Unlocking the secrets of soft plastics

Part 2: Tips and Hints

Last issue, Steve Starling reveled some of the secrets of success when using the newest generation of soft plastic or rubber lures that are taking the country by storm. This time, Steve presents some very useful tips on selecting and using these deadly lures in our local waters.

As I explained last month, soft plastic lures are flavor of the month across Australia right now, and with very good reason - they're highly effective angling tools. However, some people are still missing out on catching fish when using these lures, or not doing as well with them as they should.

Like anything else in fishing, if you get the basics right with soft plastics, the rest of the process will largely take care of itself. You'll start catching fish, and you'll be able to fine tune, refine and personalise the fishing process as you go along; learning and improving all the time.

This issue, I want to share some relatively simple hints and tips that should immediately and dramatically improve your catch rates when using soft plastics:

Understanding tail types

There are three major soft plastic tail styles that have the greatest relevance to Australian anglers, especially those of us fishing primarily in the cooler waters of our southern states:


These are traditional, fish-shaped soft plastics with padded tails. Shads are the closest in action to traditional hard-bodied lures and are therefore ideal for most trolling, casting and jigging applications in both salt and fresh water, and are especially effective when "whipped" or "jerked" fairly energetically from time to time to impart a wild, erratic action, then allowed to flutter back towards the bottom like an injured fish.

Curly tails

These come in various worm or grub configurations and have a single or double curved tail that wriggles and pulses energetically when the lure is moved through the water. Curly tails can be used in a similar manner to shads, but produce even better results when worked with a slower, gentler lift-drop-lift presentation, or even a slow to moderate straight retrieve with occasional pauses.

Finesse grubs

These are epitomised by the Slider tails and their clones. Most are straight grubs with a small, paddle-shaped tail "flagellator'. Their action looks tame and restricted, but the little tail is actually kicking at the slightest movement. These finesse grubs, can be deadly on inactive, shut-down fish or "spookier" species such as trout, as well as a host of fish not normally considered to be regular lure takers (flounder, luderick, mullet ect). Finesse grubs are best worked slowly, with gentle lifts and drops, or by simply holding the rod up at 45 degrees and winding the reel slowly and steadily (the "do-nothing" retrieve). Hits "on the drop" and even while the lure is lying "dead" on the bottom are also common, so be prepared!

Choosing soft plastics

Here are some general tips on selecting the optimum soft plastic tail sizes and colours for various water clarity conditions:

Very clear water: Try smaller soft plastic tails on relatively light jig heads. Begin with natural colours such as brown, amber, dark red, motor oil, pumpkinseed, clear, olive green, off-white and so on.

Slightly discoloured water: Try some soft plastics described above and also various mid-brightness colours, such as pink, brighter red, gold, silver fleck, white and various brighter greens.

Dirty water: Try slightly larger tails in the colours already described, as well as very bright, fluorescent colours, or darker hues (to create a silhouette effect). Chartreuse (lime green), hot pink, black, grape and dark maroon are all good producers in dirty water, but don't be afraid to experiment!

Some do's and dont's
Steve Starling