SOFT BAIT IN THE AUTUMN
by Bob Jensen
When fish go on the bite during the autumn months, there are a variety of ways to catch them. Many anglers are discovering that soft bait on a jig is a great way to catch a wide variety of species in the early weeks of fall. Here are some ideas as to how you can catch more fish right now with jigs tipped with soft baits.
Two of the soft baits that are most popular throughout the Midwest are Gulp! and PowerBait. These baits come in a variety of colors and shapes, and are scented. They appeal to a variety of fish's senses.
The specie of fish you're after will influence the size of bait to be used. Panfish, crappies, and perch will go after smaller baits, usually in the two-inch range, although bluegills and sunfish will like something even smaller.
Walleyes like three and four-inch baits, bass will usually prefer bigger stuff. A four-inch Power Grub is becoming my go-to bait in the fall when I'm just looking for action.
On a recent trip to northern Minnesota, the fish were spread out. We were fishing shallow rock reefs. I was throwing a four-inch white Power Grub on a quarter ounce Mimic Minnow head. My fishing partner was throwing everything but soft bait. We were fishing the same water, and we were taking turns casting to an area first. We fished about five hours, and I had the largest bass, both smallmouth and largemouth, and the biggest pike. I also caught a lot more fish, probably a four to one ratio. Although I would like to think my skills were that much better, reality is that soft bait is pretty darn good regardless of your fishing skills.
The jig is an important consideration with this rig. I really like the Mimic Minnow jig for this technique. This jig has a tapered head that is perfect for swimming the bait. It has a longer hook for more and better hook-ups, and the wire plastic holder on the hook keeps the soft bait in place much better.
With this action style tail, a swimming retrieve is best. I generally don't crawl or hop this presentation. It works well to cast the jig/soft bait out, let it fall awhile, then just start reeling slowly. An eighth, quarter, or three-eighths ounce head will usually do the job. In deep water go with a heavier jig and reel slower, in shallow water lighten up.
Keep your rod tip in about the ten o'clock position. You don't want a bunch of up and down rod movement. Just reel, and when you feel a "tick", set the hook.
A six and a half or seven foot medium-heavy action Berkley Tactix, Series One, or Fenwick HMG spinning rod will be perfect for this technique. They provide great sensitivity and hook-setting ability. Ten pound test Trilene Sensation, XT, or 10/4 FireLine will be just right almost all the time.
White is my favorite body color, but experiment to see if the fish have a favorite.
Lots of baits will do the job in the fall, but if I was limited to one presentation, I think it would be what was just described. Now is a great time for you to find out just how productive soft bait on a jig can be this time of year.