Artificial softbaits of all shapes and sizes are staple selections in the arsenals of serious anglers targeting a variety of fish species. The baits' strike-triggering actions, lifelike feel, natural scent and wide range of color options have made them top presentations for a variety of applications and, often, an excellent alternative to live bait.
There's plenty of new softbaits to get excited about at the 2018 Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades—better known as ICAST. Following is a sample of hot new options sure to help you put more fish in the boat.
Berkley PowerBait MaxScent
Since its debut in 1989, Berkley's PowerBait lineup has become a favorite of anglers worldwide for its ability to make fish hang on longer after they strike. For 2018, the PowerBait legacy expands to include more than 600 new sizes and shapes.
One of the major introductions of interest to bass anglers is the expansion of the PowerBait MaxScent family with eight new shapes and sizes, including Lizard (pictured), Power Chunk, Critter Hawg, Flat Worm, Flatnose Jerk Shad, and Hit Worm Magnum.
The latest innovation in the time-tested PowerBait clan, MaxScent baits release a super-charged scent field that attracts bass and makes them strike—but they're also infused with PowerBait flavoring to keep fish from letting go before you can set the hook.
Scientifically proven to catch 45 percent more fish than original PowerBait, MaxScent baits will now be available in 13 shapes, 16 sizes and 47 forage-inspired colorations. All carry an MSRP of $6.99. berkley-fishing.com.
D-I-Y Ripper Swimbaits
Do-It Molds feeds the appetites of serious anglers who like to make their own baits by unveiling the new 5-cavity, 3-inch Ripper Swimbait Mold— part of its Essential Series line of D-I-Y soft-plastic molds.
The new 3-inch Essential Series Ripper is a scaled down version of Do-It's popular 3.5-inch Ripper. The smaller bait's downsized profile is great for mimicking early season baitfish, and a solid option for cold water and cold front scenarios when walleyes, bass and other predators aren't in the mood for a big meal.
The new 3-inch Ripper mold kicks out ready-to-fish swimbaits, which can be poured in a variety of custom color and consistency combinations using Do-It's full line of soft-plastic supplies including plastisol, glitters, and colorants. Retails for $42. do-itmolds.com.
Japan Import Tackle is quietly making a name for itself among serious North American bass fans by bringing incredibly innovative baits to the U.S. The company's Munenori Kajiwara says two of 2018's most notable new arrivals are the 5.5-inch Fish Arrow AirBag Shad and 2.6-inch RAID Japan Battle Hog.
Retailing for $10 per 5-pack, the AirBag Shad is a hollow-bodied swimbait with beefy shad tail. The bait floats when paired with a 6/0 hook; by using a wire sinker, you can suspend it or dial in a wickedly slow sink. Also works well as a topwater or swim jig trailer.
Designed as a finesse version of the popular 3.8-inch Battle Hog, the new 2.6-inch model excels for smallmouths and tough-bite largies.
Among its many attributes, the Battle Hog features large arms sporting triangle-shaped claws that cause the appendages to move up and down and right-to-left, unlike the arms on conventional craws baits that simply wave in a vertical manner.
The Battle Hog's claws also feature a profusion of ribs that hold air and release small bubble trails. As a bonus, the bait's short legs provide a fine pitch vibration, while the long legs generate a slow action. Collectively, the two different size legs produce complex vibrations that entice finicky bass to bite.
The Battle Hog also features twin antennas fine-tuned to create natural movement with the slightest water pressure or rod action. Priced at $10 per 7 baits. japanimporttackle.com
LIVETARGET Hollow Body Craw
Call them crayfish, crawfish, crawdads, or whatever you like. Bass love 'em. LIVETARGET acknowledges this affinity with the unique new Hollow Body Craw. A blend of two distinct lure families—bass jigs and hollow-bodied topwaters—the bait excels on the bottom and in heavy cover.
Features include a lifelike three-dimensional anatomy, snag-resistant design, hollow head and body cavity, internal jig weight, custom hook, silicon skirting, and natural, reverse locomotion that imitates the way real crayfish swim. You can also squeeze scent and rattle tubes into the hollow body.
