Fishing for Dummies – Soft Plastics

By Cameron Hope

I started fishing about 5 years ago and I’ve always been a bait fisherman, possibly because I’m extremely lazy. Chuck some squid out on a hook, sit back, relax and hope some unlucky fish swims past and eats what you are offering. It works, which is why a lot of people do it, but I’ve learned that it’s not the only way to fish.

About a year ago I attended a tinny and tackle show, all tinnies and no tackle, and as I was wandering around looking at boats I can’t afford, I came across a super tank. Now for those who have never seen them, imagine a semi-trailer with a glass side and full of fish, basically a huge aquarium.

Now having seen everything else at the show, I plonked myself down in a seat and waited to see what would happen. A bloke popped up at the top and started yacking on about lures and how to fish them and at this point I started to drift off as I’d tried hard body and soft plastic lures before and had no luck so I thought they were useless and I’d decided to stick with bait.

Bass 33cmThe bloke on top of the tank droned on some more then he started to flick the lures into the tank to show how they worked and ooh wow, the lightbulb came on for me!

You see, when I’d tried lures before, both hard and soft, I’d just chucked them out as I would a piece of bait, then knowing that I had to do something with them, wound them back in again. I had no idea how they behaved in the water and what I had to do to them to get them working properly.

Over the next 20 minutes I watched, very intently I can assure you, as the bloke threw lure after lure into the tank and explained and showed how they worked and what you needed to do with your rod to get the correct action on them. I can pretty much pinpoint that as the moment in time when I became obsessed with lures.

Actually seeing how they worked made such a difference and if you get the chance I strongly recommend you attend a boat show where they have a super tank so you can see for yourself how different lures work underwater and how the fish react to them. After my visit to the show I hit up Mark at Tackle Land the next day and grabbed some advice and hard body lures and proceeded to get out there and begin to catch fish.

Yellowbelly 46cmNow the title of this article says soft plastics but bear with me, I’m getting to them. I started with hard body lures simply because they look like small fish, or at least some of them do, and I figured that fish would eat things that look like fish and to a certain extent this works. I couldn’t get my head around how these funny looking, colorful bits of plastic would work.

So I stuck to the hard body lures but began to discover that they have a downside, essentially they are expensive and with all those lovely treble hooks on them I tended to lose a lot when flicking them into snags. So, gritting my teeth and grumbling under my breath, I decided to give soft plastics a go again, simply because I thought they’d be cheaper to lose, not that I thought they would actually work in the first place.

So down to Tackle Land I trundled and after chatting to Mark and the team, I left with a lighter wallet and some Z-man 2.5” grubs and some TT Headlockz jig heads. I toddled home, rigged up the Lox with said jig head and soft plastic and with a determined set to my jaw, went down to the local park and headed out on the sand flats for an afternoon of what I suspected to be futility.

Now I’d grabbed some advice from Mark and the team at the same time I grabbed the soft plastics so I found a spot at the end of a drain coming off the flats and started casting. Now the team had told me to cast out either right or left parallel with the shore, imagine this as being 9 on a clock, and then begin my retrieve. They said, once you bring the soft plastic back, cast out again in the same direction but aim a little bit further out into the water, essentially 10 on a clock. They said once you’ve cast out as many times as it takes to get all the way around to 3 on the clock, then it’s time to move up or down the shore line and try again. So I did this, for an hour, cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve, cast and retrieve.

33 cm flathead on a Z-man 2.5” grub in Greasy Prawn on a TT 1/8th Headlockz jighead
33 cm flathead on a Z-man 2.5” grub in Greasy Prawn on a TT 1/8th Headlockz jighead

I can tell you now that I was getting more than a little bit bored and frustrated, and then on what I’d decided would be my last cast I got a hit! Only a few meters from my feet my line went tight then peeled off the reel! I was a bit shocked cause I didn’t expect to catch anything but I kept the rod tip up, let him have his run and then proceeded to reel him in. My first ever fish on a soft plastic was a 33 cm Flathead, and while this certainly wasn’t my biggest Flathead, I was still stoked! These soft plastic lures, which I’d thought of as useless, actually worked.

