Soft Bait Retrieve Methods
Softbaits can be broken down into 2 categories:
- Top-Water: Top-water softbaits are typically eel tail softbaits rigged with unweighted or lightly weighted swimbait hooks and soft circle hooks.
- Sub-Surface: Sub-surface softbaits are typically rigged on jig heads or have the weights and hooks molded into the lure.
Top Water: Unweighted and Lightly Waited Softbaits
In my opinion, unweighted eel tail style softbaits have the sexiest action of all lures on the market, making them far worth the effort of extra time spent rigging and the challenges of casting in the wind. Due to their long, slender nature, eel tails are the best-suited for top-water, lightly-weighted style fishing.
Unweighted and lightly weighted softbaits will respond to any movement imparted by the angler, even the subtlest of twitches. A lightly weighted softbait will even have movement on it’s own while drifting in the current.
The long, flexible nature of soft plastic paired with light rigging makes this rig difficult to cast in the wind and achieve great distances.
- Hogy Original Series: At Hogy, we specifically designed this series for use with our weighted and unweighted swimbait hooks. The Hogy Original has a hook-slot on the belly to accommodate a faster, more secure hook up. The plastic has a special blend for maximum flexibility while still maintaining toughness.
- Hogy Swimbait Hooks: We use the strongest and the sharpest hooks on the market. Hogy Swimbait Hooks are available, weighted and unweighted, and sizes correlate to the length of the soft bait.
- 1. Twitch, Pause, “Walk The Dog”: The “Walk the Dog” style retrieve is your go-to method for just about any situation. You want to fish an unweighted, or lightly weighted, softbait on a swimbait hook. You can keep your retrieve steady or you can impart a series of pauses. This is a great retrieve technique at just about all retrieve speeds.
Rod position: Tip Pointed Toward the water
- Cast out and collect your line before retrieving.
- Point tip of rod toward the water
- Impart a short twitching motion with a medium reel retrieve speed.
- 2. Slow and Slow: Slow and low is a good retrieve for structure in relatively shallow water where you may what to focus on all levels of the water column, including in or around the structure at hand.
Rod position: Tip pointed towards the water
- Cast out, let the bait sink for any amount of time.
- Start with a couple short crank and impart a few twitches.
- Pause, and let bait to sink again.
- 3. Tip-In and Burn “Fast and Furious”: This is a great technique to draw a reaction strike. The bait will be ripping through the water just below the surface with the occasional surface break. This is a useful technique when there are fish visible in the area that are not committing to a strike.
Rod position: Tip in the water.
- Cast up tide.
- Collect your line so you have control and feel.
- Slowly reel, if necessary, to manage slack in the line. Meanwhile, your softbait will be flexing in the current, imitating a dead or wounded baitfish getting swept down-tide.
- A pick up will be a subtle tap, be ready to set the hook. A striper will spit the bait out as fast as it inhales it.
- Hybrid Cast: This is a cast where you switch between the three primary softbait techniques (listed above). This is a great technique when you are blind casting in an area where you know a fish is more than likely hiding out.
- Hatch Dead Drift: The dead drift technique is suited for moving water in a channel or over structure. In this situation, you are going to cast up-tide and let your soft bait drift down-tide, leaving all the action to the fluidity of big soft bait drifting through the water. This is a great technique to use during a worm hatch.
Rod position: Parallel to the water.
Steps: See above steps, repeat.
Subsurface: Weighted Soft Baits
Weighted softbaits are fished very similarly to bucktail jigs in that you are likely in a tip-up position and the presentation is up and down over the trajectory of the retrieve. Weighted softbaits typically fall into two categories:
- Paddle Tail: A paddle tail will sink slower and have more action on a steady retrieve.
- Eel Tail: An eel tail will sink faster, but require more rod action to make it look “alive.”
Hogy Pro Tails: Hogy Pro Tail Series are also offered in eel and paddle tail versions. There is no rigging involved with the Pro Tail series which is a huge time saver, especially when the fishing is hot and heavy. Hogy Pro Tails are designed to catch trophy class fish, including tuna to 250lbs on our models with 8/0 hooks and larger. The Hogy Pro series has UV pigmentation and made with extremely durable plastic and will hold up to multiple stripers but once it is worn out it is done. Sizes range from 4.25” to 9” and weights to 5oz. The Hogy Pro Tail is fished exactly the same way as a traditional jig head rigged softbait and the most popular colors are the same as the Hogy HDUV Jiggin Tail series: Olive, white and pink.
Weighted Paddle-Tail Soft Baits
- Steady Retrieve: It’s easy to over analyze this retrieve. The beauty of a paddle tail bait is that you can simply cast and reel. The paddle will vibrate, thereby calling in fish with its rapid motion and underwater vibration. It’s as easy as that, which is why they are perhaps the most popular form of soft plastic in saltwater. One mistake anglers make with these lures is to use the same retrieve speed at all times; vary your retrieve speed to “crack the code”and find which is most effective.
- Reel – Pause: The “Reel-Pause” method is the most versatile retrieve for fishing with paddle tail softbaits. This method works both at high speeds and slow. When the lure is at “cruising” speed, the paddle’s vibration will be calling the fish in. The pause is built into allow a little time for the predator to catch up, but not so much such that it will spook the fish. Often it’s when the lure’s speed picks back up is often when you’ll get the strike.
Rod Position: Horizontal and tip up positioning.
- Cast out and collect your line before retrieving.
- Find comfortable rod placement.
- Start reeling, change speed to find the most attractive one.
- Insert pauses
- Randomly when “searching” or blind casting.
- When fish is visibly following the lure, use short pauses since it is generally unnatural for a baitfish to stop its forward movement when it is being pushed.
Weighted Eel-Tail Soft Baits
You have more versatility will eel tail softbaits than you do paddle tails. An eel tail softbait likes to dance with the rod action and will come alive in the hands of an experienced angler. The eel tail has less drag, making it easier to get down to greater depths in situations such as deep, open water or in an inlet or channel with heavy currents. Eel tail softbaits are great imitators of sand eels, but larger versions are underestimated as imitators for herring, mackerel and pogies.
- Steady Retrieve: This is an o.k. and often a desired action. While the tip of the tail will still dance, an eel tail’s action is far more subtle than a paddle tail and looks more like a stick on a steady retrieve.
Rod Position: Horizontal and tip up
- Twitch and Reel: The “twitch and reel” is the most popular retrieve for eel-tail softbaits. You could argue that this retrieve resembles a jigging motion in that you are imparting short snappy twitches to the lure as your retrieve, putting a very active motion through out the entire softbait.
Rod Position: Tip up.
- Bottom Bouncing: An eel tail has less drag than a paddle tail when the lure is sinking on a drop, making it a very good candidate to bounce along the bottom, much the same as you would a bucktail jig. Other than letting it sink to the bottom, the retrieve method is exactly the same as the twitch and real but perhaps at slower speeds.
Rod Position: Tip up.