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The Soft Fluke Jerkbait – A Fishing Phenomenon

Before our famous ‘RIPPIN’ STICK’ soft sinking jerkbait hit the fishing World, there was actually it’s older cousin that was creating the initial shockwaves in finesse fishing for bass. That was the soft fluke-style lure and it first made headlines with the introduction of the ‘Slug-Go’ by Lunker City Lure Company.

Lunker City Fishing Specialties occupied Herb Reed's garage, where he turned out a few spinnerbaits, jigs and some hand-poured soft plastics for friends and a select group of dedicated anglers. Herb, an excellent angler himself, had long noted that predatory fish were often ‘turned on’ by the erratic fleeing action of prey, as well as any prey that was injured. One day, he simply decided to try and duplicate a baitfish in soft plastic, using a design that could be fished both rapidly or tantalizingly slow to mimic the various motion patterns of baitfish. First, he came up with a long, slender body style that closely resembled most baitfish. The, he combined his soft plastic ingredients to make a formula that would be realistically soft to the touch, as well as have near- neutral buoyancy. More trial and error and re-work came and went, until Reed was satisfied.

The ‘Slug-Go’ was born.

The now famous ‘Slug-Go’ was admittedly about as simple a lure and lure design as had ever been conceived. I an era of fast-growing attention to bass fishing, with fancy/ colorful/exotic lures coming onto the market in rapid succession, most lure companies targeted their potential customers with more and more eye-appeal and ‘gadgetry’ to sell their baits. So, when the ‘Slug-Go’ first came out, it just didn’t seem to ‘fit the mold’ with most fishermen. It was simply a straight piece of soft plastic around 5 inches long and about the thickness of your little finger. The body gradually tapered down to very slender tail section. In a way, it looked a bit like a large ground slug. But, that is my observation only and I have no idea exactly how its name came about.

The lack of initial acceptance in the fishing community lasted only a short period, as anglers across the country started to understand the potential of this phenomenal lure style. As the word rapidly spread about this ‘simple little stick of plastic’, the Slug-Go quickly blossomed into a national fishing craze.

Many lure companies started to jump on the fast moving train the ‘Slug-Go’ had started, dropping onto the market their own ‘knock-offs’ of Reed’s general lure design.

We have tried just about all the fluke-style lures. Most catch fish well, once the angler solves a few of his angler-to-lure interface problems. But, we have never found one we considered to have all the possible positive attributes that could be designed into it. So, we did our research and came up with our own fluke-type lure – the
‘PERFECT FLUKE’ – our newest addition to the ‘PERFECT’ family of lures.

Like Herb Reed, we took note of what lure factors influence a bass, and other predatory fish, to strike a lure or particular lure style:
  • SHAPE - First, we note that a bass responds well to bait fish over all other potential food sources. Because of this, bass appear to respond best to long, slender lures that visually imitate a baitfish.
  • ACTION/PRESENTATION – The more action a lure has, the more attention-drawing it is. The more erratic that action, the more a predator appears drawn to capture the lure. Active, feeding fish will immediately chase down a fast moving lure that implies it is fleeing. Dormant, or lethargic, fish (such as after a cold front’s passage), can be made to strike an erratic, moving lure, but only if it does not require a chase. This can be envisioned as responding to the availability of injured or dying prey. Hard-bodied lures cannot be made to perform as erratically as soft plastic versions. Thus, the soft lure gives us a plus-up in presentation style and reality.
  • LOCATION – Predator fish and prey, alike, normally relate to some form of cover (open water fish are ALWAYS in schools, with the ‘school’ becoming the protective ‘cover’). The denser that cover, the more productive it tends to be. Hard-bodied lures have presentation and operating difficulties in cover. Nearly all have treble hooks and their depth is difficult to control. They simply get hung a lot. Soft-bodied flukes can be rigged completely weedless, safely tossed into the heaviest cover, their depth is easy to control, and the action is easily applied as desired.
  • WEIGHT – Many anglers are using the new ‘superlines’, defined as braids and the straight strand, extruded FIRELINE types. These types of line float. That feature greatly effecting the sink rate of soft jerkbaits and causing a loss of control and ability to proper impart the desired action at the desired speed. Adding more weight during manufacturing can be accomplished by adding a bit more salt until the correct sink rate is attained. The additional salt content is also suspected to provide a more natural taste to the lure and keep the predator holding onto it longer, enabling a better hook-set.
  • COLOR/VISUAL STIMULI – In nature, most baitfish are black, gray, white, or some combination thereof. Additionally, for concealment and safety, most have an ability to adapt their color shades to their surroundings. The converse of the concealment and safety abilities is that most also have highly reflective body/scale surfaces that reflect light and makes them easy to spot when they move. Some, like the Bluebook Herring, tend to flush with color when excited or scared.

Bass generally rely on two predominate types of shad – the Gizzard and the Threadfin species. In certain other waters, we find a primary forage fish is the Bluebook Herring. Of course, there are many others closely resembling the shad and herring species, some called ‘minnows’, some ‘chubs’, and some called ‘shiners’. But, the shads and herrings inhabit most waters. Our
‘PERFECT FLUKE’ was designed to resemble these predominate types of baitfish.

