How to rig soft plastic lures
Soft plastic lures are a fishing staple. These lifelike baits are able to imitate a variety of creatures like minnows and insects. With tempting action, they can catch everything from giant muskie to small wild trout.
We sell a wide variety of soft plastic lures ranging from the popular 3" trout worm all the way down to the tiny 5/8" micro nymph. Although these soft plastics come in different sizes and work in various conditions, they can all be rigged in similar ways.
There are countless methods for rigging soft plastics. We will cover the three most common. These also happen to be three of the most effective ways to rig soft plastics. You can be successful in most situations with one of these three rigging styles.
Soft plastics on a jig head
Nearly all soft plastics can be easily rigged onto a jig head. This also happens to be one of our favorite ways to fish! Jig heads add weight and balance to soft plastic lures that make everything from casting to drifting easier.
To rig a soft plastic lure on a jig head, insert the hook point through the tip or face of your lure. Push the point straight through the body of the lure until about 3/4 of the hook is covered. Then work the hook point back out through the side of the lure.
The hook bend and point should be exposed. The straight section of the hook shaft should be fully embedded in the soft plastic lure.
You want the soft plastic lure to sit straight on the hook shaft. If your lure is bent, bunched up or twisted, remove the hook and try again. With practice you can rig your plastic lures straight almost every time.
Jig heads allow you to fish many ways. You can cast a lure out and bring it back in. You can bounce a lure along the bottom. You can suspend a lure under a float and drift or twitch it. There are a lot of possibilities.
Match the jig head to your lure size and situation. Large jig heads cast further but also sink quicker.
Jig heads can be used in most situations. Big soft plastic lures like swim baits can be rigged on large jig heads for fish like northern pike or scaled way down. A small soft plastic insect rigged on a tungsten ice fishing jig like the Marmooska is excellent for panfish.
Straight hooking soft plastics
The next rigging method is also one of the simplest. This is straight hooking. What we mean by this is simply running a hook through a soft plastic lure.
Straight hooking is basically the same as rigging a soft plastic lure on a jig. Except that in this case you are using an unweighted hook.
There are times when you might want to use an unweighted hook instead of a jig. You can also use a regular hook in place of a jig to get a similar presentation. To do that, simply place some weight on your line above the hook. Split shot and tungsten putty works well.
In slow shallow water or when fish are finicky, an unweighted hook will sometimes allow you to catch fish that a jig head would not. Just keep in mind that your lure will act a little differently in the water when the weight is not attached to the hook.
You can also make a weedless rig this way. Insert the hook point through the tip or face of the lure then almost immediately work it back out through the side. Now slide the hook through until the eye touches the front of the lure. Now insert the hook tip back through the side of the lure and just out the other side.
This weedless rigging style keeps the hook point mostly hidden until a fish bites. It will help you avoid snags, though it is not fool proof. Weedless rigging is usually used with Texas and Carolina rigging larger soft plastics, though it does have other applications.
Some hooks work better than others for soft plastics. Baitholder hooks and Raven Specialist hooks are great for straight hooking soft plastics. Gamakatsu offset hooks are best for weedless rigging. Circle hooks and dough bait holder hooks are meant for fishing with bait, so they are not a good match for this type of fishing.
Wacky rigging soft plastics
Last but certainly not least is the wacky rig. Arguably the newest rigging style on the list, wacky rigging may also be the easiest. It involves little more than running a hook through the middle of a soft plastic lure and out the other side. That's it!
What makes a wacky rig special? By hooking the lure through the middle you allow the soft plastic to move freely on both ends. By twitching your rod you can get a lot of action out of a flimsy soft plastic worm this way.
One problem with the wacky rig is that the hook tends to rip through soft plastic lures. All the pressure is put on a single section of the lure. This makes it easier to damage or ruin your soft plastics by pulling too hard or simply catching a fish.
To get around this some anglers put small rubber bands around their soft plastic lures. Then they run their hooks under the band instead of through the bait itself. Another method is to put a small piece of rubber band on the hook after running it through the bait. This can prevent the hook from falling out of the lure.
Wacky worm hooks are made specifically for wacky worm rigging, but they tend to come in larger sizes meant for bass. If you want to wacky rig smaller lures like trout worms try a mosquito hook or even a small jig head.
Many ways to rig
As you can see, there are multiple ways to rig soft plastic lures. That is one reason these lures are so effective in so many different situations.
You can dead drift a soft plastic stonefly to trout in a flowing stream. You can drop a big soft plastic lizard through lily pads to catch bass. You can speed swimbaits past hungry snakehead. Or you can gently twitch mayflies under the ice to catch crappie. Soft plastics are extremely versatile.
Again, this list is not exclusive. There are lots of ways to rig soft plastics including the Ned rig and drop shotting. However most of those rigs use similar methods to what we've mentioned here.
Once you learn how to rig a soft plastic lure on a jig head you will also know how to put together a Ned rig. Straight hooking is a key component of the drop shot rig. Learning these basics will set you up for success with whatever soft plastic fishing rigs you want to use.