Rigging Soft Plastics This article will demonstrate how to rig a plastic bait 1. with a jig head; and 2. Texas Rigged (weedless)
While this is old hat for many of you, here's a "How-To" for rigging softbaits. Perhaps it will help some new anglers, or some old bait fisherman looking to get into artificials
I'm nuts about catching fish on artificials. While there are hundreds of types of lures that will catch fish under the right circumstances, nothing in my opinion out-fishes a soft plastic presented in the strike zone (i.e. in front of, on top of, or below a fish's nose). Whether they're cheaper than live bait is certainly up for debate, since I spend up to $5 for a pack of "softees", most of which get detailed (get it?...de-tailed.......ahem) by puffers or destroyed by the toothier fish, but they don't stink...and that's why I like them.
What's even more fun about soft plastics, they come in a variety of sizes, colors, and shapes. And they can all be fished differently Here's a few of my favorites:
I keep all my baits in a softbait case. Best $4 I ever spent:
I also keep all my soft bait hooks/jig heads organized in a Plano
Let's discuss two common rigging methods:
[size=150]Weighted Jig Heads
Depending on water depth and current, you could use a jig head as light as 1/32oz and as heavy as 4oz. The idea is to just get the soft bait to where you want it in the water column (ideally, the bottom) and have enough tension on your line to feel the bait and not give you a nasty wind knot. I rarely use more than 1/8oz in my neck of the woods. Yet, when I fished a bay in NJ, I was surprised by how the current was moving my heavy 2oz jighead along the bottom.
Let's rig our Zoom Fluke
Notice how I'm lining up the jig head atop the bait. See where the hook is positioned? This is exactly where it needs to exit the bait.
In goes the hook:
Now push the bait up the shaft of the hook, not the other way around. It should slide right up
Look where the point of the hook exits...right where we lined it up.
Straighten out the bait and you're ready!
Important You're bait should be perfectly straight and not bent in any way. If it's bent, start over. It will spin when you retrieve it and twist your line (as well as not catch fish).
Here's a video showing the same. (sorry it's upside-down)
Here are those other baits on a weighted jig head. What do they all have in common?
They're perfectly straight and not bent!
Tube (add Tubes to your arsenal!....fun to fish and you can fill em up with scent):
A note on Paddle Tails: These are one of my favorite soft plastics for both trolling and when I get too lazy to twitch a rod tip. Why? It's the paddle. On a steady retrieve that tail displaces water, which sends vibrations to a fish's lateral line (look up lateral line if you don't know what this is). A steady retrieve is all you need sometimes. For this reason, paddle tails are my go-to kayak trolling bait.
One more thing....note how the hook comes out the back and not the belly. The orientation of the paddle lets you know which end is the belly. This is important...the hook will ride up and not get snagged. On a multi-colored paddletail, the belly is typically the lighter color.
My favorite paddle tails are Strike King Redfish Magic Minnows...whatever material they use is much stronger than any other plastic I've encountered.
they don't always get hooked in the lips
Texas Rigging (Weedless)
This is my favorite way to rig a soft plastic - why? 1. It's Weedless...I'll literally c r a w l this bait through the grass 2. The action is more lifelike (since the bait isn't diving head first to the bottom) 3. You get to use a bigger hook in case something BIG decides to eat your offering, you'll have plenty of backbone. 4. Weightless, you can work it as a topwater if you get bored. 5. I catch TONS of fish with it
Gamakatsu Offset Wormhooks 3/0 and 4/0 are my favorite. They are chemically sharpened, and are literally the sharpest and strongest hooks I've ever used. Worth every penny.
Here's the step-by-step for weedless Texas rigging. We'll use the ol' Zoom Fluke again:
Line up the hook over the bait and note your "exit" spot:
In the top:
A little out the side:
Snake the hook through the bait:
We're at a crucial point in the process:
Now TWIST the hook all the way around so it lines up like this:
See where the eye of the hook is?:
Line up the hook again to find your "exit"
...and push the hook through the bait
But how is this "weedless". Well it's not until you tuck the end of the hook point into the side of the bait like this:
Here's a video I made:
So your question is, "How do I set the hook?"
Easy...the fish you want to catch....the big fish....will INHALE this thing. If they don't INHALE it, they'll bite down on it pretty darn hard. If you just tried this at home, squeeze your texas rigged Fluke...the hook pops right out and comes exposed. Same principle. (see 1.16 in the above captioned video)
Now, if you're not setting your hooks on Texas Rigged baits, chances are that it looks SO REAL, you're fooling the small fish too and they're nibbling at it. Trust me, you'll set a hook on the fish you WANT to catch.
This small barracuda fell for a texas-rigged fluke....silly cuda.
So that was a weightless texas rig. I only use these at DEAD low tide, very skinny water, or when flipping on and off sargassum weedlines (yep, just like bass fishing, but 2 miles offshore). Under any other conditions, you just won't feel the bait and line tension..and you have to fish this bait SLOW. The slightest finesse twitch will make a weedless fluke "dance".
If you want to add some weight to this rig DOA makes little splitshot type weights that affix to the hook itself
...or you can use a weighted worm hook:
Gamakatsu 1/8oz weighted worm hook:
note the position of the weight. Not only will it keep your bait horizontal, but it acts as a keel and keeps the bait from spinning
Rigging these are a little different, since you do want to very well force that big hook shaft through the top of your bait, hence the "keeper". This particular bait has a spiral wire. Just corkscrew it right in the top
...and put your hook point through the middle of the bait like before.
When I can't use a weightless hook, this is my next favorite method of fishing. And there's few fish you'll hook in the ocean whereby a 4/0 offset hook will fail.
Hope this helps some of you who are new to soft plastics. Give it a try. It's a versatile bait that can be fished all over the water column, fast and slow, and there's not a fish it won't catch.
Last edited by Vinnyjojo on Sun Mar 21, 2010 4:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Joined: Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:20 pm Posts: 90 Location: Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl.
Perfect timing! I was just trying to explain some of these tecniques to a co-worker but I did'nt have any "hands on" tackle with me. These are EXACTLY how I rig mine too. Great minds think alike. Thanks.
Nicely done piece. If you want to save money on plastics take a look at the Bitters brand. John Bitters ( brother of Jim Bitters the BASS guy) has tackle shop in Longwood right on 17-92. He also sells them online. They normally run $2.99 a bag or two for $5. Even cheaper in 100 count sacks. They are the same quality as Zoom and he has as many colors and variations.
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