Spring Finesse: Top Weakfish Plastics - The Fisherman

Spring Finesse: Top Weakfish Plastics

Elusive, yet beautiful, weakfish will be a top target for many light tackle artificial enthusiasts this season.

Eight plastics any serious weakfish hunter should have in their springtime arsenal.

The allure of soft plastics lies in their versatility and ability to mimic the natural prey of weakfish, such as shrimp, squid, and small baitfish. These lures come in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and colors, allowing anglers to tailor their approach to the conditions at hand, whether it be clear or murky waters, deep or shallow areas, and varying degrees of light and temperature. The key to success with soft plastics is understanding how to navigate these lures through the water to provoke strikes from these predatory fish.

When using most of the soft plastics mentioned in this article we advise that you incorporate light tackle into your plan of attack. Weakfish, as their name suggests, have weak mouths and using stout tackle will rip hooks right out of their jaws. A moderate 7-footer rated from ¼- to ¾-ounce is ‘just right’ for this type of fishing. Pair the rod up with a 2500-sized spinning reel filled with 10- to 15-pound braid and tipped with a fluorocarbon leader from 15 to 25 pounds.

To start, selecting the right soft plastic lure is paramount. Options include swimbaits, jerkbaits, and shrimp imitations, among others, often rigged on jigheads or weedless hooks depending on the fishing scenario. The goal is to match the hatch, meaning the lure should resemble the weakfish’s natural prey in size, shape, and color as closely as possible.

Let’s take a look at some of the top options for the 2024 season.

Soft plastics have become staple baits for weakfish and they also present a fun and effective way to target them.

No Live Bait Needed (NLBN)

When I got my hands on these lures last year, I knew immediately that the 3-inch paddletail model would be a weakfish slayer, and my prediction was proven immediately. This full-bodied plastic features a lively swimming action and it’s easy to keep it down near the bottom, slow-rolling with a slight twitch every once in a while. I was able to score several weakfish up to about 5 pounds using this method. The bodies complement well with matching screw lock jigheads that will keep your plastic secure for fish after fish.

Berkley Gulp Saltwater Shrimp

The Gulp Saltwater Shrimp is a revolutionary addition to the arsenal of any angler targeting weakfish. Its lifelike appearance and action in the water are unmatched, closely mimicking a live shrimp to deceive any weakfish lurking nearby. The bait’s construction incorporates Gulp’s unique scent technology, which disperses a powerful attractant upon contact with water, drawing fish from a wider radius than traditional baits. Durability is another key feature, these baits stand up to multiple hookups, reducing the need for frequent replacement. Its ease of use, combined with the proven results, makes it a must-have for any serious weakfish hunter this spring. I would lean towards the 3- or 4-inch model in any natural color for the best results.

Hogy Protail

The Hogy Protail is a versatile and highly effective lure that can jigged for weakfish. Created with a robust tail that produces lifelike action. The Protail mimics a wide range of baitfish species, making it irresistible to any tiderunner on the prowl. The durable, one-piece construction ensures it can withstand aggressive strikes and prolonged use. The weighted design allows for impressive casting distances and precise control in the water, enabling anglers to reach and entice fish in running tides. Furthermore, the Hogy Protail’s selection of sizes and colors matches various fishing environments and prey, making it a versatile tool in any angler’s weakfish box. I’d personally stick with a 3-1/2 inch to 4-1/4-inch sizes. Its effectiveness and durability certainly make it a top recommendation for serious fishermen looking to elevate their weakie game.

Fishlab Mad Eel

The Mad Eel family of swimbaits was designed for most coastal and intercoastal markets with an impressive swimming action to cover a ton of water. These baits have a heavy side-to-side rolling action for increased water displacement in low light, hard currents, and stained water conditions. The ribbed belly design also adds vibration that predatory fish can feel. The specially-designed jig hook keeps fish pinned, even through violent head shakes that might dislodge baits sporting smaller hooks. These baits are available in a selection of sizes, but I’d suggest sticking with the smallest, 5-inch size, for the best weakfish success. Sand eel, pink/white, and pearl white are some of the top weakfish color choices.

Savage Gear Manic Shrimp RTF V2

It’s a fact that weakfish love shrimp! Following along the lines of that known fact, I’m putting the Savage Gear Manic Shrimp RTF V2 on this list of top weakfish plastics for ’24. The Manic Shrimp is another soft bait with the weight molded into the plastic and the erratic action these shrimp put out, makes them a real attention grabber. Its realistic design, complete with lifelike antennae and legs that pulse with every twitch, offers an unmatched level of detail that proves irresistible to discerning fish. The lure’s durable construction ensures longevity through countless casts. Short jigging motions near the bottom have proven to be the best presentation for weakies. Three ideal sizes are available, along with six excellent color patterns.

Live Target Rigged Shrimp

Just like the name suggests, the Live Target Rigged Shrimp looks alive in the water. Its lifelike design and realistic movements, mimic a live shrimp so convincingly that it’s hard for a weakfish to resist. The lure comes pre-rigged with a durable, weighted hook that ensures it swims correctly through the water, achieving the perfect depth and motion when trying to jig up a ‘runner. It’s available in a 3- or 4-inch size in either 1/4 ounce or 1/2 ounce so using light braid with this lure is a must.


Tsunami Split Tail Minnow

Weakfish often require a finesse presentation and one lure that really lends itself well to this style of fishing is the Tsunami Split Tail Minnow. These lures are a top contender in the realm of weakfishing, offering a blend of realism and effectiveness that few lures can match. Its lifelike swimming action is irresistible to predatory fish, closely mimicking the erratic movements of real baitfish. This lure’s split tail design, a critical feature, enhances its vibration and motion in the water, making it a must-have bait for tough bites. Durability is another strong suit, the Split Tails able to withstand aggressive strikes and the wear of repeated use. Anglers targeting weakfish will find the Tsunami Split Tail Minnow not just a useful tool but a game-changing ally, making it a worthy addition to any weakfish arsenal.


Fishbites Brawler Jerkbait

The Fishbites Brawler Jerkbait is highly effective for targeting weakfish due to its unique design and action. This lure mimics the erratic swimming patterns of baitfish that weakfish commonly chase in the back bays. The jerkbait’s durable construction withstands aggressive strikes from those gnarly weakfish fangs. These baits get the nod for durability, and with addition of heavy scent release, they get another edge over other baits. The 5-inch model is an ideal profile and size for targeting these Northeast fan favorites.

fishbitesUsing soft plastic lures for weakfish requires a combination of the right gear, proper lure selection, effective presentation techniques, and an understanding of the fish’s behavior, hence the nickname tiderunners. With practice, you can refine your approach, increasing your chances of landing these elusive and beautiful fish this spring. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or new to the sport, the pursuit of weakfish with soft plastics promises an exciting and engaging fishing experience. Pack some of these plastics on your first weakfish mission of the season, and you’ll be sure to increase your odds of success.


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