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Gotta love soft plastics for different species - especially those I pour myself
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11/19/2015 6:07 AM

I started hand pouring soft plastic lures years ago and always thought the lures produced had to be as perfect as those mass produced by companies such as Mr Twister, Zoom and Berkley. But I discovered that wasn't the case after watching a friend catch fish through the ice on a thin, unshaped piece of plastic he had melted down from some old lures and hooked to a jig. He got better with the shapes of his baits but they were still nothing to write home about. The most important lesson learned: fish react to lures with no thought process involved.

All of the beautiful paint jobs, natural looking soft plastics or taste additives (YUM) mean nothing to predator fish. They have amazing senses that detect movement underwater and detection is the first step in catching them. Once you have their attention, it's just a matter of pushing the right buttons to get them to react. The buttons I'm referring to are: lure design and presentation.

Many of us have fished with lures we thought fish thought were a specific prey animal such as a fish, insect or worm. But in order for a fish to recognize a species of animal, it had to have seen it at least a few times. What's more, even if a fish had seen a worm once, it's memory is limited and forgets anything it may have attacked. In lakes with thousands of fish, the great majority have never seen lures much less bit them until you and I put one near enough long enough to get a reaction (presentation).

Those who have caught fish on many lure types have noticed their unique action and vibration (if any) on the retrieve, though a lure doesn't have to vibrate to catch fish.  A fish's lateral line of course detects rattles in crank baits but not as much with soft plastics. But even soft plastic objects barely moving in the water still get their attention and begin the process of irritating a fish to strike. Notice that I didn't say convince a fish of anything. Fish with brains the size of a pea are blank pages and simple conduits connecting senses to muscles. Fish don't say to themselves, 'man that's one fine looking crawdad, think I'll eat it!'  Fish don't think, they react.

Remember when creature baits first came out. They resembled nothing in nature, yet caught fish. No one except one prone to self deception could ever believe fish believe the lures pictured represent crawfish.

You've heard the expression: action speaks louder than words?  Well I've got to believe that a lure's action is what catches fish with lure appearance a close second. I'm not saying that lure profile is insignificant as say when a lure looks similar to a bait fish - in fact, I use the lure pictured  below 95% of the time and always catch fish of different species based on a design that happens to look and move like a fish.

One may be correct in believing fish believe the lure is a fish, but I would rather a different explanation why fish strike it.

Ever have have a fly buzzing around your head, in your face, near your eyes? After about a minute you're just about ready to explode with an irritation-based anger. I doubt fish get angry, but they are provoked by creatures that move a certain way and irritate them into striking - like we do going after a fly. The lure above will catch fish when attached to a light jig suspended under a float. The thin tail's flutter is key. Mr Twister curl tail grubs have caught millions of freshwater fish over many decades for the same reason - a tail flutter that provoked a dumb fish to strike.

Compare that simple action to that of other lures that catch different species: the strobe like blade  of a spinnerbait coupled with a skirt pulsation it produces; the flapper tails on the craw jigs pictured above; the tail wobble of a Senko slowly dropping to the bottom. Lure action is key to any lure's success.

Now when it comes to lure action, some have none unless imparted by you the angler. A lure doesn't have to have moving parts to attract fish to it, but it always needs some sort of action to provoke fish into striking it. A rod twitch or one turn of the reel handle may be all it takes, but that is part of a varied presentation that's crucial to the strike. I've never found a steady retrieve to work for most lures (except lures with blades). And like the fly buzzing around your head, the lure's intermittent display of life has a fish beside itself showing the object who's boss! I get territorial when my creep of a neighbor takes liberties on my property and so maybe do fish. Bullying may be the other reason fish strike - 'I'm bigger and I bite!'

Something to think about beyond what we've take for granted why fish strike lures. Believe what you will, but never discount what your eyes tell you.



