The basics: rigging and fishing with soft plastics

As part of ‘the basics’ series of posts, I thought it would be important to go through the fundamentals of rigging and fishing with soft plastics. It’s been such a huge revolution in fishing over the past decade or two, but there are many people who still lack confidence to experiment with this versatile and effective style of fishing.

The number of times I have seen plastics rigged shockingly is enough motivation for this article, but it’s more about providing you with the basic confidence and know-how to get it right. In doing so, you’ll catch more fish and get greater enjoyment out of your time on the water.

Rigging a plastic has two main elements: the plastic itself and the jig head. Both of these elements come in a huge array of shapes, colours, sizes and weights. It’s important to match the size of the jig head to the size of the plastic you want to use. The size of the plastic and the weight of the jig head will be governed by the type of fish you’re after, the depth of the water you’re fishing in and the current and wind conditions. There are other factors such as how weedy it is that will also influence plastic and jig head choice.

The aim is to make the presentation look as natural as possible. You can do this by matching the size and colour of the lure with a prey item of the fish you’re targeting. Let’s take flathead for example. They eat small mullet, prawns, yabbies and a variety of small fish. This makes the choice fairly easy – something that is about 3-4 inches long, with natural colours would be my first choice.

So what about the jig head? This is an important consideration and is a bit harder than just picking the right plastic. For most species, it’s dependent on the depth of the water. If you’re only fishing in a metre or less, a lighter jig head is sufficient and will ensure the lure looks natural when it’s fluttering through the water. In deeper water, say between 2 and 5 metres, a slightly heavier jig head may be needed to get down to the fish. Otherwise you’ll be spending all day waiting for the lure to hit the bottom, which is where most of the fish are found, and you won’t be able to cover enough ground to find where the fish are congregating.

So, in saying all of this, we can use a broad range of jig head weights for a 3-4 inch plastic. The shallower the water, the lighter the jig head and vice versa for deeper water. It gets a bit complicated when you’re trying to catch a bream in 10 metres of water…do you use a small 2-3 inch lure and a huge jig head? Probably not. I’d tie on a vibe instead and give that a go!

Now to how to get the plastic on the jig. This is probably the most important part of plastics fishing. The most important thing to remember here is to keep the lure straight so that the hook protrudes through the ‘back’ of the plastic and the lead on the jig head is flush with the head of the plastic.

1. Line the lure up against the jighead and note where the hook should come out once embedded

1. A suitable size match
1. Line up the jig head with the plastic and note where the hook will come out

2. Insert the hook into the middle of the head of the plastic

Insert the hook into the middle of the ‘head’ of the lure

3. Thread the plastic onto the hook

3. Thread the plastic onto the hook, ensuring it goes through the centre of the plastic

4. Ensure the hook point comes out at the spot you noted when lining them up

4. Ensure the hook comes out where you lined it up at step one

5. Finish threading the lure on.

5. Make sure it’s straight and you’re ready to start fishing!

By this stage you should have a perfectly rigged presentation, ready to catch fish! I hope these basic steps help you build confidence and skills with rigging plastics. They really are a versatile, fun and effective way of catching fish.

In terms of techniques for fishing with them, I have alluded to it above, but generally you want to keep them near the bottom for species like bream, flathead and mulloway. The classic style that has been promoted in millions of fishing DVDs is the old faithful ‘lift and drop’, where you basically wait for the lure to hit the bottom, which will be evidenced by the line going slack, then lifting the rod sharply to cause the lure to take off quickly from the bottom. Then repeat. It really is this simple. An even simpler way to achieve a similar thing is to wait for the lure to sink to the bottom, once again as evidenced by the line going slack, then giving the reel a few quick turns to get the lure to move along the bottom. Then repeat. This is an excellent technique for beginners, as you won’t have to deal with the problem of taking up slack line that the lift and drop technique creates, and in doing so, you’ll be in contact with the lure most of the time. My fiance regularly outfishes me using this technique, even after I blunt her hooks.

One final comment is to think carefully about what the prey items you are trying to copy are doing. Mullet skip along in shallow water, so try varying your retrieve by giving it some erratic, sharp twitches. On cold days, most fish are more sluggish, so try slowing it down. Think about where you would be if you were a cold blooded, opportunistic feeder, and what would be the most efficient and easy way to get a feed. If you start thinking about these things, it won’t matter that you’ve only just started fishing with plastics, because you’ll be outfishing everyone!

If you have questions, please feel free to post a comment or email us at the address found in the ‘About’ section.

Cheers!

Lee, June 2011

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