Soft plastic tails could be the ultimate for Gulf Coast

Without a doubt one of the most popular soft plastics is a five-inch shrimp imit

Without a doubt one of the most popular soft plastics is a five-inch shrimp imitation rigged on a ¼-ounce jig head. More trout have been caught on jigs than any other lure. Robert Sloan photo

Fishermen along the Texas Gulf Coast have been using soft plastic tails on lead head jigs to catch speckled trout, redfish, flounder and even a variety of offshore fish for decades.

The unique thing about a tail is that they look edible and are soft and feel like the real deal. Because of that fish tend to hold on to them longer.

Walk into any store that sales tackle along the Gulf coast and I guarantee you that you’ll see an abundance of soft plastic tails in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some look like real shrimp, shad and mullet. Others look like something from outer space. But one thing about this type of lure is that they are easy to sale for one very good reason – they catch fish, lots of them. One of the most famous is the Berkley Gulp. This is a scented tail that’s been a winner for years. Assassins are extremely popular, as well.

Without a doubt one of the most popular soft plastics is a five-inch shrimp imitation rigged on a ¼-ounce jig head. It’s an imitation of a food source that all saltwater gamefish love to chow down on. Millions of rat-tailed Shad Assassins have been sold.

“I’ve been using them for decades,” says Capt. Jerry Norris who fishes on Sabine Lake. “Shad Assassins have a lot of action and can be fished 2 feet deep, or 200 feet deep. I’ve used them to catch flounder in a few feet of water. I’ve also used them to catch cobia and red snapper in 200 feet of water. They come in just about any color you can imagine. They have an action that’ll fool just about any fish that swims. In stained water my top color is red/shad. In clear water pumpkin seed/chartreuse is good. Glow with a chartreuse tail is good in just about any situation.”

Soft plastic jigs are made in many styles. There are jerk baits, swim baits, shad tails, paddle tails, split tails, curl tails and shrimp tails, to name a few. Jerk baits probably rank as the most popular. But paddle tails have surged in popularity over the past several years. They are also called swim baits because you can cast them out and swim them in on a steady retrieve just like you would a spinnerbait for bass. They kick out a lot of vibration and imitate a live shad, pogie and mullet. One of the best I’ve ever used is the Yum Money Minnow. Like a lot of other saltwater lures this one was created to catch largemouth bass. Then it slowly became popular with coastal anglers.

Something to keep in mind is that almost all plastic tails can be fished under a popping cork. It’s a tactic that makes a lot of noise and attracts a lot of fish. Most popping cork anglers will rig a jig anywhere from 2 to 3 feet under the float. Fishing them is easy. Cast the rig out and bring it in with a steady pop/stop/pop retrieve. It’s a great way to fish shallow water, and a really good tactic for catching flounder.    

Aside from plastic tails, the jig heads that are sold these days come in various shapes and sizes. Some even have built in rattles. One of the best is the Assassin spring lock jig head. For trout and redfish the short shank wide gap 1/8 or ¼ ounce jig head is very popular. A good offshore jig head for the larger tails is the long shank 5/0 hook. What makes these hooks so good is that they have a wide gap that delivers a solid hook set. The spring lock keeps the soft plastic tail in place. Some fishermen prefer painted jig heads, but most opt for an unpainted head with some sort of bright eyes in red, yellow or chartreuse.

Jigs don’t always have to be cast and reeled in on a jerk, jerk, jerk retrieve. That’s the type of retrieve that gets the attention of all gamefish. But with swim baits a steady retrieve is usually best. And for tarpon bump trolling is a good option. In fact, bump trolling big jigs offshore around and over structure is a great way to entice a strike.

The great thing about jigs is that they can be fished just about anywhere along the Gulf coast, and will catch a variety of gamefish just about any time of year.