Fishing Big Rubber: The Plastic Eel Revolution - The Fisherman

Fishing Big Rubber: The Plastic Eel Revolution

eels-rig
Plastic eels have proven themselves as a bait that every angler should carry in his or her bag.

Eel-slingers beware, there’s a new sheriff in town.

It might be an impossible task, trying to get a hardcore eel-slinger to even consider throwing a soft plastic imitation. Maybe it’s the memories of those 50-cent imitations on the tackle shop counter years past that have kept way too many anglers from trying these new soft plastics eel imitations?

For example, when the GT Eels hit the market a few years back a huge percentage of the guys we saw in the shop wouldn’t even look at them. It was hard not be skeptical of them! But, at this point, it’s impossible to deny the fact that these eels crush fish.

First Impressions

I remember the first time I bought a pack GT Eels they were – kind of – an afterthought I threw in with my usual 5 pounds of live eels. I was headed to Montauk with Rick Mola, my boss and the owner of Fisherman’s World in Norwalk, CT. It was July and we already had a bunch of trips and fish under our belts that season. We were fishing the point that night and the fishing was great. We boated a ton of fish drifting eels. When the tide slowed down, the bite slowed with it. I reached into my bag and grabbed a 13.5-inch GT Eel and rigged it on a 1.5-ounce jighead.

We bumped in closer and I started to “reverse surfcast” into the boulders. I didn’t crank my line in more than 15 feet and I was already on. A solid 35-pound Montauk Point striped bass! The rest of that night, I fished only the GT Eel and I caught just as many fish, if not more than I had fishing with live eels. The best part was, how much faster I could land a fish and get my bait back into the water. I didn’t have to wrestle with a new live eel, I didn’t have to get a living, wriggling thing onto a hook and I rarely had to deal with a deep-hooked fish. These days, I always have some of these big plastics on my boat.

Today there are many manufacturers out there who have jumped on the bandwagon of soft plastic eels; you have the DuraTech Eels from Game On, the Al Gag’s Twitch-It Eel, and the JoeBaggs Block Island Eels, to name just a few. However, the GT Eels from Gravity Tackle remain my personal favorite. These hand-poured baits have a ton of action and are cured in a fish-attracting scent bath. It’s hard for a hungry striper to pass that up when it swims within striking distance.

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Plastic eels have proven themselves as a bait that every angler should carry in his or her bag.

Rigging & Jigging

Over the last few seasons, I have tweaked and perfected my rigging techniques. There are many ways to use them; they can be threaded onto your favorite jighead for fishing the bottom, or they can be rigged on a swimbait hook for swimming them shallow through boulder fields, or even added to a three-way rig when fishing deep fast current.

RIGGING TIPS
It can be frustrating when one fish will blow a plastic off the hook and you have to keep changing all night. Companies such as Gravity Tackle and NLBN have some of the best jigheads in the industry right now with the twistlock incorporated into the jighead. Once you twist the bait up to the head, it stays put until the end, and I even add some Zap-A-Gap to make certain the bait never comes free. Add a 4-inch zip-tie around the bait just ahead of where the hook exits the body and you have a soft plastic rig that will last through repeated encounters with fish of all sizes.

rigged
Rigged right, these baits will last through many battles.

Let’s say you want to fish the deep edge of a reef or rockpile, or you want drift down a river or over a big hump, this is where rigging on a jighead comes into play. This gives you the versatility of dialing in the perfect weight for the situation, I will fish any weight from quarter-ounce up to about 2-1/2, any heavier than that and I’ll switch my method. Cast the eel and jig combo out and reel it slowly back to you with occasional subtle twitches, this is a deadly method for fishing deep structure or along the bottom of a river channel.

When fishing strong and deep currents like you might find at Montauk or The Race in Long Island Sound, that’s where the three-way rig comes into play, just like you would with a live eel, bunker or bucktail, just using the plastic eel instead. You can rig them on 3/4- to 1-ounce jighead or simply thread it onto a circle hook.

