How to

Advanced Soft Plastic Rigs

Using innovative rigs derived from the US largemouth bass fishery can pay dividends in our local waters. KEVIN SAVVAS reports on a few nifty rigs you really should try.

I RECENTLY returned from a holiday to the US. While there I had a good look at the way the Yanks go about their fishing. I didn’t get to actually wet a line but I did rummage through some fishing stores and watched a few locals dangling baits off a wharf. While on face value this seems a little light for any sort of productive analysis, I did get an insight into the local angling methodology. The Yanks are a weird bunch and their fish eat a wide array of lures. My gut instinct was telling me many of the contraptions hanging on their shelves wouldn’t be too successful on our local fish, but I’m sure they said that about Mister Twisters 30 years ago.

While I stocked up big time on lures our local wholesalers wouldn’t dare take a risk on, it was the specialist rigs that really caught my interest. To some degree I’m a creature of habit. While I’m a self-proclaimed soft plastic tragic, I tend to stick with techniques that produce results. In my case it’s the standard jighead/soft plastic routine that is favoured by most anglers in this country. I can see why, too. The rig is versatile, extremely effective and easy to tie.

However, it does have its limitations.
While I’m not breaking any new ground here, rigs such as the Texas Rig, Carolina Rig and Floater Rigs are heavily used stateside. While they have received moderate publicity here, I thought it a good time to re-emphasise their effectiveness. I’m still enthralled at the prominence the Yanks place on specialist rigs. This has encouraged me to spend more time mastering these presentations. I do use them, but further discovery spurred on by this recent trip showed me there are many facets to these rigs that I was missing out on. I have also been working on another sneaky rig we call the Twin Rig. It’s a deadly combination of those mentioned above.

Like any new endeavour, once the subtlety of the technique is learned great results are never far away. So here’s an in-depth refresher for those who have used these rigs before, but also a great beginner’s course for those of you wanting to try something new. I would term these “advanced” soft plastics rigs that really open up new ways to target our local species in hard-to-fish locations.

Texas Rig

The Texas Rig is probably the most commonly used rig to fish softbaits in the US. A Texas-rigged plastic worm has accounted for more wins on the B.A.S.S tour than any other combination to date.

The basic set up for the Texas Rig is very simple. It involves a bullet shaped sinker that runs freely down to your hook and a soft plastic lure – that’s it. Depending on the depth of water you fish, the sinker weight can be adjusted to suit the conditions. The bullet shape helps in sliding over obstacles and through vegetation so make sure you get adventurous with this rig as it can be put in places other lures will never come back from. You can add a bit more “bling” to your set up by incorporating a glass or plastic bead to add a clicking noise to your retrieve.

Typically, a Texas Rig involves rigging the plastic up weedless, as this is the primary use in the US fishery. Although I have rigged it this way, I also find it successful to rig it with standard Aberdeen hooks showing an exposed hook point. While you can’t fish dense weeds effectively with an exposed hook, this type of work only accounts for a small part of my fishing attention.

For those of you who have a desire to fish weeded areas thoroughly, a weedless hook such as the Gamakatsu 744 is perfect for the rig. If you Google it there are many videos to show you how to rig one up. One point to remember if you’re rigging weedless is to set the hook properly. For those of you who have watched Yanks fishing in tournaments this is the reason why they strike so damn hard. They need to push the hook through the plastic as well as into a fish’s mouth.
Fishing soft plastics on a Texas Rig is fairly easy. The biggest problem I see is that most people cast too far. Also, they don’t hold their rod in a position to maximise bite detection. As a result, they often miss strikes. To avoid these pitfalls make short, manageable casts to structure or cover. The only time you need to make long casts is in ultra clear water when there’s little or no wind. Make sure you are casting to something. The Texas Rig is not meant to be used as search bait, instead you should cast it to a specific target.

Once the lure hits the water, allow the rig to have “controlled slack”. What I mean by this is that you want the bait to fall as vertically as possible, yet still have contact with the lure. It’s also a good idea to pick a spot out on the line and to watch it for any jumps or ticks. Fish will most often hit a Texas rig on the drop. As the lure falls, keep your rod tip at roughly 30 degrees. When you feel the rig hit the bottom, let it rest for a second. Then slowly lift the rod to a near vertical position and wait for the rig to settle back on the bottom. Once this has happened, reel in the slack line as you drop the rod to the 30-degree position again. Don’t make the mistake of reeling in the slack while the lure is falling – you’ll miss strikes. Continue this retrieve until you are past the cover/structure you’re fishing.

