If you were to ask a plastic surgeon to name his favorite soft plastic lure, chances are that it would be some type of creature bait. When it comes to modifying a creature bait, the possibilities are endless. A pinch here, a cut there and suddenly the bulky plastic transforms into something entirely different but just as effective.
Elite Series pro Mike Iaconelli is quick to point out the benefits of modifying creature baits like the Berkley Bungee Power Hawg and Berkley Beast. "The Bungee Hawg is a creature bait with a lot of appendages and I'll usually start by fishing it straight out of the package," he explains.
"I'll modify the bait as the conditions begin to change around me." Iaconelli believes that too many anglers are afraid to ruin a bait which they have spent their hard-earned money to purchase. "The common misconception is that the only way a bass will bite a soft plastic is if it looks exactly like it did when it was in the package," he says. "Far too many anglers are afraid to modify their baits; but for me, it comes down to form and function."
When fishing for active bass in open water, the New Jersey pro often opts for a bulky creature bait with lots of appendages. If a cold front moves in or angling pressure increases, modifying the creature bait can actually garner more strikes. "You can take that same creature bait and pull off the arms and the appendages and actually have a bait that is more productive under certain conditions," claims Iaconelli. "Like I said, it's all about form and function."
The 2003 Classic champion also modifies creature baits because it allows him to keep his bait in the water. "The neat thing about fishing with a creature bait is that you have the ability to change on the fly," he explains. Rather than search for a number of different baits, Iaconelli will systematically undress his creature bait until he finds the perfect combination.
"I'll start by pinching off the top arms and then I'll begin to pinch off the tails until all that's left is the flappers," he says. "It's a big advantage to be able to quickly change my presentation." Known for taking an "outside the box" approach when it comes to techniques, Iaconelli points out that soft plastics modification isn't limited strictly to creature baits. In fact, he credits his 2006 win on Lake Guntersville to a modified 4-inch French fry. "On the final day, the bass that were guarding fry were so spooky that they were intimidated by a 4-inch French fry," he remembers.
"I pinched 2 inches off of the fry so it was nothing more than a little piece of plastic on a hook. That slight modification made a big difference and allowed me to win the tournament." Iaconelli offers this final piece of advice to anglers who are still uneasy with the idea of pulling, pinching, cutting or biting parts from their plastic baits: "Always think about the activity level of the bass and the conditions you are facing.
Above all else, don't be afraid to modify that plastic."