Soft stick baits have been one of my top producing baits for at least ten years, and I know I am not alone in saying that! They catch big bass in a wide variety of situations due to their incredible action and seemingly countless rigging options. Out of water, this boring stick of plastic doesn’t look like much, but when wet, it becomes irresistible to bass. The skinny end of the stick quivers as it falls horizontally, and boy does it drive fish crazy.
The most common presentation and most universal application is the weightless texas rig. This rig simply involves a 3/0 to 5/0 offset wide gap hook, dependent upon the length of the stick bait. I prefer heavy duty
hooks, especially when fished on braided line. A few great hooks that hold up to serious hooksets and braided line are Trokar, Excalibur TX3, Gamakatsu Superline, and Owner. This is a simple bait to rig and fish, making it ideal for anglers of all skill levels. Rigging begins by inserting the point of the hook into the top of the bait, right in the center of the thick end. Push the hook point through the middle of the bait, approximately 1/2”, and pop the hook through the side. Then slide the bait up to the top of the hook and over the knot. The offset hook has a hard bend towards the top, and the bait will rest on the ledge created by this bend. As the hook hangs next
to the bait, notice where the bottom of the hook lays. Now, stick the hook point straight through the bait, exactly where the bottom of the hook was hanging. If it isn’t hanging perfectly straight, the bait won’t achieve its best
action, and will also create line twisting. If your bait isn’t hanging straight, back the hook out, and stick it through at a point which will allow it to hang straight.
If you are fishing in and amongst vegetation, you will want to “skin hook” the bait, which involves pushing the bait towards your line, and slightly burying the hook in the skin of the bait. This will make it weedless, but still allow for a solid hookset. This presentation is ideal for fishing inside weed lines, trees, docks, sand-holes, and clumps of weeds, to name a few.
A dynamite way to fish this bait is by making a long cast, letting the bait sit for five to twenty seconds, giving it a couple slight pulls or twitches, and letting it sit again. This is a slow and subtle presentation, but extremely effective when you are confident that fish are in the area. An excellent two-time approach begins by throwing horizontal baits (spinnerbaits, crankbaits, rattlebaits, swimbaits, etc.) until you locate aggressive fish. Continue catching as many fish as possible on the horizontal baits, and when that slows, switch over to a soft stick bait. The subtle action will catch the less aggressive fish, and often the big ones that are sitting tighter to cover. This is an effective and efficient method to catch fish all year long.
It is crucial to be very attentive when fishing soft stick baits, as bass have a tendency to quickly swallow them. If a bite isn’t detected quickly, bass will often swallow the bait, which can potentially harm the fish. If this does occur, be sure to cut the line as close to the eye of the hook as possible and quickly release the fish. The hook will rust out and the fish’s odds of recovering are much higher than if the hook is pulled at or yanked out. I have caught numerous bass with hooks deep in their mouth, and they seem to be healthy and feeding normally. After seeing it first hand and reading various reputable studies on this, I believe this is the best way to handle a deeply hooked fish.