Probably the most recognized and basic methods of fishing soft plastics is the Texas Rig. This rig consists of an offset worm hook, rigged weedless into the upper section of the bait, and a slip sinker. The first step to tying this rig is to thread the line through the middle of the slip sinker. The sinker is traditionally a lead "bullet", or sometimes egg, style. However, in the last few years other alternative metals to lead have gained popularity, such as steel and brass. The next step is to tie on your worm hook, and then thread the plastic bait on to the hook. Start by running the point of the hook down through the center of the bait, starting at the tip of the head, to a point about a quarter inch down, where the hook point is then allowed to exit the bottom of the bait. Thread the shank of the hook through this passage until the eye is snug up to the head of the bait, and then run the point back through the body and imbed the point of the hook on the top side of the bait. By keeping the hook point buried in the plastic, it will easily slide through rocks and other obstructions without snagging.
The primary reason for the weight is to get the bait to the bottom of the water column and using a bullet style, instead of an egg sinker, lets the weight pass smoothly through grass and other types of submerged cover. It also provides a little bit of heft to the bait to facilitate longer and more accurate casts. Another benefit of the weight is to allow the angler to maintain contact and feel the bottom structure that is being fished. It is this bottom contact that allows the well-trained angler to effectively fish the Texas and other similar rigs. Because bottom contact is so important, the weight of your sinker should be matched with the depth of water you are fishing. Fishing very shallow water (less than four feet), an angler can use weights as small as 1/8 oz. The deeper you go, the heavier the weight, so that when the depth of water approaches ten feet a 3/8 oz. sinker should be used, all the way up to 1/2 oz. and heavier for even deeper water.
The Texas Rig is often fished by "hopping" the bait back to the fisherman using a lift and drop technique with the rod tip, all the while taking up the slack line that accumulates by turning the reel handle. You can fish the bait quickly back to you or slowly. Sometimes it is effective to fish very slowly pausing as long as thirty seconds, or longer, between hops. Experiment with different speeds and let the fish tell you what works best. You can even drag the bait along the bottom with a sweeping motion of the rod tip, instead of hopping it, or forget touching the bottom all together and swim the bait back to you after casting. When the fish aren't biting, it is a good time to experiment with different retrieve styles to find the one that will trigger that bass to strike. You can even fish the plastic on a bare hook without a weight when the fish need a little bit of finesse to coerce them into biting.
The reason for using a slip sinker is to let the fish take the bait without feeling the unnatural sensation of a lead weight. When the fish grabs the bait it may feel like a light tapping on the line, or perhaps just a heavy sluggish feeling. Sometimes the line feels weightless and this usually means the fish is swimming towards you. No matter what feeling you notice, if it seems out of the ordinary, drop the rod tip a little and reel up the slack line. Then strike firmly to set the hook in the fish's mouth.
Pegged Texas Rig
There are times when an angler does not want to have that weight sliding up and down his line when fishing, especially when flipping or pitching with a soft plastic bait. To keep the bullet weight from sliding, a fisherman can "peg" the weight against the head of the plastic. Typically a toothpick is wedged in the hole of the sinker putting tension against the line to keep it from slipping. Because of the popularity of this technique, a few manufacturers have even designed bullet sinkers with a type of locking mechanism that either screws into or attaches to the head of the plastic bait to keep the weight from sliding up the line.
The Carolina Rig is a variation off of the Texas Rig. It still consists of the offset worm hook and sliding weight, but now the weight is separated from the bait by a length of leader (usually longer than 12 inches, but anything longer than 48 inches becomes cumbersome to cast). To tie this rig, start again by running the line through the sinker, then run the line through a glass bead. If you use a brass sinker, it will bounce off the glass bead creating a louder clacking sound than lead; this can be an important feature for attracting fish.
After threading the bead, tie the end of the line to a swivel, preferably a ball bearing swivel. Now, decide on your leader length and tie your leader to the other end of the swivel, the other end gets tied to an offset worm hook and a soft plastic bait is threaded on, just like on the Texas Rig.
The Carolina Rig can be fished just like the Texas rig mentioned above, but another method may be even more popular. This consists of the bait being retrieved by slowly cranking on the reel handle (a few pauses can be thrown in) instead of using the rod tip to move the bait. Traditionally it has been used for deeper water applications, but in the last few years more and more anglers are turning to the Carolina as part of their shallow water bag of tricks.
Jig and Plastic
The "Jig and Pig" has been a consistent producer of big bass through the years. This bait is most commonly used with a pitching or flipping technique. Every year, though, tipping a jig with soft plastic instead of pork rind becomes more and more popular. Traditionally a crawfish or claw chunk shaped plastic has been used for this technique, but a single or double curl tail grub can also be used. Many fishermen are now even using full-length worms and lizards to tip their jigs. The combinations of jig styles, colors, and plastic shapes are almost endless.
Roundhead and Specialty Jigs
In the rush to try new baits and new techniques, many fishermen have gotten away from one of the tried and true methods of catching bass. Matching a soft plastic up with around collared jig head is still an effective fishing method. Other specialty jigs can be used effectively also; like stand up jig heads, bullet jigs, and swimming style heads. One type of jig head that is still used extensively is the tube head. This jig is inserted into the hollow body of a soft plastic tube, and then the eye is pushed through the thin plastic wall, where the line can be tied off.
The jig head with plastic can be fished by maintaining contact with bottom structure, or it can be used with a swimming retrieve. Once again, experiment with various retrieves and let the fishes' response guide your techniques.
It is important to stress that these are only a few basic techniques for fishing soft plastics for bass. There are an infinite amount of ways of rigging various types of terminal tackle and hooks, with shapes, colors and sizes of plastic. Every year the fishing tackle manufacturers come out with even more ideas and inventions that just add to the possibilities available to anglers. The most important thing to do is have fun while fishing soft plastics and remember that there is no wrong way to fish them, as long as you are catching fish.
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