Fishing with Jelly and Soft Lures

Jelly and soft lures are any type of fishing lure primarily made out of rubber, silicone, plastic or any other type of synthetic material which is soft and flexible. These types of lures are designed to mimic the natural movements of small fish, sandeels or other marine creatures as they are drawn through the water. While hard plastic plug-type lures began appearing in the 1930s it took several further decades for soft plastic lures to become available to sea anglers. One of the first was the original Red Gill lure which was developed in Cornwall in the 1950s, while Tom Mann’s Jelly Worm lure was released in the USA in the late 1960s followed by the Mister Twister Curly Tail lure in the early 1970s. In the UK the Eddystone Eel Company was launched in 1973 and since then ten world record catches have been made by anglers using the company’s soft plastic lures. Today jelly and soft lures are one of the most popular types of lures and are widely used by anglers across the world.

Types of Jelly and Soft Lures

Jelly Lures
Jelly lures (from left to right): a soft plastic eel, a shad lure, three curl tail jelly worms, a jelly lure designed to resemble a small lobster and small micro lures for Light Rock Fishing. The lures pictured above are not to scale.

There is an almost limitless range of jelly and soft lures available to sea anglers. Jelly lures designed for Light Rock Fishing can be just a few centimetres long, while those used by boat anglers to fish over wrecks can be over 25cm/10ins in length. However, the vast majority of jelly lures for UK sea angling from the shore are usually between 7cm/3ins to 15cm/6ins. Many jelly lures are designed to resemble small prey creatures with soft lures that resemble eels being one of the most popular types but there are also soft lures known as shads which are designed to look like small fish and worm-type lures are also a popular design. The range of jelly and soft lures is constantly expanding and there are lures that are designed to mimic the appearance of lobsters, crabs, prawns and a range of other marine creatures.

Weighted Eel
A 21 gram Hengjia Weighted Jelly Eel which comes pre-fitted with a hook and with a metal head to add weight for casting. View this product at Sea Angling Shop by clicking here.

Some lures come ready fitted with hooks, whereas others come without hooks allowing anglers their own choice of hook size and pattern to fit to the lure. Similarly, jelly and soft lures can have weights fitted to them to provide weight for casting, but other jelly and soft lures are unweighted meaning anglers need to add additional weight to make the lure heavy enough to cast.

Read the related article on the types of jelly and soft lures available to UK anglers by clicking here and view the full range of this type of lure available to view and purchase at Sea Angling Shop by clicking here.

Rods and Reels for Jelly and Soft Lure Fishing

Dawn Fishing
Bass or spinning rods are the most popular to use with jelly and soft lures.

Generally, jelly and soft lure fishing is carried out with a large spinning rod (i.e. one that is around ten feet long and rated to cast 1 – 3oz) or an 11ft bass rod rated to cast 2 – 4oz. When paired with an appropriate sized fixed spool reel this setup will give anglers the casting power needed to reach good distances and also be able to handle any larger fish which are hooked, but is also light enough to cast with all day. Most anglers use monofilament line of around 15lb breaking strain all of the way through rather than using a lighter line and a shock leader, although braided line is becoming more popular for this type of fishing.

Colour of Jelly Lures

Jelly Eels Colours
Jelly eels come in a range of colours.

It only takes a quick look in an angling magazine or fishing website to see the wide range of colours which almost all jelly lures come in. While there is a lot of talk about the most effective colours there are no hard and fast rules about which colour will work, with factors such as sea conditions, water colour, tidal flow and the feeding habits of the fish all likely to play a part in which colour is the most effective. Despite this, there are some general trends that have emerged. Bright colours such as yellow, orange and especially red have always been favourites with anglers and have long proved effective for species such as pollock, especially in murky or clouded water conditions or when fishing in deep water. In clear water more natural colours such as silver, white and light blue are favoured as they are seen as imitating species such as sprats and lesser sandeels which larger fish will be feeding on. Black jelly lures can also work well in clear water as this colour can be silhouetted against the surface as predatory fish come up to attack from beneath. Many jelly lures now come in a combination of two or more colours in order to maximise the chances of fish being attracted to the lure, and some jelly lures incorporate a sparkling pattern as an additional way of attracting fish.

Action of Jelly Lures

Coalfish Caught on Red Jelly worm
The natural action of jelly lures tempts predatory fish such as this coalfish into attacking.

