There are a number of reasons for anglers to scrutinize and try to improve upon their soft plastic to jig or hook connections. Increasing, the longevity of your soft-plastic baits is not just about saving money; special shapes or colours of baits are often hard to come by and need to be scrupulously managed.
When the bite is red hot, excessive time spent re-baiting or searching for tackle often comes at the expense of fishing time. There’s also the satisfaction that comes from taking measures to reduce the amount of discarded plastic baits entering the environment.
Whatever your reason, here is some advice that may help to keep baits on your hooks longer.
Not all Plastics are Created Equal
Some plastics are softer and inherently less durable than others, a fact further compounded by the addition of salt or metal flake. Super softness is often revered for its enhanced action, but if tails are chronically getting caught on your hook point, baits start sliding off the jig collar, or your tail keeps getting torn apart by smaller fish, the softer plastic might in fact be costing you fish.
Plastics not only differ in density — the actual formulation of the plastic can fundamentally influence its ability to hold to a jig head or hook, or resist damage.
As an extreme comparison, if you were to rig a super soft, heavily salted plastic on a standard jig head, you might be lucky to catch a fish or 2 before it needs some attention. A generic twister tail or grub of the same size and shape is much tougher and would probably last 10 times as long, with much less likelihood of the plastic tail catching on the hook point.
I have found that Trigger-X walleye baits are made with a stronger plastic, making them a challenge to slip up onto a jig collar, but once rigged they are equally hard for a fish to pull off.
By far, the most tear-resistant soft plastics I’ve encountered are made from a material called Elaztech. It can stretch to 10 times its original size without breaking. This material is so unique, special storage and rigging procedures are required. You’re best to store them in original packaging, otherwise they suck the softening agents out of most other types of plastic, while in the process, turning themselves into sticky goo. They’ll also cause your plastic tackle box to warp. Due to its extreme elasticity, it’s almost impossible to slip onto many lead-collared jig heads. In spite of these eccentricities, it has remarkable action in the water, and if you value toughness it’s well worth learning how to use it.
Jig Collars and Keepers Make a Difference
When the first double-barded jig collar came out, which had to be over 20 years ago, I bought a mold and poured hundreds of jigs — many of which are likely still squirreled away somewhere in my tackle room. At that time, it was a huge advancement in improving the ability of a soft plastic to hold onto the jig head.
More modern collar designs have gone even further, with bent wire keepers and coils providing much greater bait-holding ability with virtually no distortion to the profile of the plastic. Some wire keepers hold so well that it’s not possible to remove the bait without tearing the plastic.
Coiled wire keepers hold just as well, but can be removed without destroying the plastic. A common issue with the coiled wire keepers is that they can bend out on the hookset, so it pays to carry extra keepers and experiment with various brands until you find a quality manufacturer.
Glues and Tapes
Gluing your bait to the jig or hook is also a time-tested strategy, with super glue being one of the long-time favourites commonly applied by anglers. Newer gel based glues are equally as effective, but have greatly improved dispensers that provide longer storage and can be applied with a lot less risk of fusing your fingers together.
In addition to holding the bait firmly on the jig head, the same glue can also be used to fix minor tears or holes in your soft plastic baits.
Self-fusing silicone tape also has some interesting bait-saving applications. Found in most major hardware stores, this material sticks to itself even when wet.
When cut into thin strips it can be used to fashion a perfect fitting ring for wacky rigging plastic worms or cinching a soft plastic bait firmly to the collar of a jig head.
Many more applications for this material are certain to be found, as innovative anglers have time to work with it. A fishing-specific product with similar application is called Never-Slip Bait Tape can be found in select stores.
Hook Bends and Keepers
For the worm and tube anglers, there are also a number of innovative options for keeping your bait in place on a worm hook.
Bass Editor Luigi De Rose has long relied on the wire keeper of the Eagle Claw HP hook to hold tubes and tube weights in place while skipping for bass under docks. The Parasite Worm Weight clips offer a comparable keeper design that fits on a wide range of hook shapes.
The Parasite keeper is a simple design, which slides over the hook on a slack line, yet holds the bait tight to the hook once the line is drawn taught.
Other hook manufacturers have similar designs for keeping soft plastics in place.
Conscientious anglers are always looking for ways to up their fish-catching game. With any luck, a few of these innovative refinements may help reduce the time spent messing with baits, and in turn add a few extra casts to your day.