little anecdote and the Mr. Twister name is one of them. Apparently, when the company was being formed, they came up with the name but unfortunately it was already being used (you gotta’ wonder who the heck else would use Mr. Twister), so the plastic bait company owner offered the former of “Mr. Twister” five thousand dollars for the name… SOLD and a done deal!
#7 Bobby Garland’s Gitzit Tube
The Tube Jig, as we all know it, started out being called a Gitzit. This bait has caught as many or maybe even more Bass than any other bait on this list… maybe! From Bobby Garland’s past, it seems like he started this whole Tube Jig thing with Largemouth in mind. If that’s the case, then Bobby inadvertently stumbled on one of the best Smallmouth baits of all time. To this day, the Tube Jig is an absolute must for Smallies, and it sure doesn’t hurt for Largies either.
“Now if you really want to go crazy,” says Ang “try throwing a giant tube for Pike or Muskie… I’ll bet Bobby never saw that one coming!”
#8 Gambler Flappin Shad
Ever since the Slug-Go was created, the soft plastic jerkbait industry has gone straight ahead, full throttle. The issue was, how does someone make something different. After all, an original Slug-Go was, at that point, way ahead of its time.
Why not put a bit more action into a soft jerkbait, right?
Well, that’s what the Gambler lure company did. They created a super-soft “baitfish” looking plastic and put a big paddle tail on the end of a thin back section.
When a Flappin’ Shad starts its way back to the boat, that is when the magic begins. You can work it at any speed, stop and start it, and even straight reel it.
For the best bait action as well as hook-up ratio, try a Flappin Shad with braided line… man it get’s that tail a “flappin’”
#9 Reaction Innovations’ Sweet Beaver
Here is a bait that started another revolution, in this case, the “Beaver” style bait. It “somewhat” looks like a crawfish and or maybe a bluegill. Whatever it is meant to imitate, it is a Bass buster!
“I have always been a Jig & Pig kind of guy,” Pete says, “ever since I caught my first Largemouth on one, I haven’t looked back!”
“Now, however,” continues Pete “beaver style baits have really taken up a place on the deck of my boat and I often pick them instead of my trusty jig.
“As well,” says Pete, “I now rarely use a regular Texas rigged plastic worm, but instead opt for a Texas rigged beaver… I have so much confidence in this little beauty.”
The most popular size of these beaver baits is around the 4” length.
“Although Reaction Innovations started the whole beaver bait trend,” says Ang, “as in typical fishing lure manufacturers fashion, many… and I mean MANY companies have followed suit. That spells GOOD for the consumer/bass angler.”
#10 Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm
Are you one of those anglers who feels that the more natural looking or “perfect match the hatch” the bait is, the better it works? Well, Ang and Pete certainly were at one time. Now, however, they often scratch their heads when looking at some of the obscur-looking baits that are catching fish.
“Don’t get us wrong,” states Ang “Pete and I still love those super-sexy-detailed-realistic looking fishing lures. Heck, even if they don’t catch fish, they sure do look good in our boxes”.
“That said,” continues Ang “we now carry a mixture of realistic vs. what-the-hell-is-that-supposed-to-be styles of baits. And we have discovered that those that do not mimic anything, often work best.”
The Shad Shape Worm is a perfect example of a bait that mirrors nothing in particular but still seems to catch the attention of fish.
Is it a shad… maybe?
Is it a worm… not really!
It is close, but no cigar.
That said, it is Ang and Pete’s go-to dropshot bait for Smallmouth Bass.
“When push comes to shove,” says Pete “Ang and I will 100-percent pick up an S-S Worm on a dropshot rig as our absolute last resort to catch a Smallmouth. Does it look real? Nope! But honestly, go back up this list and tell us, do any of the baits here (aside from the Castaic) look REAL… I know your answer!”
Any Plastic Jig Chunk
Here is one that we could not leave out and, as well, could not think of a single brand that took over the reins from the Uncle Josh Pork Rind users. That said, soft plastic producers like Zoom and Strike King took the jig chunk to the next and probably simpler level.
“Pete and I were just talking about pork rind chunks,” says Ang “and saying just how effective they were, how tough they were (all day usage as long as it was kept wet), and how they had a unique flowing action.”
“During that conversation,” continues Pete “I stated how tough pork rinds were to remove and how easy and non-messy, soft plastic chunks are”.
Obviously our fish’n fellas like both.
Creatures are a whole other category – and a big category they are. The first ones we remember are the Brush Hog family of baits by Zoom. Today… well, just search creature baits and you will see an array of examples. A great example is the Mega Bug by Mega Strike lures. At first glance it may look odd to you with all those crazy “tentacles”, but man does it catch fish!
The plastic lizard is another classic that was used primarily throughout the US. It was made famous on the tail end of a Carolina rig. To this day, it still catches bass and does so worldwide!
Soft plastic baits certainly have made their mark in the fishing world. From freshwater to saltwater, from big water to small water, from flowing water to still water, from shallow water to deep water (we are feelin’ that you’re getting our point), soft plastics have caught millions, if not billions, and maybe even trillions, of fish since the day they were invented.
That’s a lot of fish!