All About Soft Jerkbaits and Stickbaits
article by Kenny Covington
This may be hard for people to believe, but in 1985 there was no such thing as a soft plastic jerkbait or stickbait. There wasn’t a Zoom Fluke or a Yamamoto Senko. No one knew about dead sticking or wacky rigging. These were unheard methods to catch bass. But it didn’t take the bass fishing world long to take notice.
When the first soft plastic jerkbait, the Slug-Go, was introduced in the late 1980s, being young and already quite set in my ways, I swore I wouldn’t throw it. I had heard about it and had even been given a couple of packs at a tournament, but I considered them to be a gimmick, so I wasn’t jumping on the bandwagon.
My uncle was fishing this new lake at the time called Caney and was catching bass after bass on a Slug-Go copycat he was making at his house. By using a new lure and his own color creations, he was catching fish that were not conditioned to seeing something brand new, so it made fishing fun and catching them quite easy. Now, close to 30 years later, even though many fishermen catch fish on these soft plastics, because the fish are more pressured and smarter, today’s fishermen are tweaking and finding more and more ways to effectively use them.
The advantage of the Slug-Go is its unique design as well as the profile and weight of the lure. Diving jerkbaits, such as Smithwick’s Rogue, were effective fish catchers, because the lip of the lure created an erratic action once it was jerked under the water. The idea behind the bait was to create a soft plastic lure that would get the same results as the hard jerkbait. With the Slug-Go, the fisherman could incorporate the action but yet the lure would respond erratically causing the fish to strike out of impulse and instinct.
Over a period of years the Slug-Go slowly began to fall by the way side, being replaced by another soft jerkbait called a Zoom Super Fluke. The Super Fluke is by far and away the most popular choice among soft jerkbait enthusiasts in our part of the country, and it is hard to argue the baits effectiveness. It is one of the few soft plastic jerkbaits that catches just as many fish as it seductively falls vertically through the water column as it does being worked horizontally near the surface.
It was only when Gary Yamamoto introduced the fishing world to the Senko did fishermen realize that sometimes the best way to work a bait is to let the bait work itself. Designed after the tracings of a ball point pen the Senko was probably the one bait responsible for the “dead sticking” technique.
One thing fishermen need to guard against when using a Senko is overworking the lure. The Senko’s built in shimmering fall means that very little action is needed to be imparted by the fishermen for the lure to be effective. This is where the “dead sticking” term comes from. Allow the lure to work for you, and the results will speak for themselves.
One reason why these lures are so popular is that the fisherman can use each one and change very little about the tackle needed. Your rod of choice should be a 6 ½ to 7 foot medium heavy action in either casting or spinning, both are good choices. You want the rod to be heavy enough to set the hook on longer casts but to also handle larger size fish that each technique is capable of producing.
Two of the most overlooked aspects of fishing soft plastic jerkbaits and stickbaits are the choices of line as well as the size and style of hook needed. The best all round size line is a 15 lb test. Many fishermen prefer fluorocarbon because of its sinking qualities but I can’t honestly say it generates more strikes. Line choice is generally the fisherman’s preference, just make sure you use a quality one.
The size and style of hook is open to more debate than any other aspect of this type of fishing. Many fishermen like the EWG style of hooks while some argue the offset styles are more effective. Neither are wrong, but make sure the hook you choose is capable of handling the size plastic being used. For instance ,on a Slug-Go you can use up to a 5/0 size hook, where as in a Zoom Super Fluke you may be more effective using a 3/0 hook of the same style and brand. The only constant I have found is that when using a Senko a 4/0 offset thin wire wide gap hook seems to be the best choice.
As with most lure choices, the best color is usually determined by the angler’s confidence. Slug-Go colors in Arkansas Shiner and Black/gold seemed to be the better choices here in our area. When it comes to Senko’s and Flukes, the standard shades of watermelon or green pumpkin, as well as junebug, are always good choices, but don’t be afraid to experiment. It might just pay off on the fish of a lifetime!
I sure hope we were able to give you some tips that will help fill your livewell this month. As always, please be careful on the water and catch one for me. See you next month!