The new Hollow Body Craw comes in three lengths and weights (1½-inch, ½-ounce; 1¾-inch, 5/8-ounce; and 2-inch, ¾-ounce), in eight realistic color schemes, so you can match the look of regional or molting variations of craws coast to coast. Suggested retails run $9.99-$11.49. livetargetlures.com.
Storm 360GT Searchbait Swimmer
Built for targeting bass and other predators in strike zones deeper than typical swimbaits dive, this new 4 ½-inch, ¼-ounce bait has a lipped jig head to boost running depth.
The lifelike head also features 3D holographic eyes, a single-ball rattle, an exclusive 4/0 VMC Coastal Black hook, and an extended, 60-degree line tie leg. There's even a handy accessory hanger behind the lip for attaching a treble hook or spinner blade.
There's more to the 360GT Searchbait Swimmer than the jig, of course. The phthalate-free, soft-plastic body sports a prodigious, toe-in boot tail that kicks even at slow speeds. Available in 11 color patterns. storm.fishing
The original 4½-inch Pulse swimbait was such a rock star, YUM is expanding its Pulse options with a 3½-inch version. The smaller bait retains the bulky shape, but the reduced size makes it a knockout whenever the fish, forage, or conditions dictate downsizing.
The Pulse's paddle-tail generates a ruckus to attract predators from a distance, while the slanted ribs push the body down through the water column and into the strike zone. The tail and ribs also cooperate to an accentuated rolling action.
Look for the 3½-inch Pulse in 14 catchy colors, all selling for $2.99 per 8-pack. yumbaits.com.
YUM Tip Toad
The bass-busting toad bait genre takes a giant leap forward with the introduction of YUM's new Tip Toad. Once considered a hard-to-master presentation practiced only by elite bass anglers, toad bait fishing becomes a no-brainer thanks to the Tip Toad's easy-to-fish nature.
For starters, the 4½-inch, solid-bodied Tip Toad planes quickly, with no special manipulation. Plus, the bait's precision-placed tails—which brandish hard-thumping, custom-shaped feet—create maximum water displacement, generating a distinctive splutter that mimics a fleeing frog or baitfish.
Added amenities include a belly hook notch that provides perfect hook alignment when rigged with a 4/0 or 5/0 frog or wide-gap hook. Since you fish it weightless, like any toad bait, the 3/8-ounce body is a godsend for long, accurate casts.
For best results, the folks at YUM recommend fishing the Tip Toad on a 6-foot, 10-inch to 7-foot, 4-inch, medium heavy graphite casting rod, paired with a high-speed reel spooled with stout braided line. The combination allows you to zip the bait over thick vegetation, in brushy cover, and around docks. Just don't be afraid to throw in in open water, too.
The Tip Toad comes in 10 tempting color patterns. Suggested retail is $2.99 per 5-count bag. yumbaits.com.
Z-Man Finesse TRD CrawZ
Billed as a next-generation softbait, the buoyant little 2½-inch TRD CrawZ gives a lively, standup, claw-waving performance even tight-lipped bass find hard to resist.
The TRD CrawZ pairs nicely with the company's pivoting Finesse BulletZ Weedless Jighead, which animates the softbait as it traverses a variety of substrates and crawls through thick cover unfishable with lesser finesse jig designs. The bait also works wonders with mushroom and NedlockZ jig heads, as well as dropshot setups. Look for the TRD CrawZ in 10 colors, sold in six-packs for $4.49.
In other Z-Man news, the TRD MinnowZ is back. Due to popular demand, Z-Man is re-releasing the TRD MinnowZ (originally called the Rain MinnowZ) at ICAST. A Ned Rig classic, the extremely durable, 3½-inch, buoyant bait also shines on a drop-shot rig and for jerking and swimming.
Packing a mixture of the fish-catching attributes of a reaper, stick-style bait, and worm in one deadly package, the TRD MinnowZ is sold in 8-packs retailing for $4.49 and comes in 10 custom colors. zmanfishing.com.