The 10 Best Soft Plastic Baits for Surf Fishing

Artificial (also known as soft plastic) bait is perfect for surf fishing. They can be used to catch species such as striped bass, snook, tarpon, redfish and trout to name a few. Artificial bait is available in a wide range of sizes, styles and colors and some even come pre-scented with fish attractants.

4 Reasons why soft plastic bait is perfect for surf fishing

  1. They look and smell real. Soft plastic bait has a life-like appearance. Plus scent will help entice a strike plus the fish is likely to hold on for longer, helping the angler to get a good hook up.
  2. They’re versatile. This bait can be fished in different ways and at various depths, such as weightless if you want to target the surface area, or on a heavy jig head or carolina rig if the need to get the bait down deep is required.
  3. They’re affordable. The price of sift plastic bait has come down, as more companies mass produce this Each packet will contain multiple pieces that can target a variety of species.
  4. They’re convenient. Artificial bait is easier to buy and store compared to live or cut bait. We’ve written about how much we love live bait, but the artificial option is a lot less work.

The best soft plastic bait for surf fishing

There are three brands that are well ahead of the rest for soft plastic bait.

  • Berkley. The market leader for producing scented baits, Berkley produces Gulp, which uses an extremely effective scent called Gulp Alive.
  • Zman. Zman bait is made out of Elaztech, which they claim is 10 times tougher than traditional plastic bait and are more resistant to nicks and tears.
  • Carr Specialty Bait. A family company based in Florida, Carr makes a great range of scented bait called Fishbites.

You’ll be happy to hear that all three of the brands make their bait in the U.S.A. Here are the best products from each of these brands.

Berkley Gulp! Alive! Swimming Mullet

The Berkely Swimming Mullet is our go-to soft fishing bait. The visibility and scent dispersion attracts fish like crazy. Berkely claims this bait has 400x more scent dispersion than other plastic bait. We just know it works.

The swimming mullets come in a variety of sizes colors. Somewhere in the 4″ – 6″ works well depending on what species you’re targeting. Our favorite color is ‘chartreuse,’ which is a bright yellow.

Berkley PowerBait 4” Ripple Shad

These are paddle tail bait with a unique ribbed shaped body that creates good water disturbance on the retrieve. They are available in a range of colors and are best fished on a jig head, although they can also be used as a trailer on the back of a jig.

Berkley Gulp 5” Crazy Legs Jerk Shad

They come with two long curly legs that make them act like a panicking baitfish. They have a lively darting action and can be fished either weedless or on a jig head, depending on preference.

Berkley Gulp Saltwater Jerk Shad

The saltwater jerk shad is a slightly larger bait. It’s a split tailed fluke type of bait that is available in 5”, 7” and 9”. They are available in a range of colors and can be fished either weightless or with a jig head for a wide range of predatory species.

Tip: You can also purchase a bottle of Gulp Alive liquid which can be used to re-charge the bait.

Scented Shrimpz

Scented Shrimpz are available in both 3” and 4” and imitate a live shrimp in both looks and action. This bait can be fished on a jig head and hopped along the bottom or hooked and fished under a bobber. There is also a slit in the body to assist the angler when rigging this bait weedless.

Scented Pogyz

Scented Poygz replicate a deep bodied bait fish such as a shad, pinfish or croaker. These have a short, deep body and a tear shaped tail which gives a natural, lifelike wiggle whether the angler imparts a slow or fast retrieve. Scented Poygz have a belly slit and a recessed groove on the back to assist with weedless rigging, but they can also be fished using a jig head.

Zman 6” Doormatadorz

The Zman 6” Doormatadorz is curly tailed bait and is beneficial when targeting aggressive species. The bright color schemes make them highly visible and are especially good when targeting fluke, although all predators find this bait irresistible.

TIP: Pro Cure Super Gel is also available in small bottles as a sticky substance that the angler can squeeze onto bait to give them added attraction.

Fishbites 5” Dirty Boxer Curly Tail

The Fishbites 5” Dirty Boxer Curly Tail is available in 8 different colors and come with 6 pieces per packet. These is extremely durable bait ideally fished on a jig head and are responsible for catching numerous bluefish, bass, fluke and weakfish but are successful for a range of predatory species.

Fishbites Bag O’ Worms Longer Lasting Sandworms

The Fishbites Bag O’ Worms Longer Lasting Sandworms are a perfect sandworm imitation bait which are available in 2 widths, 1/4” and 3/8”, both are 12” long and can be cut to size. These can be fished either weedless, on a jig head or rigged wacky style.

Fishbites 5” Brawler

The Fishbites 5” Brawler are another scented bait suitable for all saltwater predators. They have a jerkbait design and feature both a flat head and tail. This bait have a slit in the belly and are designed for weedless rigging although they are also suitable for using a jig head. Each packet comes with 6 pieces and there are 8 colors to choose from. 

Check out our Beginner's Guide to Surf Fishing

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do you rig soft plastics bait?

All of the bait listed above can be rigged just like live bait. A darter head works great. You can also use a Carolina rig, Texas rig, or drop shot. Berkley provides a good rigging chart which shows how to rig their different types of artificial bait.

How long does each bait last?

The key to this bait is the scent. Once the bait is sitting in the water for a half hour or so, it will start to lose it’s scent. Replace the bait after 45 minutes. Hopefully you catch something much sooner!

How long does the bait stay “fresh” in the package?

Once the package is opened, the bait will start to lose it’s scent. The Berkely packages recommends using withing 9 months of opening. Most of the bait on this list comes with a re-sealable package, which helps extend the life of the bait.

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