One of the simplest, yet most effective lure combos for catching a variety of fish species is a soft-plastic jig tail rigged on a lead jighead. When reeled, twitched or jigged through the water, these tails swim and flutter with impressive fish-catching action.
Sometimes the toughest challenge is choosing the right one. Soft-plastic jig tails come in thousands of sizes, styles, colors and brands. So how do you know which to choose in any given fishing situation?
By following these five simple tips, you can confidently pick out a tail that gives you a good shot at success.
1. Match the Hatch
Choose a tail that’s similar in size and profile to the common forage fish where you’re fishing. The predators in any given body of water generally key in on body shape and size as much as any other factor when they go on the hunt, so you want to choose an offering that matches up with their prey. If you’re fishing for Spanish mackerel chasing anchovies, a small, slender tail will be a top pick. If the target is bass in a lake full of 4-inch shad, a 4-inch tail with a deep body should do the trick.
2. Choose a Tail’s Action According to Angler Skill Level
Beginners who haven’t mastered the art of subtly twitching and jerking a jig to make it look lively will almost always do better using a twister or paddle-style tail, which produces its own swimming action as it moves through the water. But there’s one big exception, covered by tip No. 3.
3. Change Up Based on Presentation
Horizontal and vertical presentations can require different soft plastics to get the best action. For instance, many paddle tails and twisters look great on a straight retrieve, but will spiral when allowed to free-fall, which isn’t the most natural look. Straight, tube or forked tails tend to fall at an angle to the bottom, and by twitching the tip you can get many to fall like a feather, slewing back and forth one way then the other — an effective presentation. So, while all the above work well when casting out then jigging horizontally as you retrieve, when you’re jigging vertically, using tails that won’t spiral is often a better bet. Since there can be so much variation in how different jigs fall, when jigging vertically the smart thing to do is to hold your lure next to the boat, give it a few jerks and watch how it falls before sending it down deep.
4. Match the Water’s Color
Although it seems counterintuitive, colors that jump out against the background often appear unnatural and get fewer bites than those that blend in. In clear water, white is usually an excellent pick. In green water, chartreuse commonly proves effective. In tannin-stained water, root beer or some variation of brown often produces best. There will certainly be exceptions, and savvy anglers will try multiple colors to see what works best at any given time. But as a general rule, starting out with a color that coordinates with the water’s hue is a good move.
5. Choose a Tail Color that Offers Contrast with the Jighead
Generally speaking, color contrast in a lure is a good thing. This is especially true when fishing in deep water where different colors fade out at different depths. So, matching up a white tail with a red head, or a blue tail with a black head, will often prove productive
Above all, when the bite’s slow, change up your offering. No matter what these tips – or any others – may dictate, no one on the face of the planet can always predict with complete accuracy what a fish will decide to strike on any particular day. So, if you’re not getting bites, swap out that tail again and again until you figure out what the fish want.