If you fish a lot, or just are plain bad at casting (make sure to read my articles on accurate casting), you'll find that the cost of buying baits adds up. Soft plastic lures naturally get torn by aggressive fish, sharp objects, or the fish just pull them off the hook. It's inevitable.
As fishermen, we sooner or later go look at cheap Chinese knock-offs of more expensive American and Japanese soft baits. They usually are cheaper than their American counterparts, and feature more baits per bag, too. There is usually a free but 30-day long ePacket delivery. You can usually find such listings on Amazon and eBay.
Above: Here's a 50pk bag of 4" soft jerkbaits that I managed to snag for $2.50.
The biggest question surrounding these soft baits, however, is their performance. Many baits you find by Chinese manufacturers often are extremely stiff, and don't have much action underwater. That translates to bad catches. The baits are often very ambiguous to rig and fish; you aren't sure how to effective use your bait. Some baits even are shriveled up or are made of non-plastic components. I have also heard about packages not arriving, or in very subpar condition. The seller wasn't very open to communication in those cases. However, there are some ways to tell if a bait is worthwhile or not.
Above: Many baits lack instructions on use, or hook slots for rigging. You pretty much have to figure out how to fish them yourself.
The first thing to do is to look at the reviews. If a bait is well made, it should have a lot of good reviews. However, keep in mind that on some sites, such as Alibaba, the reviews are often fabricated. eBay and Amazon reviews are pretty trustworthy. Look for detailed and well written reviews when looking at a bait.
The next thing to check out are the descriptions. Look to see if the bait's description is well written and detailed, and if the seller looks like he knows what he's doing. For example, look for the material of the soft bait. You want plastic, not silicone. Many of the less-desirable baits are made of silicone.
The third thing that I like to do is to find out whether or not the bait is unique to the seller. Many, if not most, Chinese listings are of the same bait, only by different sellers. The sellers are basically middlemen; they buy mass produced bait from a certain factory and then sell them online. These mass produced baits are usually of subpar quality. Look for baits that only one seller has for sale. Those baits are usually better designed and made.
Above: Kinked tails are often found on Chinese soft baits.
And lastly, I would like to see whether or not the bait is well packaged. The packaging speaks a lot on the seller's expertise in the fishing industry, and how well the bait is made. Look for clam packaging or baits neatly arranged, in custom bags, as opposed to being jumbled up in a generic ziplock bag.
While some Chinese baits may be poorly made, make sure you give some of them a try. They can be really nice low cost options for weekend fishing.
In these economic times, it's not surprising that some people would like to purchase low-cost fishing gear from Chinese retailers (although it's worth mentioning that most fishing tackle is made overseas these days, with the exception of your everyday soft plastics). Anytime you search up "fishing lures" in search the search box on major e-commerce sites, such as Amazon or Aliexpress, you will find a lot of no-name tackle, mostly hard baits, such as frogs, spinnerbaits, and especially crank baits. Other less common baits, such as buzz baits and chatter baits, are quite rare. While part of your mind cries out the old adage "You get what you pay for" you are also thinking "Dang, some of these lures look really good, and have good reviews." The question stands: Should you buy them, or go to more tried and trusted tackle companies?
Above: This line, which was advertised as Fluorocarbon, was supposed to have a break strength of 6.5 kg, or 14.33 lbs, but really broke at 4lbs. Imagine if you got a 10 lber on the line....
After buying, and trying a lot of these Chinese lures, here's what I came up with: Buy them if you trust them. Personally, for me, I don't trust them. A classic example would be with my Chinese square bills. I ordered 6 of them, from different companies. They had some pretty nice paint jobs, and had some nice reviews (I found out later that it is common to fabricate reviews in China), so I ordered them. The price was pretty reasonable, not too high that you would go the tried-and-true route, but not too low that you would think that you would be buying a piece of garbage.
So after waiting like a month for delivery, I finally got them. I tuned them, and set off for a pond that had a pretty regular bite. This was in the fall, with the water starting to turn a bit cold, and the forests awash with color. It was a nice, sunny day, and after getting some fish on my spinnerbait, I decided to try out the new crank baits.
The baits ran erratically underwater. I was pleased. I then deflected one off some rocks near a culvert, to imitate an injured minnow. That's when I noticed the paint job.
It was good out of the package, but after one small deflection, the whole thing was ruined. One large, ugly streak down the side. Also, after some time in the water, the surrounding paint also started to fall. I switched it out.
3 of the other 5 ones also had bad paint jobs. The paint just doesn't stick well or something. After casting and reeling it in, the bait would would look like someone sprinkled salt on them. The paint just kept on chipping. I switched those baits out.
Finally, I got out one of the last two. The bait ran well, and the paint job wasn't so bad. And then, I got a fish. It was about a pound, but it was feisty. Midway through the fight, I broke off. The hooks on the bait were terrible. They snapped. That's right, a 1 lb could break these hooks. I didn't even bother trying out the last one and went back to fish catching with my spinnerbait.
Above: Hard baits from Chinese retailers seem to have bad hooks. Either they bend, are too bulky, rust, or aren't durable, in my experience.
Buying fishing tackle from China is a wild card. Western companies that manufacture in China have control controls (which, unfortunately, many Chinese companies don't have), plus, the baits are designed by professionals and then manufactured there. Many Chinese companies that tried-and-true baits and try to reverse-engineer them. They copy the paint job and the basic structure. But that small semi-erratic wobble to front or some other small design feature is sometimes the most important part of a bait's fish catching ability. Problem is, those companies can't do that. They can make a bait that looks like it, but really, won't perform the same underwater.
After buying some Chinese tackle and trying them out, I opted personally to stick with tried-and-true baits and companies. Most of my fishing friends have done the same. I know of one guy that gets good success out of his baits, but unfortunately he has to replace them often due to paint chipping issues down the road. But hey, if these baits suit you, and you found a good one, feel free to use them. If you got a good bait for cheap, who am I to discourage you rom buying and using it?
Hi. I am Ian, an extremely avid bass fisherman living in Howard County, MD. I like to bank fish and fish at local ponds and small creeks. I will explore budget friendly options for people to use in this blog. I hope I can teach you something.