By Alton Jones

Soft plastic lures come in every imaginable shape and a lot of possible presentation options. Pressed to pick three, I have to go with those baits that provide the best opportunities to catch quality fish in the situations that I encounter the most.

YUM Dinger
It may be no surprise that one of my picks is a YUM Dinger. For a variety of reasons, a Dinger is my absolute favorite soft-plastic lure.

Those reasons certainly include the tournament success I’ve enjoyed with Dingers since day 1. The first tournament I had Dingers in my hands – the 2003 Bassmaster Tour event at Clear Lake – I used those Dingers to win the tournament. YUM Dingers also brought me the win in the 2012 Elite Series event on the St. Johns River, and I couldn’t even guess the number of high finishes I’ve had where a Dinger has been my primary bait.

There is something about a Dinger’s shape and the way it moves when it sinks through the water that bass simply like, and of course that explains why I like a Dinger so much. It’s also a very versatile bait. You can rig it different ways and fish it in any depth simply by adding enough weight to get the bait down.
Regarding weight, I always rig a Dinger with the least amount of weight I can get away with. Often that means fishing it weightless, either as a Texas rig or wacky style. Sight fishing, casting to visual targets, and fishing for northern smallmouths in clear water with light line are just a few of the situations where I really like to fish with a YUM Dinger.

The biggest mistake anglers make with a Dinger is to overwork it. The best approach usually is to cast it out there and let it do its job.

Christie Critter
The Christie Critter, which is one of YUM’s newest baits, has quickly become my go-to lure for fishing around wood of any kind. I fish bushes, logs and stumps a lot during late summer and fall, especially in lakes that have a bit of color, and I’ve found that the Christie Critter produces big bass.

Something I really like about the Christie Critter when compared to most creature baits, is that it’s just the right size. A lot of the creature baits on the market are either too big or two small, but at 4.5 inches the Christie Craw is just right. Also, because of the softness of the plastic used, fish tend to hang onto it longer. That means I can let them really get it and can get a good hookset.

I normally cast or pitch a Christie Critter to a specific target, ideally so the bait falls right in front of a fish’s face because most strikes occur on the initial fall. I’ll study a piece of cover to determine exactly where a bass is likely to be holding. Then I’ll cast to that spot, taking care to land the bait as quietly as possible, and let it fall.

Usually the fish will hit before the bait every finds bottom. If I don’t see the line jump, I’ll reel slowly until I make contact to see if it feels like a Christie Critter or something else. If nothing has taken it, I might shake the lure a bit, but I won’t leave it there long before I pull it out to cast to the next target.
alton jones
Because I fish a Christie Critter mostly around cover and catch big bass with it, I fish it on heavy line, with my normal choice being either 20-lb fluorocarbon or 50-lb braid with a 25-lb fluorocarbon leader. I Texas rig the bait, using a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce weight.

Wooly Bug
A Wooly Bug for me is situation-specific in nature, but it’s a situation that I face quite a bit. I like a Wooly Bug best any time the fish are beneath matted vegetation and I need to get a bait down to them. The Wooly Bug’s compact profile allows me to punch it through even the thickest stuff, and when it suddenly falls in front of the fish, it looks like an easy meal.

Because I’m punching thick stuff, I always fish a Wooly Bug on heavy line and with a heavy weight. The line is typically 50-lb braid, and my weight is always at least 1 ounce, sometimes up to 1-½ ounces.

A mat doesn’t have to spread across acres of water, and the vegetation isn’t always growing from the bottom. In truth, my favorite mats are about the size of a tabletop, and often there are floating clusters of grass that might have drifted beside a dock. Those kinds offer shade, food and sense of security for the fish, but they are hollow underneath, giving the fish room to move and making the bait more visible.

When I flip a mat, I punch the bait through and let it sink and sometimes hop it on the bottom just a bit. However, I always pay attention to when fish bite and try to figure out where they are in the water column. Although many fish will be near the bottom, sometimes they will be barely beneath the mat.

If I am getting hits as soon as the bait falls through, that tells me the fish are close to the surface, so I’ll punch it through, lift it until I feel the bottom of the mat and then just wiggle the bait right there. Any time you figure out they are just beneath that mat, you have a chance to crush the competition. Virtually everyone will be dropping the bait all the way to the bottom, so they’ll be fishing beneath the bass.

Favorite Soft-Plastic Colors
In all three of the baits I like similar colors. Here are my top color patterns:
-Watermelon Candy
-Green Pumpkin
-Green Pumpkin Purple Flake