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Organizing your bass fishing soft plastics doesn’t have to be confusing, daunting or frustrating. Although it may seem like a bunch of mind numbing labor, I’ve been using a simple organization system that allows for much easier and more modular storage.

This system has given me 5 major advantages since implementing it.

  • Find what you need in a hurry—Fishing is a time-sensitive sport. When a group of bass gets fired up, you need to be able to re-rig and continue casting within a few seconds. Your preparedness often correlates directly to your success.
  • Lighten your load—There’s no sense in carrying hundreds of extra pounds in soft plastic baits when you’re bass fishing. It slows down your boat, hurts your fuel mileage and negatively impacts your ride in rough water. If you have the bass dialed in, grab the baits you know they’re eating and get out there.
  • Portability—If you fish team tournaments with a partner and alternate boat use between tournaments or lakes, you don’t have to dig through all of your compartments when transferring your gear into another boat. Simply grab what you think you might need and get it done in less than five minutes.
  • Easy inventory—We all do it. Every bass angler buys multiple packs of the same baits that they don’t really need. Over time, you’ll probably find ten full packs of identical baits and colors. That wastes money and space and this system helps you keep an eye on your spending habits.
  • Affordable—I organized all of my soft plastics for under $10. No expensive, bulky, space-wasting plastic totes. Just one inexpensive trip to the grocery store will take care of it.

Step 1: Dump it

It’s probably going to drive you crazy—even though your soft plastics are in major disorder, you always knew where your favorite color “might” be located. Try to get over it because something better is on the horizon.

Go through your boat or tackle storage area and put every bag of soft plastics you own into a big trash bag. Lug the trash bag to your work area—about eight or ten square feet will do—and dump it like a bad date. If you’re a tackle junkie like we are, you’ll probably be shocked by the amount of baits you own that have never been used. This process will help put things into perspective for you.

Step 2: Categorize broadly

soft plastics for bass fishing
Like all of these categorizations, yours will probably differ from mine. We fish different lakes, travel different places and favor different fishing styles. As long as you begin with the broadest categories you can think of, you’ll be just fine.

I organized mine in a very simple manner. After dumping it all onto the floor, I separated it as follows.

  • Paddle tail swimbaits—Because I fish a lot of dirty water, I don’t use swimbaits very often. As a result, I don’t keep very many in my collection. The packages were fairly large and easy to cherry pick from the pile, so I pushed ‘em off to the side.
  • Toads and topwater soft baits—Again, this type of fishing isn’t very conducive to my style and home fisheries, so I shoved these baits to the side in their own little pile—primarily to get them away from the “meat” of my project.
  • Soft jerkbaits—These were already semi-organized—by that I mean piled in a few ripped Kroger bags—so I set them to the side. You probably have a similar situation with different types of baits, so try it out.
  • Worms—It didn’t matter what kind of worm it was for me. If it looked like a worm, I put it in a pile, throwing color, style and application to the wayside for the time being.
  • Creatures—For the sake of simplicity, I considered everything I would flip, pitch, use as a trailer or drag behind a Carolina rig a “creature”. If it had appendages or didn’t look like a worm, this is the pile I put it in.

Step 3: Separate it further

I could tell you this part is fun, but I’d be lying. I’m not a tinkerer, so my attention span with tedious categorization tasks is limited at best. With the help of a few cold beers and Pandora radio, however, I got it done in about an hour. Once you get past this part, the following steps will be much easier.

Before you go into robot-mode and start throwing little plastic baggies everywhere, it’s important to consider both your fishing style and how your mind works on the water. What are some of your favorite techniques? What do you consider a “craw”? How does that differ from a creature bait? There’s no right or wrong answer—whatever works best for you.

I’m a visual thinker, so I pulled up a Word document on my computer and made a bullet list to help me get my proverbial ducks in a row. Again, keep in mind—everyone’s list will be different. I suggest using my list as a simple guideline to your own organization system. Feel free to place your favorite, most heavily used baits into their own category for added convenience. You’ll notice a few instances in which I did it.

  • Flipping and pitching
  • Toads and topwater
  • Cut tail and speed-type worms
  • Curly tail and big worms
  • Soft jerkbaits
  • Paddle tail swimbaits
  • Stick worms
  • Finesse and shaky head
  • Trick/floating worms
  • Lizards
  • Craws, chunks and trailers
  • Zoom hogs (Brush Hogs, Baby Brush Hogs, Super Hogs and Z Hogs)

Step 4: Subcategorize by color

label your bass fishing soft plastics
If you know your favorite lake is the color of chocolate milk, there’s no need to pack your more natural-colored baits. This is why I chose to subcategorize each major category by color. It allows me to pack lighter, have more room in my boat and I don’t have to dig through a bunch of irrelevant colors to find what I’m looking for. It also makes it much easier to pond hop on the weekends if the bass in your favorite honey holes fancy particular colors.

