If you had to choose one bait to fish for in an unknown lake, at an unknown time with unknown conditions, what bait would it be?
There's a lot of debate on this question. But in the end, it's going to be narrowed down to two or three baits: The 6-ish" straight tailed soft plastic worm, the 5" stickbait, and maybe the 5" soft jerk bait. All of these baits are good producers that work well in many conditions. They are old favorites, and tried and true. Every fishermen has used them before. But for me, it's going to be the 6" straight tailed soft plastic worm. Here's why.
Above: Nice bass caught in terrible cold-front conditions. Freezing water, fish on lock-jaw, and a pond with seemingly no source of structure whatsoever. But the old 6" straight tail saved the day.
The 6-ish" straight tail has proven itself time and time again. It just straight out catches fish. When conditions get hard, tournament fishermen pull them out, for finesse applications, such as a shakey head. You can also easy shorten it and put it on a drop shot rig. If you want to fish it during the summer for a bigger presentation, rig it on a texas rig. You can drag the depths of large lakes with it on a carolina fish, and rig it wacky style in the heat of the summer. Many of these 6-ish" worms have similar shimmying to popular stickbaits, and provide a smaller profile forever more bites. You can twitch it around, weightless or with a small split shot, by twiching it around underwater like a jerk bait You can even do a topwater presentation by rigging them weightless, texas style, and twitching them on the surface. The possibilities are almost endless with this bait.
Above: 6-ish" straight tailed worms work in many situations and structure, from the reeds to the right and the submerged logs in the middle of the pond.
5" Stickbaits are a common contender for this. However, they simply aren't as versatile, or have the same fish catching properties as 6-ish" straight tails. The good ones also aren't cheap at all. They have a larger profile, which drives away the smaller fish, and that profile isn't finesse at fall. During cold water or frontal conditions, you won't get those bites. The most common application of these baits, and what most people fish, is a wacky rig. While that is a great rig for the summer months, it doesn't work well when it gets colder. It also easily gets hung up. The texas rig (weightless) version of this bait, isn't bad, it just doesn't work well in the cold as the 6-ish" straight tailed worm. This bait doesn't have the same range of presentations that the straight tail has.
5" soft jerk baits, while easy to use, don't work well in muddy or otherwise unclear water. That seriously limits your fishing. In addition, the only real and effective way to fish them is rigging one texas-style (weightless) or two in tandem, and slowly twitching them. Sometimes, that isn't what the fish wants. These baits also have thick plastic, and setting the hook on them isn't easy.
Thus, the 6-ish" straight tail soft plastic worm is the best option. Notice that I say 6-ish", not just 6". That is because many manufacturers make 7", or 6.5" straight tail worms that have the same ways to fish and are effective. Just use a worm in that size range for your fishing.
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.