Whether your favorite quarry is crappies, walleyes, bass or bluegills, there’s never been a better time to kick the live bait habit. Artificial softbaits for these species and more have advanced light years ahead of offerings of old.
Walk into any tackle shop worth its salt and you’ll find a mind-numbing array of options to fit most any fishing situations. In fact, if there is a downside to the soft-plastic profusion, it’s that the sheer number of choices can be a bit overwhelming.
So let’s keep it simple.
Just last week I was kicking the subject around with bass fiends Scott Suggs and Justin Lucas. Both rely heavily on softbaits while competing on the pro tours, and were quick to offer handy pointers.
Since both are Berkley pros, we’ll keep the tips in the PowerBait, Gulp! and Havoc families, but the advice applies to other scented softies such as Trigger X, and unique meat-based products like Uncle Josh’s new Pork series.
“Baits infused with scent and flavor, like Berkley PowerBait, make bass and other fish hang on longer than non-scented softbaits,” said Suggs. “I use them a lot, especially on heavily pressured lakes, and whenever bass are just pecking at the bait.” Lucas concurred, noting that scent-impregnated PowerBait products are key for finicky fish.
PowerBait-style products don’t ooze their juice, so they’re ideal in active presentations, when you’re not relying on scent to attract fish to the bait. Berkley Gulp! typifies another critical bait category—scent dispersers. Such baits are great for slow-moving presentations, where the attractants have a chance to flood the strike zone and lure fish in for a closer look.
“Gulp! is deadly for drop-shotting smallmouths,” said Lucas, who always has a drop-shot rod on deck and bag of Gulp! Leeches in his pocket when throwing topwaters and other bronzeback baits.
Unscented softbaits such as Berkley Havoc, meanwhile, shine when custom colors, shapes and actions are in play for fish feeding by sight and lateral line. Both Suggs and Lucas are particularly fond of such baits in clear water.
While these examples focus on bass, they hold water for other species as well. Whether you’re dipping jigs for panfish or trolling spinner rigs for trophy walleyes, there’s an artificial softbait somewhere than can help you catch more fish, without the hassle of live bait.