In the first 2 parts of this series on fishing with soft plastic baits I covered the basic methods of rigging & using them & now in this 3rd part I will cover some other methods of rigging & using soft plastic baits as well as cover some of the newer plastics that have recently come on the market. The 3 types of rigs I will cover are the long & short running rigs plus weedless jig heads & their uses. The long & short running rigs are often know as Carolina & Texas rigs but seeing this is Australia I don't think those appropriate. These 3 rigs are all very effective in different areas & well worth trying. There are a few pictures covering how to rig soft plastic baits on worm hooks & a bit of information on some new products that are available since I wrote my last article.
The long rig I will describe here varies little from a standard bait fishing running rig. The use of a worm hook is really the only difference. I find this rig very useful when I am fishing flats. If there are a lot of weed beds I use soft plastic baits that float & using a slow retrieve the weight will bounce through the weeds & the bait will float above the weeds where it is visible. If there is little weed about I use naturally sinking types of plastics so they drag along the bottom & kick up a bit of sand. I prefer to use steel bullet weights for this type of rig as the shape of them is designed to not to pick up weed strands & also being larger for the equivalent weight of a lead sinker they disturb a bit more sand & attract attention. If you don't have steel weights then standard sinkers are OK but they will pick up more weed. I use either a ring or a swivel to join my leader & main line & I try to keep the leader around 1 meter in length. I find with a leader length of 1 meter the rig casts reasonably well & takes fish but a shorter leader while casting further is less effective as it can interfere with the action of some soft plastic baits. I use 2 types of hooks with this rig depending on the plastic baits I am using. The hook types are Mustad Aberdeen's or Gamakatsu Worm hooks. The majority of the time I use worm hooks & rig them with the point just under the surface so the rig doesn't pick up weed. There are pictures below showing how I rig plastics on worm hooks. When I am using Aberdeen's in grub type plastics I just thread the baits on as you would with a normal jig head.
The long rig has a couple disadvantages & they are a lack of "feel" on the actual bait itself. A fish can lightly mouth the bait & you will not feel it. Secondly it is prone to snagging in rough country. Having said that it is also a very effective rigÊ & its advantages are it works well when fish are shy as the bait is free of any significant weight & allows small plastics to swim properly without being hindered by the weight of the jig head. I fish it normally with a slow hopping action with plenty of pauses. My 2 favorite soft plastic baits which I have been using in this way are the Ecogear Tank S (2.5's) & the Ecogear Paramax Grubs.
If you are using steel weights with either the short or long running rigs you MUST regularly check for wear on either your leader or main line depending on the rig you are using. Being much harder than lead any rough imperfections from manufacture can damage your line over a period of time. In my opinion though as they are so "weedless" I still prefer them over lead sinkers despite this problem.
Mustad Aberdeen Hook
Gamakatsu Worm Hook
The short running rig is even simpler than the long one & consists simply of a weight running down to a hook. The main advantages of this rig is it provides excellent "feel" as to what's happening to the bait & it also casts well. This rig if used with a worm hook rigged in the bait with point not protruding is extremely snag proof as well as weedless & can be cast into heavy structure & snags & will not often snag up. The short rig is very effective with any type of plastic bait & can be used under virtually any conditions. I use around 1.5 meters of leader with no swivels or rings just a free running weight on my leader. This rig can be used with any type of retrieve & is effective with everything from a simple slow winding retrieve to jigging & hopping type actions.
Weedless jig heads are very effective & it pays to have a couple in your gear. The main problem I have is getting them in weights & hook sizes suitable for the types of areas I fish. The range is pretty limited in what's available as far as hook types & weights goes. The weedless head can be used as a normal jig by threading the plastic bait on & leaving the hook point exposed or the plastic bait can be rigged in the same way you would rig a worm hook making the jig weedless. The advantages of using a weedless jig head is that they give an excellent feel for what's happening to the bait & as the name says they are weedless making them useful around flats & weed beds or they can be used in amongst snags with not much risk of snagging up.
The pictures below demonstrate the method I use to put plastic baits on worm hooks. It is not hard to do & it is worth taking the time to make sure your plastic bait sits nice & straight on the hook. Some people like having the hook point exposed a little but myself I like to keep the point just under the surface to begin with as it reduces snagging potential. Some anglers think rigging a bait this way can cause a lot of missed strikes but I don't experience any more missed strikes with baits rigged this way than I do using normal jig heads.
First select a suitable sized worm hook for the soft plastic bait you will be using. In this case I am using an Ecogear Tank S 2.5" with a Gamakatsu Worm Hook (extra wide gape) in size 2.
Pass the hook through a small central section of the bait with the hook point coming out the bottom side of the bait
Thread the hook through the bait until the small section slides up to the eye of the hook then rotate the hook 180 degrees & lay it alongside the bait & make note where the bend of the hook will be when the bait is sitting straight. In this case the hook point needs to be inserted slightly in front of the 1st set of legs on the bait.
Now bend the bait back towards the hook eye & insert the point at the correct location & slide the bait up & along the hook until it lays nice & straight.
This is how your bait should lay when your finished with the hook central & the body sitting nice & straight. I prefer the hook point to be just under the surface but some like it showing through.