Soft-Bait Rigging: Explained

Instead of naming each method, one by one, we will begin with the Texas rig and then the Carolina rig. From there we will move on to the Florida, Drop Shot, Weightless and the Swimming or Indiana rigs. Gear, knots, terminal tackle and reeling methods will be explained throughout also.

A sad attempt at humor, I know.

O.K., let’s get down to business. The first worm rig was developed by Nick Creme from guess where, that’s right, Texas in 1949. As it spread throughout the fishing industry the weed-less method of hooking the worm was developed, this is how the Texas rig was started and the rest of the styles followed in its wake. The Texas rig was the first rig that brought me into the world of soft lure fishing.

All of these methods contain similar elements that can be explained in one shot. The first thing is no matter which rig you are using, you should attach a barrel swivel of appropriate size to the end of your line. This will prevent your line from becoming twisted and tangled.

I like to use a Surgeons loop to attach things. To tie this knot, double the line back on itself once and knot the loop twice. Make the loop about two inches long. Pull tight and snip the excess and you’re done. This is one of the strongest and most efficient ways of attaching terminal tackle to your line.

To hitch a barrel swivel or a snap swivel (I prefer small & black) using the Surgeons loop, push the loop through the eye of the barrel, then open the loop and pass the barrel through the loop. Fold the loop all the way back to the line and pull tight. The end of the loop should be below the knot.

Sometimes this way of switching rigs and lures, unless you use a snap swivel, can be a hassle when using multi-hook baits. The more you use the loop method though, the better you will become. If it’s too much for you then the regular ol’ clinch or “Fisherman’s” knot might be better for you. If you need more assistance ask a clerk, at you favorite outdoor, shop for help or research “knots” online.

When it comes to weed-less rigs, the leaders are set up basically the same way. However the length of the leader depends on conditions and on the sizes of the soft-baits. Attach an offset style or “worm” hook, of the appropriate size, to your leader. If you want to use the Texas method, thread the leader through a bullet before you tie or hitch the other end of the leader to the empty end of the barrel or snap swivel. The pointed end of the sinker should be pointing toward the barrel swivel.

Attaching the worm or soft creature bait, in a weed-less fashion, to the hook can be a bit tricky, however with some practice it’s not very hard to accomplish successfully. First, hold the hook by the long curve and impale the nose while pointing the eye of the hook toward the tail. Stop the hook about a ¼ of an inch into the bait or until the straight part turns to a curve and push the point through the bottom side of the bait.

Swing the bait around the hook until the long curve is facing away form the bottom side of the bait. Now push the nose up to the eyelet. Some anglers prefer to hide the eyelet in the nose. Lay the hook along one side of the bait, pinch the bait where the hook ends, run the point straight up through the bottom of the bait just ahead of the pinch and centered until the bottom curve is perpendicular to the bait. The point should be facing the nose. Now, run the point just under the “skin” along the back until the barb disappears. You’re done.

The Texas rig is best used thrown into a weed or Lilly-pad bed and bounced or drug slightly along the bottom and over structure such as logs, sunken brush and rocks. This weed-less “prey” works great for locating that big Bass (and other fish) waitin’ in ambush under cover. You might want to use larger line with this rig no matter the size of the worm. Some fish will get tangled due to darting. You can also reel this rig a little faster to bring it up from the bottom. To get more control, use a split shot sinker or stick the end of a toothpick in the hole of the slip sinker and break it off to make it stationary. The closer you position the sinker to the nose, the more control you get.

If you’re going to use the Carolina method, thread the main line into the pointed end and trough a bullet sinker before attaching the barrel. If you use a split shot sinker, just attach the sinker to the line above the barrel swivel. The Carolina rig is used to find fish in large areas of open water relatively fast, by retrieving the rig, trolling or leaving it to “swim” in a current. Attaching the sinker above the barrel swivel gives the bait a more life-like movement and improves the handling of the rig.

Beads and blades are used on the Carolina rig more than others, especially in currents. However, they can be used on other rigs also. The beads are on the leader between the hook, blade or blades and the sinker. In stained water or during overcast conditions, the beads and blades add noise and vibration to your presentation.

With the Florida rig, a weighted jig-head is used instead of an offset hook. This method is commonly not weed-less and does not use a line sinker. Fish this rig along the bottom of flats and rocky bottoms. It does not work well with cover and on rip-rap. Attach the soft bait by using the same impaling method as the offset hook except the point is protruded through the top of the bait, the bait is slid up to the jig-head and the hook is left exposed.