Edited by SPOONMINNOW 11/19/2015 6:14 AM
Posted by stuckinthetrees
3/12/2016 3:57 PM
Im not a big arguer or colors or shapes but definitely size and presentation matters to me great post!
3/12/2016 7:06 PM

 I've discovered some key ideas about lure design and effectiveness in getting fish to strike. The lures pictured have no action-tails like that of a Mr. Twister grub or Sassy Shad. In fact, if you notice, the perch was caught on a lure that resembles a bullet. One would think the shape without a tail has no action but it in fact does when worked a certain way and at a certain speed by the angler. When twitched with the rod tip, the body sashays back and forth like a Zara Spook and being made of soft plastic, quivers. A comparison would be the Senko that has rounded ends but just the right amount of action on the vertical drop.

I made more of the same design and have been catching fish since late last year. Panfish have been slamming the rounded tailed lure rigged on a light jig head. Colors have not been a factor since all work!

So, does a lure have to resemble in some way a local forage? Along with the Senko, obviously not. Does a lure have to move the right way at the right speed to provoke  fish to bite? Both factors have to be met equally because lure design dictates presentation and sometimes the number of different presentations that can work is limited.

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The above similar lures worked as well since March 9.
Posted by Softbaitmaker
11/13/2017 12:26 PM
You and I have a lot in common SPOONMINNOW! I also have been making my own hand poured soft baits for about 18 years. Back in the mid to late 80's I began fishing local bass tournaments without to much success at first. All of the big sticks seem to always be taking the money home. I spent some time not competing but observing the local big sticks. Not looking to jump on their fishing spots but to watch how they fished. I watched on team that won most often and they were fishing the same baits anyone could buy in about any bait store so what was their secret I wondered. Then I began watching how they retrieved the baits and that was where the secret was. I tried doing their style of retrieving the same baits but still without success. The I got to spend some time with an angler from Mississippi named Paul Elias that was in town to practice for an up coming BASS tournament and he ask me at the boat ramp if I knew my way around Old Hickory lake and I said yea, pretty much so he invited me to go with him to show him some spots he might catch some fish. I got to spend 2 days fishing with him and he did not do his Kneel N Reel that he was famous for because Old Hickory Lake is not a lake that would work well on. We spent 905 of the time with soft baits. Soft Baits I had never seen in bait stores. He did share some of them with me and he showed me how to move them in the water. It was a great 2 days and we caught a bunch of fish and some large fish. Before he left I asked him where he got all of the baits we fished with. He told me that he was sponsored by Manns bait company and they made all his baits special for him and none of them were seldom offered in bait stores if they did not catch a lot of fish and he didn't plan on using them to compete. So the junk went to stores and the good stuff never did.
I decided right then that I need the good stuff and the only way to get the good stuff was to make it. I spent about 2 weeks looking for things I needed to begin making my baits. In a month I was fishing my secret baits and won my first tournament with them. Just some worms but not the ones sold in stores. Some colors also not sold in stores in worms. By the end of that season of tournaments I had ended up winning 3 and finished in the money in 4 more. That winter I spent critiquing my baits and ordering more and different styles of baits. That next year I won 9 local fairly large events and I think I only finished out of the money about 3 times. I was pretty successful from the late 80's and into the early 90's before I began selling my baits to a few local friends and they began winning a little money and in 1995 I began selling my baits to anyone that wanted them. I only did custom pours and allowed the angles to choose which baits they wanted and the colors they wanted them in. I went from purchasng bait material in gallon jugs to buying it in a 5 gallon pail and but 2000 I was ordering material in 25 gallon quanities and all the different colors and glittlers.
Now to get back to your subject of bait action!!! You are almost totally 100% on when it comes to a baits action. I use a very soft well floating material to make my baits and in most cases they ahve a lot of their own action without much help from the angler. If there is any type of current the baits seem almost alive on their own. I don't know how many folks realize that even wind can create current even down below the surface. If a bait is soft enough it will have it's own action. The Lateral line on a bass can feel the vibration of a worms tail moving as far as maybe 30 to 40 feet away thus telling the bass there may be food nearby and they will begin looking for it. As to what they will do once they find it depends on several factors as you mentioned. bait action, is the fish hungry, is there other bass close by bringing out the competitive nature of the fish to be a factor are just a few reasons for the fish to strike the bait. The one I have always thought drew teh reaction strike is the one where the angler will after leaving the bait lay on the bottom with tails or other appendages moving and the angler makes a quick movement of the bait like it might be starting to flee. Most times that will cause a fast reaction strike.
I quite competing in tournaments about 2014 except for amybe a Benefit Tournament here and there but I stil love fishing and the challenge it provides. Now I compete every time I go fishing but I am competing against the fish and not other anglers. I'm still making baits for my regular anglers that buy from me all the time. I have a few anglers here on this site that have been customers for many years. They told me to mention them and if anyone wanted to PM them they would tell you more about my baits. rusty50576 (Russell) and Rboatless(Randy) have both told me I need to come here and join and offer folks here my baits so here I am.
If anyone is interested in looking at my baits to see if you would be interested in some of them you can PM me here or email me at and I will send you pictures of all the baits I make. Good luck to all and keep your lines wet as often as possible.
Softy aka Doug