For shallower situations, I turn to a swimbait hook and my preference is the BKK Titanrider size 12/0, but certainly the Owner Beast of the same size will work too. I suggest having a few different weights on hand to have the versatility of fishing different depths and handling current strength. I’m typically fishing boulder fields when I’m fishing shallow water. If you spend a little time casting them in daylight so you can see how your actions affect the lure, you’ll get the right twitching technique down quick, twitch them through the boulders and hang on!

If you find yourself wanting to get a little deeper, I like to add nail weights. These can be added anywhere in the plastic simply by shoving them in and allowing you to control the weight and balance. Lunker City offers many different nail weight sizes, they are a really handy way to dial in your plastics. And if you’re able to ‘read between the lines’ here, it should be apparent that these eels are also a great option for surfcasters fishing the same boulder fields.

eel
These 10- to 14-inch eel imitators work day and night and they catch big fish.

Rods & Reels

When fishing from the boat, I prefer a rod in the 7- to 7-1/2-foot, 7-inch range, with a soft tip and good backbone. The softer tip allows you to cast the soft plastics farther and with greater accuracy. Some of my favorites include the St. Croix Mojo Inshore 7-1/2-foot and the 7-1/2-foot Avid inshore series in medium heavy. G Loomis’s IMX Pro Blue series rods are also a great option such as the 844SF and 874SF models. These are some of my favorite rods to fish, but there are many other manufacturers out there that make rods that will do the job.

Pairing these up with a 5000 or 6000 size reel will be best, such as the Shimano Saragosa and the Shimano Twin Power. If you like nice gear and fish hard look into the Stella. Daiwa BG reels have proven themselves to be tough as nails and are a great ‘budget friendly’ option. Top tier Daiwa reels such as the Saltist MQ and their flagship reel, the Saltiga are now offered in 5000 and 6000 sizes, making them a great option as well. Penn has some great reels too, such as the Battle DX, Slammer DX series and their Authority lineup. Spool these reels with a 30-pound, eight-carrier braid like Power Pro Super Slick v2 or J-Braid Grand for smoother and longer casts.

If you’re a hardcore eel slinger or looking to improve your striper game with a new and lethal tactic, drive to your local tackle shop (or come see me at Fisherman’s World) and get yourself a pack of 13.5-inch Gravity Tackle Eels or one of the other great soft plastic eel options out there. I promise you, that once you learn how to fish them, you won’t be rushing to a tackle shop before they close to grab live eels. Instead, you’ll grab your surf or boat bag with these eel imitations rigged up and head to your favorite spot with the confidence needed to catch big striped bass.

ACTION PLASTICS
The GT Eel from Gravity Tackle started it all and now there are many soft plastic eels on the market that are all catching striped bass along the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Coast.

GT Eel – The one that started it all. The GT Eel comes in some awesome colors including what they call “Au Natureel” which is a dead ringer for the real thing. They also come in two sizes, 9 and 13.5 inches and their Atlas Jigheads are tailor made for fishing them.

GT Eel
GT Eel

DuraTech Eel – Game On Lures hit the scene first with their wildly popular Exo Jigs and then, last year, they introduced their DuraTech Eels which are made from an extra-durable plastic blend and feature a v-hull design that keeps them upright when fished unweighted. These eel imitations come in four fishy colors and two sizes: 10 and 13 inches.

DuraTech Eel
DuraTech Eel

Twitch-It Eel: Al Gag’s never stops innovating and that’s apparent once again with his Twitch-It Eel. These are not made in a ‘top pour’ style, meaning they don’t have a flat top, they are made with an elliptical cross-section and look just like an eel. They excel when fished on a swimbait hook but will also pair well on a jighead. Twitch-It Eels are 12 inches long and weigh 2 ounces.

Twitch-It Eel
Twitch-It Eel

Block Island Eel: The biggest of the bunch is the JoeBaggs Block Island Eel, taping out at 14-1/2 inches. These are specifically made to be fished on a jighead, a beefier head end with no slit for a swimbait hook, they are big, tough and are proved to catch big fish. They come in five fish-catching colors.

Block Island Eel
Block Island Eel

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