March 12, 2014 by C. Moore, C. Niedermier, K. Jackson, R. Robertson and J. Samsel.
(Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the 2014 February issue of Bass Fishing magazine. To read more compelling articles from Bass Fishing magazine each month, become an FLW subscriber member. If you'd like to sign up for a digital subscription to access articles online, click here).
February is a time of change throughout the fishing world. In the South, tournaments are starting up again. In the North, February is considered "late ice" season - meaning ice-out isn't too far away. College football is over and hunting seasons are winding down. All this change can only mean one thing: It's time to focus on bass fishing again.
As your mind shifts back to limits and lunkers, you'll probably want to restock your supplies of go-to tackle, and maybe make a few upgrades that'll lead to more bass in the boat this season. We want to make sure you see all your options before you pluck that credit card from your billfold. That's why we made the 2014 rendition of our annual Buyer's Guide bigger than ever.
As you browse through the selections, which feature gear previewed at the mega-huge 2013 ICAST fishing tackle show last summer, consider what gear can best benefit you and your fishing success.
Then report back to us at firstname.lastname@example.org about the new products that you've most enjoyed using. We just might run your reviews in an upcoming issue of FLW Bass Fishing.
No category of lure is as flexible as soft-plastic lures - both in action and in use. Not only do soft plastics move freely, even when deadsticked, but the range of their use is limited only by the angler's imagination.
Most soft plastics can be fished Texas-rigged, Carolina-rigged, wacky style, on a jighead, as a trailer or weightless. You can swim `em, burn `em or let `em fall as you please.
This year, companies are offering even more choices in new shapes, sizes and colors. It's a good year for soft plastics and for bass fishermen.
Bass Assassin has added to its line of Bang Lures with the introduction of the 4 1/2-inch Lit'l Tapper and the 3 1/2-inch Die Dapper.
The Lit'l Tapper is a cross between a soft jerkbait and spade-tail worm. The fat front portion of the body is good for rigging, and the wider tail provides maximum action. A bag of 12 costs $4.75.
The Die Dapper is a smaller swimbait with the same general profile of its big brother. There is a soft, fat midsection and slim wrist and paddletail. It's a natural for finesse swimbait applications or downsized umbrella rigs. Price - $4.75 for 10. (bassassassin.com).
Half-pint jars of various Gulp! Lures should appeal to high-volume users. The only new Gulp! product is the 4-inch Swimmow, a soft-plastic jerkbait with a paddletail. The tail adds frantic action to the popular and effective body shape. Price - $6.99.
The PowerBait line has added three shapes: the PowerBait Chigger Quad, a pitching/flipping/rigging bait with tentacles, pinchers and legs enough to make anyone itch just by looking at it; the 5 1/2-inch Rib Snake, a stretched ringworm with a bulbous head and small paddletail; and the 3 1/2-inch Ripple Shad. $4.99 per pack (number per pack varies).
The Berkley Havoc line has grown by 11 lures designed by Berkley pros to fit specific situations. Included in the line are: the Federale, a 10-inch ribbontail worm; the Back Slide, a lure designed to glide away from the angler and under a target such as a dock or laydown; the Jerk, a 5-inch twitch bait; the 4-inch Beat Shad, a finesse, ribbed paddletail worm; the Devil Spear Jr., a 3 1/2-inch spear-tail finesse lure; the Flat Dawg, a 5-inch stick bait; the Grass Pig Jr., a 3 1/2-inch version of the original; the Papa Pit Boss, a 5-inch, oversized flipping lure; the Sick Fish Jr. and Papa Sick Fish, 3- and 5 1/2-inch swimbaits, respectively; and the Smash Tube. Price - $3.49 per pack. (berkley-fishing.com).
There are no new shapes from Yamamoto this year, but there are new sizes in the popular Swimming Senko line (5 1/2 inches and 3 1/2 inches) and the Pro Senko (6 3/4 inches). Price - $7.29 to $7.69.
Yamamoto also debuted two colors - goby and perch - for several of its most popular soft baits. (baits.com).
The Jackall Darts Hog has finally made it over to the U.S. from Japan, and its versatility is sure to make it popular. It's poured using high-flotation plastic, making it ideal as a jig trailer or a flipping/pitching lure. The Darts Hog has four arms and a tail that can be split to provide even more action. Price - $4.99 for a package of six. (jackall-lures.com).
The tails have it
Extra action can be a good thing - especially if you're targeting fish that get turned on by a swimming soft-plastic lure.
It might have been that growing popularity of the umbrella rig in 2013 resulted in a plethora of swimming plastics with built-in action. With or without umbrella rigs, though, the enhanced action appeals to most anglers because it increases the range of possible applications. Whatever the reason, a lot of the new soft-plastic introductions are equipped with paddletails, boot tails or power tails - or whatever you wish to call that thing on the end of the worm or grub that is perpendicular to the main axis of the lure.
