Soft Plastics Beginners Guide

If you’re a soft plastics beginner and not familiar with fishing using soft plastics (or ‘jellies’), the idea of attaching a dubious looking rubber bait to the end of your line in the hopes of catching a fish might seem bizarre to say the least. This soft plastics beginners guide will teach you the basic techniques to start fishing with soft plastics.

In Australia, whilst the preference of many anglers seems to be to use live bait over plastics, the virtues of using lures should not be overlooked.  Soft plastic lures are becoming a common feature of the average angler’s tackle box, used to hook carnivorous fish and are a highly versatile and useful when fishing rivers, reefs and pelagic areas.

The basic idea to soft plastics is to catch the attention of passing fish by mimicking the movement of their prey and presenting the bait in the most natural manner. Brightly colored plastics annoy the fish, causing them to behave aggressively and hopefully attack your bait. The action is affected by the lure’s shape which often features a ribbed design and long rubber tails.

The retrieve is an important factor of presenting attractive plastic bait.  There are a few basic techniques to manipulate your lure in the water.

Fishing Tactic 1 – Straight Retrieve

This is the most basic approach.  Draw the lure through the water by reeling in the line.  Lower or raise your rod and the bait will descend or ascend in the water to vary the action.  This style is effective because fish can catch the lure more easily if it is headed in a constant trajectory at a steady speed and is perfect for catching Tuna, Wahoo and Mackerel.

Fishing Tactic 2 – Twitching and Jerking

Twitching employs short fast rod movements.  Numerous patterns can be achieved this way but a few twitches followed by a pause is generally the favoured method.  This will attract more aggressive species very easily, but overly erratic patterns will make it hard to get an actual strike – that pause gives the fish a chance to grab it!  Jerking (or sweeping) is pretty similar but consists of longer sweeping movements whilst pulling the rod downwards or to the side.  Recover the slack line and sweep again, as you sweep, the bait will dive a little.

Fishing Tactic 3 – Jigging

Begin by casting the bait out and letting it fall to the bottom, controlling the line. Once the bait stops, work it along the bottom, using a series of small tugs, lifting the jig up and forward. Let the lure fall back to the bottom, then retrieve the line with the reel until taut.  Pause, and begin the retrieve again.

Remember: Have a go and experiment with these techniques and make a note of the patterns that work!

Two basic lures to add to your tackle:

Soft plastic Lures

Curled Tail lures create vibration in the water, making it easier for the fish to locate and swim very straight on fast retrieves.  They are a great choice for beginners and anglers targeting Bass and Barramundi, or for use on reefs and estuaries for Mulloway, Snapper, Tailor, Tuna etc.

Paddle Tail lures are useful if you’re casting into weedbeds or for catching larger species (Salmon, Mangrove Jacks, Flathead) in estuary waters.

Some other variations look out for are Jerk shad lures and bulldawgs.  You will find that different lures work better with different retrieves.  Plastics are an economic bait option as they are reusable and highly effective.