How to Store Soft Plastic Baits: Expert Tips to Avoid Problems

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Keeping your tackle and bait organized is important. Not only does it ensure that all of your gear is handy the next time you want to head out onto the lake for some fishing, but it also helps prevent damage and keeps your hooks sharp between uses. For soft plastics, having them dry out and start to crack is a serious issue, especially if you only take to the water once or twice a year.

One of the biggest complaints soft bait anglers have is that their soft plastic baits will sometimes stick to other baits and lures if they are tossed into one big bag or one box, which can potentially damage the soft plastic baits when it’s being separated. There are a variety of ways for storing soft plastics so they last for a long time and remain in top condition. Let’s go over some methods here.

Option 1: Store soft plastics in their original packaging

Keeping your soft plastic lures and baits in their original packaging is common, and one of the easiest methods for storage. This allows you to toss them into one big bag, a backpack or even the cooler you’re bringing along to the lake. It also keeps the manufacturer’s information handy as well so you don’t have to remember exactly what soft plastic bait this was.

The original packaging for soft plastics is usually a clear bag. This keeps the baits protected from dirt and dust, while giving you a full view of what’s inside. If you have a lot of the same size and shape of soft plastic baits in different colors, this storage method will make it quick and easy for you to view and select the color you need for that particular fishing area.

Option 2: Store soft plastics in Zip Lock bags

If you don’t like the looks of original packaging, but still want your soft plastic baits to be easy to see, protected from dirt and dust, as well as being in uniform packaging – consider using ZipLock or another brand of sandwich storage bags with a zip-type seal closure.

These bags are durable, clear, and can be found at any grocery store for a very reasonable price. They also allow you to use a permanent marker to write information about all the baits on the outside so it’s easier to find and select what you need out of several packs.

Normally, sandwich bags are a great way to toss a bunch of different soft baits together in one big undivided tackle box. The bags will keep the baits separate just like tackle trays would, and the tackle box can hold several sandwich bags full of baits. You can even separate baits by their size, brand, or put some of your more valuable soft plastics in a bag on their own to keep them in pristine condition.

Option 3: Storing them in trays or other types of container

Most tackle boxes have trays included which you can move around or entirely remove to get the layout you want in your storage. Soft plastics and terminal tackle can be placed directly into your divided tackle box or other container’s plastic trays.

In fact, many anglers will keep their most used baits in the top trays of this storage system, while keeping extra soft plastic lures and baits in storage bags in the larger catch-all compartment down below. This gives you a good combination of convenience and organization when you store soft plastics between fishing trips.

If your tackle box is not big enough, or if you just wanted to display some of your more valuable and effective soft plastics between fishing seasons, you can also use craft storage boxes. Normally made for things like beads or jewelry making supplies, these storage containers are usually clear and made from the same durable plastic as a tackle box.

They come in a range of sizes and shapes, some having more than a dozen different storage trays inside as well. This makes them not only perfect for storing soft plastics, but also a very effective way to keep your hard baits organized without dealing with their original packages.

Best Soft Plastic Storage Strategies Summarized

Store by brand: Z-Man, Berkley, Strike King, Yamamoto

Keeping your soft plastic baits organized by brand is a great way for the completionist to store their tackle. You may be fishing in an area where a Yamamoto gets the best results, or fish in that area may be suspicious of anything made by Berkley due to its specific odor or flavor in the water. There may also be smaller contests or fishing challenges that require you to use only a certain brand of baits or lures during that day.

In this case, you want to be able to quickly grab a bag that holds the most effective brand of soft plastic lures or baits you have. Storing your baits in smaller bags by brand gives you a quick view of the different styles within the brand even if they are tossed into one big bag, and also keeps any flavor or odor infusion confined together. Since each brand usually has its own custom infusion, storing these baits in small bags together will ensure that infusion stays on those brands.

Store by type: worm, grub, paddle tail etc

Having your whole bag of baits separated by type is a great way to store all the baits you own, especially if you don’t care about mixing brands of soft plastic lures or baits together. Since most of the same type of worms or creature baits are very similar in shape and size, your tackle bag or other storage container will look very well organized when you store your soft plastic lures and baits by type in smaller bags.

Keeping your whole bag of worms together and separated from your grubs makes it easy to grab exactly what you need for your particular fishing area, rig, and chosen technique. Additionally, having different tail types stored together in plastic trays, such as straight tails, ribbon tails, or paddle tails, gives you quick and easy access to the baits you need for particular water conditions.