While paddletails are part of nearly every swimbait, there are lures made for punching through matted vegetation that also sport them. Even soft jerkbaits and stick baits now come with paddletails.
But that's a good thing, as sometimes it's the little extra "oomph" that draws a strike.
Sometimes less is better, which is the theory behind the Honey Badger Flipping Skirt. It's a slimmed-down version of the original Punch Skirt. The Flipping Skirt is designed to be used between the sinker and hook of a Texas-rigged flipping rig. Price - $4.99 (ecoprotungsten.com).
Culprit Culprit's three new twin-tails focus on specific applications. The small DW1 Grub is a finesse lure designed to mimic smaller crawfish. While it might be best as a trailer behind a small jig, it also works well on a simple leadhead. It's 2 inches long. The 3-inch DW2 Chunk twin-tail is another finesse trailer. With its flat tails and rectangular body, it will take to swimming like a fish - or the crawfish it's intended to imitate. Its flat surfaces also help it skip farther. The 4-inch DW3 Grub is a jig-swimming fisherman's dream trailer. The large, flat tails and flat surfaces on the top and bottom of the grub provide gliding surfaces, and the bulkier body provides more buoyancy. Price - $3.08. (culprit.com). YUM The popular YUM Money Minnow had a baby - a 2 1/2-inch fry. The little paddletail swimbait suggests a range of uses, from imitating small baitfish in the spring to a school of the same when used on a YUMbrella rig. Price - $8.99 for eight. (lurenet.com).
Lick-Em-Lures Lick-Em-Lures has one of those shapes that almost defy description. The Tongue Slapper bears great resemblance to a human tongue, but with a cup in its widest portion. Think of a spoon, and you'll sort of have the idea. This lure is simply a large piece of soft plastic, but it can be fished as a pitching lure, skipping lure (where it excels) or even a pseudo crankbait, depending on how it's rigged. It's one of those lures that can be rigged in many different ways, and it's possible that it might create its own category of lure if it catches on by, well, catching bass. To judge its originality and versatility for yourself, watch the video on the company's website. Price - $5.99 for six. (lickemlures.com). Mann's Mann's offers the Three-for-All, a soft-plastic lure that does a good job of imitating a trio of baitfish swimming together. Three shad-style, boot-tail bodies are joined together along a crossbar of Mann's HardNose plastic that keeps the bodies apart. A jighead is threaded through the center body, so the lure is legal in states where fishermen are allowed only one hook. There are six color combinations in both the 3- and 4-inch sizes. The package contains one rigged lure and two spare bodies. Price - $8.99. (mannsbait.com). Strike King Strike King has a list of additions to its line of soft plastics this year. Leading off is the Rage Tail Cut-R worm, a 6-inch, fat-bodied worm that incorporates an active Rage Tail. The Cut-R worm is a multi-tasker, handling everything from flipping to drop-shotting. The Rage DB Craw is a Denny Brauer design intended to provide a subtler presentation than the original Rage Craw. It provides a tighter action on the fall and is the best craw for punching mats, according to its designer. It's 4 inches long. The Perfect Plastics Swim-N-Shiner is another swimbait, but one that shines at times when a natural presentation is best. It swims much the way a lethargic baitfish does and is said to excel in ultra-clear water or when used in lakes that see a lot of fishing pressure - rig it on a jighead, use it as a trailer or add it to an umbrella rig. The lure is offered in both 4- and 5-inch sizes. The Perfect Plastics KVD Dream Shot is standard drop-shot fare, but when you're on big bass, a bigger lure will work better and keep the smaller fish away, or so goes the theory. The KVD Magnum Dream Shot is a 5-inch worm with a thick head that narrows above the tail - lending it a strong action even when it's moved subtly. Retail pricing on all new soft plastics is $5.49. Strike King also has added new colors to its existing lines: the KVD Dream Shot (morning dawn and brown purple); the KVD Fat Baby Finesse Worm and the KVD Finesse Worm (morning dawn); and the Rage Tail Craw (roadkill). (strikeking.com). Savage Gear Savage Gear has taken realism to a new level with its 3D Craw and accessories. The Craw looks like the real thing except for its exaggerated antennae and claws. The claws and head cavity are filled with air to get that upright, defensive position of the real deal. Two sizes are available. Price - $9.99 for three or four, depending on size. Although it's not a soft plastic, the Weedless Hook with Corkscrew is worth noting. The lead belly weight is covered with small beads that resemble crawfish eggs - bonus protein for bass. Two swimbaits have been added to the Savage Gear line. Both were created from 3-D scans of hatchery trout. The 8-inch 3D Line Thru Swimbait is offered in dark or light trout color patterns and is reinforced with a nylon mesh. The line-through design is such that the hook is situated up high, enabling