Soft Plastics Fishing
Soft plastics fishing has gained huge popularity over the years and has evolved to be probably the most widely adopted fishing style in today’s modern fishing. Take a walk into your local tackle store and you’ll be blown away with the hundreds of different plastics on offer. They come in all different brands, shape, size, colour, scent and action and there is something for everyone to suit every application imaginable. Soft plastics fishing involves the use of artificial soft baits which imitate a live bait and worked in a particular way to trigger a strike. It is a fun and exciting way to fish and a lot less messier than bait. Another advantage of soft plastics fishing is that one bait can usually account for numerous fish without the need to re-bait. But because it is a specialised form of fishing, it is more expensive than bait fishing. Soft plastics have proven themselves time and time again on the offshore scene but they are just as successful in the bays, creeks and rivers. With the right combination of fishing gear and action, soft plastics can catch anything from snapper to kingfish to flathead and the list goes on.
Ideal locations for fishing soft plastics offshore is much the same as jigging and float baiting for snapper. Look for baitfish and structure and cast towards the strike zone. Once again, berleying is highly recommended to keep the fish in the area for longer. If fishing the creeks and rivers, the same principle applies as for offshore. Use your GPS to locate structure such a weed beds and drop-offs where the fish are likely to inhabit. Choose whether you want to anchor or drift fish and apply the corresponding strategy. If you do not have access to a boat, you can still successfully fish soft plastics land-based. What you need to do is wade along the bank. Wading the bank is like drifting but by foot. It is a good idea to invest in a pair of waders or a pair of reef shoes to protect your feet. When your wading, essentially what your doing is trying to find the fish. It is a matter of constantly walking up and down the bank while simultaneously casting and retrieving your plastic. It is not recommended to fish from a stationary position because you are not taking full advantage of the situation by limiting yourself to only one small area. Fishing is all about trying to cover as much territory as possible in order to locate the fish.
There are lots of different techniques for soft plastics fishing. I will discuss the two most common techniques used by both recreational and professional fisherman. The critical factor to remember here is to select the right jighead weight and corresponding hook to suit the prevailing conditions and the size of the plastic. The weight of the jighead must be heavy enough to reach the bottom and the hook must have a wide enough gap so it can easily penetrate the fishes mouth unhindered by the plastic. After casting, allow the jighead to hit bottom. Pay close attention to the reel and observe the rate at which the line is peeling off. Sometimes the line can peel off at an overwhelming rate of knots because the fish have actually hit the soft plastic during its descent. When this happens, close the bail arm, strike at the fish and start playing it in. If your plastic does not get smashed on the drop, wait till it reaches the bottom then start to impart some action to the lure by giving the rod some short sharp jerks, taking up the slack line and repeating the process. Quite often, the plastic will get hit on the drop after you have jigged the rod a few times and start to take up the slack. The other technique is to wind up your soft plastic as fast as you can once it has hit bottom. Predatory fish such as kingfish, tuna and trevally simply cannot help themselves and will strike at the plastic believing it is a little baitfish trying to get away.
Selecting a soft plastics reel can be a mind-boggling task. There are literally hundreds to choose from. Spin reels are the best followed by bait casters to a lesser extent. What your looking for in a reel is one that is light enough to be held all day, capable of holding at least 200-300m of braid and equipped with no-nonsense drag systems. For offshore, choose a reel in the 4000 size range. For the bay and estuaries, a 2500 size reel is ideal. Popular reels include the Shimano twin power, stradic, and symetres, Daiwa certate, capricorn, sol and tierras.
Other recommended gear for soft plastics fishing
Rods – Shimano t-curve, raider, Starlo stix tournament, Pflueger president
7ft 1-4kg estuary and bay, 7ft 5-10kg offshore
Braid – Sunline, Fins, Tuffline XP
4-12lb estuary and bay, 20-30lb offshore
Fluorocarbon leader – Vanish, Seaguar, Yo-zuri
10-20lb estuary and bay, 30lb offshore
Jigheads – TT’s, Berkley nitro
1/32-1/2oz with 2-3/0 hook estuary and bay, 1/2-2oz with 5/0-7/0 hook offshore
Soft plastics – Berkley gulp, powerbait, Zoom, Atomic, Snapback and Assassins
1-5inch estuary and bay, 5-10inch offshore
Rigging for soft plastics fishing is similar to that of jigging. Starting with the braid, form a double of about 30-50cm using a bimini twist. Join the bimini double to about 1-2m of fluorocarbon leader using an albright knot. The leader is then tied directly onto the jighead using either a lefty’s loop knot or a uni knot.
Recommended soft plastic videos
Recommended knot tying videos
See Offshore jigging – Recommended knot tying videos