I decided to keep it simple by making two subcategories. I don’t get too carried away with color selection with my soft plastics, so it was an easy decision to make.

  • Light-colored—I put anything green or natural-colored into this category.
  • Dark-colored—Anything I use in dirty water, primarily blues, blacks and purples were considered “dark”.

Step 5: Consolidate and wipe down

consolidate your bass fishing soft plastics
This step will save you a ton of space. I had several packs full of one or two specific color and style of baits, so I combined them all into one bag. Instead of a pack holding 10 baits and a bunch of air, I filled ‘em to the brim. After about 20 minutes of consolidating my baits, I was left with an enormous pile of empty plastic baggies and a better understanding of what colors I don’t need any more of.

It’s also a good idea to take this opportunity to wipe down your soft plastic packages. Over time, they’ve probably been “slimed” by bass or greased-up by a leaky can of crawfish spray, so keep a wad of paper towels nearby. This will keep your baits from swelling and, in some cases, rotting and becoming useless.

Step 6: Bag each subcategory and label

storage supplies for bass fishing soft plastics organization
Remember when you separated each category by color? Now is the time to bag them and make ‘em look pretty. This is the easy part when everything comes together.

I decided to use one-gallon Hefty storage bags when bagging by color. These bags are tough as nails and protect your baits well. If I had more than would fit into one of these bags, I put them in a separate storage area. I don’t need that many baits at one time, so I figured it would be best to get them out of the way until I need to restock.

After bagging, make sure you label each storage bag with a permanent marker to avoid any confusion or duplication of effort. For example, I’d label a bag “dark soft jerkbaits”.

Step 7: Combine into larger bags and label

subcategorized soft plastics for bass fishing
This is the final step and the easiest part of the whole production. For my larger bags, I used 2 1/2-gallon Hefty Bags because I can fit about three of the smaller bags into them.

Label your big bag with the categories you developed in Step 3 and put your subcategorized bags inside of them. I suggest labeling a big piece of duct tape on these bigger bags for easy identification while on the water. Step back and check it out—you’re now a more organized, efficient and mobile angler. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?

Spring will be here before we know it and this is the best time of the year to get organized, take inventory and prepare yourself for the hustle and bustle of fishing season. This storage system has worked for me and I believe it will help you fish more efficiently and reduce your frustration.

organized bass fishing soft plastics

30 thoughts on “7 Steps for Organizing Soft Plastics

  1. Your soft plastic sorting method is basically what I do now. You gave me a few additional sorts to consider and that may help me to be a bit more organized.
    Consider addressing how you further sort or select packages to take in a limited space/weight situation such as fishing out of a limited horsepower boat or as a rider. That would be a good corollary to your article.

    • Thanks for the suggestion, Rich. I think this system could really help limited horsepower anglers and co-anglers. Grab a few of your favorite 2.5 gallon bags and go fishing. Allows you to take what you really need instead of bringing everything you own. It’s all about being modular. I fish a team trail with a friend and we alternate boat usage between lakes– this system has been especially helpful when I’m riding along in his boat!

  2. This is the best way to organize soft plastics for sure been doing it forever. If I buy more than one pack of good bait I put some in the boat and hand the rest in my bait shop in the basement and that looks like a small Bass Pro Shop LOL buying baits is an addiction for sure

    • You can certainly do that, but tackle boxes are much more expensive than Hefty bags. I’ve also had issues in the past when storing my soft plastics in tackle trays with melting, swelling and color blending.

    • It will definitely work. Jason uses tackle trays and swears by it. I, on the other hand, like this system better. It’s all about personal preference– whatever is most comfortable and convenient for you!

  3. I noticed that for small areas, like a single tackle bag…I like the plastic boxes for soft bait storage. Otherwise, i stuff bag after bag of baits in there and I can’t even carry the bag.

  4. used to do this until Preston Clark turned me onto the sweater/garmet bags that are basically zippered mesh bags- they out last the ziplocs…

  5. I started out with soft plastic binders with the rings and bags. Then I went to the soft plastic bags like the brown Falcon bags or the orange Plano bags. Then I went to the big Plano containers. After all of that money wasted……guess what? I am back to big Zip Loc bags. Great article. Saves in weight and cost and is the best solution. Great article. I think that us bass anglers are so gadget oriented that we miss the boat sometimes. But its so much fun

