2014 Buyer’s Guide: Soft plastics

2014 Buyer's Guide

(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. Finally! 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 info@flwoutdoors.com about the new products that you've most enjoyed using. We just might run your reviews in an upcoming issue of FLW Bass Fishing. Soft plastics 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 Bass Assassin LitBass 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). Berkley Berkley Gulp! Swimmow.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. Berkley PowerBait Chigger Quad.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). Berkley Havoc Back Slide.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). Yamamoto Yamamoto Swimming Senkos.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). Jackall Jackall Darts Hog.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. Eco Pro Eco Pro Honey Badger Flipping Skirt.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 DW2 Chunk.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 Yum Money Minnow.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 Tongue Slapper.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 MannMann'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. Strike King Rage DB Craw.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. Strike King Rage Tail Cut-R.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 3D Craw.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 Plastix Jerkbait.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 Z-Man Turbo CrawZ.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 Lunkerhunt Swim Bento.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 Impulse Ringworm.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 Big Bug.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 Hodad.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 Smartbaits Robbie Ribbon ribbontail worm.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 Luck-E-Strike Ringmaster.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.

Tags: magazine-features  features 

/tips/2014-03-11-2-d-sonar-strategies

2-D sonar strategies

There was a time when experience almost always trumped equipment when it came to finding fish. If you wanted to be a better fisherman, you got out there on the water and paid your dues. You learned the spots that produced at certain times of the year, and culled the 90 percent of the water that was almost always void of bass. The last decade or so of fish-finding technology has changed the paradigm, however. Now anglers can buy a Lowrance HDS unit, cruise likely looking spots on any lake and literally see bass. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-03-10-swim-jigging-winter-grass-lines

Swim-jigging winter grass lines

You can rip rattle baits through winter grass beds like everyone else, or you can offer bass something different: a swim jig. Veteran bass pro Ron Shuffield says a swim jig is one of his preferred cool-weather lures when bass set up camp on grass-line edges. It’s a lure that can be worked quickly, or dragged more slowly when conditions warrant a change-up. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-02-21-hog-hunters

Hog hunters

A five-fish limit is the first measure of success and job one in a tournament. But it’s how you see that quintet shaping up that sets the tone for your performance. Is it an open audition where anything that measures will do, or do you want five stars that’ll rock any stage? READ MORE »

/tips/2014-02-14-never-hardly-ever-lose-a-fish

Never (hardly) ever lose a fish

How many good fish do you lose in a season of fishing, whether it’s in a tournament or just when you’re fishing for the fun of it? If it’s more than you can count on your fingers, perhaps it’s time for some constructive self-criticism. Are the fish at fault, or are you? In case it’s the latter, we offer the following advice, observations and tips from some top pros regarding how to put the odds of landing a fish successfully more in your favor. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-02-10-x-marks-the-spot

X Marks the spot

Two things stand out about winter bass fishing: The fish get a little bit pickier about where they want to be, and anglers don’t want to spend as much time running a bass boat around a frigid lake trying to find them. READ MORE »

/tips/2014-01-02-q-a-with-andy-morgan

Q&A with Andy Morgan

I wouldn’t say it was a perfect season, but it sure worked out. I mean, it was a good year, but not a great year. I was surprised to even have a shot to win after Beaver Lake (he finished 68th). Honestly, it was never even on my mind until someone mentioned right before Chickamauga that I had a shot at winning it. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-12-23-last-minute-holiday-gift-guide

Last-minute holiday gift guide

Naughty? Nice? Who cares – Christmas isn’t far away, and any bad behavior can be overlooked for a while as we celebrate the season with presents for those nearest and dearest. As is our custom, we’ve appointed ourselves Santa’s helpers and came up with a few gift ideas. We’ve also selected goodies that cover a range of price options. Regardless of their cost, the following gear, gadgets and clothing would make any angler beam with joy. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-12-02-boat-care-101-simple-do-it-yourself-carpet-cleaning