We incorporated features we think make the
‘PERFECT FLUKE’ the best of its type and more productive for the angler:
  • An optimum length of 4.5-inches, the average size of 20 samples of baitfish regurgitated by bass in our livewell. (It seemed like a reasonable way to size the lure.)
  • A nearly exact body silhouette of the gizzard and threadfin shads, and the blue-back herring baitfish.
  • A forked tail that duplicates Mother Nature.
  • A quick taper at mid-body to provide a highly flexible tail and allow maximum action.
  • 50% (+) salt content to increase the body density, thus improving the sink rate with ‘superlines’, and providing better ‘feel and control’. A possible side benefit may be that the added salt assures the fish holds onto the lure longer. You’ll have to ask the fish about that to really know! • A broad, slightly cupped back to act as a glide surface, bringing the lure back towards the surface more easily. Also supports variable hooking techniques (see later, below).
  • A unique shallow hook slot to shield, but not impede, the hook point.
  • Computer designed, the hook slot ‘hump’ holds the hook point high to prevent slippage, plus it supports the realistic body profile.
  • Balanced body toughness trade-offs for maximum durability. No more ‘one lure per fish’.
  • A very specific, proven color selection to catch fish, not fishermen. We produce only the natural colors of the gizzard and threadfin shads, and of the blue-back herring in waters from mid-Georgia, north. Metal flake additive is used in the darker colors to reflect light and enhance the natural visual acquisition by the fish.

Lure colors are often highly debatable topics, so let us go a bit further on that subject. Our observations show that nearly all baitfish are simply gray, white and/or silver, with a touch of darker coloration along the back. In clean water, this coloration is even more pronounced, while in stained water the baitfishes appear to darken to better blend in. We also note that when excited or threatened, baitfish often gain enhanced coloration. Possibly this is due to the sudden increase in blood flow and/or ‘fishy adrenaline’. We think it very logical that a soft fluke lure trying to resemble a baitfish need only have the basic color patterns of that baitfish. Any other colors would have to be intended to ‘catch fishermen’.

Accordingly, we only offer three colors on the

Clear Water Shad – White/silver/gray, with a touch of black. Fleck to mimic the normal ‘shine’ of the baitfish.

Stained Water Shad – A darker version of the Clear Water Shad, intended to duplication the color adaptation to stained and dark waters. Fleck to mimic the ‘shine’ of the baitfish.

Bluebook Herring – A blend of white/silver/gray, with the enhanced blue of an excited herring of this type.

Take a look at the color chart and compare them to the photos of the actual baitfish.

Rigging is pretty simple – just use a good quality, wide-gap hook and rig it weedless, IF you plan to fish where you might become snagged. If snagging probability is low, leave the hook exposed. Usually, a 3/0 or 4/0 hook is the proper size, but can vary by manufacturer products.

Using the provided hook slot is a personal issue with each fisherman. Personally, I don’t use it. I prefer to ‘skin hook’ the lure along an outer surface area. Look at the photo on the right. You see that my method takes advantage of the flared edge of the wide back of the lure to insert the hook point just barely into the plastic. This makes it weedless, plus the hook is easily freed for the hookup. If I am not liable to become snagged, I will push the hook on through until the point is totally exposed.

It does not matter what fluke lure (or
‘RIPPIN’ STICK’ - type soft jerkbait) you use, the photos on the right illustrate a really neat little trick to help in positive hookups. It involves cutting a ½-inch wide slot all the way through the lure, from the rear edge of the hook slot, forward. This will not interfere with the positive use of the hook slot, but DOES allow the hook to freely move forward and upward when you set the hook on a fish. This will increase your hookup ratio dramatically.

Another little rigging trick that assures a nearly 100% hookup rate is shown below. This is something I developed (sort of out of desperation) while fishing for schooling bass in the deep lakes of North Carolina this past summer. A lot of the surface-feeding bass were Kentucky Spotted Bass and Smallmouth, which have a tendency to slash and snap at a lure to stun it, rather than taking it fully on the first pass. It was hard to hook those puppies when they wouldn’t hold onto the lure like a Largemouth does. After missing so many of them, I finally came up with adding a treble hook to the main hook. Note the small piece of rubber band used to assure the treble is not lost if you get the primary hook pulled out of the lure body. This is the ultimate in ‘cheater hooks’, my friend. If you stand no chance of a snag, this little modification will get you one fish for every strike. You will NEVER miss him.

