Day in, day out, soft plastic fishing baits lead the way when it comes to catching bass. I think they always have. I remember the very first largemouth I ever caught came on an old-style purple worm back when they were still made from rubber, way too many eons ago…lol. To this day, 100’s of thousands of fish later, throughout some 50 states and 20 plus countries, I still rank a soft plastic bait as my number one go-to bait.
However, long gone are the days when any of us must rely on making just one particular style try and fit all water, cover and structure scenarios; so our staff here at FishermensHeaven.com did the homework for you, combed thru 25-plus years of sales data and came up with the top 15 soft plastic lure bait styles every tackle box seems to need, year after year, no matter where you live or what gamefish you go after: (Note that this list is in no particular order).
Since its introduction by Gary Yamamoto in the ‘80s, this one simplistic bait has caught more fish for more fishermen than any other bait, hands down, and ranks as the number one bait sold in the world. Often duplicated and now rigged a myriad of ways, the standby stick bait, also known as a French fry or cigar-shaped worm, most commonly known as a “Senko,” is the go-to lure for everyone from kids fishing their first farm pond to weekend club anglers right up to FLW, MLF and B.A.S.S. elite pros. For us, nothing beats the original Yamasenko, available in sizes from 3 to 7 inches, but a close second is the Strike King Ocho.
The simple Texas rigged plastic worm, probably around longer than any other soft plastic bait style, dates back to the late 1940’s, with companies like Crème, Touchdown and Manns Jelly Worms developing the earliest offerings. Although sometimes foreshadowed by all of its fancier offshoots nowadays, the rigged plastic worm still produces tons of bass all over the world. For a straight tail version, we really like the 6 inch SF Series Fat Shakey from Roboworm or the 6.5” KVD Finesse Worm from Strike King. For those favoring a plastic worm with a curly tail, try the Gary Yamamoto Kut Tail series or a Missile Baits Tomahawk.
By far the most diverse of all the categories mentioned here, this style of bait originally started with guys gluing pieces of the previous day’s tournament discards together to make “new creature” baits. Ideally suited for target-specific, cover-oriented presentations, due to their bulk and fish-attracting appendages—which helps the lure to sink slower and keeps it in the strike zone longer—the creature bait has become the favorite of flippers and pitchers. If we had to pick some favorites to try, go with a Gary Yamamoto Kreature or Flappin Hog, a Strike King Rage or KVD Game Hawg. Also consider a new up-and-comer: the Missile Baits D Bomb, developed by John Crews.
Originally developed as a lure primarily for river smallmouth bass, today the tube-style soft plastic baits are being used for largemouth and spotted bass just as frequently. The hollow body of the tube makes it perfect for fitting rattles, scent-soaked cotton balls and internal jigheads. Cast or pitched, the slow-falling, spiraling downward-action is a killer for gamefish in a neutral-to-negative feeding mood. We like the long-term leader in this category, Mizmo tubes, whether it be for their 2.75” Teaser or 3.5” Small Jaws, as well as the 4” Big Boy and Bad Boy Laminates. Strike King also does well in this category, with their coffee-scented tubes coming in as most popular. If you want the action of a tube but with a solid body, give the 92F series 4” Fat IKA by Gary Yamamoto a try, one of the Fishermen’s Heaven staff’s favorite secret baits.
SINGLE CURLY TAIL GRUB
Since the days of Mister Twister, the single curly tail grub rigged on a plain ball head jig has been an old standby for getting fish in the boat when no other bait seems to work. Versatile in both presentation and species use, the curly tail grub reigns supreme, especially ideal if you have a rookie fisher kid or woman just looking for action and ease of use. For this category, nothing beats the 30 or 40 series grubs from Gary Yamamoto or the Rage Grub from Strike King.
A popular category made to simply resemble a crawfish or mudbug, this bait style is self-explanatory. With just as many ways to fish them as there are companies who make them, it is a must-have for any serious angler’s tackle box, considering the fact that for most bodies of water around the world, crawdads are the first or second most important forage food source for any gamefish. Here, we really like a Strike King Rage Craw or Chunk, as well as the Yamamoto FAT Baby Craw. For those wanting live bait realism, watch for the upcoming Soft Jig craw from Live Target, and for those wanting a craw worm version, try the Missile Baits Fuse.
Quickly becoming the hottest product category out there in the soft plastic baits world, the technique of drop shotting, and the subsequent soft plastic baits needed for it, make this category ever-changing and growing. Covering this category is a blog article in itself, so for now, we will just give you our favorite baits for 4 styles of this technique. For true vertical drop shot presentations, nothing beats a handpoured RoboWorm in the 4.5” ST or 6” SR series. With nosehooking, we really like the KVD Dream Shot by Strike King. What a lot of fishermen are actually doing is a version of this technique, what we call Power Drag Drop Shotting, and for this Texas rigged weedless presentation, nothing beats a Series 9P-10 Gary Yamamoto Tapered Pro Senko.
Finally, a lot more fishermen are combining their love for wacky worming with the drop shot technique, and for this, John Crews at Missile Baits developed the ideal soft plastic bait, The 48.
