Best Soft Plastic Baits for Bass of 2023

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Soft plastic baits are great for smallmouth, largemouth, spotted, and all other types of black bass fishing. However, the number of soft plastics available can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of companies that produce thousands of baits with different combinations of sizes, profiles, colors, scents, materials, and more. Even when looking at the offerings from just one company, you’ll often find over 50 different soft plastic baits with endless color choices. So, which are the best soft plastics?

Below is a list of 16 soft plastic categories, along with my favorite bait for each. This mega list was compiled from years of bass fishing—both competitively and recreationally—and every bait on it has brought me success. If you know the style of bait you’re looking for, skip right to that category. If not, here is a look at all of the best soft plastic baits for bass.

The Strike King Rage Craw soft plastic bait in two different colors.
The Strike King rage craw soft plastic bait in two different colors. Shaye Baker

How We Picked the Best Soft Plastics for Bass

I’ve fished for bass using artificial lures for as long as I can remember—at least three decades now. This hands-on experience selecting, rigging, and fishing with a wide range of soft plastics serves as my foundation for the selections below. I’ve also covered the sport of bass fishing from the collegiate level to the Bassmaster Elite Series for about 15 years. My job has helped me gain access to some of the top-tier tackle boxes in the bass world, along with insight into tournament-winning baits. This list is a combination of my personal experience and the inside scoop on what soft plastics the pros rely on to make a living. Here are the best of the best.

Best Straight Tail Worm: Zoom Trick Worm/Roboworm 

When looking at the worm category, you can really break these out into three main types: straight tail worms, curly tail worms, and swimming worms. The gold standard in straight tail worms is the Zoom Trick Worm. This fairly plain-looking bait set the standard decades ago for a whole genre of soft plastic worms and still holds up against dozens of competitors as the best seller. The Trick Worm works great rigged weightless, as well as on a shakyhead, Texas rig, Carolina rig, or Neko rig. 

The Roboworm Straight Tail Worm is another best seller. These differ greatly from traditional injection molded soft plastic worms like the Zoom Trick Worm. Using a hand-pouring method, bait manufacturers are able to create softer worms with multiple layers of color in the bait. Roboworms are made using a robotic technology that closely mimics the hand-pour method, which is where the term “robo” comes from. These baits are fantastic for more finesse presentations like dropshots.

soft plastic bait for bass
The Zoom trick worm rigged weedless. Shaye Baker

Best Curly Tail Worm: Zoom Ole Monster

The Zoom Ole Monster is another trendsetter that has been often imitated but never duplicated. There are other great ribbon tail worms on the market, no doubt, but the color selection, salt content, action, and availability of the Ole Monster have made it the best bait of this type. The Zoom 8” Big Dead Ringer is another fantastic worm from this category, as is the Berkley Powerbait 10″ Power Worm. The Zoom Dead Ringer 4” Worm is the best of the smaller versions of this bait category.

Best Swimming Worm: Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Worm

You’re probably starting to see a trend—Zoom is a trendsetter. And the Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Worm is another staple for any angler’s tackle box, especially if you spend any time fishing down in Florida. Rigging a swimming worm like this, either weightless or on a light Texas rig, and then swimming it through shallow vegetation is a great way to get your arm broken down in the South.

Best Toad: Zoom Stanley Ribbit/Zoom Horny Toad

Two more classic soft plastics that still boat giant bass are the Zoom Horny Toad and Stanley Ribbit. These baits differ from one another enough that they both warrant mentioning as the best of the best. The Horny Toad has a faster, crisper action, whereas the Ribbit has a slower churning chug. This difference sets these two baits up as great selections from early spring all the way through the fall, with the Ribbit being the best in cooler water and the Horny Toad winning out when things warm up. One more bait worth mentioning here is the much younger NetBait BaitFuel BF Toad, which has impressed me quite a bit in the last year or so.

soft plastic bait
The Zoom Horny Toad. Shaye Baker

Best Ned Bait: Z-Man Ned TRD

The Finesse TRD from Z-Man is hands down the best bait for a Ned rig. Z-Man’s lures are made using their patented ElaZtech—a super durable, ultra stretchy, highly buoyant material. A Ned rig is meant to be fished along the bottom, with its tail up off the bottom. The buoyancy of the Finesse TRD makes it the best bait to ever do this. And, Ned rigs get lots of bites. So, the durability of this lure, in particular, allows you to catch bass on a Finesse TRD 10 to 1 as compared to Ned baits made with traditional soft plastic materials.

