Bassmaster pros have important advice for anglers rigging up the new elastomeric superplastics appearing on tackle shelves: Understand the differences between the stretchy new baits and traditional soft plastic lures before you put them to use.
Strike King (3X Soft Baits) and Outdoor Innovations (SnapBack Super Plastics) unveiled the incredibly durable and buoyant lures the summer before last. If the soft baits live up to expectations and the demand is there, look for other companies to follow.
The superplastics are made of "gel polymers," materials known for their softness, elasticity and durability. Similar formulas are used to produce tennis shoes, automobile accessories and toys.
Z-Man Fishing Products in South Carolina manufactures 3X Soft Baits and SnapBack Lures with what it calls "Cyber-Flexxx." Aside from cosmetic and shape differences, 3X and SnapBack characteristics are identical.
All the new lures look like traditional soft plastic baits, but the performance of the material from which the lures are made is substantially different.
"These lures offer some incredible advantages, but they also have some potential negatives," cautions Missouri pro Denny Brauer. "If you misuse them, you may be disappointed."
That's not to say Brauer and other pros have been disappointed. After more than a year of testing, the new lures are drawing rave reviews.
"I've never been known for fishing soft plastic lures, but I've got a lot of confidence in this stuff," says 2000 Bassmaster Classic Champion Kevin VanDam. "What anglers must realize is that Cyber-Flexxx performs differently than the soft baits we've come to know, so it has to be treated accordingly."
A 6-inch elastomeric lure can be stretched more than 3 feet without breaking, eliminating those annoying tail-bite-offs that occur when fishing plastisol baits. Hooks will penetrate but won't tear through them, and holes appear to reseal when a hook is removed.
"When I received my first bag of SnapBack Soft Jerk Baits, I caught 42 bass from a pond before I put on a fresh lure," says Bassmaster Open pro Bill Berry of Terre Haute, Ind. "That is unheard of with traditional plastics."
California pro Skeet Reese says the new plastics will be a tremendous benefit when fishing lakes where spotted bass are prominent.
"Spots are notorious for tearing off tails, but they're not going to be able to do it with these," he notes. "If you fish for spotted bass with traditional plastics, you'd better have at least 50 baits in the boat. The Cyber-Flexxx baits not only will reduce the number of baits you use, but they will make you more efficient because you'll spend less time rigging new baits."
VanDam believes the other attributes of the material are more beneficial.
"Everybody wants to talk about durability and how many fish you can catch on one lure, but the true value is in performance," he explains. "The softness gives the baits incredible action, and the buoyancy makes it possible to do things that we could never do with traditional plastics."
Lighter than water
The new-generation lures are so buoyant, in fact, that bulky bodied lures, such as lizards and soft jerkbaits, will float when rigged with large hooks. Those made of Cyber-Flexxx are said to be 20 percent lighter than water.
"Because of that, anglers may need to increase the sinker size when fishing lures they want to fall or get to the bottom," explains Reese.
Pros are most excited about the lures' buoyancy on Carolina rigs. The high floating superlures will ride high off the bottom, unlike traditional lizards.
"A lot of people believe that all Carolina rigged baits float, but they don't," Reese explains. "When you pull a traditional plastic lure on a Carolina rig, it drags along the bottom. But Cyber-Flexxx lures really float above the bottom, so you're appealing to bass suspended above grass and other types of cover."
Oklahoma pro Tommy Biffle says anglers should consider speed when fishing the new plastics.
"I think you're going to have to fish a little slower," says Biffle. "The longer the bait sits, the more it rises or stands on its nose. That may be the kind of presentation you need to get more bites on tough days."
VanDam has noticed it too, saying the lures' buoyancy benefits other presentations, like the basic Texas rigged worm.
"When you pull one of these new worms over the bottom, it goes to the bottom and swims," he describes. "But when you stop it, the bait rises with its nose on the bottom and it continues to work for you. Traditional soft plastics tend to just lie there, but not these baits."
Weighting soft jerkbaits
Buoyancy can be counterproductive on elastomeric soft jerkbaits when a slow, seductive fall is desired. To compensate, VanDam adds Storm SuspenStrips or a little Sticky Weight on the middle of a hook shank to cause a 3X Zulu to sink and suspend.
SnapBack's Jerk Bait, on the other hand, is packaged with tiny weights, one of which can be placed in a rattle pocket located in the belly, and another pegged to the nose of the lure.
"That causes the bait to sink slowly and gives it a wild, erratic action on the slow fall," explains Berry.
Regarding colors, because gel polymers are clear, manufacturers can produce the opaque, translucent-laminated and metalflake colors that anglers prefer.
Also, the material doesn't accept most of the after-market lure dipping dyes or paints used on traditional soft plastics. For that reason, Spike It now offers Cyber Glo Spray, a translucent coloring, and Cyber Glo Tail Dye, an opaque paint. Both are offered in 10 colors. Anglers should note that the Cyber Glo Spray cannot be used on traditional plastics.
Segregate your plastics
Never mix traditional plastics with elastomeric lures. The plastisol baits trigger a chemical reaction that will cause both baits to melt.
Manufacturers advise anglers to put the new-age plastics in previously unused utility boxes, or keep them in their respective packages.
That's why Plano now offers Cyberflexxx Duraview utility boxes designed specifically for the new baits. They are offered in three sizes.
Heat is said to be another factor. Although direct sunlight won't melt the lures, one lying on the boat deck does appear to become more supple.