Growing up the son of a trout fishing machine, my classroom outside of school was located somewhere on the Louisiana Delta. Weekend after weekend, I’d garner first-hand knowledge of how to target our favorite quarry while wearing out the route down LA23. During each of those trips, my dad not only taught me how to read the water and choose the correct presentation, but seared into my memory of “visualizing where my bait was and what it was doing.” In this 4-part series of articles, I’d like to bring my dad’s train of thought to life. From sink rate analysis to underwater video profiles – the goal is to give you a better understanding of what’s going on below the surface with various techniques.
In this first article, I’d like to focus on jigs paired with Soft Plastics. If you’re a follower of the page you may remember my recent article Jig Head Selection and Soft Plastic Profiles. In that piece, I elaborated on how jig head styles paired with certain profile baits can bring out unique qualities of the soft plastic. Taking it one step further, I’d like to focus on sink rate and descent profile and see those qualities in action and how they may differ from profile and brand.
What this article will not do is delineate one supreme bait that everyone needs to buy. Instead, it’s to equip you with the knowledge of a bait, or brand, before you take it out of the package. Let’s face it, all soft plastics catch fish, but they don’t catch fish all the time – knowing when to throw a certain bait is half the battle. So without further delay, let’s begin.
COVERING IT ALL
In these reviews, I’ll cover sink rate, sink profile and give some general observations from the aforementioned and the underwater footage.
The 7 soft plastics I chose are:
- Matrix Shad
- Egret Bayou Chub
- Down South Lure (DSL) Southern Shad
- KWiggler Ball Tail Shad (BTS)
- Gambler 6” Flap’N Shad
- Cajun Lure T-John
- Capt Lane’s Ghost Minnow
I chose these to get a good mix of length and body type. Also, before someone asks, salt was added to the water and the water temperature was 75 degrees. Additionally no current was added to the tank, and completely understand tide and wind could impact the performance from the information gathered.
To determine Sink rate, I timed the descent from surface to bottom using individual videos from 5 different attempts. I did this separately so I could focus on each task individually (i.e dropping the bait and timing the descent). To keep it controlled, I used a 1/16oz Death Grip Jighead on each soft plastic. The idea was to see if there was a noticeable difference in descent time.
For Sink Profile, I tried to capture in slow motion video, any nuances a bait displayed upon descent. Video’s of this are added below.
Again, this first article of the series will focus on soft plastics paired with jig heads, but series 2-4 will be Paul Brown Products (Fat Boys, Original Corkies, Devils and Soft Dines), Hard Plastic Suspend Baits (Yo-Zuri, MirrOlure and Unfair) and finally Soft Plastics paired with leadbelly swimbait jigs.
Contour, Depth and Texture are paramount for us as anglers. Individually they harbor certain qualities but together they determine our success. Texture is pretty easy. From oysters, sand, mud and grass -knowing what you’re fishing is invaluable. This can dictate type of retrieve as well as your cadence for whatever technique you choose.
Contour and Depth, on the other hand, typically complement each other. Contour is specific to bottom angulations like Drop offs, Flats or extending points. While depth dictates the amount of water over that specific geographical feature. Understanding this can optimize your presentation selection, which will maximize your baits time in the strike zone. This is why sink rate is so important.
Below is a list of the sink rates for each soft plastic I chose to test.
As you can see by the results, the Ghost Minnow by far had the quickest descent through the water column. To me, that was no surprise mainly because of the body profile. Darter style baits like that of the Ghost Minnow and the Cajun Lure are designed to allow you to fish deeper despite going lighter in jig head weight. That was the initial thought going into the study and as it turns out the numbers didn’t lie.
One surprise that stood out to me was the KWiggler and the Down South Lure (DSL). Initially, I thought those numbers would’ve been inverted (KWiggler being faster than the DSL) but as you can see DSL was a shade behind the Darter Profiles.
Another surprise was how different the 2 paddle tail style soft plastics varied in sink rate. The Matrix shad was much faster than the Bayou Chub, and the only thing I can attribute that to was the descent profile. The Bayou Chub didn’t have as tight of descent like the Matrix Shad. More on that below…
For this particular section, I’ll let the videos do the majority of the talking. At the end I’ll offer some observations but I must say watching a bait twitch and fall in slow motion is beyond addicting. Enjoy!
As you can see the Matrix shad has excellent action on the rise vice the descent. Also notice how compact the bait stays when it drops. To me this video clearly shows why this is such a versatile jig, and why people are productive fishing it in 2 to 20’ of water.
Egret Bayou Chub
Like the Matrix shad, the Bayou Chub has great action on the rise, but on the descent you can see why it falls slower through the water column. After twitching it up, the soft plastic is so thin and pliable that the bait literally folds before it makes its descent. As a result of that pliability, it does offer more action than the matrix shad on the descent.
Down South Lure
Michael Bosse, the owner of Down South Lures, hashtags “swims on the fall” on all of his social media posts and after watching this bait in slow motion, it clearly #swimsonthefall. Not only that, it has a great descent rate, medium profile and superb action. Needless to say I can see why it’s littering the Speckled Truth Dirty 30 Citation List.
The biggest thing that stood out to me with the KWiggler was how it fell through the water column. Twitched like all the other baits on the list, not once did it fall in the same predictable manner. Instead, it sometimes fell nose first, tail first and even glided side to side. To me, it’s clearly not a deepwater bait, especially with the slowest descent time. Having said that, if your fishing shallow flats looking for an unpredictable horizontal descent, the KWiggler BTS will provide that capability.
Gambler Flap’N Shad
A freshwater bait in most saltwater anglers wade boxes its clear to see why this bait produces. The bait has great action both on the rise and the fall, but it’s distinctly better on the rise. The tail sweeps so much while it ascends, but on impact with the bottom, the pliability offers continued action. It also fell in a predictable manner and had a pretty solid sink rate despite being a 6” soft plastic.
Cajun Lure T-John
One thing that stood out to me with the T-John was how much action it had while the bait was being twitched. For such a short, stout bait, the plastic is still pretty pliable and affords not only the desired darting action but secondary action as well.
Capt Lane’s Ghost Minnow
Besides being the fastest on the sink rate chart. It also topped the descent profile by having the least action. Not to say that’s a bad thing, it’s just something to consider while working this bait. Don’t expect secondary action, instead work it with intent to get a reaction strike from deepwater trout.
To start, I’m a trout geek. I truly enjoy these studies and learning as much as I can about all facets of this trout fishing game. Having said that, I confirmed a couple of things statistically, like darter profiles having a faster sink rate and KWiggler’s wanting to stay horizontal on the descent. On the other hand, I learned a tremendous amount about how soft plastics respond in the water. One surprise was how tight the Matrix shad stayed on the rise and fall despite having such a big paddle tail. Another was the exaggerated flutter of the Gambler while ascending and on impact after the fall. However, my greatest take away was how much action the DSL packed on the rise and the fall in such a short amount of time (sink rate). In other words, if I’m fishing a knee deep flat I know that I can optimize the action of my offering by throwing a DSL. It not only will allow you to cover water, but the bait will kick from the second it hits the water till the time you pick it up for the next cast. In a similar sense, there are times when it can have too much action. This can be especially true when throwing to wary fish - just something to keep in mind.
CLOSING IT OUT
As stated in the introduction, there is no magic soft plastic. Instead I encourage you to focus on the unique qualities each bait/profile offers and study when and where those qualities will be effective. So until Entry 2 of the series, keep plugging and keep learning – consistency awaits.
Tight lines and God Bless!