When it comes to freshwater bass fishing, soft plastics are among the most versatile lures to use to catch largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. Ask just about any seasoned angler or fishing professional what to use to catch bass anytime, anywhere and chances are some kind of soft plastic will be mentioned high on the list.
However, fishing soft plastics can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Even though they are a top bait category for bass anglers, there are hundreds of shapes, sizes and actions to choose from. Beginning bass anglers may find this vast array of choices to be baffling. That’s where professional bass angler and Mercury Pro Team member Brian Latimer can help. He simplifies the perplexity of plastics by offering three essential rigs every bass angler should use to get started. These rigs are proven bass catchers in all types of water.
To see how Latimer rigs each option, and to see him in action, check out the video down below.
1. Texas Rig
“Texas-rigging is the most traditional, time-proven way of rigging soft plastics,” Latimer said. “It’s one of the most essential rigs beginner anglers should learn.”
What makes the Texas rig such a classic in fishing is its ability to be weedless and snag-proof in thick cover such as grass, bushes, standing timber and laydowns.
“People might think the Texas rig is complicated, but it’s actually quite simple,” Latimer continued. “It’s a great rig for plastics such as creature baits, craws, beaver-style baits and ribbon-tail worms.”
Start the Texas rig by threading a lead or tungsten bullet sinker onto the line. Then tie on an offset-shank hook. Pierce the hook point into the head of the plastic about 1/4 inch deep. Bring the hook point out the side, slide the plastic up to the eye of the hook and then rotate the hook 180 degrees so the point and barb can be buried into the side of the soft plastic. Make sure the soft plastic stays straight.
“Burying the hook point is what gives a Texas rig its weedless magic, allowing it to slink through cover without getting hung up,” Latimer said. “The idea is to match the size of the plastic bait with the size of your weight and hook. If you’re using a small 4-inch creature bait, a 1/4- or 5/16-ounce weight with a 3/0 hook should work fine. But if you go to a bulkier 4- to 5-inch bait or a bigger 8-inch ribbon-tail worm, you might have to go to a 3/8-ounce weight and 4/0 offset hook.
“Don’t be afraid to fish it in the cover,” he added. “That’s the beauty of the Texas rig: You can fish it in cover where the bass live. Work it through grass and wood on 12- to 15-pound-test fluorocarbon line and be ready to set the hook when you feel a bass thump it.”
2. Shaky Head
The most simplistic of Latimer’s three essential soft-plastic rigs is commonly referred to as a shaky head, which is basically a ball-head jig with a worm threaded on to make it weedless.
“The shaky head is usually rigged with a 4- to 6-inch straight-tail worm,” Latimer said. “It’s more compact and has more finesse than a standard Texas rig.”
Most shaky jigheads are designed with a bait-keeper harness positioned on the collar or neck of the jig. Like a Texas rig, the plastic is pushed onto the hook point about 1/4 inch deep, then the jig is rotated 180 degrees, the worm head is pushed up onto the keeper and the hook point is buried into the worm.
“The shaky head is great around hard structure and hard bottom,” said Latimer. “Rock, gravel, hard sand, riprap, concrete structures and pilings are all perfect places to fish it. Cast it out, let it go all the way to the bottom and then sort of lightly shake it along the bottom. Since this is more of a finesse presentation, I usually throw it on a spinning outfit with 8-pound-test fluorocarbon leader tied to braid.”
Latimer’s final suggestion for an essential soft-plastic rig is the productive drop-shot rig. The biggest difference with the drop-shot is the weight is separate from the hook and worm. It’s purposely tied 6 to 12 inches below the soft plastic so the bait “hovers” off the bottom.
“The biggest key to a drop-shot is to tie the hook on with a Palomar knot that includes a long tag end of at least 10 inches,” Latimer said. “Don’t cut that tag end because that’s where you will tie the weight.”
Drop-shot weights are specifically designed to tie onto the tag end of the line, with common weights including 1/4 and 3/8 ounce, depending on the depths you are fishing. Small straight-tail worms or plastics threaded onto a 2/0 to 4/0 straight-shank hook rigged weedless – the same way the hook is rigged for a Texas rig – work best for most scenarios.
“Drop-shots are excellent when fishing open, sparse cover in silty or soft muck bottoms where a Texas rig or shaky head might sink or blend into the muck and the fish can’t find it as well,” he added. “With a drop-shot, the weight can sink into the silt, but the bait stops and hovers above the bottom, which is an action that most bass can’t handle. They have to eat it since it’s right in front of their face.”
With that, Latimer reminds anglers not to make soft plastics more complicated than they need to be.
“I guarantee you with these three essential rigs, you will be ready to fish just about any kind of water you encounter with soft plastics.”
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