  6. This system does work well and I have done it for quite some time now. However if you travel a lot you will end up having to put all of these bags in a tote or box at some point which leads to them getting smashed. Every lake I go to is quite a drive from my house so I don’t have the luxury of having all these bags sitting in the garage or basement and just picking what I need and taking off. Since I have to take mostly everything with me every time I hit the road I have modified this system just so my baits don’t get ruined. I can’t tell you how much of an inconvenience it is to pull a pack of flukes or trick worms out and they are bent in half (and stuck that way) so now when I rig them they don’t work right. My bags were too full and my baits were getting smashed and contorted into shapes that don’t rig right and ultimately don’t work right. I bought some Plano deep well storage boxes to put a lot of my excess baits in for long term storage. This keeps my extra baits of all types and my Zoom Trick Worms, Flukes, and creature baits protected from being bent out of shape. I still use the labeled bags but now there is less in them so it’s lighter to put in the boat and less tackle actually being put in and taken out of the boat. Another modification I made was organizing all of the baits I knew I would use at lake X in one deep Plano box and the baits I would use at lake Y in another box. So now if I’m going to a certain lake I can grab the box that is all the different baits that are specialized for this one place. I can now put one box along with a couple individual bags of other baits in the boat instead of 5 ziplock bags full of different baits and colors (most of which never get used at certain lakes). I even expanded that idea into my crankbait storage by putting all of the different types of crankbaits in one box that will get used at a certain lake so I don’t end up with 5 boxes of crankbaits in the boat because I think I might use one out of this box and one out of another. As your “day box” or “Lake X” box runs out of certain baits or colors your keep the individual labeled packages and refill them with the extra, perfectly organized baits from your deep Plano Box. I think this system works the best for finding certain baits and colors when you need them and at the same time it protects your expensive lures from being ruined. If you can figure out how to make this work for you it will change everything while on the water by making you more efficient and even lighten the load in your boat! Hopefully this helps someone out there because this is from a play book I put together from my own bad beats of the years!

  7. Here’s a good laugh, and a good tip. Instead of the large ziplock bags, you can get mesh bra bags for around $1.50 each if you search for them online. They are more durable, and you won’t replace them every couple months or so. You don’t need but MAYBE 10, so for about $15, you’ll have something you can use for years. And if they get smelly or dirty, you can just throw them in the wash. And the permanant marker won’t rub off like it would on duct tape or on the ziplock bag. Ok, you guys can laugh now!

  8. Ive done it this way for years but this season Im trying a new experiment. What I have found is that I fish 3-5 lakes and all of them have fairly clear water. I VERY RARELY throw any bait in another color besides Green pumpkin or Watermelon. So I thought why not just limit all the bags and sort by color not shape. A big plano 3700 sectioned off allows me to put in 1 bait of every shape in the same color in one box. The sections are as follows
    1. Big brush Hog
    2 Baby Brush Hog
    3 Senko
    4. Shaky worm
    5. 7″ curly tail worm
    6. Craw
    7. Beaver
    8. Grub
    I can fit one bag of every one of those in one box. As far as swimbaits go its almost the same exact thing. You probably wont catch me throwing a bubblegum swimbait with a chart tail anytime of the year, I got 3 colors of swimbaits and 3 colors of flukes in the same box. I keep a bag of oddball baits in a compartment I hardly open for when I need that Motor oil and purple red flake green tail worm but for the most part I get away with Greenpumpkin Watermellon and a couple of spike it markers all year.

  9. As a die hard kayak fisher, this helps a lot when organizing my crate for the sternwell.

    Also, I keep any trailer baits with my jigs/chatterbaits. So when I tie a jig on, the trailers are right there.

  10. I figured this method out a few months back and haven’t turned back. Fishing as a coangler this makes it easy to have 1 large bag with 3 or 4 ziplocs filled with the soft plastics I plan on using that day along with my regular tackle storage boxes. Until I started doing this I would just end up with random soft plastics all over the place in my large tackle bag.

  11. I’ve used the ziplock bags for about 20 years now. Get the freezer bags, and make sure they have the “zipper” doodad instead of just squeezing them closed. Much more positive. The Freezer bags are much heavier plastic than the standard bags. RubberMaid tubs are good for storing the bags in.

    I don’t fish T’s anymore, as I prefer to go exploring. Since I often don’t know anything about the lake(s), I have to carry some extra stuff, especially since I might be gone for a week. I have had days where they ate multiple bags of what they wanted, and I ended up having to find something else they’d eat.

    I like to leave everything in the bag it came in from the store, including sinkers, hooks, swivels, crankbaits, jerkbaits, etc. That makes it easier to figure out what you need to stock up on the next trip to the tackle shop or online buying…size, color, etc. It also helps keep your hooks from rusting.
    I dry the crankbaits and such before putting them back in their box.