Best Soft Stick Bait: Yamamoto Senko

Another best seller and trend setter is the Senko, but this one comes to us by way of famed Japanese pro fisherman Gary Yamamoto. The Yamamoto Senko came to be back in 1996, and still sits atop the leaderboard as the best bait of its kind. The slow falling shimmy of a Senko has caught countless bass for nearly three decades now and stands tall as one of the best finesse baits ever made.

Best Creature Bait: Zoom Brush Hog

When looking at the creature bait category, you’ll find a lot of different baits are lumped into this pile. Another Zoom bait wins the day here again though in the Zoom Brush Hog. Once again we see a bait in the Brush Hog that spawned a whole genre of look alike lures that do a decent job at times of imitating the Brush Hog, but never emulating it. This bait, with appendages all over, looks exactly like nothing and a little like everything. And that makes it a fantastic bait for pitching, Texas rigging, Carolina rigging and more.

Best Beaver Style Bait: Missile Baits D-Bomb 

Reaction Innovations introduced the Sweet Beaver in the early 2000s and this bait changed the landscape of soft plastic lures forever. The Beaver had a unique profile at the time, one that mimicked a baitfish well…and an injured one in particular as it spiraled down to the bottom.

In the decades since, some other great baits have been birthed into this genre. A few of the crowd favorites are the Strike King Rage Bug, the MISSILE Baits D Bomb and the Googan Baits Bandito Bug. The best though, in my opinion is the MISSILE Baits D-Bomb. I prefer this bait when punching in particular, as it goes through the mat easier and draws more strikes whenever you have to yo-yo the bait to get bit.

Best Craw: Strike King Rage Craw

Craws comprise one of the more popular soft plastics categories; thus there are lots of different shapes and sizes to choose from. The NetBait Paca Craw was the first bait of its kind to really set the craw market on fire back in 2000. But the award for best craw has to go to the Strike King Rage Tail Craw. 

Designers of the Rage Craw took their stab at reinventing the wheel during Paca Craw craze and they one upped it in my opinion. By adding flanges along the front edges of the Rage Craw’s claws, Strike King created a bait with an unparalleled action and redefined what the craw genre was all about. The NetBait Paca Craw still stands tall however as one of the best craws for sure.

Best Swimbait: Keitech FAT Swing Impact

Keitech was another company to really set the standard in a particular bait category with their Swing Impact series of swimbaits. There is none better in this swimbait demographic than the Keitech Swing Impact FAT Swimbait. This lure pairs perfectly with a jighead to create a great mix of finesse and power for catching quality suspended fish that are often hard to catch. These baits are also the perfect size to use with an umbrella rig, further setting them out front of the rest of the soft plastic swimbaits.

Best Soft Jerkbait: Zoom Fluke

Once more, we’re looking at a Zoom bait as the best of this category. The invent of the Super Fluke was another home run for Zoom—a company that has developed quite the track record for hitting homers. This baitfish-profile lure works fantastic in a variety of ways. You can rig this lure weedless to throw on the surface, put it on an underspin or Scrounger for fishing beneath the surface, or even drag it along on a Carolina rig. In whatever case, Zoom has you covered with an expensive selection of colors in the Super Fluke.

Best Minnow: Z-Man Scented Jerk ShadZ

Minnow-style baits look a lot like soft plastic jerkbaits, only smaller. But this genre of baits deserves to be broken out into a category all its own, due to its meteoric rise in popularity over the last few years. No bait is used more in conjunction with forward facing sonar than a jighead minnow. And none are as effective as the Z-Man Scented Jerk ShadZ. 

Like the Finesse TRD, the Z-Man Jerk ShadZ are also made using ElaZtech. The durability of these baits allow an angler to rig a single soft plastic on a jighead and catch dozens of fish on it, where he’d go through a pack or two of traditional soft plastics. Jeff Gustafson really put the exclamation point on this being the best bait of its kind with his 2023 Bassmaster Classic win on the Tennessee River—won solely on this lure.

Best Lizard: Zoom Lizard

The gold standard in the lizard realm of soft plastics has to be the Zoom Lizard. With over 50 colors to choose from and 6” and 8” versions, it’s hard to beat the Zoom Lizard. These baits are durable but still soft. And they have a fantastic action with their four little legs kicking along and the slow flowing ribbon tail swaying in the back. The Lizard is a great bait for Texas rigs, Carolina rigs, shakyheads and more. And these lures are especially effective on bass around the spawn.

Best Grub: Strike King Rage Twin Tail Menace Grub

There are a few different bait profiles that are all considered “grubs”, and this bait category in general isn’t nearly as popular today as it was in decades passed. However, the Strike King Rage Tail Menace Grub is certainly a popular bait today and therefore sets itself firmly on top of this odd-ball heap as the best grub. The compact size and action of the Menace Grub make it great for flipping and pitching. This combination of characteristics also set the Menace up well for use as a trailer with a wide range of baits. 

