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Soft Plastics are Fantastic!
Four Lures that Cream Schoolies

I can look any man in the eye and honestly say, that between largemouth and smallmouth bass in freshwater, and stripers in saltwater, I have used most soft plastic baits in most of the sizes, shapes and colors ever made. I am absolutely serious about that. I started using them when Creme first came out, then Mister Twister broke the industry open in the early seventies. I started murderizing small to medium sized bass with 6" white Mister Twister curly tails on jig heads. Shortly thereafter, soft plastic shads appeared on the market in bulk "no name" bags. This had to be around 1980 when the soft plastic shads were first invented in the 3" size, and I immediately started creaming schoolies on light tackle jigs with them. Within a year, the 4" shad was designed, and in my opinion it is still the numero uno soft plastic bait for school bass today! Another manufacturer, Culprit, soon surfaced and it's two-tone laminated black/red 6" curly tail also had nights of incredible numbers of school bass for me. I remember the first night I used the black/red Culprit twisters. I nipped an inch or two off the nose to make it shorter, laced it onto 1/2 ounce bullet head jigs, and proceeded to catch over 80 small to medium stripers in less than two hours! There were many tides with over 100 bass on twister tails. Those were the first few soft plastics I used for stripers in the surf and bay.

Since those early days, I have caught saltwater stripers on every soft plastic imaginable - grubs, worms, crayfish, lizards, shrimps, minnows, YOU NAME IT, and in every color combo imaginable. I remember nights back when plastics were new when we experimented with EVERYTHING about them. We discovered nights when the only thing they would hit were bright blue plastics, other nights dark purple, or orange or hot pink or brown or chartreuse. But once all the novelty and excitement faded, the real lesson we learned was that only a small handful of soft plastic lures and colors are truly necessary for stripers. Even more importantly, we learned that fishing skill in presenting the leadhead lure is far more important than the shape or color of the lure. That last sentence conveys a powerful statement that took me several decades to realize, and I really don't know how to convince you of the importance of that as it applies to leadheads and soft plastics, but it is true.

What am I trying to tell you? To focus on your jig fishing skills and not to be sidetracked into believing that the lure color is a very important variable. Sure, color may matter from night to night. Especially if you are not highly skilled at jig fishing, you can use color as a crutch. But it is only your jig fishing skills that matter in the long run. The better you get at jig fishing, the less colors you will need to use. In fact, the very best jig fishermen I know use white jigs exclusively, and they catch more fish on just white than on all other colors combined. Remember that.

Today? I only use a few kinds of soft plastics for bass as listed below. I buy in bulk from a mail order catalog you can get from Barlow's Tackle Shop in Texas. By the way, I always superglue soft plastics onto the lead heads. And I always take them out of the plastic bags they come in and store them by laying them out straight one atop another in a plastic tupperware to avoid kinks. Fish don't hit "handicapped" soft plastics that are kinked and twisted out of shape.

1) 4" Shad: Flat white is best, second best is white pearl. These are unbranded "no names" that cost less than 20 cents each per hundred! If I was forced to only use one lure for school bass, this is it. In addition to white and white pearl, a number of two-tones with colored backs also work: red/white, blue/white, black/white, yellow/white, green/white...but white is tops! A minor annoyance is that unless you rig it perfectly straight, it has a tendency to swim "handicapped" in strong currents. You will catch far less fish if your lure swims handicapped.

2) 4" Tubebaits: I prefer Luck-E-Strike's Gitzit-style tube model named the "G4". This is a cylindrical, 4" hollow-bodied lure with long tentacle tails that have fluid action in the water. I like the G4 because it is a round, hollow bait, and it doesn't become "handicapped" and swim sideways like the plastic shads do if you don't put the shads on the hook properly. The G4 comes in about 100 colors. I actually found that most any color will work pretty good. Nevertheless, I am currently quite fond of and recommend you consider trying the following colors:

  • White pearl - Simply the best!
  • Black with red flash - Bass will blast this anytime, day or night
  • Dark smoke back, light smoke belly/copper flake - The manufacturer's name for this color is "Sand". Although sand may look tan on the beach, it usually looks grey underwater. This color mimics the grey color of sandy bottom-dwelling baitfish, grass shrimp, sand fleas, crabs and crustaceans.
  • Rainbow trout (green pepper back with pearl belly) - Imitates tinker macks, sand eels, etc.
  • Fire tiger (green back/red flake with orange belly) - Who knows what it imitates, but they belt it anyway!

3) 6" Slug-Go: By Lunker City, this is my third choice of bait. Sometimes bass like this bait, especially "deadsticking" it as it sweeps up and holds motionless in a current. A minor annoyance with this bait is that the plastic head is very thin. Therefore, you must use pliers to crush and remove the lead collar from the jig head first. And fish tear through the thin head very easily - but still productive to use at times. Don't be afraid to trim the Slug-go length way down to imitate whatever slimmer bait bass may be feeding upon. Click here for more Slug-go Tips. I like two colors the best:

  • Golden Shiner (imitates an anchovy),
  • Black with Red Flash (just gets red hot crazy sometimes).

4) 6" Shad: This is the big sister to the 4" shad, and affectionately known as "The Baby" in certain striper circles. It's the one to pick for bass from the low teens to the mid-twenties. Two best colors are blue back with silver flash, and black back with silver flash, in addition to white, blue/pearl, black/pearl, red/pearl, etc. Stamina Quality Components is a mail order tackle shop that sells a 3/4 ounce ball head jig designed just for the 6" shad body. It has no lead collar. It has a monster 8/0 Mustad SeaGuard forged, round bend hook. Just glue the shad on and don't be afraid to trim the shad belly way down to imitate whatever slimmer bait bass may be feeding upon.

The above four baits are my favorites for small to medium-sized stripers. For truly jumbo bass liked 30s and 40s, I really don't use soft plastics. They maul them too much - and you spend too much time rerigging just at those fleeting moments when big cows are in your midst. Besides, I really like using gigantic wooden plugs, big bucktails with pork rind, live and rigged eels!

Try them and I think you'll agree that soft plastics are fantastic!

Regards, Bassdozer

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