The soft, flexible plastic material that jelly lures are made from allows them to move in a natural and attractive way when they are pulled through the water. Indeed, this is one of the main benefits of this type of lure. Jelly eels usually have a realistic action that is meant to mimic the real movement of preyfish, while the worm type lures often have a curled tail that rapidly moves from side to side to imitate the swimming action of a small fish and generate movement and vibration which attracts predatory fish. The speed at which a soft lure is pulled through the water will affect the action of the lure, with a fast retrieve making the lure move quickly and in a more animated manner, while a slower retrieve will have the opposite effect. The famous Red Gill Rascal Lures, acclaimed as the best sandeel immitation lure, is available from Sea Angling Shop for only £5.99 for a pack of three by clicking here.

Adding Weight to Jelly Lures

As stated above, many jelly lures weigh just a few grams and need to have additional weight added so that they can be cast out. This is achieved by adding an additional weight, most often a tube or cylinder-shaped weight as these types of weights are streamlined in shape and do not ruin the action of the lure as it is pulled through the water. Sea Angling Shop’s Cylinder Weights are an example of this type of weight, while Dinsmores In-Line Jig Heads can be used when lighter weights are needed.

Weighted jelly eel rig
This set-up uses a cylinder-type weight to add casting weight to a jelly lure.

For a much more detailed article on adding casting weight to jelly and soft lures click here.

Storing Jelly Lures

In rare cases it has been known for jelly lures of different brands to react and stick together when if they are stored in the same container. In extreme cases jelly lures can react to such an extent that they effectively melt together, ruining the lures. For this reason it is best to store different brands and types of jelly lure separately to ensure that this does not happen.

Hooks for Jelly Lures – Weedless Rigs

A Cronus Jelly Lure Hook
Cronus Jelly Lure Hook.

Many anglers simply use normal J-shaped hooks with jelly lures and fish successfully with this type of hook. However, specific jelly lure hooks exist (which have a distinctive shank with an additional bend in it as the picture to the right shows). Many anglers use these hook as they allow jelly worms to be rigged in a specific way which allows lures to be pulled through weeds and other underwater obstructions without becoming snagged. This method, which is often known as the Texas, snagless or weedless rig, involves pushing the hook into the lure and then out again and then pushing the point of the hook back into (but not out of) the lure, as the picture below shows.

Texas Rig
Top: A jelly worm hooked up with the Texas Rig. Bottom:A cutaway of the same lure with the hook point inside the lure.

With no point exposed the jelly lure can be pulled through heavy weed and kelp where fish may be present without the hook becoming snagged but due to the soft nature of the lure the point will still set into the mouth of the fish when it takes the lure. This type of set-up has become very popular in recent years, especially with anglers fishing for pollock and bass in rocky areas which have heavy weed cover. When jelly worms and other forms of soft artificial lures are rigged up in this way they make it possible for anglers to fish heavily weeded areas that were previously unfishable due to the number of snags present. Click here to view and buy Cronus Jelly Lure Hooks in a range of sizes from Sea Angling Shop.

Marks, Techniques and Methods

Deep Water Rock Mark
Deep water rock marks are ideal for fishing with jelly lures.

Like most forms of lure fishing, using jelly and soft lures works best when there is some depth of water to cast into. For this reason piers, jetties and breakwaters are popular marks for anglers using these types of lures, although they can be at their most productive when used from deep water rock marks which provide the natural habitat of species such as pollock. There are no hard and fast rules about what works when fishing with jelly and soft lures. Some anglers cast out and then reel in with a single, slow retrieve, while a sink-and-draw method can also prove effective. Other techniques which can get the attention of fish involved reeling the lure in quickly and then allowing it to sink back down again, and jerking the rod tip backwards in different directions to make the lure move around in an erratic manner. This can often work as it makes the lure mimic an injured fish which will cause predatory fish to sense that they have come across an easy target. Using jelly lures is of course an ongoing experiment for most anglers, with anglers trying different techniques of working the lures until they find a method that produces fish for them.

It is always worth varying the depth at which the lure is fished. If the fish are deep down then the lure should be left to sink to the seabed and then reeled in slowly, giving the fish a chance to strike at it. On the other hand, beginning to reel in quickly shortly after the lure has hit the surface will see it pulled through the upper levels of the water column and attract the attention of any fish which are present there.