Beach fishing is one of my favorite types of fishing, as if you couldn’t tell by the name of the website. 😉 And, beach fishing with soft plastics is just one of the options for surf fishing the beach. But, are they the best option? And, are they better than natural bait? We’ll try to answer those and other questions as we take a closer look at beach fishing with soft plastics.
One of the main attractions of beach fishing is the unknown. You never know what may be lurking in the surf zone.
When you toss out your line you could hook into anything from panfish to giant sharks, and a wide variety of fish in between.
One sure thing is, all of these fish, from the smallest to they largest, are all looking for something to eat while at the same time trying to avoid being eaten.
As fisherman, if we want to have the best chance at catching fish, need to identify what our target species is feeding on and try to “match the hatch” if you will, without choice of bait. If available, we can buy natural bait either live or dead.
Or, at times we can catch our own right off the beach with a cast net. But, there are times when bait is just not available so our next logical option is artificial lures.
Beach fishing with soft plastics gives you a wide range of options for sizes, colors and styles of bait allowing you to “match the hatch” of what the fish are actively feeding on. They also have options for pre rigged and pre scented soft plastics. They are relatively inexpensive compared to other lures. And, they are easy to store, carry and change out when fishing. Some of your more toothy predators can tear up soft plastic bait so you will need to carry spares. Whatever you fish for, there is a soft plastic lure out there that will catch it.
Beach Fishing with Lures
So, can you use lures for beach fishing? Yes, of course, beach fishing with lures is nothing new. People have tossing lures in the surf for decades and been very successful at catching fish.
Fisherman and tackle manufacturers continue trying to fool fish with various artificial lure types and designs.
Now, I won’t try to convince you that lures are better than bait, but I have seen times when lures caught more fish than bait simply because with lures you didn’t have to re bait between fish.
When you can find a lure that closely matches what the fish are actively feeding on, you can catch a lot of fish without the hassle and mess of dealing with natural bait.
There are three main types of lures for beach fishing, 1. Spoons, 2. Hard Plastic bait ( swim bait and top water), and 3. Soft Plastics.
The spoon has probably caught more fish on the beach that all the other combined. For one, its been around the longest and the flash of a spoon mimics that of a fleeing bait fish which draws the attention of predators.
Hard baits, such as the offerings by Mirrolure and Rapala, have taken their fair share of fish from the surf as well. Soft Plastics first made an appearance for beach fishing in the 1960s with what looked like a short plastic worm on a jig head in various color combinations. Soft plastic bait have been around since Creme Lure company introduced the plastic worm in 1949.
Designed and used primarily for bass fishing in freshwater, it eventually found its way into saltwater use.
In my younger days, I saw some big speckled trout caught on Texas Rigged 8in purple worms designed for bass fishing.
Soon the 3 and 4 inch worms on jig heads were a fixture in every serious beach fishermans’ tackle box.
Soft plastics have continued to evolve and now you can find soft plastic shrimp, mullet, crabs, eels and of course worms.
The come in a rainbow of color patterns and sizes and nearly as many manufacturers. Some even come scented and flavored with natural bait, extracts, salts and oils. If you know what the fish are feeding on, chances are you can find a soft plastic bait that will match it and catch fish.
Beach Fishing with Soft Plastics
Soft plastic lures are great for beach fishing and can be fished in a variety of ways giving you more options to target fish in the surf. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular soft plastics and how to use them for beach fishing. As we discussed earlier, soft plastics today come in a seemingly endless variety of shapes, sizes, styles and colors. But, which ones work best for beach fishing?
Types of Soft Plastics for Beach Fishing
The types of soft plastic lures you choose for beach fishing will depend on the fish your are targeting and what those fish are actively feeding on. If they are feeding on small bait fish, then paddle tails and other bait fish imitation styles will be your best choice. If they are chasing shrimp, then a shrimp imitation like the D.O.A. shrimp would be a good option.
For beach fishing, soft plastics will fall into one of four basic styles or categories.
- Bait fish imitations
- Shrimp imitations
- Crab imitations
- Worms or eels
The colors, sizes, scented or unscented will all depend on your location and circumstances. They will work anywhere in the world.
