Female bass fisherman holding up a bass caught on a soft plastic

Soft plastic baits are very popular for enticing bass. In recent years, soft stickbaits have gained high regard among bass anglers. Stick-baits and flukes are two categories of soft plastics that have exploded onto the bassin’ radar. They haven’t gone away like some “flash in the pan” lures either.

Soft Stickbaits
If you haven’t heard the Senko story, it goes something like this. Businessman/pro bass angler, Gary Yamamoto, accidentally dropped an ink pen in the lake. He noticed the rate of fall and the action the pen displayed as it descended into the depths. The Senko was born! This story may just be “dock-talk”, but it sure sounds good! Regardless, the success of the Senko spawned an explosion in the soft stick-bait market.

Out of the water, one might pre-judge a soft stick bait to lack action. It doesn’t have a curly tail or other appendages. Put to use, however, it’s obvious that these lures have all the right moves to provoke largemouth and smallmouth bass. Similarly shaped worms have been around for years. They aren’t the same though. Floatworms . . . well, they float. Finesse worms are . . . well, “finessy”. These worms definitely have their place and get called upon for specific situations. However, most bass experts don’t take to the lake in search of bass, largemouth or smallmouth, without a soft stickbait rigged and ready.

Most soft stickbaits are salted, which makes them sink. The amount of salt affects their fall rates. Weighted by only a worm hook, they descend in a horizontal position. They “shimmy” ever so slightly as they fall. In addition to salt, some soft sticks are scented. Such is the case with Northland’s SLURPIES® DIP-STICK WORM which is lathered in Sow Sauce™, a baitfish attractor scent.

The number of applications or ways in which anglers rig and use soft stickbaits continues to increase. A popular setup is an unweighted Texas rig. This set-up is dynamite around shallow covers such as aquatic vegetation, brush, logs, and rocks. There may not be a better bait for skipping under docks. A 3/0 or 4/0 offset worm hook is typically employed. Some anglers like to add a small bullet weight ahead of the bait, although this results in a head-down profile and descent. Special weighted hooks are gaining in popularity. These allow for a little extra weight but maintain the horizontal profile.

Wacky-rigging is another popular utilization of soft sticks. Special hooks are available for this rig as well, some weighted. The bait is simply impaled on the hook in the mid-body area, point exposed. For working around cover, weedless and weighted wacky-rig hooks like Northland Fishing Tackle’s LIP-STICK® WACKY-WORM HOOK are an effective option.

With the aforementioned set-ups, “dead-sticking” is an often-used term. It refers to pitching the bait to a likely target or area and leaving it there as long as the angler can stand it. This technique is especially productive when the bite is tough due to fishing pressure or cold front situations.

The versatility of stick-baits is endless. Carolina-rigging and drop-shotting are other applications in which these lures excel.

This category of soft plastics is also labeled “soft jerkbaits” and grew rapidly after the success of the Slug-Go. These lures have a minnow profile. A girthy mid-section tapers to a narrow tail which is often forked or fluked. Many have a hook slot which reduces the amount of plastic to punch through when setting the hook. An offset worm hook with a generous gap will help too. The realism of fluke baits has increased recently. Consider Northland Tackle’s new SLURPIES® JERK SHAD. This bait is sculpted and colored to look like a baitfish, complete with realistic eyes. Rigged Texas-style with no weight, this bait has tremendous darting action when worked similarly to a hard jerkbait. A jerk, jerk, pause action imparted by the angler brings a fluke to life. If worked rapidly, the bait will stay near the surface. By slowing the retrieve or employing a weighted hook, the lure can be worked in mid-depth ranges.

While flukes appear to be a finesse bait, many bass anglers use them aggressively, fan-casting likely areas and using a relatively rapid retrieve. It’s probably the most subtle or least intimidating “search lure” available. When bass show themselves and won’t bite, it’s time to slow down.

Flukes are just as effective on smallies as on their green cousins. Particularly in waters with a strong pelagic forage base like smelt, smallies will unload on these soft jerkbaits in minnow patterns. When bronzebacks leave the banks and chase baitfish in deeper haunts, a fluke paired with a ¼ – ¾ ounce jig will get the minnow imitator in the zone.

Soft stick-baits and flukes are deadly on bass across North America. With the versatility and fish-catching qualities of these soft plastic gems, it’s a safe bet that they’ll continue to stand the test of time.

The author offers these tips when fishing soft plastic jerk-baits and flukes.

  • When Texas-rigging, secure the plastic of choice by applying a drop of super-glue to the eye of the hook before rigging. This will lead to less frustration, especially when skipping the lure under docks, but also when fishing through brush and weeds.
  • Don’t discard stick-baits when they tear. Texas-rig them from the opposite end. When that end splits, save the bait for wacky-rigging. This can triple the lifespan of these baits!
  • Around shallow cover, have a fluke rigged and ready at all times. The new SLURPIES® JERK SHAD is a great throw-back bait for fish that miss a topwater spoon or another offering.
  • Try pairing a medium fast spinning rod with 20 pound Berkley FireLine for skipping around docks. Skipping with spinning gear is easier than with casting gear. The low-stretch line is essential for pressuring fish before they wrap around dock posts and other obstructions.
  • When other lures put a number of fish in the boat from a school, follow up with a soft-stick bait like a SLURPIES® DIP-STICK. By dead-sticking, this bait, additional bass can often be extracted from a school.
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