Playing with plastics can pay off
  |  First Published: September 2007

You could be excused for thinking that we’ve probably seen just about all there is to soft plastics. To a certain extent, you’d be right. There are only so many different shapes, sizes and colour combinations that you can mould plastic into and let’s face it, most of them have already been tried. However, what I think we will see more of is different ways of rigging and fishing with soft plastics. It’s also highly likely that some of the more unusual methods will eventually be widely adopted as popular techniques.

Take drop shotting for example. At the moment, it’s pretty much a technique used only by a handful of switched-on anglers to target suspended fish, yet it’s such an easy method of putting a wriggling lure in front of a fish that it’s bound to catch on eventually especially with bait fishos making the move across to plastics. After all, drop shotting is not all that different from a paternoster rig, is it?

Totally weedless presentations are another potential growth area for soft plastics. Personally I’ve already used soft plastic frogs in the waterlilies to finish amongst the prizes at a bass electric competition. There is no way you could fish the sort of places we do without using a completely weedless presentation. So far, not many anglers that I’ve met on the water have put the sort of time into this type of fishing to really get it fine tuned, but it’s bound to happen.

Another technique with huge growth potential is trolling with soft plastics. A mate of mine in the Northern Territory has really got this technique down pat and he is putting heaps of billabong barra in the boat most trips. He uses a large gapeworm hook to rig his shads so that they are weedless and then he trolls them right along, and sometimes through, the shallow weedbeds. I won’t go into too much detail, as I don’t want to steal all his thunder but his results have been pretty impressive compared to the usual methods, especially during the cooler months when barra are harder to tempt.

Value-added plastics

While the simplicity of soft plastics is one of their strong points, there is always room for a bit of experimentation. For instance, one of the easiest ways to liven up any soft plastic presentation is to incorporate an action disk into your rig. Action disks are cup faced bits of plastic which look a little bit like a golf tee and you simply slide them on the line ahead of your lure. As they are retrieved, water pressure on the front of the disk causes it to wobble from side to side in much the same way as the bib on a hard bodied minnow does.

As you can imagine, this really makes the lure shake and vibrate and they are fantastic for long slender softies which don’t have a lot of built-in tail action. These things work so well I simply can’t understand why they aren’t more popular. As far as I know, there is only one type of action disk on the market at the moment and they are marketed under the Wigglefin brand. If you’re interested, check out the video clip at www.shiptontrading.com.au to see how much extra action they can give your lure.

You can get a similar result by adding soft plastics to some of your old freshwater lures. For example, in-line spinners like celtas are easy to incorporate into your soft plastic rigs and create some very interesting combinations. By changing the treble hook to a single worm hook, you can even create a weedless soft plastic with a spinning blade in front of it.

As you may know, Saratoga are absolute suckers for any lure with spinning blades (like spinnerbaits) and they will jump all over a lizard or crayfish imitation rigged this way. The bonus is that you can hide the hook point in the body of the lure, making it completely weedless. That means you can fish it in even the thickest weeds without it snagging every second cast. I’ve had a ball doing just that in tropical billabongs and you will be amazed at the type of weedy country you can fish with the right sort of lures. You may also be surprised to see just how many fish there are swimming around in the back of some of those lily beds.

If you are a spinnerbait fan, why not try swapping the standard multi-strand skirt over to a soft plastic shad. This gives you a relatively weedless lure which is a good alternative to regular spinnerbaits. This is also a good way to use up some of those cheaper soft plastic lures you have kicking around in the bottom of your tackle box. As the blades on the spinnerbait spin around, they set off vibrations that are transmitted down the wire arm and into the soft plastic lure. Even those cheap (and less pliable) soft plastics will come to life when rigged in this manner.

Of course, one of the easiest ways of altering a jighead rigged soft plastic is to add a Beetle Spin blade to it. These wire coat hanger arms are detachable and can be clipped onto any jighead to create your own customized mini spinnerbait.

Finally, one thing I have been playing around with a fair bit lately has been with Hitchhiker clips. These are little corkscrew-shaped pieces of wire which are used to attach soft plastics to your hook so that it is set up like a Banjo Minnow. You may have seen Banjos advertised on TV at some time as ‘The Ultimate Lure”. I don’t know about that claim, but by rigging some old Manns Shadows and other types of soft plastics with homemade hitchhikers, you can sure get some interesting results.

Fished with a flick and pause retrieve, the lures do actually create the impression of a dying baitfish fluttering to the bottom. Whether it is actually more effective than normal presentations remains to be proven, but again it’s a good alternative to have up your sleeve when the fish aren’t responding to your usual techniques. I made my own Hitchhiker clips from light gauge trace wire and you can get a look at the basic design on the Trollcraft website at www.trollcraft.com.au/tips.htm.

Worth playing with

Now I’m not for one minute saying that any of these suggestions are completely my idea. If you have a look at the accompanying pic, you will see that commercially made versions are certainly available if you take the time to seek them out. Some of them have been around for a long time too, like the rubber fish/spinner combination (second from right at the top) which is probably as old as I am.

I’m also not saying that you should forget about your normal rigging methods for softies. There will always be a place for lead head jigs and all the other standard rigging methods. For that matter, I’m also not guaranteeing that rigging lures in the way I’ve described will get you knee deep in scales on your next trip either. But what it should hopefully do is get you thinking about different things you can try with your plastics when things aren’t working, rather than sticking to the same old techniques. I guess that’s half the fun of playing with plastics.

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