Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Power Of Plastics

Why haul a whole tackle box full of lures to the lake this month when you can get by handily with just this bevy of proven plastic baits?

In hopes of catching a largemouth bass -- and maybe, with a little luck, one of the big ones for which this lake was well known -- I tied on a large Texas-rigged plastic worm.

As the shadows gathered, I tossed the worm next to a laydown out of which a few limbs stuck up out of the water. As I the ripples gradually subsided, I began to pump my graphite rod tip up and down so that the 8-inch motor-oil-colored worm would slowly rise and then fall toward the bottom.

Mere moments into that routine, I felt a telltale tap-tap at the end of my monofilament line -- small sensations, but like jolts of electricity to an angler. I reeled up the slack, lowered the rod tip, and then powered it all backward as I drove the hook home.

Little did I know that I was connecting with a 7 1/2-pound largemouth -- the biggest bass of my angling career at the time.

Ah, yes: the power of plastics -- especially when springtime's spawning bass are on the prowl in shallow waters across the Southern states.

From the Texas-rigged plastic Jelly worms, Crème worms and Mister Twisters that helped start this lure craze to today's myriad of tube baits, salty craws, Power Worms, Ring Fries, lizards, jerkbaits and pork-resembling chunk trailers for jigs, there's certainly no shortage of soft-plastic baits at your local tackle shop. And the reason for this plethora of plastics? Simple: When they're fished the right way at the right time in the right place, plastic baits can result in your landing a bass of bragging-sized proportions!

Want to get in on the big-bass-catching magic of the ongoing soft-plastic lure revolution? Then read on!


OK: Technically speaking, a jig isn't itself a soft-plastic bait -- but the trailer on its hook certainly can be. And just as solid as the argument for the Texas-rigged plastic worm as one of history's best all-time bass-catching lures is the claim that can be advanced for the jig-and-pig combo as one of fishing history's most versatile all-time lure selections.

Given the right circumstances, the jig-and-pig sporting a soft-plastic trailer can prove enormously effective at just about any time of the year: deadly in the cold months when worked around the rocks and dropoffs along which wintering bass can be found; wonder-working in the spring, when bassin' is a shallow-water affair in a cover- and-vegetation-rich environment; and super in the summer, when you'll pitch one into a hole in the middle of a hydrilla bed and wait to see how quickly it gets smashed.

In fact, Bassmaster Pro Tour veteran Gary Klein -- one of the greatest pro bass anglers of all time -- confided to me in a conversation that I had with him a couple of years back that when it came down to lure selection around this particular time of the year, the first bait he'd make sure he had in his tackle box was a 1/2-ounce black/blue Rattle Back jig.

"I like to fish target-oriented baits," he said. "Those include spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, lizards, and jigs -- lures that I can cast to a target and effectively fish that target with."

As for color combinations, it's tough to beat a black/blue, black/ brown, or black/blue/purple mixture, although at times a lighter-hued shade resembling a shad or a crawfish can work well, too.

When you fish a trailer behind any of those jigs, a plastic chunk in a variety of colors is always a solid choice. If you're looking to bulk up the bait's overall appearance in the water, attach a salty craw worm to the jig's hook; if, conversely, you're looking for a slenderer profile to pitch into tight cover, consider using a short curlytail plastic worm or a longer curlytail grub on the back of your jig.

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