Edited by Softbaitmaker 11/13/2017 12:31 PM
11/13/2017 2:56 PM

Wow! Someone who writes as much as I do in a post! But thanks - you're an angler after my own heart that has experienced much, observed and remembered and came to conclusions Bill Dance wouldn't have on his show.

Here's a recent post that agrees with much of what you wrote.

It was an idea I thought of when on the water last week when the bite was real slow until the rain came down and the front started moving in. Crappie, sunfish and perch came out of no where and within three hours I counted 46 fish. Water temp was 56. So when fish started hitting my hand pours / modified soft plastics, I thought - why not before wind and rain? Did the front press the 'hunger button'?  

 As usual I tried two different soft plastic designs  and both worked equally well using a light 1/32 oz jig head. 1/16 oz was too heavy for the slowest retrieve I could make. The hits were hard from all four species (only one bass in deep water), so it couldn't be that they were hitting any lure cast regardless presentation. Most important was that what provoked the strikes was time-in-their-faces /strike zone.

 You mentioned something about anglers letting the lure lay on bottom and then fish reaction 'reflexively' once it move suddenly. There's three parts to the strike IMO:

1. hearing the lure's splash and watching it fall to bottom

2. keeping track of it on bottom ready for it to move (escape?)

3. springing to action like a trigger cocked

 In this case lure action wasn't as essential as a fish watching a lure slowly worked mid-depth, but in both cases object motion and speed were crucial. Did fish 'want' the lures presented two ways? Wanting something implies a choice is required. My thing is that fish are provoked by teasing its senses (lateral line, vision and hearing) in unison and it has no choice once the lure sequence begins. 

 Again, this is my personal opinion that helps me chose lure designs based on lure action, size and color that provoke an attack. Do fish think lures are food? I skip that step and go straight to lure and presentation factors. 

 Experimenting with the hundreds of lures I've made and caught fish on, has given me insights I wouldn't have if I chose lures based on forage. Now, a few colors will do and lure size altered depending on what works best and where. 

Edited by SPOONMINNOW 11/13/2017 3:26 PM
Posted by Softbaitmaker
11/13/2017 3:33 PM
Thanks SPOOKMINNOW and it was an interesting article that pretty much goes along with my view on the topic. I have buddies that like to call me Spock from Star trek because they say I look at fishing far to logically but in doing so made me a very effective angler. I use to have four 50 gallon aquariums set up in my house with bass in them. I had the tanks set up just like a lake would be with weeds, stumps, large rocks and each tank had a different color gravel on the botom. I could get up each morning to go fishing and look at how the bass in each tank was positioned and I would know before I ever went to the lake rather the fish woulnd be biting or if it was going to be a slow day. If the bass was on top of a stump I knew the fish would be feeding and if the bass had their noses stuck to the base of a stump or big rock they were not in a feeding mood and it would be a slow day. Same with the weeds. If the bass were on the weed line they were feeding. If they were tucked under the weeds it would be a slow day. I called that barometer fishing. I would have buddys at the lake ask me what the bass told me they would be doing today and I would just smile at them. I would normally bring in a nice bag of fish cause I would fish the way the fish told me to fish. I made believers out of many of them guys after a short time. I remembered 1 thing Paul Elias told me while we were fishing. He said that on any given day Bass will fall prey to a soft plastic worm more that any other bait on the market so I went with that for many years!!!! Tight Lines to all!!!!

