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Published Sep 22, 2022 8:31 AM
Soft plastic baits for bass have the most realistic profiles, textures, and actions of any of the best bass lures. That makes them irresistible to bass, whether they’re tucked in heavy cover along the bank or hovering above a rock pile that’s 100 feet deep. And regardless if current conditions make them spooky or aggressive, bass will bite at least one of the almost endless variety of styles, sizes, and colors.
An abundance of rigging options compounds the versatility poured into these lures. They’re comfortable on thread-like braided line and spinning rods or boom-and-crane flipping sticks, heavy wire hooks and weights of more than 1 ounce. While fishing doesn’t have a guarantee, each of these best soft plastic baits for bass come as close to one as you can get.
Best for Muddy Water
Why It Made the Cut: The original creature bait, its action and bulk make it stand out in water that closely resembles chocolate milk, so it’s easy for bass to find.
- Size: 6 inches, bulky, six appendages
- Action: Fluttering
- Attractant: Salt-impregnated
- Easy-to-find target in dirty water
- Can be modified to create different sizes and actions
- Added salt encourages biting bass to hold on longer
- Large size may reduce the number of bites
- Durability decreases with sustained use
The Zoom Brush Hog is a big piece of meat that’s tasted victory at countless bass tournaments. Its stocky stature sports arms, flappers, and curly tails. Together they move buckets of water, loudly resonating with a bass’s lateral line, the main way it finds prey in muddy water.
While bass readily eat the 3-, 4- and 4.5-inch versions in stained or clear water, stick with the 6-inch one in muddy water. It’s best served on a Texas rig and pitched or flipped to cover, which bass cling to in muddy water. It’s similar to you navigating a dark room, running your hands from wall to furniture.
It’s a big bass bait, and while its salt-impregnated plastic encourages biting bass to hold on longer, it’s a liability the longer you fish a particular Brush Hog. As salt dissolves in the water, the plastic softens. Eventually it becomes too weak to stay on the hook, signaling it’s time for a new one.
Best for Winter Bass
Why It Made the Cut: A perfect profile and attractive action that doesn’t know when to quit combine to create a super soft offering that’s irresistible to bass swimming in cold water.
- Size: 4 inches, slim, single tail
- Action: Swimming, fluttering, hunting
- Attractant: Salt-impregnated
- Wide and thin tail creates action, even at slow speeds
- Compact size appeals to bass made sluggish by cold water
- Easily fished at any depth
- Long tail can foul on casts
Born on the West Coast, where most of the country’s finesse fishing techniques originate, Kalin’s Lunker Grub catches bass in a host of situations. Few lures match its ability to imitate baitfish that have been stunned by cold water or are sulking along bottom, especially when it’s threaded on a simple round jig head. The 4-inch version creates a near-perfect balance, less intimidating than the 5-inch model and more active than the 3-inch one. It’s made of a soft plastic that remains pliable in cold water. Its wide and thin tail creates plenty of action, even with a lightweight jig head and dead-slow retrieve, both vital to generating strikes in cold water.
But that perfectly performing tail has a shortcoming: It can wrap around the grub’s body or impale on the hook point during a cast. Either scenario forces you to stop fishing and fix it. Rigging your grub so its tail curves in the opposite direction of the hook reduces fouling.
Why It Made the Cut: Toads have to be weedless, castable, and noisy. This one is all of that and buoyant, making the slow retrieves that coax big bass from thick cover possible.
- Size: 4 inches long, wide, two appendages
- Action: Swimming
- Colors: Eight, including natural and high-viz
- Paddle feet are noisy and easy to activate
- Poured with a buoyant material, which allows slow retrieves
- Design protects hook and makes consistent rigging easy
- Occasionally lands upside down, snagging cover
- Durable material struggles to grip hook, causing bait to foul
Z-Man leaned on its pro staff to create what it considers the best topwater soft plastic bait. This toad’s wide V-shaped belly navigates matted aquatic vegetation and skips effortlessly under overhanging cover. It also hides extra weight, which adds length and accuracy to casts. Made from nearly indestructible ElaZtech, it floats, unlike traditional toads. That opens the door to slower retrieves with pauses.
The toad’s cupped feet kick wildly, attracting bass that are looking for a meal. Ridges along its back protect Tex-posed hook points, and a belly slot provides a straight line for perfectly rigging the preferred 5/0 heavy wire EWG hook. It also can be rigged on a buzzbait frame.
Plan for an occasional cast that ends with your toad hook point down, which will result in you retrieving it in order to clean off a wad of grass. And while ElaZtech is durable, it has difficulty gripping the hook, especially around the line tie. As you fish, you’ll eventually need a new toad or some super glue to hold it in place.
Best for Small Pond
Why It Made the Cut: This stubby classic is long on versatility. It’s perfect for bank or kayak fishing on small waters, when storage limits you to carrying a few lures that do many things.
- Size: 3.5 inches long, slender, multiple tentacles
- Action: Swimming, darting, hunting
- Attractant: Infused with scent
- Multiple rigging options allow it be fished at any depth
- Lifelike dipping, diving and hunting action
- Compact size represents an easy meal to nearly every bass
- Lacks durability, especially when Texas rigged
Legendary angler Bobby Garland created the tube bait almost 60 years ago. And while the Gitzit name has since changed hands, it continues to catch bass, from spawning largemouth in Florida to cruising smallmouth in Lake Erie. Its sleek body—which is shorter than most of today’s tubes—creates its trademark spirals, dips, and dives that resemble a baitfish or crawfish. Gitzits can do much more, depending on how they’re rigged.