If you have a beach, there will be fish somewhere close and there is a soft plastic bait that will catch them.
Now some of the more toothy fish that roam the beach front can tear up you soft plastics so bring plenty of spares just in case.
How to Fish with Soft Plastics for Beach Fishing?
Beach fishing with soft plastics is not overly complicated. A good medium-heavy 7 to 9 ft rod paired with a good 4000 – 6000 series spinning reel, spooled with 30 lb braid will be all you need to fish soft plastics, or most any artificial lures, from the beach.
Depending on how finicky the bite is, you may want to add a 12 – 18 in section of fluorocarbon leader between your braid and lure. And, if you start getting cut off by some of the more toothy species, a straight wire leader may come in handy. Wire leaders can affect the bait action so I wouldn’t recommend it unless absolutely necessary.
Keep in mind that when beach fishing you will be dealing with at least one of the big 3, if not all three, wind, waves and current.
You most likely will need some type of weight to be able to cast against the wind and control the sink rate of the bait in the current.
Some soft plastics like the Tsunami swim shad come weighted, others you can fish on a jig head or rig on a Carolina or Texas rig tor additional weight. It will take some experimentation depending on the wind and currents to get it just the way you want it.
I always suggest you check with your local bait and tackle shops and spend some time on the local fishing forums to find out which bait are working best and how to rig and fish them. You want to find out what the fish are feeding on and look for soft plastics that are of a style, action and color which closely resemble it.
Each type of soft plastic has its own action and characteristics. Some you can work anywhere in the water column, others are designed to be bounced along the bottom.
Again, it depends on what you are fishing for and what they are feeding on. That’s one of the great things about beach fishing with soft plastics is their versatility.
They make great search bait as you can cover lots of water in a short time and probe likely looking areas of the beach as you look for fish.
They are relatively inexpensive, as lures go, and easy to store, transport and change on the fly. Just be aware, you will need to carry some spares for those times when you run into fish with sharp teeth as they can tear up your soft plastics in a hurry.
The elaztech soft plastics from Z-Man Lures are some of the most durable you’ll find and the come in both scented and non scented versions.
The Best Soft Plastics for Beach Fishing
There seems to be no end to the number, types, colors, styles and manufacturers when it comes to soft plastic lures. Which are the best for beach fishing will depend mainly on you, where you will be fishing and what you will be fishing for. But there are some general characteristics to look for.
Soft plastics that come in a variety of sizes. Bigger fish eat bigger prey, so you need to have some bigger soft plastics. A good variety of colors will help you more closely “match the hatch” on what the fish are actively feeding on. And, the options of scented or non scented can be useful when the fish are not as active.
Of course features like weighted or not, and style like curly tail, straight tail, paddle tail among others can be important at times as well. Again, I recommend you check out the local bait and tackle shops and online forums to get a better idea of what works best for where you will be fishing.
Some of my personal favorites are the Storm Lures Wildeye Swim Shad. It comes in a wide range of colors and sizes. It’s weighted and pre rigged and ready to fish right out of the package.
The Tsunami Swim shad is very similar to the Storm Wildeye shad. Both come in a variety of colors and sizes and the Tsunami Swim Shad is also pre weighted.
The Berkley Gulp and Powerbait lines come scented and are very effective, particularly when fish are not actively feeding. Berkley Powerbait will draw fish and trigger the bite when nothing else seems to work.
The soft plastic lures from Saltwater Assassin offer a wide range of styles, sizes and colors to match any fishing situation.
They are not pre rigged so you will need hooks and or jig heads in addition to the soft plastics themselves.
The most durable of the soft plastics is the elaztech from Z-Man lures. The will take much more abuse and keep fishing far longer than most of your standard soft plastics. They also have a scented line that includes the Pro-Cure Super Gel molded into the plastic. Z-Man lures also come in a wide selection of sizes, colors and styles.
One of my long time favorites are the soft plastics from D.O.A. Lures. A good selection of sizes and colors with real bait scent molded into the plastic. There soft plastic shrimp imitations have produced many a speckled trout for me over the years.
These are just some of my favorites. There are many more out there. You can check them out at tackledirect.com they carry all of your tackle needs, not just soft plastics. And, of course, amazon.com seems to have everything under the sun, click the buttons below to check out all of your options.
