Fishing with soft plastics for species like Bream & Flathead has become a very popular way to fish these days & in this article I am going outline a few tips for beginners. I don't feel there is a right or a wrong way to fish plastics & some days the fish will strike any plastic on just about any type of retrieve & other days are very fussy about retrieve speed & lure type / colour. There are many colours & types of soft plastic baits on the market these days but I will just cover a few of my most commonly used types here. Fishing soft plastic baits is a fun way & a very challenging way to fish & once you start having success it gets very addictive. Its currently my favorite way of fishing & hopefully after this you may decide to give it a go yourself. My main targets on soft plastic baits are bream & flathead so these are the species I will cover. This article is just a starting point & there are many factors & methods which come in to being a good plastics fisherman & hopefully this article will help point you in the right direction.
To fish successfully with soft plastics you need a rod that will give good distance with the small weights used. A threadline reel is the most suitable choice for this type of fishing so the rod needs to suit that type of reel. Most of the jigs I cast are between 1/8th ounce & 1/32nd ounce with the most common one used being 1/16th of an ounce. The rod needs to have a light & sensitive tip with enough power in the butt to stop big bream around structure. The breaking strain of leaders most commonly used varies from 4 pounds kilo through to 8 pounds so it needs to be suitable for this class of line. I mentioned the breaking strain of the leaders instead of the line as I use 4 pound Fireline & 6 pound Fireline & both of these break well above the rated breaking strain & I have found they break around the 9 or 10 pound mark so pick a rod to suit the leader more than the actual breaking strain of the main line. I prefer a carbon fibre rod myself as they cast well & provide excellent "feel" when used with either Fireline or Braided lines. There are many suitable rods on the market & they range in price from $100 to $600. I cannot name specific rods at this stage but all I can say is buy the best rod you can afford. It needs to be light weight & have quality guides (single foot for less weight) on it with preferably a cork grip as this transmits gentle takes better than hypalon or other grip materials. The length is personal preference again depending on the type of area you will be fishing. I use 2 outfits & one is a 7 foot rod for land based fishing & boat fishing when I am fishing open flat areas & the other is a 6 foot rod I use when I am boat fishing & casting soft plastic baits around wharves , pontoons & snags & it is a bit more powerful than my 7 footer. when buying a rod weight is very important as fishing soft plastics generally involves a lot of casting & a heavy rod will soon tire your wrists out.
As for reels I prefer to use an Okuma Epix EFS 20 for my soft plastics fishing. They are very suitable for this type of work & very reasonably priced. They have an excellent drag system & lay the line very evenly which is important when using gel spun lines like Fireline. There are other brands available that will do the job so look for reels in the "2000" size in your favorite brand. A metal spool is a must as are coated bail rollers as Fireline will rapidly wear away the lip of a graphite spool & cut a groove in a soft bail roller. Again weight is important so look for a nice light reel.
In my opinion a gel spun like like Fireline or a braided line like the new Platypus Braid is by far & away the best type of line for fishing soft plastic baits. The very thin diameters allow for long distance casts with the very small weights commonly used & the almost non existent stretch makes for instant "feel" of a touch on the bait. I use Fireline in 4 pound for long distance casting when I am land based & 6 pound Fireline when I am boat fishing. In the 4 pound I prefer the "smoke" colour as I find it wears better then the green but when I am boat fishing around structure I use 6 pound in Flouro Green so I can watch the line on the waters surface as the jig sinks & detect takes. I think normal mono line runs a very poor second to the lines mentioned above for this type of fishing. A point I would like to make is rinse the line on the reel well after each trip as salt gets trapped in these lines & can lead to spool corrosion.
I always use a leader when I am fishing soft plastic baits for 2 reasons. The first reason is the mainlines mentioned above are very visible in the water & these can spook fish so a thin less visible leader is important particularly in clear shallow water. The second reason is that braids & gelspun lines are not as easy to tie knots in as monofilament line. I find it far easier to tie a jig to mono than to gelspun or braid. I use Platypus Platinum exclusively for my leaders & I use 2 , 3 & 4 kilo breaking strains depending on where I am fishing. I find it has excellent knot strength & is very fine for its breaking strain. It wears well & I have no knot problems when I join it to my main line. I have used a few of the fluorocarbon lines available & was not happy with the knot strength when I used them & also they are not as thin for the breaking strain as premium mono. Many people swear by fluorocarbon but myself I steer well clear of it & stick to mono but again its personal choice.
