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2014 Buyer’s Guide: Soft plastics

As your mind shifts back to limits and lunkers, you’ll probably want to restock your supplies of go-to tackle, and maybe make a few upgrades that’ll lead to more bass in the boat this season. We want to make sure you see all your options before you pluck that credit card from your billfold. That’s why we made the 2014 rendition of our annual Buyer’s Guide bigger than ever.

As you browse through the selections, which feature gear previewed at the mega-huge 2013 ICAST fishing tackle show last summer, consider what gear can best benefit you and your fishing success.

Then report back to us at about the new products that you’ve most enjoyed using. We just might run your reviews in an upcoming issue of FLW Bass Fishing.

Soft plastics

No category of lure is as flexible as soft-plastic lures – both in action and in use. Not only do soft plastics move freely, even when deadsticked, but the range of their use is limited only by the angler’s imagination.

Most soft plastics can be fished Texas-rigged, Carolina-rigged, wacky style, on a jighead, as a trailer or weightless. You can swim ‘em, burn ‘em or let ‘em fall as you please.

This year, companies are offering even more choices in new shapes, sizes and colors. It’s a good year for soft plastics and for bass fishermen.

Bass Assassin

Bass Assassin has added to its line of Bang Lures with the introduction of the 4 1/2-inch Lit’l Tapper and the 3 1/2-inch Die Dapper.

The Lit’l Tapper is a cross between a soft jerkbait and spade-tail worm. The fat front portion of the body is good for rigging, and the wider tail provides maximum action. A bag of 12 costs $4.75.

The Die Dapper is a smaller swimbait with the same general profile of its big brother. There is a soft, fat midsection and slim wrist and paddletail. It’s a natural for finesse swimbait applications or downsized umbrella rigs. Price – $4.75 for 10. (


Half-pint jars of various Gulp! Lures should appeal to high-volume users. The only new Gulp! product is the 4-inch Swimmow, a soft-plastic jerkbait with a paddletail. The tail adds frantic action to the popular and effective body shape. Price – $6.99.

The PowerBait line has added three shapes: the PowerBait Chigger Quad, a pitching/flipping/rigging bait with tentacles, pinchers and legs enough to make anyone itch just by looking at it the 5 1/2-inch Rib Snake, a stretched ringworm with a bulbous head and small paddletail and the 3 1/2-inch Ripple Shad. $4.99 per pack (number per pack varies).

The Berkley Havoc line has grown by 11 lures designed by Berkley pros to fit specific situations. Included in the line are: the Federale, a 10-inch ribbontail worm the Back Slide, a lure designed to glide away from the angler and under a target such as a dock or laydown the Jerk, a 5-inch twitch bait the 4-inch Beat Shad, a finesse, ribbed paddletail worm the Devil Spear Jr., a 3 1/2-inch spear-tail finesse lure the Flat Dawg, a 5-inch stick bait the Grass Pig Jr., a 3 1/2-inch version of the original the Papa Pit Boss, a 5-inch, oversized flipping lure the Sick Fish Jr. and Papa Sick Fish, 3- and 5 1/2-inch swimbaits, respectively and the Smash Tube. Price – $3.49 per pack. (


There are no new shapes from Yamamoto this year, but there are new sizes in the popular Swimming Senko line (5 1/2 inches and 3 1/2 inches) and the Pro Senko (6 3/4 inches). Price – $7.29 to $7.69.

Yamamoto also debuted two colors – goby and perch – for several of its most popular soft baits. (


The Jackall Darts Hog has finally made it over to the U.S. from Japan, and its versatility is sure to make it popular. It’s poured using high-flotation plastic, making it ideal as a jig trailer or a flipping/pitching lure. The Darts Hog has four arms and a tail that can be split to provide even more action. Price – $4.99 for a package of six. (

The tails have it

Extra action can be a good thing – especially if you’re targeting fish that get turned on by a swimming soft-plastic lure.

It might have been that growing popularity of the umbrella rig in 2013 resulted in a plethora of swimming plastics with built-in action. With or without umbrella rigs, though, the enhanced action appeals to most anglers because it increases the range of possible applications. Whatever the reason, a lot of the new soft-plastic introductions are equipped with paddletails, boot tails or power tails – or whatever you wish to call that thing on the end of the worm or grub that is perpendicular to the main axis of the lure.

While paddletails are part of nearly every swimbait, there are lures made for punching through matted vegetation that also sport them. Even soft jerkbaits and stick baits now come with paddletails.

But that’s a good thing, as sometimes it’s the little extra "oomph" that draws a strike.

Eco Pro

Sometimes less is better, which is the theory behind the Honey Badger Flipping Skirt. It’s a slimmed-down version of the original Punch Skirt. The Flipping Skirt is designed to be used between the sinker and hook of a Texas-rigged flipping rig. Price – $4.99 (


Culprit’s three new twin-tails focus on specific applications. The small DW1 Grub is a finesse lure designed to mimic smaller crawfish. While it might be best as a trailer behind a small jig, it also works well on a simple leadhead. It’s 2 inches long.

The 3-inch DW2 Chunk twin-tail is another finesse trailer. With its flat tails and rectangular body, it will take to swimming like a fish – or the crawfish it’s intended to imitate. Its flat surfaces also help it skip farther.

The 4-inch DW3 Grub is a jig-swimming fisherman’s dream trailer. The large, flat tails and flat surfaces on the top and bottom of the grub provide gliding surfaces, and the bulkier body provides more buoyancy. Price – $3.08. (


The popular YUM Money Minnow had a baby – a 2 1/2-inch fry. The little paddletail swimbait suggests a range of uses, from imitating small baitfish in the spring to a school of the same when used on a YUMbrella rig. Price – $8.99 for eight. (


Lick-Em-Lures has one of those shapes that almost defy description. The Tongue Slapper bears great resemblance to a human tongue, but with a cup in its widest portion. Think of a spoon, and you’ll sort of have the idea.

This lure is simply a large piece of soft plastic, but it can be fished as a pitching lure, skipping lure (where it excels) or even a pseudo crankbait, depending on how it’s rigged. It’s one of those lures that can be rigged in many different ways, and it’s possible that it might create its own category of lure if it catches on by, well, catching bass. To judge its originality and versatility for yourself, watch the video on the company’s website. Price – $5.99 for six. (


Mann’s offers the Three-for-All, a soft-plastic lure that does a good job of imitating a trio of baitfish swimming together. Three shad-style, boot-tail bodies are joined together along a crossbar of Mann’s HardNose plastic that keeps the bodies apart. A jighead is threaded through the center body, so the lure is legal in states where fishermen are allowed only one hook. There are six color combinations in both the 3- and 4-inch sizes. The package contains one rigged lure and two spare bodies. Price – $8.99. (

Strike King

Strike King has a list of additions to its line of soft plastics this year. Leading off is the Rage Tail Cut-R worm, a 6-inch, fat-bodied worm that incorporates an active Rage Tail. The Cut-R worm is a multi-tasker, handling everything from flipping to drop-shotting.

The Rage DB Craw is a Denny Brauer design intended to provide a subtler presentation than the original Rage Craw. It provides a t [truncated for length]