Beach Fishing with Soft Plastics – Scented vs Unscented
The next question you need to consider is: Which is better scented soft plastic lures or Un scented? I can tell you from firsthand experience that scented bait absolutely work for those times when the fish are not active. When they are actively feeding, it doesn’t matter, unscented work just as well.
Scented soft plastics are more expensive, they smell, and some can get messy to handle like Gulp with its liquid attractant. You can add scent yourself to soft plastic baits with products like Pro-Cure Super Gel and probably save some money and space in your tackle box, but that too can get messy and time-consuming.
If you are looking to try scented soft plastic lures, the Berkley Gulp and Powerbait lures would be my top recommendation. The elaztech Pro-Cure scented lures from Z-Man are the best for toughness and durability. The D.O.A. shrimp is a proven winner when the fish are feeding on shrimp.
I have an article on scents and attractants for saltwater fishing that goes into much more detail about using scents and which work best. Just remember, scents are good for inactive fish, otherwise they are not really necessary and not only cost more but can get messy to handle.
Beach Fishing with Soft Plastics – Pros and Cons
Like anything else, beach fishing with soft plastics has its advantages and disadvantages. In the table below I list what are, in my opinion, the Pros and Cons of surf fishing with soft plastics. If you can think of some others, please leave them in the comments section below. We can all learn from each other.
|Pros of Beach Fishing with Soft Plastics|
|Wide Variety of Sizes, Styles and Colors|
|Scented Options are Available|
|Inexpensive compared to other Lures|
|Easy to Store, Carry and Switch Out|
|Very Versatile Artificial Baits|
|Cons of Beach Fishing with Soft Plastics|
|Fish with Sharp Teeth Will Damage the Baits|
|Most will need additional Hooks and Weights|
|Plastic is not Environmentally Friendly|
Final Verdict: Soft Plastics are Great for Beach Fishing
Beach fishing with soft plastics will allow you to cover a lot of water to locate feeding fish. Soft plastics come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors to match nearly any bait fish, shrimp, crab or worm you can imagine.
Essential Surf Fishing Gear:
- Surf Fishing Rods, surf rods are typically longer and heavier duty than standard rods. – read more.
- Surf fishing Reels,larger and stronger with greater line capacity to handle big fish. – read more.
- Surf fishing Rod and Reel Combos, pre-matched rod and reel set ups for surf fishing – read more.
- Sand Spike Rod holder, holds your rods securely while you wait for that big bite. – read more.
- Surf Fishing Rigs, terminal tackle for fishing the surf. – read more.
- Surf fishing Carts, for beaches that won’t allow vehicles you need a way to carry your gear – read more.
- Rod Racks for Vehicles, carry your rods out of harms way and easy to access- read more.
- Beach Camping Gear, in case you want to fish all night or for several days – read more.
They are simple to fish, relatively inexpensive, as lures go, and easy to store and transport making them a must have addition to your beach fishing gear.
There are numerous manufactures to choose from in both scented and non scented versions. Some of my favorites are those by Saltwater Assassin, Z-Man, Berkley Gulp and Powerbait, Tsunami, Storm, D.O.A. Lures, and H&H Lures.
But, the important thing is to pick what “matches the hatch”. It doesn’t matter what the fish are feeding on, there is a soft plastic lure that will resemble it.
They may not be better than natural bait, but there are times when you can catch just as many fish with soft plastics if the fish are actively feeding and you find a pattern that closely imitates what the fish are feeding on. Sometimes the scented plastics may even out fish natural bait because they can withstand the bait stealers better.
As always, stay safe, enjoy the journey and please try to leave it cleaner than you found it. If you have any comments, questions, ideas or suggestions please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you asap. You can follow us on Facebook: Rex The Beach Angler, Instagram: thebeachangler7, Twitter: @AnglerBeach, and YouTube: Man Art Creations.
A life long surf fisherman with 50+ years of experience, I am also an avid hunter and outdoorsman. I will be sharing my passion for the outdoors with you so be prepared for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and more. Along with gear reviews and the latest trends and innovations in the outdoor industry.