Soft spot
  |  First Published: November 2004

Over a year has past since I last scribed out the comings and goings of trout on soft plastics. If I was to say that not much has changed in that time, then my mum would surely paddy-whack my bum for telling lies!

The year that’s past has seen more plastics, more rigging styles and a truckload of techniques come forward from around the country and overseas to help us in our quest for more and bigger trout on soft plastics.

What started out as a fishy Chinese whisper among the keenest of anglers is now being bellowed through the hills of the Snowy Mountains and across tarns in the Central Highlands of Tasmania by the freshest of newcomers to the sport of angling. Soft plastics and trout fishing are about to become as common as meat pies and tomato sauce!

What’s the deal?

What makes trout and soft plastics such a viable proposition? The trout’s opportunism, of course! It’s the thing that’s made them such great sportfish for anglers since cocky was an egg!

The big difference between the lures of the old and the new wave of soft plastics is ‘bite appeal’. Soft plastic lures are, as the name suggests, ‘soft’! This softness gives the fish a chance to hit the lure repeatedly without feeling the artificial hardness of a wobbler or hard-bodied lure and allows the fish to continue the chase until it’s hooked or you run out of water!

This inherent softness also gives you more time to set hooks. Because these lures don’t have a harsh, hard feel to them, the fish will hold onto them longer and will quite often chew them to work out if they’re the real deal or not. This softness can also be incorporated with a scent or flavour such as the ‘feeding stimulant’ in Berkley PowerBait. This definitely makes the fish hold on to your lure longer!

A trout’s diet can consist of food items the size of a match head and up to the size of a mature roach which can be as big as 20cm or more. For this reason, soft plastics can give you an edge over conventional lures because of their adaptation and price. The average cost of a soft plastic tail is around 50c and this allows you to carry hundreds of different styles which inturn gives you a larger selection to run through until you find the one that works. Also, the ability of these lures to be cut, trimmed, coloured, scented and welded makes them very, very adaptable to a host of situations. If it’s too long, cut it down. If it’s the wrong colour, change it. If you think it needs an arm poking out of the middle of its back, weld one in! You can create whatever you like in whatever size shape and colour with a little brain power and in most situations, right on the spot.

Rig me up Scotty

How you rig your soft plastic depends entirely on where you fish. If you fish lakes you may wish to cast long distances and/or fish deep, but if you fish shallow mountain streams, casting distance and fast sink rates may not be what you need.

It’s a good thing that you have complete control over all of these things and more! The application of weight to your plastic is entirely up to you. You can fish the same stickbait on the surface unweighted or right on the bottom in 20m of water depending on how you rig it and what weight you put to it.


The easiest and most effective way to rig your soft plastics is on a jighead. You can rig them open or weedless depending on which jigheads you buy. You can fish from within the surface film and the absolute depths with jigheads and they will also control the speed of your drop and tail action at depth.


This is a great rig for fishing over silt or weed bottom. It allows you to get maximum movement out of your tail with out moving the rig.


A simple but very effective rig. Good for subtle presentations with small soft plastics.


This can be very effective when the trout are on or close to the top. It’s a great attention-getter and works really well in super shallow water. You can even convert surface sippers into eating your lure!

Retrieve styles

Most soft plastics have some built-in action. Whether it be as little as the flicks on the forked tail of a stickbait or as aggressive as tail gyrations on a single tail, it doesn’t take much to get them going!

From a flat retrieve to a lift and jig, there’s plenty of opportunity to work out a style that best suits you and the fish you want to catch.

Flat retrieve

This is the easiest of all retrieves and one you’ll be familiar with. It’s just a constant speed retrieve. This works surprisingly well on trout being that they can move so fast!

Shaken retrieve

This is similar to the flat retrieve but you also shake the rod tip. Not too hard! Just enough to make it vibrate from side to side.

Lift and jig

An old standard, but still a good one if you’re fishing deep holes in rivers or lakes. You can start the retrieve at whatever level you like, but it sometimes pays to let it sink all the way to the bottom. When you’re lure hits the bottom, wind up tight to it with your rod tip on the water and then raise the rod to just above your head with 1-3 small tip flicks in between. Wind back a turn or two of line and let the lure re-touch the bottom.

Burn and kill

Rainbow trout are suckers for this retrieve! Cast out and let your lure sink to whatever depth you like, then give your reel 2-5 fast turns of the handle then STOP! Wait about three seconds and repeat.

Shape, Size and Colours

Trout are extremely ferocious predators, fast and agile swimmers, with keen eyesight and rows of pointy sharp teeth. In the big scheme of things, I’m glad they don’t grow to 200kg! When anything that moves is a potential feed, you would have to say that anything you throw at them will catch them at one stage or another. Of course, with most things fishing there’s a happy medium.

Don’t forget the fact that trout are creatures of habit. If they’re eating a particular food that’s swimming a particular way, chances are all you’ll need to do is pick up on one of the four main feeding triggers to catch the fish. The triggers are size, shape, colour and movement. If the fish has been eating this food all day and you can mimic one or more of these triggers, chances are the fish will trip up and it will be yours!


Food, aggression, curiosity… they all play a big part in how and why we catch trout. The shape of the soft plastics you fish can play a big role in catching trout.

In deep or dirty water, the vibration coming from the tail of a grub or T-tailed soft plastic can alert the trout to its whereabouts. In clear, shallow water you might need to have a soft plastic that looks like something that the trout normally forage on such as a baitfish, mudeye or yabby.


The size of the soft plastic you fish can at times be governed by the hook size, weight and line class you fish. The happy medium of trout soft plastic sizes is 5-7.5cm (2-3”). In these sizes you can expect to place hooks from size 6 to 1/0 and weights from 0-7g (1/4oz). The medium is: hook – size 4-1; weight – 2.5-6g.


An easy way to think about colour is to think about how the fish will see your lure. What might look bright and colourful to you on land might look drab and lifeless 4m under the surface! Consider the clarity of the water, the lighting conditions on the day and what food sources are available.

Rainbow trout are notoriously aggressive, and in this case, sometimes the further away the fish can see your lure the more of them you’ll catch. In this particular situation, a very bright plastic can be used.

On the other side of the coin, brown trout can be very fussy! This can call for a more natural approach. When you look at the foods that live in a trout’s world, they all do a really good job of blending in. That is to say, that if mudeyes were hot pink in colour, there wouldn’t be too many dragonflies about these days!

In clear water, with fussy fish, it’s sometimes best to go stealthy. The fish are used to looking for things that are hard to see so you can expect them not to miss your offering. Fishing colours that mimic the surroundings aquatic vegetation can help to bring home the bacon!

Softly, softly

The article is but a mere taste of what’s out there for you to discover in the world of trout and soft plastics. If you can take what you know about this exciting freshwater sportfish and add into it the workings of soft plastics, I’ll guarantee you’ll catch more fish!

This is not a passing fad. This is the real thing and it’s working better than anyone could ever have imagined. Good luck and may all your lures be soft!


A selection of soft plastics rigged on jigheads – both open and weedless.

Two unweighted soft plastics – one rigged with a Foam Head jighead and the other a bent out Jig 90 hook.

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