One of the most consistent questions I get while speaking at fishing seminars and on the water with clients is, “If you only had one lure to use for the rest of your life what would it be?”. This is a tough question to answer due to the ever-changing conditions we face as anglers and the various areas you could potentially face in your fishy adventures. Is there really a lure that could be effective from your neighborhood pond bass trip to the blue water’s miles offshore and everything in between? In my opinion, yes! This seemingly magical lure is and has been a staple of my tackle box since I was a child accounting for an uncountable number of catches over my fishing life.
The paddle tail shad soft plastic is one of the only lures I can pinpoint as ready for any situation. A bucktail jig might garner a close second but tend to not be as effective in shallow or grassy situations. This leaves the paddle tail as the undisputed all-around winner in my opinion. The paddle tail can come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and come both in pre-rigged or a do-it-yourself style. The pre-rigged one can be bought with the traditional jighead or weedless hook as separate from the tail or as an all-in-one shad that integrates the hook and weight inside the plastic body. The all-in-one style are effective in many situations however they are typically not weedless and are a one-shot lure meaning that the lure cannot be re rigged and you must tie on a completely new lure once it gets destroyed. The more traditional two-part pre-rigged most likely will come with an extra tail or two and instructions on how to re-rig when the tail becomes unusable. I don’t usually go with the pre-rigged ones to fill out my tackle box. I buy the tail, hook, and jighead separate from each other and rig them myself. This allows me to change tail size or color and replace unusable ones quickly.
For lagoon and inshore fishing applications I like to use tails in the 3-to-6-inch size range with either a light jighead or weedless hook. The depth of water and expected structure I will be fishing determines what hook style I look to use. The weight forward fast sinking presentation of a jighead excels in water deeper than 3 feet. Whereas the weedless hooks are the best choice for shallow water, grassy areas, or for utilization around cover like mangroves or docks allowing you to cast far under the structure and not hang your lure as much. For use near-coastal and even far offshore I always look for a jighead rigging style and use tails from 6 inches and up. This rigging with jigheads from 1 oz. and up can be used to cast at everything from giant tarpon to mahi around weedlines and you can even send your paddle tail deep with a heavier jighead to ply the reefs for grouper and snapper. This versatile lure should be the goto for any serious artificial lure angler.