A final rigging variation we’d like to expose you to is the
‘tandem lure’ rig (see the photo, below). This rigging method used dual lures to simulate a school of baitfish. It can be highly productive when the bass are active, plus it can often be used to stimulate inactive fish to strike. Once you see it in the water, you will immediate recognize why it can be so effective at drawing fish. Looking carefully at the photo, you will see a swivel tied at the end of the main line and a 14-inch leader with a lure attached to that. Just above that swivel, you will note another swivel with an 8-inch leader and another lure. That second swivel is NOT tied to the main line; it is threaded onto the main line BEFORE the first swivel is attached. This allows the short leader and lure to move freely about, and up/down, the main line, and holds it well above the lure on the long leader. There may be a little bit of twisting of the two leaders, at time. But, it is minimal and will completely come out when you cast the lures. Once, in the water, action applied to this rig will result in each lure responding in different directions. A series of short, rapid jerks makes the lure lures look extremely like-like and implies a school of baitfish. Often times, a bass may get both lures. Many times, you will get two fish at once!! Ain’t that sweet?!

Presentation methods with a soft fluke are fairly simple and only require that you experiment to determine the mood of the fish.
  • Active bass will hit just about anything that comes within sight and is moving. An immediate tip-off to really active fish is when they grab the lure right as it hits the water. A rapid, continuous twitching action mimics a fleeing or feeding baitfish and stimulates a predator’s urge to chase it down. The key is not the forward speed of the lure, but that the motion is continuous and erratic. Visualize constantly ‘shaking’ the lure side-to-side and taking up the resulting slack line as it comes.
  • If the fish are in a lethargic or non-feeding mood, they can often be enticed to strike the fluke by lure action simulating an injured or dying baitfish. Basically, the angler attempts to ‘tease’ the bass to strike by making the lure look like an easy catch. The action imparted to the lure is usually a series of slow, soft twitches followed by a few seconds of being left motionless. The soft bait will very slowly sink while undulating/fluttering side-to-side. This is a particularly effective presentation method during cold weather conditions. If you have ever seen shad dying off from winter’s cold water, you should easily recognize this lure action.

The soft fluke lure, like most other types, is normally most effective when presented around or over cover/structure features. This is simply because those locations are where the smaller elements of the food chain, and therefore the larger predatory fish, are usually found.
Submerged cover/structure, such as grass beds or stump fields that do not reach the surface, always have the highest potential for locating fish. Plus, most anglers only fish cover/structure they can see, missing out on that below the surface and leaving it for you and I!! Always start with the rapid action presentation to see if active fish are present. After those fish are caught, or if there is no response, transition to the slower ‘teasing’ approach.

If you happen to be targeting open-water schooling fish, you already know they are active and feeding. Therefore, the rapid, erratic presentation is fine. However, after the surface action stops and the school drops down away from the surface a bit, consider just letting the soft fluke fall slowly through the water column, with just the smallest occasional twitch. That simulates an injured or dying baitfish in the area where they are being attacked. It can be a highly productive presentation. Pay attention and be very conscious of any line movement while the lure is in the free-fall state. You may see a ‘twitch’ in the line, it may start to move off to one side, or the lure may suddenly stop falling. Any or all of those conditions indicates a strike.

Finally, we should cover the actual hook set, in that
‘WHEN and HOW’ it is done is very important. Proper rigging assures the hook CAN make contact with the fish properly. But, the factors associated with ‘WHEN and HOW’ assure the hook WILL make that contact!

Depending on the sensitivity of your rod and line, plus your own experience factor, a strike may be easy or hard to detect. Of course, if it is a surface strike and you are watching, that is a ‘no-brainer’. But, when a soft fluke lure is below the surface, the fish often just grabs it and hold on. The sensation may be a slight bump or tap, or it may be that it appears the lure has gotten ‘heavy’. A nice thing is that the fish will normally hold onto a soft fluke lure and not let go unless you scare him. That’s right, he’ll hold on. Unlike a hard bait, which a bass will realize is fake and spit out rather quickly, the soft plastic lures, with an appreciable amount of salt content, apparently feels/tastes more like the real thing. The fish caught his prize, he wants it, and he is reluctant to let it go.

Once you have proven to yourself and accepted that the preceding is true, you will be able to hook nearly
EVERY fish that strikes your soft fluke lure. It is a simple, nearly foolproof process.
  • The fish obviously feels some resistance from you or your line while he is holding the lure. That makes him turn AWAY from you, either straightaway or to one side, in his effort to keep his prize and go. This is great, too, because you will then be pulling that hook back INTO his mouth cavity, rather than out the front. You will nearly always be successful!
  • Point the rod towards the fish and take up slack until the line is tight. Then, you set the hook. I find it is always a four-count process – one-two-three-set. That four-second period starts from the time I detect the strike, through taking up the slack and, finally, the hook set. Hey, it works!!

The soft fluke lure and my
‘PERFECT FLUKE’ are NOT ‘magic’ lures, nor are they likely to be the all-time ‘perfect fishing lure’. We will probably never see that lure. (At least, I hope not!! The fish have a hard enough time as it is!) But, the ‘PERFECT FLUKE’ is what I consider the optimal design available today, with all positive features design and manufacturing would allow.

Whether it’s our
‘PERFECT FLUKE’, or another brand, the soft fluke-style lure will add a lot of success to your fishing!


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