Do You Use a Sinker with Soft Plastics? [Sinker Debate]

It depends on the rig, but sinkers can help soft baits sink faster, extend the range of your cast, and give you more control over the depth and movement of your lure. Sinkers are helpful, but you don’t always need them to fish with soft toys.

Do you use a sinker with soft plastics? This is a common question many anglers have when fishing with these popular lures. The quick answer is that it depends on your specific technique. However, in most cases, do you use a sinker with soft plastics?

The suitable sinker or weight can make all the difference in ensuring your plastic baits run at the proper depth and maintain the desired action to catch fish consistently. This article will examine when and why you should consider adding a sinker or weight when fishing with soft plastic baits.

You’ll learn the basics of sinker rigging to present your soft plastics based on fishing conditions properly. Let’s dive in and explore when and how you use a sinker with soft plastics.

Fishing Sinker: Do You Use a Sinker with Soft Plastics?

 What Are Soft Plastic Lures?

Soft plastic lures are artificial baits made of flexible, pliable plastic rather than hardwood or plastic. Some of the most common types of soft plastic lures include:

  • Worms: The basic straight-tail worm is likely the most used soft plastic bait. From 4 to 10 inches or more, worms come in many shapes, sizes, and colors.

  • Creature Baits: More life-like interpretations of baitfish, crawfish, and insects featuring appendages, claws, and antennae. 

  • Craws: Imitate crawfish with pincers and claws for tempting bites when flipped or pitched.

  • Grubs: Versatile grubs on jig heads are great for imitating baitfish. It can be rigged weedless, too.

  • Swimbaits: Realistically mimic baitfish with articulated segmented bodies and built-in actions.

Soft plastic lures offer several key benefits for anglers:

  • Life-like Action: The pliable plastic has great movement in the water, mimicking life-like swimming/fleeing action that triggers reflex strikes from predatory fish.

  • Easy to Rig Weedless: Soft plastics can be rigged weedless easily with wide gap hooks. This allows fishing in the thickest cover.

  • Durable: High-quality soft plastics like those from Berkley, Zoom, Strike King, and more are highly durable, often outlasting live bait. They can catch dozens of fish before needing replacement.

Do You Need a Sinker with Soft Plastics?


Whether or not you need to add a sinker to a soft plastic bait depends mainly on the type of rig you are using and the exact presentation you want to achieve:

Texas Rig

A bullet sinker is crucial for the Texas Rig to allow casting distance and keep the bait down in the strike zone:

Pros of Using a Sinker

  1. Allows for increased casting distance.
  2. Gets the bait down to the bottom and keeps it there.
  3. Provides added weight to ensure solid hooksets.

Wacky Rig 

No sinker is used with the wacky rig. The bait sinks slowly on its own:

Pros of No Sinker

  1. Bait falls with enticing fluttering action.
  2. More subtle, natural presentation. 

Finesse Dropshot 

A sinker is attached below the hook to keep the bait suspended off the bottom:

Pros of Using a Sinker

  1. Allows for a vertical presentation.
  2. It’s easy to fine-tune the depth of the bait.

Carolina Rig

Uses a teardrop or egg sinker above the leader to carry the bait to depth.

Pros of Using a Sinker

  1. Allows bait to reach bottom structure in current or deep water.  
  2. Creates enticing erratic action on the fall.

They are equally effective for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, trout, pike, and other freshwater and inshore saltwater species.

Fishing with Soft Plastic Baits

Soft plastic baits have become extremely popular among bass anglers in recent years. These baits have great action in the water and are versatile lures that can be rigged in many ways. Here are some tips for fishing with soft plastics:

  • Choosing Your Plastic: There are countless styles and colours of soft plastic baits on the market. When selecting your baits, match the hatch and consider water clarity and conditions. Popular options include stick baits, jerk baits, craws, creatures, worms, grubs, and fluke/paddle tails.

  • Rigging: Soft plastics can be rigged weedless by pairing them with a wide gap hook and threading the hook point into the plastic. Texas rigging and wacky rigging are standard techniques. You can also rig plastics on jigheads for fishing deeper areas. Consider adding rattles or scents to increase attraction.

  • Retrieve Techniques: Vary your retrieval of soft plastics to trigger strikes. For regular plastic worms, use a lift-and-fall technique. For stick baits, give erratic twitches. For grubs, slowly jig the rod tip. You want to mimic injured or fleeing prey.

  • Setting the Hook: Longer hook strokes are often needed to drive the hook into the plastic bait on a strike. Be ready to set the hook hard when you feel pressure. Use strong hooks that can penetrate the plastic.

  • Location: Target areas like points, rock piles, docks, grass lines, and submerged wood. Work the bait slowly along the edges. Allow the lure to sink near the structure. Set your hook at the slightest bump or tap.

Soft plastics are highly effective for catching largemouth and smallmouth bass when appropriately fished. 