There are some other grubs worth noting as well. In the single/ribbon tail realm, the Zoom Fat Albert is strong. Then there are twin-tail grubs, with the Yamamoto Double Tail Grub winning out in most circles. There’s also the spider-grub subcategory of baits, which pairs a grub body and tails with the tentacles of a tube. The Yamamoto Double Tail Hula Grubs are the best of this bunch.

Best Tube: Berkley Powerbait Maxscent Tube

Tubes, like grubs, aren’t nearly as popular these days as they were early on. With all the different soft plastic profiles on the market now, these classic lures are still pretty popular among smallmouth anglers, but otherwise only used by the occasional old school flipper. The Berkley Powerbait Maxscent Tube works great for both presentations, with a soft body and a strong scent.

Best Trailer: Z-Man Split Tail TrailerZ

Soft plastic trailers can be used with a wide range of skirted baits like spinnerbaits, ChatterBaits, jigs and buzzbaits. And since these lure categories are pretty diverse, it stands to reason that the trailers are diverse as well. The best trailer in my opinion for a spinnerbait though is the Z-Man Elaztech Split Tail TrailerZ. 

These baits are made with ElaZtech, so I can rig one up on a spinnerbait and fish it for multiple days without having to worry about adding a new trailer. Since I like to use a trailer hook with my spinnerbait too, having to put on a fresh trailer means I have to remove my trailer hook and keeper, as well as the old trailer. The extreme durability of the Elaztech Split Tail TrailerZ keeps me from having to do this nearly as much. 

The Split Tail TrailerZ work well on ChatterBaits as well, as do the Z-Man MinnowZ Swimbaits—which are also made of ElaZtech and thus fantastic trailers. Strike King

Things to Consider Before Buying Soft Plastic Baits

When selecting the best soft plastic lure for a particular technique, there are a lot of things to consider. If you’re looking for a trailer or Ned rig bait, the durable Z-Man baits made with ElaZtech are fantastic. More traditional soft plastic tear more easily, which is a bad thing in some situations. But, when rigging a lizard or a curly tail worm weedless on Texas rigged, the fact that these traditional soft plastics tear more easily is a good thing. Since the hooks can escape this material easier, your hookup ratio is better. 

There are thousands of combinations of colors, profiles, sizes and shapes. Your best bet is to try to match the hatch, using whatever forage is local to the area to clue you in on the size, profile and color of your bait selection. And remember, there are often times too where it’s all about the action of a bait. In high-pressure situations, subtle lures like a Senko, Trick Worm or Fluke are better. And when fish are more aggressive you can swap over to the Rage Craws and other baits with more action.

FAQs

Q: What color plastic worm is best for bass?

If forced to pick one color, green pumpkin is the best. This is a very natural color that shows up well under the water, in both clear and muddy conditions. Watermelon red is also a great color for clear water. And black and blue baits work well in muddy or tannic water.

Q: Do you need a sinker with soft plastics?

Fish can be caught on soft plastics with or without sinkers. Many soft plastic baits can be rigged weedless, like Flukes, Trick Worms and Senkos. But these baits can also be used with weights and hooks to create rigs, like Texas rigs, Carolina rigs and Neko rigs. Whether or not to use a sinker is situational, based primarily on how deep you want to fish and how pressured the fish are.

Q: When can’t I catch fish on soft plastics?

You can always catch fish on soft plastics. These baits work well during all four seasons of the year. Finesse soft plastics (like straight tail worms on shakyheads, Ned baits on Ned rigs and minnow-style baits on jigheads, Scroungers and underspins) work better from late fall, through the winter and into early spring. More aggressive and bigger soft plastics become more popular when the water warms up over 60 degrees, all the way through the summer. Though finesse soft plastic presentations, like a dropshot, are certainly still effective in the heat of the summer as well.

Final Thoughts: Best Soft Plastic Baits for Bass

Many of the greatest bass fishing baits of all time are soft plastics. These lures are almost always paired with some sort of rig or lure. Learning how to rig drop shots, Carolina rigs, Texas rigs, Neko rigs, and other such rigs will really help you make the most of your soft plastic game. The same can be said of learning to fish with jigs, spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, and buzzbaits. 

The more you learn about fishing with these different rigs and lures, the more you’ll be able to hone in on your soft plastic bait selection. And I’m confident that focusing on these best soft plastic baits listed above will help you eliminate a lot of guesswork along the way.



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