Boat Care 101: Simple do-it-yourself carpet cleaning

If there is one thing I hate worse than seeing a nice bass boat with a filthy finish, it’s seeing one with dirty carpet. I like to keep my stuff clean, but not just because it looks good. A bass boat is a huge investment, and the more you can do to protect that investment the better the returns if you ever decide to sell or trade it. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-11-07-the-chilly-truth

The Chilly Truth

Not surprisingly, bass fishing has its own set of myths: Bass don’t eat topwaters when it’s sunny, big fish only eat big lures and so on. Winter fishing seems to take myths to a whole new level. Maybe the long hours in freezing cold numbs the mind as much as it does the hands, but one could write an article about how many myths there are regarding this chilly time of year – and whether or not they’re true. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-10-28-ask-the-experts

Ask the Experts

If I use heavy-gauge hooks for flipping grass with braided line, why not use the same gauge hooks for fishing all soft plastics? READ MORE »

/tips/2013-10-25-sound-effects

Sound effects

Though some anglers contend that rattling baits don’t necessarily attract strikes, and might even deter them, the preponderance of evidence favors the rattle crowd. Virtually every hard lure made nowadays – crankbaits, jerkbaits, stick baits and so forth – can be had in rattling and silent versions. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-10-18-guide-to-treble-hooks

Guide to treble hooks

As a general rule, the treble hooks on the lures of most tournament pros aren’t original equipment. Less-expensive stock trebles are usually replaced with ultra-sharp premium hooks of the angler’s choice. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-10-08-dock-cranking

Dock cranking

Well-honed casting skills are required to send a crankbait deep into the reaches of a dock. It can’t be skipped on the surface easily, but even an average caster can make a crankbait go where dock bass are likely to be if he employs a trick that Walmart FLW Tour pros Bryan Thrift and Wesley Strader call “driving,” or “steering.” READ MORE »

/tips/2013-09-26-first-look

First Look

The following products were originally featured in the 2013 August/September issue of Bass Fishing magazine. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-09-23-drawdown-tactics

Drawdown tactics

As summer winds down, however, things can change quickly on a drawdown lake – a reservoir where lake managers reduce the water level in late summer and early fall. Come practice for the EverStart showdown, Dan Morehead’s fish were nowhere to be found. In fact, despite the amazing pre-practice, Morehead didn’t catch a fish during the first day and a half of practice. The dropping lake and progressing season had caused everything to change. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-09-09-all-the-right-turns

All the right turns

Tournament fishing isn’t just about catching fish. It’s about making sound decisions based on experience and applying the proper strategies to make good things happen when they count the most. Of course, sometimes it’s just about trusting your instincts. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-09-05-deep-diving-details

Deep-diving details

Anyone who follows big-league bass fishing knows pro David Fritts is legendary for his ability to sniff out and catch bass on a crankbait. True, Fritts is handy with other styles of lures. But he is the iceman with a crankbait, particularly when the bass relate to cover or structure in deep water. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-08-22-the-right-trailer-for-the-task

The right trailer for the task

A jig trailer seems simple enough: a piece of molded soft plastic that dangles from a jig’s hook to add bulk, enhance action, temper the fall and suggest a crawfish or other food item. Those basic functions, though, are somewhat divergent and sometimes work against each other. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-08-09-lures-for-the-thick-of-it

Lures for the thick of it

While there is more than one way to get to a fat bass that is buried up in the jungle, few methods are more effective than flipping or punching. Both are short-range techniques built around a hard-core fishing system that includes thick line and a stout rod, and any number of lures and rigs designed to slip in and out of thick cover with the skill of a grass snake. READ MORE »

/tips/2013-08-08-advanced-rod-repair-replace-a-broken-guide

Advanced Rod Repair: Replace a broken guide

Eventually, your rod collection will grow to the point where it’s cost-effective for you to acquire the tools and learn the skills to make slightly advanced repairs, such as replacing a broken line guide. The task does require some special equipment, but if it keeps your favorite rod in the game without having to wait a couple of weeks for a local shop to fix it, the cost is worth the investment. And a few tools still cost less than replacing one of today’s specialized high-end rods. You might also consider going together with a fishing buddy to split the cost. READ MORE »