Inserting a jig head is the most popular way to fish a Gitzit. Choose one that’s 3/8 ounces or heavier for dragging along the bottom. A 1/16- or 1/8-ounce one will make it swim like a spinnerbait with quick twitches and pauses. It can also be Texas rigged. Add a weight and flip it into the thickest cover, or go without one to create a downsized version of a toad.
Even with those positives, Gitzits have a negative: The soft scent-infused plastic lacks durability. It isn’t an issue when rigged on a jig head but is with a Texas rig. Repeated presentations and hook sets enlarge the holes where the hook enters and exits. Eventually it won’t stay in place, and you’ll need a replacement.
Things to Consider Before Buying Soft Plastic Baits
Picking out the best soft plastic baits for bass isn’t a grab-and-go proposition. As is the case with other types of lures, you need to examine several characteristics, deciding on the best for where, when, and how you’ll fish it.
From finesse worms measuring 3 inches to worms stretching more than a foot, soft plastic baits come in a variety of sizes.
- Length: Measured along the bait’s longest axis. Use longer baits when bass are active, such as in warm water and low light conditions. Go shorter when conditions turn tough.
- Bulk: Length combined with diameter. The bigger a bait’s bulk, the more water it displaces and the better it can be felt by a bass’s lateral line, making it an easy target in thick cover or muddy water.
- Appendages: These include arms, flappers, and tails. While they contribute to bulk, their prime function is creating action. Small ones, for example, produce little action but foul less often.
Soft plastic baits create one or more actions, attracting bass and encouraging them to strike. The amount of action should increase with bass activity.
- Darting and gliding: Erratic movements and slow sinks. Found in soft jerkbaits and tube baits, they’re created by alternating quick rod-tip snaps and slack-line pauses.
- Fluttering: Created by sinking baits (like grubs), ribbon-tail worms, and stick worms. It’s best for bass facing heavy fishing pressure or cold water.
- Swimming: Constant kicking motion created by a steady retrieve. Seen in toads and swimbaits, they cover water efficiently, finding bass that are roaming flats or dispersed in large mats of aquatic vegetation.
- Hunting: Restricted to grubs and tubes that are dragged along the bottom to imitate crawfish, gobies, and other creatures living there. They’re best in clear water.
Size and action go a long way toward convincing bass to find and bite your soft plastic baits. But scent helps them do both better. These are the most common.
- Salt: Time-tested additive. It makes soft plastic baits more subtle, increasing action. And it encourages bass to hold onto a bait longer, creating time for surer hook sets.
- Scent: Variety of flavors that are impregnated into the plastic. Some are water soluble, leaving a scent trail that bass can follow. They also make bass hold onto a lure longer.
When it comes to choosing a soft plastic bait’s color, choices seem endless, especially when you consider plastic and flakes.
- Natural: Translucent colors, such as pumpkin and smoke, that blend into the background. They appear more natural in clear water, where bass rely on sight to feed.
- Dark: Solid colors, such as black and purple, that create an easily seen silhouette in low-light conditions. They’re most often found in larger baits.
- High-viz: Solid colors such as white, chartreuse and pink. Use them with toads and sight-fishing baits. They’re easily seen, so when your bait disappears, it’s a strong indication that a bass has it and you need to set the hook.
Q: What color plastic worm is best for bass?
The best color of plastic worm for bass depends on water clarity. Use translucent colors, such as watermelon, in clear water, where bass see best. They blend into the background, forcing bass to bite in order to determine if it’s food or not. Dark colors, such as black, are best in dirty water. Their silhouette is easy for bass to find.
Q: Do you need a sinker with soft plastics?
Sinkers aren’t always needed with soft plastics. Stick worms, for example, are often fished wacky—with a hook pushed once through the midsection—and without a weight. One of the must-know bass fishing rigs, it allows them to slowly settle, a productive presentation for spooky bass. Soft plastic jerkbaits don’t need a weight to create a darting action.
Q: When can’t I catch fish on soft plastics?
There isn’t a time or place where soft plastic baits won’t catch bass. Regardless of depth or conditions, there’s a soft plastic bait for every fishing situation. The key to unlocking their power is rigging the best one for the current fishing conditions. While a small flat-bellied worm on a dropshot works wonders for deep-water smallmouth, a Texas rigged craw is better for probing shallow-water vegetation for largemouth.
Soft plastic baits are always the right choice when fishing for bass. Their lifelike texture and action can be molded into any shape, creating lures for any situation. You only need to find the best one for what you’re fishing.
When it comes to fishing for bass, I’ve made many stops. I’ve tossed tubes for smallmouth cruising Lake Champlain shoals and wiggled 10-inch worms for largemouth hiding in gator grass growing in South Carolina’s Lake Murray. No matter where I stopped my boat over the past 30 years of competitive and recreational angling, I have always found bass ready to eat soft plastic baits.
While all soft plastic baits for bass will generate bites, some do it better. Those must be fine-tuned to the current on-the-water situation, so I always answer these questions when selecting which one I’ll fish.
- Productivity: How does it attract bass and encourage them to strike? I want a wide selection of colors that match a variety of conditions. The built-in action needs to match the aggressiveness of the bass that I’m targeting. And it needs to be the proper size, whether I’m looking for many bites or a few big ones.
- Versatility: How many ways can I rig it? Sometimes bass want a worm wacky rigged. Other times they want it racing to the bottom on a well-weighted Texas rig.
- Durability: Will it stand up to how I’m rigging it and where I’m fishing it? Stopping frequently to re-rig or replace a soft plastic bait wastes times, keeping you from catching more bass.