With the exception of live bait plastics will put more bass in the boat than all other presentations combined. Most plastics are easy to rig and even novice anglers are able to catch fish after learning a few basic techniques. Over the years while guiding for both smallmouth and largemouth bass plastics have enabled us to catch fish through all kinds of weather conditions. A good plastics man will be able to change there presentation quickly and adapt to the conditions. Often just changing your presentation slightly will trigger more strikes. The secret is to learn how and when to use the proper presentation.
Grubs have been around for a long time and they continue to catch bass with consistency. If I had to pick one bait in my box to catch both smallmouth and largemouth it would be a grub. A seasoned angler can catch bass with grubs regardless of the conditions. At times grubs are the only thing that will work.
Grubs come in many sizes and shapes but when dealing with largemouth and smallmouth bass we are primarily concerned about grubs in the three inch to six inch size. Most grubs I use have a single curly tail but at times double tail grubs and skirted grubs can be effective. Color is also important and will be determined by the prevailing weather and water clarity. There are basic guide lines to follow when choosing grubs but as I have learned over the years that nothing is definite.
I start using grubs as soon as I hit the water when the season opens in early May. At that time we are usually looking at water temperatures in the upper forties to low fifties. I will use three inch grubs in both clear and stained water. In clear and slightly stained water my preferred colors are pumpkin, green pumpkin, watermelon and black. If the water is heavily stained my favorite color is white. Many anglers prefer chartreuse in stained water but I feel white has more contrast and more resembles baitfish.
Cold water can be approached differently in fall than in spring. The size of grub I use is more dictated by the prevailing weather than just the water temperature. Start out with a three inch grub whenever the water temperature is less than 50 degree. If you are catching fish and they are hitting the grub hard then try a larger grub. As the water temperature starts to rise during daylight hours and bass become more active the larger grub can become more productive. But by using the smaller grub you will determine the bit for that day.
In spring I like a three inch curly tail grub with a small tail and thin body. This grub is also an excellent cold front bait. Under stable weather and rising water temperatures I continue to use a three inch grub but choose one with a larger tail and rounded body.
While big smallmouth prefer a small grub in spring I have caught big smallmouth on five inch grubs with the water temperature under 40 degrees in fall.
Tubes have been around for a long time but in recent years they have become the staple many bass anglers since they can be fished both tight to cover and over open water structure. As Great Lakes anglers have learned they are deadly for smallmouth suspended over cover in clear water. Many Southern anglers also Texas rig tubes with wide gap hooks and fish them tight to wood cover on both clear and stained water lakes. Believe me bass are bass and this technique is also deadly in the north.
However all tubes are not the same. The cheap thin walled narrow tubes are not very effective. Better tubes are thicker and salt impregnated and are garlic scented. These tubes will have a slower and more horizontal drop and the tentacles are more enticing. As with grub fishing vary your retrieve and use colors to match water conditions.
Plastic worms have also been around for ages but again recent innovations have made worm fishing a science. Not only are plastic worms softer and more durable than earlier generations but there are plastic worms for fishing weeds, wood cover, deep water and just about any situation an angler can encounter. In cold water choose a strait worm with little if any action. As the water warms choose a worm with more action or vibration. Many bassers will insert rattles into a worm in dark or stained water.
When dealing with cold water or cold frontsplastic worms can be deadly. Worms can be fished on light darter head jigs but I prefer to wacky rig the worm. Wacky rigging is inserting a short shank octopus hook through the center of the worm. With no weight toss the worm tight to cover and let it drop slowly with an almost vertical drop. With fluttering action from both ends of the worm you can trigger a strike for a neutral bass.
Soft plastic jerk baits should be a must for all bass fishermen and have become my secret weapon over the last few years and now have bags full of them in my boat.While many anglers only utilize these baits in spring they are deadly summer and fall. By rigging a jerkbait weedless with a 3/0 or 4/0 wide gap hook and no weight the jerkbait sits horizontal in the water. It is the slow falling horizontal presentation that will trigger any neutral or even inactive bass. Heavily salted jerkbaits can be worked in deep water or over shallow weeds. When pitching around boat docks or shoreline cover in a river I fish the "Wacky Style" with a 2/0 or 3/0 octopus hook or a weedless wide gap hook. Most anglers move these baits to fast but for those with patience to finesse them they will catch bass under the most adverse conditions. Like grubs and tubes match the color to the water.
Wisconsin Fishing Guide, Author, and TV Host