Types of Soft Plastic Baits: Grubs, Worms, Craws and More

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Finding the right fishing bait for your preferred technique and setup can help you land the next big trophy bass or trout. Walking into any bait and tackle shop can quickly feel overwhelming, especially for new anglers looking for their first soft baits.

The sheer number of available soft plastic baits can make selecting one or two much more difficult and time consuming. The right soft baits will depend on a few factors including the fish species you are targeting, the time of year, the water temperature, the depth of water you will be fishing in, and what fishing technique you will be using.

Whether you are fishing for bass, trout, catfish, or want to use one bait type for multiple fish, soft plastics are the way to go with the majority of sport fish. Not only are soft plastic lures affordable and easy to store, but they can be purchased locally or online in a large variety of shapes, sizes, and colors to suit any bass anglers’ needs.

Worms

A soft plastic worm is one of the most common artificial fishing baits that have been around since the 1960’s. They are a staple for both beginners and advanced anglers alike, giving you versatility in catching almost any type of fish. When soft plastic fishing at your favorite pond or lake, consider using your favorite plastic worm with a jig head on a Texas rig or Carolina rig for the best results (see here for all the different ways to rig a worm for bass).

See also: Our favorite worms for largemouth bass fishing

Senkos

Senkos have become the go-to bass lure for many anglers

When it comes to worms, the Senko bait is an extremely well known soft plastic stick bait in the bass fishing industry that can be used on anything from Texas rigs or a drop shot, to a Wacky rig in warmer water. They are available in hundreds of different size, shape, and color combinations so bass anglers can find exactly what they need for your next soft plastic fishing trip.

Senko soft plastic worms are the number one choice for bass fishing and are equally popular for both beginners and professional anglers alike. If you’re having trouble getting bass and other fish varieties to take other soft plastic baits, using the Senko worm can make all the difference. Using a Senko soft plastic worm when ice fishing can also get quick results you may not notice from other soft plastic baits.

Finesse Worms

Finesse Worm Zoombaits
Finesse worms are great for a range of bass fishing scenarios

For any bass fishing angler that loves finesse fishing, there are a wide range of soft plastic finesse worms to choose from. One of the biggest benefits with finesse worms is that they will normally include some kind of flavor infusion. This helps even fickle bass keep the bait in their mouth long enough for you to set the hook.

Finesse worms can be rigged in a variety of ways including weightless and weedless, on both a traditional and non-traditional drop shot rig, or the most common bass rigs such as a Texas rig, Carolina rig, or Neko rig. Using a finesse worm on the right bass fishing rig can quickly increase your fishing success throughout the year.

Swimbaits

These soft plastics come in a few different styles and shapes, but soft plastics are normally in a thick worm or grub style, with ribbed designs. The ribbing on these soft baits helps it move through the water in a unique way, while also causing minor vibrations to attract fish to the area. Swimbaits are great for bass and trout, but can also be used with perch, catfish, and walleye, among many other species.

Paddle tail

Paddle Tailed Swimbait soft plastic
Paddle tail swim baits are a very effective lure on a range of fish

These worm shaped baits are ribbed or ridged along the length of their body, with a flattened paddle-shaped tail at the end. The tail helps them twist and turn in the water during retrieving with a jig head which also helps draw the eyes of even timid and suspicious fish. 

Somewhat thick in body size, paddletail swimbaits are great for larger bass that want a good mouthful. They are also great for getting the attention of fish that may be hiding out under docks, in heavy weeds, or around drop offs since a quick retrieval on a ribbed paddle tail can create some underwater noise.

Jerkbaits

Similar to paddletail swimbaits, jerkbaits are normally a more streamlined shape with a narrow or realistic tail. They are an excellent choice when fish are looking for specific prey items, such as shad or minnows during the spawning season. You will normally find jerkbaits in more realistic color combinations such as green pumpkin and bluegill instead of glittered black and neon colors.

Jerkbaits can be found in split-tail minnow shapes with a torpedo body, narrow head, and realistic tail giving them a lifelike silhouette in all types of water. While it might not be as easy to get fish to take notice of a jerkbait, they can be the best option for fish that are very particular about their prey items.

Grubs

Similar to paddle tail swimbaits, grubs are shorter and thicker but still have the same torpedo shape. They are great for fish of all sizes, and are an excellent choice for using with your favorite weighted jig head. Grubs are a very popular choice for a Texas rig, but are not uncommon on both the Carolina rig as well as the drop shot rig.

