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from Hank Parker!

I’m fond of saying that lures are merely tools and should be chosen accordingly, but the same can be said about the various rigs used to fish soft-plastic lures. If you only fish one way with one lure and one technique, you’re limiting your effectiveness over the course of a season.

Here is a detailed outline of my favorite soft-plastic rigs, the lures I prefer and how they should be fished.

Texas-Rigged Worm
It’s difficult to find a more versatile way to fish an artificial worm than with this simple method. The Texas rig incorporates a bullet sinker that slides onto the line, a hook and a soft bait. You can make the bait weedless by poking the hook through the head, turning it around and burying the point into the worm.

This rig is most effective for fishing through heavy cover. It can be cast, pitched or dropped into a brushpile. If I want the bait to fall through brush, I will peg the sinker so that it stays tight to the head of the worm. Otherwise, the worm will catch in the brush and the free-sliding sinker will fall beneath it.

For casting Texas rigs, I allow the sinker to slide so that a fish can’t use the weight to dislodge the hook if it jumps. I also have found that I miss more bites with a pegged sinker when making long casts.

I like to pitch fat worms or creature-style soft plastics because they offer a bigger profile. If I’m casting, I like thinner worms that either have a straight tail or a small curly design. Those seem to get more bites around stumpy points, boat docks and deep water.

Carolina Rig
This is my choice for fishing open water around points or drop-offs. It’s a great tool for covering a lot of water quickly, and it can help you locate deep brush or schools of bass.

To rig it, I put a 1-ounce sinker on my main line, tie a swivel at the end and then attach a leader to the swivel. A soft-plastic bait is fashioned on the hook at the business end of the leader. The big sinker falls faster, enhances longer casts and helps me feel the bottom. If a fish hits a bait with a swivel and leader, it can’t detect the resistance of that big sinker.

The lizard is my favorite Carolina-rigged lure. The bait is a little more buoyant and glides better than most lures, and that’s a great feature for catching fish hanging over deep structure.

Drop-Shot Rig
This relatively new technique is one that I’ve come to love. It’s ideal for clear water, but I’ve caught a lot of fish from stained water with it, too. When the fish aren’t aggressive, are suspended slightly off the bottom or have seen an array of big baits, this method will catch them.

The drop-shot rig consists of a hook tied about a foot or so up the line with a small sinker beneath it. I prefer 6- to 8-pound Vanish fluorocarbon line because it is so sensitive. I also use Mustad’s drop-shot nose hook and a titanium sinker, which is smaller than lead and helps you feel the bottom better. The hook is small, but you’re using small plastic worms and there is no need for a violent hookset. Just sweep and wind.

Finesse plastics work best on a drop-shot rig. Simply cast it out or fish it vertically, quivering the rod tip while maintaining contact with the sinker resting on the bottom. The action that imparts to the bait is incredible.

Anglers who think soft plastics don’t work in cold weather are making a big mistake. I’ve caught fish on soft baits fished on all three of these rigs when the water dropped into the 50s. When used appropriately, so will you.