Most Popular Soft Plastic Types

WormBasic straight tail designLength from 4″ to 10+”Tails for action
Stick WormLonger slender wormLife-like profile Gliding fall on slack line
Creature BaitResembles crawfish/baitfishPincers, antennas, appendages
TubeHollow-bodied baitRigged on jig head or tube jig
CrawImitates crawfishPincers for action <br> Good for flipping
GrubVersatile baitfish imitatorEffective on jigheads <br> Easy to rig weedless
SwimbaitMimics swimming baitfishArticulated and jointed <br> Built-in actions

 When Are Soft Plastics Most Effective?

Soft plastic lures excel in a wide range of fishing situations, including:

 Flipping and Pitching

With wide gap hooks and weedless rigging, soft plastics can be flipped or pitched into the thickest shoreline cover. Target areas like overhanging bushes, laydowns, and flooded vegetation.

Case Study: Flipping Ledges

Bass pro-Kevin VanDam used a flipping stick and soft Beaver-style creature baits to pick apart small rock ledges on the Tennessee River. He quietly flipped his bait tight to ridges and let it sit motionless, triggering vicious strikes.


Bass-pounding shad schools on the surface can be tempted with soft swimbaits rigged on weighted hooks and cast to the feeding frenzy.

Case Study: Schooling Bass

When schooling bass is blowing up on baitfish, angler Aaron Martens rigs up a 4″ swimbait on a 1/4 oz jighead and makes long casts past the school, bringing it back through the fish using an erratic darting retrieve.

Heavy Cover 

Weedless rigs like the Texas Rig allow fishing even the thickest mats of vegetation and wood cover where most lures would get fouled.

Cold Water

When fish are less active in cold water conditions, the subtle action of soft plastics can still entice light bites. Slow-dragged plastics are excellent for finicky cold-water bass and walleye.

Sinker Options for Soft Plastics

There are many styles and sizes of sinkers suitable for rigging soft plastic baits:


  • Lead: Inexpensive and available in a huge array of sizes and shapes. The traditional standard for sinkers.

  • Tungsten: Much denser than lead, allowing for more compact sizes while maintaining weight. Great for finesse applications.


  • Bullet: Aerodynamic, streamlined shape perfect for Texas rigs punching through the water on long casts.

  • Egg: Wider shape with a slower descent rate. It is better for letting bait flutter down on the Carolina rig.

  • Bank: Bank sinkers have a flat bottom that glides over the structure to avoid snags. Great for dragging.

  • Punching: Resembling a sharpened nail, punching sinkers penetrate thick mats.

Rigging Soft Plastics on Jigheads

While Texas and Carolina’s rigging is popular for using sinkers with soft plastics, simply rigging soft plastic lures on a jighead is a highly effective way to fish them. Grubs, swimbaits, craws, and more are deadly on jigheads.

Target species like bass, walleye, and pike are ambush predators that often aggressively strike soft plastic lures and jigs that are popped and moved erratically. The weighted jighead allows for longer casts and enables large, sweeping hooksets to drive the hook point securely home.

The Texas Rig – A Bass Fishing Staple

The Texas Rig is a classic setup for fishing soft plastic worms and creature baits that enables the excellent weedless presentation and maximum casting distance thanks to the bullet slip sinker:

Texas Rig Steps

  1. Thread the soft plastic bait onto the hook, keeping the hook point buried into the bait to make it weedless.

  2.  Slide the bullet sinker onto the line above the hook.

  3.  Use a wooden toothpick or rubber bobber stop to hold the sinker in place and prevent it from sliding down. 

Texas Rig Pros

Allows weedless entry into heavy cover – Glides through vegetation smoothly.

  • Highly versatile:  Can be flipped, pitched, cast and retrieved, or dragged.

  • Effective hooksets: The bullet sinker loads the rod for solid hookset power.
  • Guide Dean Rojas credits the Texas Rig as his most reliable big bass technique:

“I’ve caught more big fish with this technique than any other. It’s deadly for targeting big bass in heavy cover.”

The Texas Rig shines any time you need to maintain constant bottom contact or move through dense shoreline vegetation and structure. Target grass edges, laydowns, docks, and submerged timber.

Texas Rig Tips

  1. Use a braided line for sensitivity to feel every bite.
  2. Peg sinker in calm conditions, allow to slide in wind.
  3. Set the hook immediately on pickup.
  4. Varied retrieves trigger reaction strikes.

The Carolina Rig – Finessing Neutral Bass

The Carolina Rig utilizes a sliding sinker setup that allows anglers to present soft plastic lures with finesse, keeping the bait suspended enticingly in the strike zone:

Carolina Rig Advantages

  1. Excellent for tempting neutral bass relating to offshore structure and cover.
  2. Allows the bait to slowly flutter and float just above the bottom.
  3. Creates an erratic sideways shimmying action on the fall that triggers strikes.

FLW Tour pro Bryan Thrift relies heavily on the Carolina Rig for finicky bass:

 “I’ll throw this rig all day, whether I’m catching them. It’s the most effective way to catch inactive, neutral bass.”

The Carolina Rig is the go-to for tempting neutral, sluggish bass that won’t hit faster-moving reaction baits.

