The weather was cold and miserable, aggravated by the fact that the water was cold and the fishing was miserable. We weren’t catching any bass and consequently we weren’t having any fun, or at least not much. That changed when we attached curlytail soft-plastic trailers to the weedless spoons that we were slowly retrieving through the deep grass. The trailers added enough wiggle and sizzle to the lures to make the bass aggressive, even in the chilly water of spring.
Bad weather and slow fishing are just two of the reasons to add trailers to lures of all types. Depending on the type you choose, trailers almost always have a positive effect on results. They can make a small lure appear larger and more attractive to big fish, they can provide a complementary or contrasting color to a lure and, when a scented trailer is used, they can double their appeal. Because trailers come in many sizes and shapes, they can be teamed with all kinds of lures to attract anything from panfish to giant muskies.
A trailer can be as simple as the end of a soft-plastic lure pinched off and pressed into service, or one designed for a specific job. Beyond soft-plastic varieties, there are also pork chunks and strips; skirts of rubber, silicone and other materials; strips of chamois from auto polishing rags; spinner blade trailers; and treble hooks dressed with feathers, fur or synthetics.
BRINGING UP THE REAR
It’s easy to add trailers to most single-hook lures such as hair and skirt jigs, weedless spoons, spinnerbaits, and buzzbaits. You can also add a soft-plastic trailer to the rear treble hook of some topwaters and most crankbaits.
The correct choice of trailer depends upon the lure and how you’re fishing it. For example, for working a spinnerbait with a steady retrieve, the best choice is a short soft-plastic trailer with a curved tail that undulates to suggest a live minnow. For an alternative retrieve such as twitching the spinnerbait slowly along the bottom with variable speed, a double or split-tail trailer is a better choice–it produces movement even at rest and suggests a crayfish with its claws extended. As a rule of thumb, trailers with more action are used in turbulent current or dingy water, while trailers with more subtle action are preferred for everything else.
PORK OR PLASTIC?
Soft-plastics rule the trailer market, but pork is better for fishing in the winter and early spring because it maintains pliability in cold water. Likewise, pork is a better choice for fish with sharp teeth because it will hold up much better. Most pork chunks and strips have a salt or scented flavor that, combined with its meaty texture, makes a fish hang on after picking it up or striking it moving past.
For a relatively constant retrieve–such as when fishing a spinnerbait, buzzbait or weedless spoon–a strip or ripple-cut strip works best. A pork chunk, frog or crayfish is the better choice when hopping a jig along the bottom. For even more of a fluttering action, slit the legs of a pork frog into two or more strips.
While color choices in pork trailers are limited, soft-plastics are manufactured in virtually every hue. Some anglers like to pair their lures with trailers of a contrasting color, while others match trailer colors to their lures. Often, the species targeted “chooses” the trailer color by hitting the lure or ignoring it. Walleye pro Gary Roach, for example, starts out with bright colors to take more walleyes, even when the water is clear. Smallmouth bass have a similar reputation for being fond of gaudy colors.
HOOK ‘EM UP
To add a plain soft-plastic trailer onto a single-hook lure, thread the hook through the head and out the side of the trailer body. If you don’t have enough hook shank for the job, screw a Tru-Turn Hitchhiker into the head and fasten it to the hook. These small corkscrew-like fasteners are available in most tackle outlets and allow the attachment of a soft-plastic trailer to even a treble hook. Another alternative, if there’s enough hook shank, is to thread the hook straight back near the tail in Texas-rig fashion.
When fish are “short-striking” a bait without taking it, sometimes a stinger hook with a soft-plastic trailer will turn such misses into hits. First, pick a trailer that has enough body to allow Texas rigging the hook to it. Use a large-eye stinger hook that will slip over the barb of the lure’s hook. Thread the single stinger hook through the head of the trailer. Bury the eye of the stinger hook into the head of the worm and then thread the trailer head and hook eye onto the lure point. Finish by burying the point of the stinger hook into the soft trailer to make it weedless.
Trailers can be small or large, depending upon the size of the lure and the fish sought. Long plastic worms or pork strips attached to a weedless spoon are ideal for big pike, while tiny strips attached to a small jig will work for crappies and bluegills. Bass pros like bigger trailers that will present a larger profile and slow a bait on the fall or let it helicopter down to attract fish at all depths.
A trailer is more than a casual accessory to most experienced anglers; it’s an important tool. Choosing the right trailer for the species, water condition and lure can make a big difference in how many fish wind up in your live well by day’s end.
Tailor-made stowage space for pork or plastic Trailers should not be stored with hard-plastic baits. The plasticizers in soft-plastics might react to the hard finishes, and the brine and chemicals in pork can ruin hooks or metal parts in lures. Separate storage of each color of soft-plastics is important, too. Otherwise, their colors might bleed together.
Plano, Tackle Logic, Woodstream, Shimano, Flambeau (shown below) and others offer a variety of suitable containers available in fishing tackle stores or through mail outlets such as Cabela’s (800-237-4444) and Bass Pro Shops (800-227-7776). Soft-side tackle totes either open like a notebook with leaves of resealable bags to hold trailers and lures or fold out like a map to expose clear vinyl pockets.
Some stowage systems, like the Tackle Logic Jig ‘n Pig Wrap (bottom), include a pouch to hold the plastics and other riggings in zipper-seal bags, as well as a separate bag to hold four bottles of pork rind.
Other possibilities are the individual clear or smoked plastic lure boxes with long compartments for storing separate plastic trailers. Some of these have movable dividers to adjust the size of the compartments. Use separate boxes for soft-plastics and skirts.