A category which has exploded and become more complex year-by-year, the soft swim baits today are as versatile as they are diverse. Capable of covering water depths from top to bottom, the real questions as to use revolves around the cover conditions present and style preferred. For the most realistic mimicking of both freshwater and saltwater baitfish, from shad to shiners to blueback herring, nothing beats the series offered by Live Target.
Left with the single weedless hook, they perform well in grass and wood, and in open water, they offer the capability of easily adding a Daiichi “Death Grip” treble hook. For an internally rigged hollow body style, the industry leader is the Shadalicious from Strike King, available in sizes from 3.5 to 6.5 inches, in a myriad of minnow-imitating colors. For a solid bodied boot tail style, try a Shockwave from Missile Baits or the Strike King Ribbed Rage Swimmer.
Also known as a fluke, the soft jerkbait is this writer’s favorite soft plastic lure to fish. While probably the most underused, it is the soft plastic bait with the most 4 season versatilities: this baitfish-imitating lure style is perfect for spring pre-spawn as a search bait, the spawn for bedding bass, post-spawn as a topwater follow-up, summer deep rigged on a Carolina or drop shot, fall for schooling fish and in winter dead-sticked to represent a dying shad. By far, due to its weight, cast-ability and action, we really like the 121-07 series Yamamoto D Shad but for fans of Strike King lures, the Caffeine Shad performs equally well.
The most misunderstood of all the baits in this blog article, the lizard or salamander imitating soft plastic lure isn’t just for springtime. Being one of the oldest styles of soft plastic options available tells you that your father and grandfather knew something as well: bass hate lizards, and strikes are meant to kill, not just to be eaten. Apart from the typical springtime weightless swimming setup or the bedding bass drop shot, try a lizard on a Carolina rig or as a fresh and different look for your wood pitching and flipping Texas rigged bait. Strike Kings Rage Tail lizard is a for sure go-to, but if you are lucky enough to still find them, Yamamoto and Mizmo make awesome versions as well.
Also known as a collared spider jig trailer, it was actually the first bait design ever developed by Gary Yamamoto, even before the esteemed Senko. And for this writer, it is the #1 bait that I have probably won more money on than any other lure setup in my entire tackle box arsenal. And for this style, nothing beats the original Yamamoto Hula double tailed grub, and while I prefer to drag or hop rig it on an All-Terrain Tackle plain football head “Rock Jig” weedless so the twin tail legs stand up like a defending crawdad, there are a bunch of ways it can actually be rigged. Other than the obvious Texas rig, try a 97-10 series Yamamoto Hula Grub (where legal) as the weight portion in a downshot setup or the 93-10 bait series fished as a Hawaii rig in a traditional drop shot.
TOAD / FROG
Considered the ideal hybrid mix between a buzzbait and a hollow body frog for a purely topwater application, the soft plastic frog or toad is far more versatile in subsurface presentations, ranging from uses as a bulkier jig trailer, to mat punching with a JC’s tungsten weight, to weightless Carolina rigging. Like the lizard, bass and pike hate frogs, and strikes are vicious. While kudos to Zoom as the original with their Horny Toad, we like the Strike King Rage toad for most traditional applications and the soft plastic variation series 129-05 from Gary Yamamoto when fished in more open water.
MINNOW / BAITFISH IMITATOR
A broad category in itself, the soft plastic bait segment mimicking minnows, shad and shiners is extensive, and in many ways already has been covered by sections above, but it just can’t be overlooked as a stand-alone segment when gamefish are absolutely fixated chasing baitfish as their primary food source. From your standard go-to’s like Yamamoto’s Series 68L-10 Shad Shape, to RoboWorm’s Alive Shad, to Strike King’s Blade Minnow, you have plenty of top-notch options.
Whether for spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, chatterbaits or a myriad of jig styles, every tackle box needs the appropriate soft plastic trailers to add that needed action and attraction. The funny thing is that in a way, every category aforementioned could actually be used as a trailer, and we are betting they would work—and someone has tried them successfully, I’m sure—so here is where you get to use your creativity. For those of you looking for standby recommendations for a traditional approach to a soft plastic trailer, we like the Strike King Rage Tail Menace Grub or the Twin Turbo by Missile Baits.
We saved this category for just that, the 100’s of miscellaneous soft plastic baits we just couldn’t categorize in the above segments or the millions of versions still to be invented, both in the garages of fishermen desperate for a fresh-looking bait or the factories of the world’s greatest lure manufacturers looking for the next great seller.
Here are just a few that come to mind: A Zipper or ribbed style worm, which produces a lot more vibration and water displacement, perfect for tidal, river current or dirtier water conditions. The whole new category of Goby-imitating soft plastics brought on by the invasion of these bottom dwelling sculpins in the Great Lakes—companies like Live Target or Mizmo have made awesome looking dead-on duplicates. The reaper- or leech- or hellgrammite-imitating soft plastic baits, the “what the heck” is that supposed to imitate baits, like the Yamamoto Sanshouo—the list goes on, and we are sure it will continue to be added to.
And there you go, a long and comprehensive list of the 15 soft plastic bait styles every fishermen’s tackle box needs. If we missed one, or you have a unique way you rig or use your soft plastic lures, give us a shout via our Facebook page, or send us an e-mail via our contact form, we would love to hear from you!