    Stuff that comes on a card/bag like spinnerbaits is still a problem I haven’t really solved yet. After use (and drying), I generally put each into a ziplock sammich bag, and put that into a gallon bag or waterproof Plano box. None of the boxes hold up long, except the waterpoof boxes with 3+ latches.
    C&R, Steve

  12. Something I turned to for my soft plastics is to use the “speed bags” (Bass Pro has them by Plano). They fit well in my main tackle compartment, and I’ll detail how I split them up. What makes the speed bags nice is, they have handles and zippers, so when I have the bag out on the deck, I don’t have to worry about ripping a plastic ziploc or accidentally dumping the bags.

    I don’t have a giant selection of soft plastics – for the lakes and conditions I fish, these baits have proven themselves and won me a lot of money. My color selection is also fairly limited – that came from years of experience and buying every friggin’ color known to man. But, I kept what works and that allows me to stay more efficient. Anyway,

    BAG 1 – FINESSE
    BAG 2 – GRUBS/HULA GRUBS
    BAG 3 – WORMS/LIZARDS
    BAG 4 – PITCHING/FLIPPING
    BAG 5 – 4″ STICKWORMS
    BAG 6 – 5″ STICKWORMS

  13. I hate to comment twice Walker but, after going through everything last night and switching to the Zip Loc method…… I have gained an enormous amount of space in my Triton. This is awesome. I always try to keep the back storage as empty as possible for my guest so everything gets pushed up front. It would be nice to have a select few who I fish with but I cant help taking kids that don’t have a dad to do this sort of thing with. Trust me….I have been smacked in the head more than once with lures. Anyway, my boat is always changing on the back half so, its nice to be able to actually gain space up front. I removed 8 deep Plano boxes and 10 binders/bags by doing this. I’m sure that saved a couple pounds as well. Dude….maybe you should come over and check out the rest of my boat. That would be sweet. Thanks for the great article guys.

  14. Good stuff, thanks. This is right on time for me. It is 20 degrees and we are in the middle of getting up to a foot of snow. We closed our business for the day and I am going to do my ritual pre-spring tackle organizing. The only thing about this method I disagree with is mixing colors in a single bag, even if the colors are very close. The different colors will bleed into one another. I’ve created some pretty strange “custom colored” plastics by throwing different colors into one bag.
    I just discovered W2F a few months ago, now I read it every day.Thanks for all the great articles.

  15. This article is a staple I have printed out and keep bookmarked on my pc. As a non-boater, I don’t have a rolling bait shop to hook up behind my vehicle. I use this sorting method of breaking down my plastics making it easier to store, transport, and pick what I am going to use for any given day/tournament. I have mine broken into:
    1) worms – senkos, ribbon-tails, curl tail, speed worm, finesse
    2) jig trailers – craws, chunks, speed craws, double tail grubs
    3) creatures – hawgs, beavers, lizards, tubes
    4) swim baits – hollow belly and solid bodied
    5) miscellaneous – buzz frogs, grubs, hulas, soft jerkbaits, anything else that isn’t in a category above

    The ziplocs get stored in a plastic crate so it can be moved to and from my vehicle. When going to practice, I can grab a a few big bags of a confidence category and narrow my selections from there. Then for tournament day, I pack a tournament bag of lures and 1-3 styles and 1-2 colors of plastics, leaving everything that I don’t think will work in the crate. Refining it down to at most 6 options, makes it easy to pick what to use that you can catch fish on.

  16. I’ve used a similar method, but will definitely look into some more refinement with categorizing. One thing I’ve changed to recently is to put my categorized zip locs into individually labeled plastic shoe boxes from Home Depot. I got them for $1 each and my zip locs last a lot longer now because I now just pull out my stacked shoe boxes for the category I need instead of tossing my zip locs everywhere looking for the right one, plus when you need to move the baits, it’s much easier to stack the shoe boxes and carry.

  17. Great article, well laid out and the pictures of the different bags and finished product made it easy to understand for all. I have so many soft plastics I have accumulated over the years, I didn’t know where to start. This is going to give me some direction, and will at least allow me to find what I am looking for easily. Very frustrating to know you have the right soft plastic for the job, but then not be able to find it or waste time digging through different stuff. Gonna give this a try and see what happens…

  18. I also have been using a similar method. But I am always looking to improve it. Like one commenter said above – DO NOT jam pack a bag full of baits – it will ruin their shape and they will not work as they should.

    For home soft plastic storage, I go to Target or Walmart and get the $1 shoe-box size plastic boxes. I sort by bait type, but I can further sort by brand and color to be easily found in a rolodex fashion. Even with 30-40 shoeboxes full of baits, I can find exactly what I need and keep a constant inventory even though I have a serious tackle buying problem.

    I use ziplock bags when I am taking tackle out for the day or a tournament. I really focus on taking ONLY what I am going to use. This way, if I plan on going to a different lake/river next time out I can put the baits back where they belong and start over in just a few minutes.

  19. Instead of the zip lock bags I have been using the bags that sheets and comforters come in for my plastics. They are zippered and were going to be thrown away otherwise

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