Curl tailed

Curl tailed grub soft plastic
Curl tailed grubs are good for tempting a range of fish – the tail adds so much movement

Available in dozens of colors and sizes, curl tailed grubs will flop and twist in the water as they are pulled behind the boat or when retrieving at a variety of speeds when soft plastic fishing. These soft baits are a great choice for bass and walleye fishing, but can also be taken with vigor by more aggressive species including pike and walleye.

The curly shaped tail on these soft baits give it a heightened motion in the water, whether you are retrieving at slow or high speeds. If you are fishing for species that are normally more suspicious of artificial baits, Texas rigged grubs can normally get a quick response for most anglers.

Spiral Tailed

Spiral tail grubs
Spiral tail grubs also pack plenty of movement

One of the most popular beginner soft plastics, spiral tailed grubs are a staple in most tackle box premade kits. These soft plastic fishing baits are affordable and available in a wide range of small to medium sizes suitable for almost any North American game fish types. 

One of the biggest benefits to spiral tailed grubs is the availability of colors. The shape itself is sometimes not enough to elicit a strike, especially during times of year when fish are more sluggish, but choosing the right color or pattern can make all the difference in both clear and stained water. 

Craws

Craw soft plastic
Largemouth bass and craws go together like cheese and crackers

Craws are a larger and much thicker soft plastic bait that are perfect for largemouth bass. These creature baits can be used on a variety of rigs, but do best when Texas rigged or on Carolina rigs. Craw soft plastics imitate realistic crayfish making this type of creature bait perfect for soft plastic fishing in lakes, rivers, or ponds where bass commonly feed on these crustaceans. 

When water is cooler than usual and your typical straight tail worm isn’t getting the response you wanted, craws can get aggressive strikes from both pre-spawn and post-spawn largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, along with other species such as trout, perch, catfish, and more. 

Lizards

Lizard bait
It is hard to say why lizard baits work, but they just do

Also known as salamanders, soft plastic lizards are a larger and more uniquely shaped bait choice for bass fishing. Lizards can be found in a range of sizes, but 4 and 6 inches are common. These soft plastics will come in a range of colors and patterns, including solid colorations, stripes, half-and-half colors, as well as solid colors with glitter and other reflective elements embedded inside.

Lizard baits are suitable for both mid-water and top-water fishing in shallow areas where live salamanders are commonly seen naturally. If you are having issues getting bass to strike in a slow moving river setting, a Texas rigged salamander can quickly turn the tables in your favor. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see salamanders used in some tournament fishing areas when other artificial lures just aren’t cutting it.

Tube Baits

Tubes are great for bass, crappie and a range of other fish species

These small and lightweight soft plastic fishing baits can be rigged in a variety of ways on a jig head to suit your preferred fishing technique and style. Tubes can be rigged weightless, weedless, and on a huge number of different rigs when you want to catch bass, trout, catfish, and other fish. They are an exceptionally common soft plastic bait for beginners to catch fish with, but can also be versatile enough for more advanced anglers to use.

Tubes come in thousands of different color combinations, can be flavorless or infused with flavor, come in a wide range of sizes from small to exceptionally large, and will be taken with aggression by most fish types in lakes and ponds throughout the year. Their wiggling skirts can be used for saltwater species such as black bass, as well as used with spinning gear or as a follow up bait on a trailer.

Final Thoughts on Types of Soft Plastic Baits

Finding the best soft plastic bait for your fishing style may take a bit of trial and error. Luckily, with soft plastics being a much more affordable option than some other fishing baits or lures, you are able to test out a few different baits until you find one that gives you the best results when fished effectively. And you can always make your own soft plastics to save some more dollars.

For beginners, tube baits and paddle tail swimbaits are a common choice that can easily get positive results from largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, trout, perch, and bluegill. If you do a lot of fishing in dense vegetation, under heavy cover, or around lily pads, consider using missile baits or straight tails to limit the chance of getting tangled or caught in the heavy cover brush.

For more advanced anglers, Senko worms are hard to go wrong with. They can be found in enough sizes and colors to fit almost any game fish variety you are targeting. In areas where there is a large amount of angling pressure, even timid and stressed fish will react to a Texas style Senko plastic worm more than they will to other baits.

Senko is a size and shape that can pique bass curiosity, bringing these fish out from cover and closer to your plastic worms. Many anglers swear by using any basic variation of Senko in their fishing tackle kit and will whole-heartedly recommend them to other anglers when live bait just isn’t viable.

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AUTHOR
Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village.