By Todd Reed
The world of bass fishing is one that is hard to keep up with at times. Lure companies and professional fishermen are always coming up with something new to trick bass into biting. By far, soft baits, or plastics outnumber all other types of baits that we have to choose from. They come in hundreds of colors, and hundreds of different shapes and sizes. All these choices can be traced back to the Creme Lure Company that began mass producing soft plastic worms in 1949. From this date on, hundreds of other companies have jumped onboard the ever popular plastic bait business allowing us anglers to choose from thousands of choices to catch bass right in here in Iowa.
With literally thousands of choices where does an angler start? Whether you are just getting into bass fishing or have been catching Iowa bass for five decades, you need to have these 5 different kinds of plastic baits to help you catch your share of bass throughout the state. My top five baits include;
- 4-inch tube
- Craw style bait
- Finesse worm
While there are many others to choose from, these are always tied on while fishing for bass.
The tube bait was always known for catching smallmouth bass in the upper northern states, however professional bass fishermen brought them into largemouth bass fishing tournaments in mid-90’s and they have made a huge splash ever sense. My favorite is the 4-inch Hot Rod Baits River Minnow tube. It is a unique color and mimics a shad or minnow that bass would be naturally feeding on. I usually rig tubes Texas-style. I choose this rigging technique because I can skin hook the large 3/0 tube hook and throw it into the weediest areas I can find. You can slowly pull the tube through weeds to tempt those largemouth bass into biting. It works great probing into log piles and fallen timber. I always keep it skin-hooked providing me a snag-proof presentation anywhere my baits ends up.
The next type of soft baits or plastic that I will not go without are the craw style baits. These come in all sorts of sizes, colors, and creations. These baits are of course to fool the bass into thinking it is a crawfish crawling on the lake bottom or river rocks. Almost every company offers their favorite shape and colors and the choices are endless. I like to use the same technique I do with a tube when throwing craw type of baits, Texas-Rigging. Again, it’s pretty snag-proof, unless of course you get your sinker caught up in some rocks. Skin-hooking is a must and keep this bait moving slowly, as a lonely crawdad might act.
This next bait only comes out when I hit the many interior rivers of Iowa. The curl-tail has probably caught more smallmouth bass in this state than any other soft plastic. They also come in an endless amount of colors and various sizes too. With this rig I prefer to use a ⅛ ounce lead head jig, and adjust the weight if the current is heavy or while fishing deeper river holes. This is by far the most simplistic way to fish and the cheapest too. That’s a good thing, because fishing this rig in the current will lead to plenty of snags. It is a fine balance between the weight of the jig head and the river current to present your bait in a natural offering so the bass will hit it. I tend to keep the colors very basic with the curl-tail; white, black or a bright color for when the water turns muddy. Presenting the bait at the right speed and in the proper feeding locations on the interior rivers are the key to this simple bait.
When the going gets tough, I get the finesse worm out. When all else fails, I go to my safety bait, the 4-inch finesse worm rigged on a shaky head hook. Those that are not familiar with the shaky head rig, it is basically a standard lead head jig with an extra long hook. This allows you to rig the small worm to get an upward look in the water. This rig can be cast a long ways using an open-faced reel. This rig works very well when the water is clear, the sky is clear and blue, during high pressure situations, and when nothing else seems to work. The smaller bait is not intimidating to bass and that is why I think it produces when no other baits do. It’s a nice “small snack” for the bass when feeding isn’t something they are actively doing or a priority. When I throw a shaky head finesse worm rig I always think about a bowl of candy sitting out…no one really needs candy but soon that bowl will be gone. I believe the bass just can’t resist a small treat and they eat it up! There are many 4-inch worms on the market, however like all anglers I have a favorite; the Hot Rod Baits Black Finesse worm with a white tail. It seems to produce when other baits fail. I always fish this rig with 8-pound test line and a medium-heavy Quantum spinning rod/reel. The light line allows for long casting, bite detection and doesn’t show up in clear water. The shaky head finesse worm combo is the one to turn to when all else fails.
The last soft plastic bait that all bass anglers, especially those that chase largemouth bass around the state, should have tied on at the ready is a swimbait. These baits are a mix between a slow bait and a faster retrieved bait. A swimbait is a large piece of soft plastic that mimics a small fish. They come in all colors and sizes, however if you are looking for that one special bass, then go big. Optimum Baits is a leader in swimbaits and I look to them when I tie on a bait to go after that bass to remember. These baits are life-like baits that swim and act like real baitfish in the water. Most swimbaits are made for the open water, but some can be rigged to slither in and out of the weeds and sticks. Experiment with colors and speed of retrieval to cover the water column with these big fish baits. Much like the curl-tail, these baits are cast out long distances and you must retrieve them at the correct speed. A few casts with an Optimum Baits swimbait and you will get the hang of it, and most likely a nice largemouth on the end of the line.
There are dozens upon dozens of different soft plastic baits to throw at bass all across the state. I won’t go fishing without the above mentioned five plastic baits. Colors and sizes can be important on certain days and experimentation might be needed. If you haven’t tried the above soft plastic baits and presentations, you might be missing out on catching your share of Iowa bass.