I was introduced to the family of lures usually referred to as "soft plastic jerkbaits" in the early 1990s by guide, Mark Kovach, fishing unweighted Sluggos for smallmouth bass. Shortly thereafter, I began fishing unweighted, minnow-imitating Fin-S-Fish for bass, stripers, sea trout, even false albacore. About the same time Bass Assassins came on the scene and later BKDs, both fished on jig heads, and arguably the most popular lures on Chesapeake Bay.
I fished all these lures with exposed hooks. So while they were effective, they were limited in weedy, snaggy situations, I did fish plastic worms, lizards, Senkos, tubes and "creature baits" either Texas-rigged or on weedless hooks.
A few years ago Billy Zeller introduced me to a type of soft plastic minnow jerkbaits often called flukes, in their many names and varieties, Texas-rigged on weighted or unweighted hooks to take bass and pickerel. Billy is an absolute killer with these lures, and purchases his in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors from specialty catalogs. Likewise he fishes them in several variations of Texas-rigging including adding skirts in front of the hook eye and trailing back over part of the lure's body.
I have taken a simpler approach and have had my own outstanding success with largemouth and smallmouth bass, pickerel, pike and redfish, and have even taken white and yellow perch and crappie when fishing flukes in ponds, reservoirs and tidal rivers. I haven't tried them yet on stripers, sea trout and bluefish (one per lure if you're lucky), but I'm sure they'll work there, too. Many companies make salt water (and panfish) sizes.
So far I'm using all Zoom lures in the colors of Albino, White Ice, Houdini, Chartreuse Pearl and Bait Fish with the first three colors being my favorites. Not all sizes and models come in all these colors, so I sometimes use a scented felt tip pen made for touching up lures to make a chartreuse top on the White and Ice patterns. The models I use are the Super Fluke and Super Fluke, Jr. and the Swimmin' Super Fluke and Swimmin' Super Fluke Jr. I Texas-rig the larger lures (about 4 ½ inches) on Extra Wide Gap (EWG) 5/0 hooks or similar jig hooks or weighted hooks and the smaller ones (about 3 ½ inches) on 3/0 sizes of these hooks.
The tails of the Super Fluke and Swimmin' Super Fluke are shaped differently, imparting different actions and calling for different retrieves.
The Super Fluke, including the Jr. version, has a flat body and a forked tail. It is usually fished with an irregular twitching action, which causes the lure to dart up and then fall erratically, imitating the motions of a distressed baitfish. Gamefish often slash at the lures and miss, but usually return to hit again. Pickerel miss more than most species, sometimes striking and cutting monofilament or fluorocarbon line or leaders testing as high as 20-pound test. You can't do much about the cutoffs; the important point is to continue the erratic retrieve after missed strikes to give the fish more chances to get hooked.
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The Swimmin' Super Fluke, including the Jr. version, has a button-shaped tail that gives the lure its swimming action. This lure can be retrieved in a variety of ways. I often use the twitch retrieve described above. Most anglers use a swimming retrieve, either with steady or stop-and-go reeling. The lure is also effective "waked," reeled quickly under the surface, so that the tail creates a surface wake.
These lures can be Texas-rigged or fished with open hooks unweighted, on weighted hooks or on jigs. You will miss hookups with any of these rigs. Getting a high percentage of hookups depends on proper tackle and technique.
The casting or spinning rod employed must have fast action, the faster the better, either medium or medium-heavy. Braided line, such as 15 to 20-pound (or heavier in extreme cover) Power Pro helps detect subtle strikes and delivers firm hooksets. Use a neutral color, such as green. I use a chartreuse line, which gives better visibility, then use a green, waterproof felt tip to give the last 10 feet that natural, green color. Many strikes are indicated only by a subtle twitch of the line, so watching the line is important. The leader should be about a rod length, 15 to 20-pound fluorocarbon, attached to the braided line via either a pair of Uni Knots or an Albright Knot. Attach the lure with a 100 percent Loop Knot for maximum strength and lure action.
When a fish hits the lure, pause a beat, then strike firmly, a bit more firmly on weighted hooks, on a line that is nearly or barely taut. With the tackle described, you do not have to "try to break the fish's neck." The hookset takes a bit of practice, but once you get it, you should hook up on a high percentage of strikes.
When fishing weedy, shallow water, our guys often have one rod rigged with a swimming fluke and another with the forked tail version. If a fish slashes and misses on one, we'll cast back with the other lure. This works a lot of times.
A search of the Internet shows a variety of these generic lures and ways to rig them. Our group likes wide gap jig hooks and the screw-in attachment shown, a typical rig for most weighted hooks. Not only does the plastic attach in a true line with the hook, but we feel the plastic lasts longer, and it's easier to switch flukes.
Flukes aren't flukes. I predict flukes will be staple lures for years.