Carolina Rig Tips

  1. Use leader 2-3ft longer than depth fished
  2. Reel down and sweep rod to side on the bite
  3.  Let bait float up after hitting the bottom
  4. 12-17 lb fluorocarbon leader 

Punching Mats with Soft Plastics

During the hot summer months, largemouth bass and other warm water species will tuck in tightly to floating mats of vegetation seeking shade. Punching through these mats by ripping a heavy Texas-rigged soft plastic bait through the thick stuff is an exciting and productive technique:

Punch Rig Tips

Use heavy tungsten weights in the 1 oz to 2 oz range to penetrate the mats.

  1. A 7’6″ to 8′ punching rod provides the needed power and leverage.
  2. 65 lb braided line like PowerPro slices through matted grass and weeds.
  3. Target any openings in the mats where bass are likely to be waiting in ambush.
  4. After punching through, let the bait fall straight down through the hole.

This power punching technique allows anglers to effectively fish places other lures can’t reach!

Punch Rig Setup

  • Rod – 7’6″ Heavy, Fast Action.
  • Reel – High speed 6.3:1+ bait caster.
  • Line – 50-65lb braided line.
  • Weight – 1oz-2oz tungsten.
  • Bait – Big creature bait or craw.

Tungsten Weights for Finesse Fishing

While lead has traditionally been the standard for sinkers, modern tungsten weights provide some key benefits:

Tungsten Advantages

Smaller, more compact shape than the lead of the same weight.

  1. Quick descent rate that puts lure in strike zone faster.
  2. Greater sensitivity and feel for light pickups.
  3. Environmentally friendly, non-toxic alternative.

Tungsten is an excellent choice when finesse fishing small soft plastics on light jigheads for tough, pressured fish. The sensitivity transmitted through braided lines and tungsten makes it easier to detect wary nibbles.

Tungsten Finesse Tactics

  1. Dropshotting with 1/8 oz tungsten sinker.
  2. Shaky head jig with 3/16 oz tungsten.
  3. Finesse worm on 1/4 oz tungsten Texas rig.
  4. Wacky rigging with tungsten nail weight.

Expert Insights on Soft Plastic Tactics

Here are some tips, tricks, and insights from the pros on getting the most out of soft plastic lures:

 “I like a subtly salted plastic bait when fishing a Carolina Rig. It helps mask any unnatural smells and helps hold the rig in place.” – Mike Iaconelli.

 “On a Texas Rig, I’ll use a pegged sinker in calm conditions, but if it’s windy, I want that sinker to slide so the bait moves more freely in the water.” – Ott DeFoe. 

 “With the wacky rig, use an O-ring around the middle of the worm to pinch it onto the hook for better action and longevity.” – Jacob Powroznik.

 “I target local crawfish colors when flipping soft plastics into brush piles that subtle realism makes a difference.” – Skeet Reese.

 “Soft stick baits are killer on smallmouth and walleye when rigged on 1/8 or 1/4 oz ball head jigs and crawled slowly along the bottom.” – Bill Lowen.

Putting It All Together

While soft plastic lures are extremely effective fish catchers on their own, adding sinkers into the equation allows anglers to achieve more precise presentations for different scenarios:

  • Texas Rig: Casting, flipping, pitching to targets & structure.

  • Carolina Rig: Neutral suspended fish in open water.

  • Wacky Rig: Finesse fishing for pressured fish.

  • Jig Heads: Casting rip/jerk baits for reaction strikes.

  • Punch Rig: Penetrating thick floating vegetation mats.

Learning the best ways to utilize sinkers for each technique will certainly help you catch more fish on these versatile soft plastic lures.

Do You Use a Sinker with Soft Plastics? [FAQs]

Do all soft plastic fishing techniques require the use of a sinker?

Not all the time. For example, if you’re fishing with weighted hooks or topwater, you might not need sinkers.

What are the eco-friendly alternatives to lead sinkers?

Tungsten, steel, and bismuth sinkers are safer for wildlife and better for the environment.

How do sinkers impact the movement of soft plastics?

Soft plastics may not move as naturally when they’re attached to sinkers, which could change how fish see the bait.

Are there specific fish species that respond better to sinkers with soft plastics?

For fish that live in deeper water, sinkers are often a good way to get to the depths you want to reach.

What safety precautions should be taken when using sinkers in fishing?

Anglers should avoid ingesting or mishandling lead sinkers and use protective gear to prevent accidental injuries.

Final Thought

As we’ve covered, do you use a sinker with soft plastics? The suitable sinker and rigging method can make all the difference in fishing success when using these productive lures. Consider water depth, current, plastic-type, and structure when deciding if and what sinker to use.

Take the time to properly match your soft plastic baits with the right sinker weight and rigging for the given conditions. Experiment with your retrieve until you find what triggers fish to strike.

Now that you know the basics for using a sinker with soft plastics, you can catch more bass, walleye, trout and other species on these dynamic lures. Follow these tips and learn more nuanced soft plastic fishing techniques for continued angling success!

Emma is the wordsmith behind the insightful articles and guides on our website. Her extensive research and passion for fishing shine through in every piece she creates. Whether sharing angling tips or delving into the latest conservation efforts, Emma is dedicated to providing valuable and engaging content.