Since my first fish on a soft plastic lure, I’ve begun to use bait less and less to the point where I barely use it at all now. My tackle box is full of lures, both hard and soft and I’ve gone from lazily soaking bait to now actively hunting and fishing with lures. I’ve even started chasing fresh water fish and I can tell you that dropping a soft plastic into a tiny pool deep in the rain-forest and hooking up to a cracking big bass is a far better feeling than catching a bream on a freezer burnt prawn.

So below, I’ve listed the 10 things I have learned fishing soft plastics.

  1. You need a decent rod and reel set up. To fish plastics successfully you need to be able to feel what your lure is doing so a carbon fibre rod with a sensitive tip is the go. I use Lox rods as I like the feel of them but head down to Tackle Land find a rod that feels right to you. You don’t need to spend a fortune but get something decent. Team it with a decent reel that doesn’t weigh a ton as you’ll get tired casting something heavy all day. I like Daiwa reels but again, find something that feels good to you. The team at Tackle Land are great and they can steer you in the right direction. Again you don’t need to spend a fortune but get something that is good quality and will last and then remember to LOOK AFTER IT!
  2. Use braid as your main line and fluoro-carbon as your leader. Braid has essentially no stretch and allows you to feel even the slightest touch on your lure and fluoro-carbon is almost invisible in water and resists abrasion very well. Yes you need to learn how to tie on the fluoro-carbon leader to the braid but a double uni knot is pretty easy once you’ve done it a few times and it doesn’t take long to re-rig if you lose your tackle.
  3. Weedless jigs are awesome! I started with the standard J style TT Headlockz jigs but I now rarely use them as I much prefer the TT Snake-Lock jigs as they are a weedless jig which hides the hook point alongside the soft plastic body. This makes it very difficult to snag the lure up and gives me the confidence to cast deep into snags where the fish are hiding.
  4. Rig your soft plastic straight! Get the team at Tackle Land to show you how to do this or look up the countless videos on YouTube. If your soft plastic isn’t correctly rigged, it will spin and no fish will come near it. Rig it correctly and you’ll be amazed at the subtle action you get from the soft plastics and of course you’ll actually catch fish!
  5. Vary your retrieve. Don’t spend the whole time using the same retrieve. Faster, slower, pause, twitch, stop altogether and just let if waft in the current. Try different things and you’ll see that what worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today.
  6. Learn when and where to target particular species with soft plastics. Google is your friend here and there are heaps of forums you can look at. Now people aren’t going to tell you their spot X but they will usually give you some good ideas on where to start your hunt.
  7. Get to know the guys and girls at your local tackle shop! Mark and the team at Tackle Land are fantastic for helping out with local knowledge as they all LOVE to fish. They can tell you what soft plastic will work on what species and which colours to try and of course where you can go to catch your target species. Tackle Land have a massive range of soft plastics and if they don’t have what you are after they are happy to source it for you.
  8. Practice, practice, practice your casting! And once you’ve done that, practice some more. Fishing with soft plastics needs accuracy and the closer you can get to the snag the better your chances of catching a fish. I used to be lucky to hit the water with my casts but now I’m putting 4 out of 5 casts exactly where I want them to go and I’m catching more fish because of this.
  9. Persevere! It may not happen the first time, or even the second of third time you go out but if you keep at it, things will start to click and you will begin to catch fish. It took me 7 trips to catch my first bass but now I’m catching them consistently on soft plastics. It may take time but I guarantee that once you get your first fish on a soft plastic, you’ll be hooked.
  10. Get out and have a go! Yes, you may not have much luck in the beginning but everyone has to start somewhere. Chat to the team at Tackle Land for some advice, get your gear ready then get out and have a go.Hopefully I’ve given you some inspiration to give soft plastic lures a go and maybe I’ll see you out there pulling in great flathead or a cracker bass!Cheers


    (All pictures taken by the author)


Special Thanks

Tackle Land would like to thank Cameron for taking the time to share with us his experiences throughout his Fishing Adventures!

It can be rather daunting when you first start out but Cameron has come through with some cracking catches.

A couple of key points, don’t give up, don’t be put off by going into your local tackle store and asking for some guidance after all we all started at the same place…. The beginning!  For those new to plastics…. Don’t take “Bait” give the plastics a chance to work.

Thanks again Cameron and all the best going forward.