A couple things you need as well is a "Worm proof" tackle box to store your soft plastic baits in. They will eat away at normal plastic boxes. Do not mix different colours of plastics together or the colours will run into each other. I have an "Ecogear" waist pouch which I use to store my plastics & its great. A small pair of nail clippers or a pair of surgical scissors are very handy for trimming knots. A diamond hone should be carried for touching up jig hook points. I always carry Mustad Fly Clips as they make changing jigs easy but points to remember are they are not rust proof & should be discarded after the fishing session or they may fail. They come in packets of mixed sizes but I only use the 2 larger sizes with the small ones being discarded. Last but not least is a bottle of Spike IT scent. I think having scent on your plastics is VERY important & I have found that Spike It is easy to use & last for about 20 minutes or so. I use the "game fish" scent & only dip the tail of my soft plastic bait into it as per instructions on the bottle. Immersing the whole plastic affects the rubber & they can split or fall apart. Now for the nitty gritty
I use only 2 brands of jig heads & they are Gamakatsu & Nitro. The reason I use only these brands is for the sharpness & strength of the hooks. They are extremely sharp & this is very important when fishing soft plastics even more so than in other forms of fishing. They don't come cheap but are well worth the money for the increased hook up rates. There are plenty of cheaper brands around & if you must use them make sure you get the point really sharp before using them. Both Gamakatsu & Nitro heads are built on Gamakatsu hooks & the reason I use Nitro as well as Gamakatsu is the Nitro heads come in a range of colours with reflective eyes & I like to use jig heads with eyes at times. I most commonly use jigs in the 1/16 ounce size & I prefer the Gamakatsu Round 25 with size 2 hook. This would be my choice at least 50 percent of the time. Other jig heads I use are Gamakatsu Round 29 in 1/16oz & size 4 hook plus the Cobra 29 in 1/20th ounce & size 2 hook , another is the Round 211 in 1/32 ounce size & size 2 hook. In the Nitro range I always have a few Silver Eyes & Black eyes with me. Both models are on a size 2 hook & 1/16oz. I find the selection I have mentioned here covers 99 percent of my fishing situations. About the only other I carry is a few Gamakatsu Flathead 25's in the 1/4 ounce size in a 1/0 hook for when I'm fishing deeper water & current with big soft plastic baits for flathead. Below are some pictures of my most commonly used jig head.
As I mentioned previously there are many different brands , coloursÊ & sizes of soft plastics available & they will all take fish if used correctly. Once you start using plastics your collection will grow like mine has but I'm just going to mention a few of my more commonly used types & colours that are consistently successful for me. The brands I use most are Ecogear , Charlie Brewers Sliders , Atomic , Storm & Squidgies. Under most circumstances I prefer a soft plastic bait of 2.5 inches or less when I'm after Bream but when I'm chasing Flathead the bigger the better. I have found using too small a bait with Flathead results in a lot of small or undersize fish. Below are pictures of some of my favorites with the Berkley Power Grubs in both colours being excellent producers of Bream. The first 2 rows are the type of soft plastic bait I would start a session with for Bream & the bottom rows have been very successful on Flathead.The selection below is only a small sample of the soft plastic baits available. there are pics of the new 2" shads from Big Bite Baits as well. They look like real winners on Bream & Flathead.
This should give you an idea of what has worked for me in the past & provide an idea of what to buy to get yourself started off. I have the above soft plastics in many different colours & they all have taken fish at some stage or another. A role of thumb is to use dark colours on dark days & light colours on bright days & mostly this will work. Don't be afraid to experiment with different types & colours. Often I have changed from a paddle tail in say Amber to a single tailed grub in Amber & just the different action in the tail was enough to get fish going & produce several fish in the same water I had been fishing for no result. Always take a few types & colours along with you to give yourself the best chance of success.