the swimbait to be fished in cover and through the water column. Price - $17.99. The Real Trout Swimbait was also developed via the fish-scanning process. This paddletail swimbait has an internal jighead and exaggerated fin details. It's offered in 5-, 7- and 8-inch sizes in a baby bass color and an 11-inch size in the light and dark trout colors. Price - $6.99 to $29.99. (savagegear-USA.com). Logic Lures Logic Lures created the Scented Tandem Rig by rigging a pair of its Plastix soft-plastic jerkbaits in tandem. It uses the company's "swivel hook technology," which incorporates a swivel just above the hook eye, to keep line twist to a minimum, and the included 30-pound-test fluorocarbon and small worm weight keep the two jerkbaits separate. Price - $5.99. The Plastix jerkbait is infused with Scent Formula iX, which is a mix of anise and fish oils. It has realistic 3-D eyes. Price - $4.99 for eight. (logiclures.com). Z-Man The Z-Man company decided that enough is never enough, especially when its customers demanded more. That's why there are four additions to the company's line of soft plastics, and new colors in many of the others. The 4-inch DieZel MinnowZ is a swimbait spinoff of Z-Man's popular 3-inch MinnowZ. Made of super-soft ElaZtech, the DieZel has a dorsal fin that doubles as a hook-point pocket, making it work well on open-hook jigs as well as umbrella rigs or Original ChatterBaits. Price - $5.49 for five. The Turbo CrawZ is one of those do-everything lures that will work on the surface, on a Carolina rig along the bottom, through grass or for whatever the fish require at the moment. It's a 4-inch, craw-style lure that has two large, flat buzzing-capable claws. Price - $5.49 for six. The Scented LeechZ is a 3-inch ElaZtech lure scented with Pro-Cure Leech Super Gel. It's a great drop-shot lure that does well fished on most finesse rigs. Price - $5.99 for six. The Scented Jerk ShadZ is the 7-inch big brother in the line. Retailing for $5.99 for a package of four, it's salt-impregnated and scented with Pro-Cure Mullet Super Gel. (zmanfishing.com). Lunkerhunt Two swimbaits have been added to the popular Bento line: the 3- and 4 1/2-inch Swim Bentos (a 5 1/2-inch saltwater model is available too). Both sizes are equipped with a paddletail and the same realistic look of the original Bento. The price is $7.99 per pack of six for the 3-inch model and per five for the 4 1/2-inch model. (lunkerhunt.com). Northland Northland is well known in walleye country, but the company also makes some good bass gear. Its Impulse line of soft plastics, impregnated as they are with a microplankton formula that the company says has tested 143 percent more effective at "bite retention," is one example. Among the Impulse lineup is the new 3 1/2-inch Impulse Tube. Price - $5.39 for eight. The Impulse Ringworm is another introduction. It's a 4-inch finesse lure with super-soft body rings and a curly tail. The head is solid and a good match for a lead-head jig. Price - $5.39 for eight. (northlandtackle.com). Gene Larew Gene Larew brought another do-everything worm to the show this year: the 6-inch TattleTail Technique Worm. It has a flat belly and a long, tapered tail that ends in a small foot. Designed by bass pro John Murray, it works on a drop-shot rig, on a shaky head, Texas-rigged, Carolina-rigged - you get the idea. Price - $4.99 for 10. A big brother joins the Biffle Bug family. The 5-inch Big Bug has the same features as the rest of the crew. Price - $6.49 for six. (genelarew.com). Trigger X Trigger X has added sizes and colors to its popular line of pheromone-enhanced soft plastics. The Slop Hopper is now available in a 5 1/2-inch size, which makes this paddletail lure a natural for fishing in slop, on a weedless-rigged swimbait hook or as a supersized trailer on an umbrella rig. The Hodad also has a new middle-of-the-pack 3 1/2-inch size with the same tails and flappers of its bigger and smaller brethren. The Hodad is a cross between a tube and a creature bait, plus it has a ringed body. Price - $4.99. (rapala.com). Smartbaits Pigments that change color with the temperature make these lures unique. In the soft-lure category, there are 10 body styles, ranging from the 2-inch Gifted Grub to the 10-inch Robbie Ribbon ribbontail worm to the Foxy Frog solid-frog body. There are five base colors that darken or change to red as the temperature drops. Also, five body styles are available in three glow colors that will glow up to eight hours without being recharged. Price - $7.99. (smartbaits.net). Luck-E-Strike Developer of the original Ring Worm, this Missouri company has added two more originals to its stable: the Ringleader and the Ringmaster. The Ringleader is a 9-inch ringworm with a bulkier body and a large thumper tail. The Ringmaster is a 4 1/2-inch creature bait with a broad body, deep rings and enough appendages, tails and flappers to wake up the sleepiest bass. Designed by Guido Hibdon, the Ringmaster's rings are deeper and closer and will trap and release air bubbles, plus add to the vibration of the tails. Price - $5.49. (luckestrike.us). David A. Brown also contributed to the 2014 Buyer's Guide.