Over the last decade or so, soft plastics have become a large part of many anglers’ fishing effort. Whether you are targeting bass in the impoundments, flathead in the estuaries or snapper in the briny blue ocean, there’s a huge array of soft plastics that are ready and capable of getting the job done.
For presentation there are numerous rigging options including jigheads and weedless worm hooks that can be used to rig your plastics. However, for anglers fishing deep offshore waters numerous problems arise when using these classic shallow water rigging options due to water depth and currents. Enter the paternoster plastic rig, which allows you to fish plastics in extremely deep waters and strong currents.
There are many reasons to consider plastic presentation via a paternoster rig when fishing the depths. Once you begin working water deeper than around 50m, or in areas with extreme current flow, quite heavy jigheads would be required to get your offering down into the strike zone.
Once you require more than 3oz or so to get your plastic into the strike zone, the overall presentation suffers somewhat. When rigging the 6-8” jerk-shad style plastics, which are commonly used for this sort of fishing, with a jighead larger than 3oz, the combination looks rather odd. You end up with this large lead head and an out of proportion tail trailing off it. While I still believe you can achieve success with this obscure conglomeration, I definitely believe that you will get a lot more strikes, especially from those larger, more wary specimens, if you offer a better presentation.
One of the easiest and more successful ways to fish plastics like this is by rigging them on a paternoster rig (often called a dropper rig) which sees separation of the plastic used to tempt the fish and the weight used to get it into the strike zone. This rig is the same as is often used for fishing baits, so we know it works. Additionally, for anglers new to fishing plastics in the depths, this is also a good way to convert them from bait as they can initially use their same old clunker overhead reel and rod combo and they are only making one change to their usual setup, their baits are now replaced with plastics. In fact, bait can still be offered on one hook of the rig if they are hesitant to try something new. However they are usually surprised to note that the plastic is the one to produce the bites.
For fishing plastics you do not need a double paternoster rig. I generally only use the one plastic offering. I will demonstrate the double hook rig for the sake of this month’s demonstration and you can make your rigs however you want. The paternoster rig can be fished with all kinds of tackle from larger overheads to baitrunner rod and reel outfits to quality light spin rods. The soft plastic and braided line combination has less drag in the water than baits fished off heavier rigs and therefore less weight is often required to get the offering into the strike zone.
To make this rig you will only need a few fairly basic pieces of terminal tackle and a couple of jerk shad or larger curl-tail plastics. I predominately use Gulp Jerkshads and Z-man StreakZ for fishing the depths but there is a huge array of good products that will catch most deep water dwellers.
The main leader portion can either be fluorocarbon or monofilament, generally between 40-100lb depending on the size of the main line being fished and the type of tackle and terrain. I generally opt for around 60lb monofilament (I am dubious as to how much difference fluorocarbon makes in deep water where minimal light penetrates) as I commonly fish around 40lb braided mainline in 80-130m.
There are numerous hooks that can be used for this application and the only stipulation is that the hook is strong enough for the task at hand and is also an inline (not offset) pattern such as an O’Shaughnessy. I often use patterns such as Gamakatsu SL12S and O’Shaughnessy, Owner Longshank and VMC 9255 but there are plenty of others. The Berkley Elevator hook has a lead keeper already moulded onto the hook shank, which helps to hold the plastic in place.
A selection of snapper leads or bomb sinkers will allow you to change the weight at the bottom of the rig, depending on the current. At the top of the paternoster we generally put a swivel to decrease the amount of twist and to allow easy attachment to the main line via a blood or uni knot. Let’s put all these together to make the paternoster plastics rig.
To make a double paternoster you will need around 2.5m of leader material, two hooks, a swivel, a bomb or snapper sinker and one or two plastics. For the sake of this knot tying demonstration I am using some cord to make it easier for you to see.
If you want to use a second plastic, about a metre along the monofilament leader (on the long end) repeat steps 2-8 to form your second dropper loop with hook and plastic.
On the end of the leader above this attach your swivel with a blood knot or uni knot. On the other end, use an overhand knot to form a basic loop. This can be passed through the eye of your sinker and over the bottom for quick attachment and easy changing of weights. Your paternoster plastics rig is now ready for use. These rigs can be made in many sizes and I even know some anglers who use these (using smaller sizes of plastics and leader) when drift fishing in shallower water. However it is in strong currents and deep water where it is the most productive way to fish your plastics.Reads: 2369