Feed Em’ Feel Baits
There exists a fair amount of confusion in choosing baits. Regardless of species, geographic location, rod, reel, water type, craft used or conditions each adds a degree of difficulty in deciding what to throw. My belief is the in the right place at the right time any correctly presented bait will fool a fish. The recurring question for me is what I would throw in looking for fish, especially a big fish. My answer remains the same as it has for several seasons, a feel bait. Partly variety, part intuition and largely due to positive experience, I have a jig or soft plastics rods rigged and ready all the time. In looking a lure history topwater “plugs”, metal spoons, flies and few other dominated the lines of early anglers. The biggest innovation in fishing, bar none, in my opinion was the development of soft plastics. Fish that were previously unreachable now could be coaxed to bite these “bogus” baits. Since their creation in the 1950’s soft plastics and eventually jigs provided legions of largemouth fishermen with gigantic stringers of fish. When jigs arrived on the scene and on the water natural hair jigs gave way to the rubber legged lures. Fished in similar ways in some of the same spots this category of baits has brought bass to the boat, as well as pike, musky, crappie, trout, catfish (yep) walleye and even saltwater species. Vert few artificial lures could boast the success of these swimming, crawling, hopping, bottom bumping baits.
The appeal of these types of baits is multi-faceted. The natural aspects rank high. Available in any color, almost any size, shape and with an almost infinite amount of ways to be rigged feel baits can be used almost anywhere, in any type of water and any time of year.
The Pluses of Plastic (and Jigs)
- Plastic Performance- Because there are multiple configurations and rigs for plastic it is a versatile technique for fooling fish of all types. Most often for myself and many other the Texas rig is a staple for bass. This still requires many decisions. What size baits, what size, type of hook, weight of sinker, line size and also color lure to use. Understanding the performance of plastic comes into play now. A large, bulkier bait will generally provide a slow fall and big visual target for the sight feeding fish. To change the rate of descent a heavier slip sinker can be used, to make the drift down agonizing slow, plus keep the lure in the strike zone for an extended period of time smaller, lighter lead can be threaded onto the line. A bulky bait falls slower but creates the need for a larger hook to properly penetrate the bait. My rule of thumb a standard straight tail worm calls for a 3/0 hook and a 5/16ths weight. This provides balance to this set up and can be cast on spinning or baitcasting. For a soft plastic craw, I prefer the same hook possibly a 3/8ths ounce slip sinker to keep contact with the bait and facilitate casting. Moving up to the forgotten tube type baits I go 5/0 hooks because of the width of the plastic and start with the 3/8ths ounce sinker. My go to hook is the Daiichi Copperhead. This particular hook is a modified jig style hook with a small screw lock attachment that secure the plastic and also provides a straight hanging bait thereby avoiding line twist.
- Drawing a Bead on Bass – With each of these set ups I thread a red bead between the sliding sinkers. The bead has multiple uses. It adds the color red, eye appeal to trigger hits from predatory fish, also it makes a clicking sound to an otherwise silent lure when the sinker comes into contact with the plastic bead. Glass beads can be used but are more likely to break and are more expensive, either can be found in any hobby shop. The bead also protect the knot in your line from the sinker slamming down repeatedly. While the use of the bead is optional I rely on it on all my Texas rig plastic fishing. Beads hooks and sinkers all “live” in a small dedicated box. It is a help to mark the compartments in these boxes as to readily identify the hook size and sinker weight. I tape a small piece of the packaging to the back of each tray in the box.
- Shape Up, Color Blind – To choose which plastic I’ll pitch I let conditions decide that. In clear water I go smaller in size and profile. Stained or muddy water I go larger for the visual effect. In picking plastic colors: dark water equals darker color shades, conversely in clear water light, natural or neutral colors go on the hook. Shapes that match food sources are a good idea, as far as sizes I go up in size to tempt the bigger fish. Craw colors are a good starting point, contrasting colors have for years been highly effective. Black / blue is a great example. The majority of the time Strike King Rage Tails are my choice for soft plastic. Check em’ out at www.strikeking.com
- Jiggin’ – I could literally write an entire book on jigs fishing for bass. Suffice to say they catch more than their share of bass and BIG bass. Compact, easy to swallow and the ability to mimic the look and move of crawfish (or shad) bass eat jigs anywhere, anytime. Being a single hook bait adds to the attraction for me. Easier to set the hook solidly and less likely to lose your fish are the two main reasons I have one tied on ALWAYS. In ultra-clear water the downsized finesse jigs, 1/8th ounce trailed by a smaller craw, normally a 3/8ths ounce jig trailed by a Rage Craw in Roadkill #229 or Watermelon Red Flake color # 18 is all that is necessary. Fish around any kind of cover and concentrate. Strikes, pickups, hits and bites can range from barely perceptible to a vicious slam. A few colors, sizes and weights should have a place in any tackle box.
- Crappie Too – crappie are susceptible to the lure of plastic lures also. A slow, octagonal drop and the look of their favorite forage, minnows supplies a lot of fish fries. Curlytail grubs also are effective, either threaded onto a lightweight leadhead, as small a 1/16th or in the windiest conditions I’ll go up to a ¼ ounce. Bring extra in a dedicated crappie box. Fishing laydowns, submerged wood and underwater obstructions coupled with light line (2 -6 pound test) means lots of break offs. On the line, monofilament is normal, I have experimented with braid of the same strength and been very satisfied with the performance. Keep in mind it is a little more expensive, and requires a cut off if snagged. Braid is more sensitive and much less likely to “jump off” also twist on your open faced spinning reel.
For any game fish the random action and individual retrieve speed, pause, twitch means fish rarely become “conditioned” to plastics, jigs and any type of Feel bait. Essentially everyone’s presentation is different, a plus on pressured waters. Regardless of your target species, think about feeding em’ feel baits.
I’ll Be Tennesean Ya’