Edited by Softbaitmaker 11/13/2017 3:36 PM
11/14/2017 7:47 AM
We're on the same page as far as lure testing is concerned and applying lures and presentations between waters. There are five bodies of water near me that I fish. Depth that fish are holding is in my book as important as any structure formation such as flats, steep drops, humps, weed beds, etc. I can use soft plastics pretty much anywhere and catch fish. I count skirted jigs in the soft plastic category now that Uncle Josh went out of business and vary plastic jig trailer design depending on jig presentation: swimming it, hoping it on bottom or crashing through heavy weeds.

As Elias believed:
"He said that on any given day Bass will fall prey to a soft plastic worm more that any other bait on the market..."

That's not to say that other baits don't excel in certain circumstances. I'd much rather use a deep dive crankbait for deep water and a spinnerbait to cover water faster (though not much faster than plastics depending on blade size and shape.) But being a traditional hard bait user, poppers, Spooks, Rapalas and spoons with trailers have their moments any time of year and are fun to catch fish on.
But for versatility, I can't beat soft plastics especially rigged on light jigs. Better yet are the incredible amount of designs that catch fish - some most times of the year and that includes a wide range of lure actions.

I was criticized on one forum for being naive when I test my plastics in my pond and wasn't believed - even with photos - that once proven good in the pond, they would certainly work good in the lakes I fish. It's as if they were saying the pond fish were programmed to bite anything whereas lake fish are more selective. (I don't post there anymore due to a certain closed minded mentality).

Edited by SPOONMINNOW 11/14/2017 8:02 AM
Posted by Softbaitmaker
11/14/2017 10:29 AM
Well SPOON, back when I competed I did have at least 10 rods on the deck most days and I did have a spinner bait, Crankbait, Top water of some type, and then 2 Jig rods, and then 5 Soft plastic rods with assorted baits on them. Over the years and as I got older I began to not have as many rods on the deck so for the most part the chase bait rods like Crankers and Blade baits and later on except up certain times top water rods. They were in the rod locker if I need them. I don't and never had a pond to test my baits in but I did have the neighbors swimming pool when I began making a new bait to cast it in the pool to see the action the bait had with current because he had his pool pumps on most of the time which gave me the current I needed. In the clear water I got a very good idea how that bait would look in a lake or river. It was an inground pool that went from 2 feet to 12 feet so I got to test the baits in different water colums also.
I have ran into those same type of people that like to criticize thing I talk about when it comes to my fishing techniques and baits I make and prefer to use but back when I was winning money and bringing big bags of fish to the scales they still would not admit that it was my baits and I didn't argue with them. I think after a while I think that they allowed their vanity or pride get in the way of them ordering baits from me. Some of them came around after I quit fishing tournaments and did finally get some of my baits and several of them still come by and get baits these days.
Now with all I have said, Yea, I do have faith in my baits to catch fish but if you fish my baits like you fish injected store bought baits you will probably catch the same amount of store bought bait fish you always have. If you are interested in seeing pictures of my baits you can email me at
11/14/2017 2:16 PM
Why not post pictures of them here?
I will:

As you can see, unnatural colors and shapes proved themselves and that will never change.
Some are hand poured, some made with the parts of two different baits.

Edited by SPOONMINNOW 11/14/2017 2:35 PM
Posted by rusty50576
11/14/2017 2:38 PM
I have used softbaitmaker (Doug)s baits for a few years and they flat catch fish. My favorite is the paddle tail shad grubs (small swimbaits)
Posted by rusty50576
11/15/2017 7:49 PM
I have also been catching nice smallmouth lately on creature baits in muddy water and am getting Doug to make me some of his beaver style baits and craws so my catch rate is about to go up! I'm guessing that 12-20 ft in stained water it's all about the action
11/16/2017 5:38 AM
"I'm guessing that 12-20 ft in stained water it's all about the action"
Even in stained water that's clear down a few feet, lure action IMO is 90 % of the appeal, the rest being rod tip action.
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