One very diverse rig is the Drop Shot rig. With this rig you attach a three way barrel swivel to your line, the leader of choice to one eyelet and another leader with a sinker (usually a Bell type) to the last eyelet. As always, the length of the leader and weight of the sinker depends upon how far from the bottom you want your lure and how you want you lure to swim.

The Drop Shot rig is use in a few ways, however for basically the same purpose. The most common is to keep your bait a specific distance from the bottom or as an anchor in a current. It can be used to keep Crank-baits straight and level while retrieving in which the sinker does not touch the bottom.

All of these rigs, except for the Florida and the weighted leader on the Drop Shot, can be used in a weightless bait manner, but the oldest and least used style of weightless soft-bait rigging is the “Swimming” worm rig. The reason I call it the Indiana rig is one; there currently isn’t an Indiana rig and it works really well (deadly in fact) here in Indiana. You may have seen this pre-made rig on the shelf in the tackle shop or fishing section, it’s usually called a “Trick Worm”. The major difference with this rig is that it is a double Snelled, exposed bait-holder hook style.

The ones they sell in the stores have the hooks imbedded in a very small worm. These are great for Bluegill and Rock-bass and even small Catfish. However, they’re usually not available bigger than 3 inches. If you want to attract bigger fish, you need a bigger rig and will have to create one.

Double Snelling is a bit involved and single Snelling should be taught fist. So on that note, to Snell a hook, thread the leader line through the eye of the bait-holder hook (I usually use the #6 size bait-holder) from the point side of the eye towards the bottom of the hook and loop it back around, following the curve of the hook. Thread the line back through again the same way and a little past the length of the hook. Now wrap the loop around the shaft of the hook about five times, hold the hook by its shaft wrapped loop and pull the extra tight and trim.

Wasn’t that easy? Don’t worry if you said no, it really isn’t easy and takes some practice to master. Again, you may want to find a diagram of how to do this or ask for some one-on-one help.

To double Snell is to do this to two hooks on the same line. Sounds like fun, huh? Once you get Snelling one hook down, two is basically the same. When you Snell the first hook, make the extra a little longer than the length of your worm. When you Snell the second hook, position the eye of the second hook half the distance of the length or your worm from the eye of the first hook. After wrapping the loop around the shaft, pull the extra tight and trim it off.

Attach the bait by running the first hook through the nose the same way as the weed-less method except, pull the line through until you get close to the second hook. Run the second hook through the same way, this time keep running the hook into the bait until the nose reaches the eyelet and then protrude the point through the side. I like to hide the eyelet in this particular rig. Take the first hook and stick the point directly through the side of the bait ¼ of the distance from the tail. The bait should make a lazy “L” Shape when held up by the leader.

You know now hold in your hand one of the most effective lures I’ve ever used and continue to use. When pulled through the water, it swims in a spiral motion, which is very attractive to fish and can cut down on snags as well. I can’t remember the fishing T.V. show host or pro angler I got this from, it was an instructional DVD demo. When you get a strike using this rig, you know it. Especially if you use a soft bait made from fish food, say Berkley Brand’s Gulp line of soft-bait lures. Hands down, it is the most effective rig that my buddy and I regularly use to this day.

I’ve caught a wide variety of fish on this rig as well.

Most experienced angles have little secrets that make their rigs work better in different areas, some of which I’m sure are being exposed here. Generally I will leave a barrel attached to my line and set up a couple of extra rigs of each type to make the changing process easier. Using the Surgeon’s Loop method makes it even quicker.

When retrieving these rigs, remember to use a very soft touch for all the varying types of reeling methods. Always set the hook by whipping the rod-tip down, nice and hard, to one side or the other, depending on were you’re buddy is standing. NEVER jerk hard or straight back when setting the hook, or anytime, no matter what kind of rigging method you’re using. Soft-bait lures and crank-baits can be pulled right out of the water if yanked to hard, even to the side. Hooks and “bullet” weights can be imbedded in the skin. Probably the best tool any angler should have is a pair of Polarized, shatterproof sun glasses.

So there you have it, a brief explanation of various types of soft bait rigging. With experience comes success and rigs and lures can be confusing to begin with, so don’t get discouraged and some day you’ll be as deft as Grandpa or that T.V. host. As always, keep happy thoughts and good fishing to ya.

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