Another technique is called ‘”rip worming” by the Yanks, or “whipping” to us Aussies. It can turn shut-down fish into aggressive fish. With the premise that fish hit a Texas Rig as it falls, it makes sense to use a retrieve that optimises sinking time and uses fast motions to create reaction strikes. To do this, cast out and let the lure sink to the bottom, allowing it sit a few seconds. Instead of just lightly pulling your rod to 30 degrees snap your wrists so that the lure jumps off the bottom. You want the lure to jump about 3-4 feet then flutter back down.

On our local fish the most successful lures for Texas rigging have been long grub style plastics and worms such as the 6” Gulp Sandworm and 100mm Squidgy Wrigglers. Any lure that has a bit of length and swimming action will work fine.

Carolina Rig

The Carolina Rig is probably not as well known as the Texas Rig but is equally deadly. The main difference between the two is the Carolina Rig has a running sinker, usually the same anti-snagging bullet shape as the Texas Rig, down to a swivel. The swivel is attached to a leader of varying lengths tied to a weightless hook.

The major benefit of rigging up a plastic in this fashion as opposed to a Texas Rig where the sinker slides down to the hook and indeed a standard jighead set up is the ultra realistic presentation. The lure’s action is not impeded by unnatural weight. The lure flutters around tethered to the leader. This is especially beneficial on timid or shut-down fish. By utilising this rig you can upscale the weight so the rig can be cast further and used in deeper water. The rig sinks fast without compromising finesse which makes for reliable bottom contact so you can comb the water quickly. In fact, the best attribute of the rig is the ability to feel what’s on the bottom and draw a picture in your mind’s eye. This can be beneficial for those without sounders on their boat or anglers casting from shore. It’s also fairly snag resistant when used properly and can be pulled out of heavy cover.

There are two primary retrieves when Carolina Rig fishing. First, the rig is “dragged” across the bottom. By drag, I mean it is pulled a few feet with your rod and slack is reeled up before again dragging the rig forward. A bite often feels like additional weight. Should you detect anything unnatural – just strike. Dragging is best when fishing relatively uncluttered terrain.
Secondly, the rig can be retrieved by a standard lift-and-drop action which will cause the lure to slowly drift back to the bottom. Remember, many strikes occur as a lure drops. This is a good technique if you’re fishing reef or snaggy areas.
Once again, the best lures are those with some form of built-in action such as worms, grubs or shads that swim with minimal movement. If you’re employing a more vigorous retrieve you can switch to a jerkbait-style plastic with good effect.

Floater Rig

I don’t use the Floater Rig as much as the other rigs mentioned here. I usually fish water with some depth to it so weighted presentations are usually needed. It has produced fish, though, and is definitely worth a mention.

The Floater Rig is basically an unweighted presentation that traditionally employs the use of a swivel. I guess the swivel to some degree adds a little weight but can be left out if so desired. However you will need to employ a leader if you are using braided line. The reason for no weight is to allow as much buoyancy as possible and as such the rig is designed to be used with neutrally buoyant lures. By employing a heavier plastic you can achieve a good sink rate if that is desired.
If this rig is used with a weedless hook it’s the most effective presentation you can use in tiger country. Even though the Texas and Carolina Rigs are decent snag resistors they do get hung up occasionally – heavy cover is where the Floater Rig can be employed best.

Twin Rig

The Twin Rig is actually a combination of the Carolina Rig and a standard Jighead Rig. It was actually my grandfather who began using it to increase his chances of hooking more fish. It materialised from the twin hook whiting rig he uses off the beach. He uses the rig, not to see if two plastics can entice a fish to strike, but whether he could actually hook two fish at once. Obviously he’s from the old school where catching his bag limit is the highest importance. Nonetheless the rig works great. While I have yet to see him catch two fish at once, the rig has some inherit benefits that can be used in a wide range of areas.

The rig once again is quite simple. The main line is tied to a swivel where two leaders of different lengths are attached to jigheads. We usually use a short leader of 20cms and a longer leader of 60cms. By utilising this method, lighter weights can be employed as the aggregate weight of the two jigheads combine to give good sink rates but are individually light enough to give good natural action to the lure. By having two different lengths of leaders one rig will be suspended off the bottom at all times varying up the presentation further. Some days the suspended lure catches more fish; other days the long leader produces the goods.

The rig also gives good flexibility as two different styles of jigheads can be used at once, such as round heads and finesse heads, as well as different plastics suited to those styles of heads. By hedging your bets you can determine which plastics are working better on the day. Early evidence suggest the long leader is better suited to round heads and the short leader to finesse heads as this seems to resist tangling the most. Two finesse heads can be a problem when ripping the lures back. Using two round heads seems to pose no problem at all.

One point to note in rigging is the way we attach the leaders. The short leader is attached to the eyelet on the swivel where the mainline is attached. The longer leader is attached to the eyelet below. This resists tangling even further.
So there you have it. Some advanced soft plastic rigs to really give you something to think about. Y’all come back now, ya hear!

What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.