Store by species: bass, crappie, walleye

This is one of my personal favorite ways to store soft plastic baits. Keeping them in small bags all together by the fish species they are made for is a great way to streamline your next fishing trip. This is most effective for anglers that stick to one brand of fishing bait and don’t often try other brands, so there’s no risk of dye bleeding or chemical reactions between plastics.

If you’re heading out onto your favorite lake with the boat but aren’t sure what fish you’ll be targeting, it’s great to be able to quickly swap to bait that is more preferred by a different type of fish. For example, let’s say you head out onto your favorite lake with plans of doing some bass fishing on a Ned rig, so you start using all of your bass-specific baits but end up pulling in walleye and no bass. 

In this case, you can either move your boat somewhere else and try for bass in that location, or you can keep your boat where it is, embrace the walleye, and switch to a bag of bait that is more preferred by that species or one that works better on a walleye rig. By switching to a walleye specific bait, you improve your chances of pulling in even larger walleye than you were on bass baits.

How I Store My Jig Heads

If you’re fishing with soft plastics, you’re going to have an abundance of jigheads in your tackle box as well. Keeping these stored and organized properly is just as important as storage for your soft plastics. There are a variety of different ways you can store your jigheads, and each angler will have their own favorite techniques.

For me, repurposing old plastic containers is a great way to keep jig heads protected from damage and organized well in my tackle box or day bags. I use a combination of TicTac containers and old empty pill bottles. Both containers are durable plastic with tight fitting lids that can hold a large amount of jigheads.

Keeping jig heads stored in a hard container is important since it protects the hooks from being blunted, dulled, or bent between uses. Smaller containers such as pill bottles also give you a chance to separate your jigheads by size without taking up more room in your tackle box or one bag you take onto the boat. Pill bottle storage containers can be tossed in the bottom catch-all tub of a tackle box, or slid into a pocket on your fishing vest.

Soft Plastic Fishing Lures: Storage FAQs

Can you store different brands of soft baits together?

While you can mix different brands together in the same small bag, there are several reasons why most anglers would recommend against it and instead will keep their baits and lures in their original packages.

For one, other brands of soft plastics may use different chemicals for preservation purposes. These chemicals are harmless to you and the fish you catch, but can damage other soft plastics from those other brands by melting or warping the plastic.

How do you avoid Berkley and other wet soft plastic baits from drying out?

Adding fishing oil such as ProCure to your soft plastic storage bags is very important when you want to keep your fishing baits moist, slimy, and ready for fishing. This oil can be found at most fish gear and tackle shops, and should always be in an anglers bags when they head out onto the boat.

Letting these baits dry out in the bags can lead to cracking, breaking, and other damage – ultimately rendering them useless and a waste of money. By adding a bit of fishing oil, anglers can store these plastics for several months between fishing trips with no issues.

How do you prevent soft plastic baits from melting together?

One of the biggest issues with soft plastics is sunlight or heat. When using your baits out on the water, keep the baits in the shade as much as possible and away from direct sunlight. Scoot your tackle box under a seat on the boat, or toss a towel or coat over the top of them to provide protection.

When storing bass bait between seasons for quite some time, don’t store your tackle box near a heater or furnace. The excess heat can cause the soft plastic worms to melt leaving you with a messy clump of baits you are unable to separate the next time you plan to go fishing.

How do you avoid soft bait colors bleeding into one another?

Not all bait dyes will bleed into others, but many will. It’s hard to tell which will bleed and which won’t until you test it yourself. But testing it also runs the risk of damaging your lure or bait and ruining the original colors they had.

The best solution to avoid color bleed is by keeping the baits separated by brand and color. In fact, most anglers just say the best option is to keep them stored in their original packaging no matter what. If you are dyeing your own baits and lures, make sure the dye you use is the non-bleeding type and use the recommended curing method and time.

Which brand of soft plastic baits are simplest to store?

Most anglers agree the stick baits from Yamamoto are probably the easiest to store since they won’t need any special considerations for tail type, and can be squeezed into smaller spots than other soft plastics.

They also use dyes that rarely if ever bleed into other lure or bait. Since there are dozens of different colors and lengths of Yamamoto stick baits for bass and other fish species, you can store them all together without risking a clash of dye types, plastic types, or infusions.

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AUTHOR
Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water.