10 inspiring soft lure fishing tips from Steve Starlo

By: Steve Starlo


How to catch more fish with soft plastic lures

A lure is "a lie told by a fisherman to a fish". That witty description neatly describes lure fishing — it’s all about deceiving fish! The more convincing the lie, the better.

Being a successful lure fisher means making your lures look and act in an appealing manner. Notice how I said "appealing" rather than lifelike — for any lie to be believed it must contain at least a few elements of truth and a degree of plausibility. However, sometimes fooling a fish into swallowing a lie has precious little to do with precise imitation.

Most lures are intended to vaguely imitate small fish, prawns, crabs, squid, yabbies, insects or some other potential food item. But it’s obvious that many lures look like nothing that ever lived, yet they still catch fish. Those strange-looking whirligigs known as spinnerbaits are a perfect example. They look bizarre, yet catch fish. Why?

In case you hadn’t noticed, fish don’t have hands. If a fish wants to explore an interesting object it takes it into its mouth and tastes it. Perhaps nine times out of 10, the fish spits it out, having discovered it’s not food but a pebble, a scrap of aluminium foil, a leaf … or a lure. If the interesting object has a hook attached, we may just catch that curious fish. But that’s just a small part of a long puzzle that can take a lifetime to master.

Here are 10 tips that will help you catch more fish with soft plastic lures.


Slow down!

Fish caught on soft lure

Most anglers, even quite experienced lure fishers, still work their soft plastic lures much too quickly on many occasions. These lifelike lures are generally intended to be worked very slowly, with lots of pauses and movements of the rod tip. Give the fish plenty of time to find and eat your lure.


Mix up your technique

Trout caught on soft plastic lure

Don’t use the same retrieve all the time. Try stops and starts, lifts and drops, short spurts of speed, slow crawls, pauses, hops and lifts. Think of yourself as the puppeteer and the lure as the puppet. Attempt to replicate the actions of a small, wounded and vulnerable creature with your soft plastic.


Try adding bait scent

Bait scent

Many soft plastics are pre-scented but aftermarket scents and bite additives are also offered by some manufacturers. These can make a big difference to strike rates! Some were engineered for trout, carp or American bass, but others, such as the famous Squidgies S-Factor (right), were created locally, specifically to target Aussie species, and they work!


Watch that line

Bream biting soft lure

In soft plastic fishing many bites or pick-ups are quite subtle. If they happen during a pause, or while letting your lure sink, you may not feel them at all. Watch the slight belly of line between your rod tip and the water like a hawk and react to even the slightest twitch, tremor or tightening.


Set the hook

Hook set in fish mouth

Unlike hard-bodied lures that are often bristling with exposed hook points, soft plastics typically carry just one hook placed well forward in the lure. When a fish bites or mouths the lure, you need to react by striking firmly to set the hook.


Try using braid

Braided line used to catch fish

Braided and fused gel-spun polyethylene (GSP) main lines are incredibly thin for their strength and have almost no stretch. This equates to longer casts, better contact with your lure and a greatly enhanced "feel" for what’s going on at the business end of your line. Braid is highly effective for lure fishing, but always add a leader of monofilament between main line and lure.


Separate your colours

Bright green soft plastic lure

Don’t mix soft plastics of radically different colours in the same tackle storage compartments, as the darker or brighter colours will eventually bleed into your lighter lures. Also, different brands may react badly with each other, so always store them apart.


Avoid heat and light

Discoloured plastic lure in fish mouth

Many soft plastics can deteriorate over time if exposed to excessive heat, light, volatile chemicals or noxious gasses such as exhaust fumes. Store your collection of soft plastics in sealed bags or closed tackle trays in a cool, dark and dry location.


Match tails to heads

The vast majority of soft plastics are sold as a modular system, with separate tails and jig heads. While there are no hard and fast rules about pairing up these components, always use your common sense. Jig heads and hooks that are much too large or too small for your tails won’t be as effective as well-balanced combinations.


Finesse works

Fish caught on light soft plastic gear

Finer, lighter main lines and longer, thinner, more transparent leaders will noticeably lift your strike rate in almost any fishery you care to name. Always try lighter gear, longer casts and greater "sneakiness" when the going gets tough.


Originally published in August 2015. Why not subscribe to Trade-a-Boat today?


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