It’s time to dispel an industry misnomer. Salt is not an attractant. In fact, salinity can actually be a deterrent when freshwater fish are involved. Salt was not introduced into soft plastics as an attracted, but that is the spin that some manufactures used when it was first applied to soft plastic baits. It was actually added into plastic as filler. That’s right. During the petroleum crisis of the 1970s, the price of plastisol, a petroleum based product and the main component of soft plastic baits, skyrocketed. At that point in time, all soft plastic baits were buoyant and weight had to be added to get the baits to sink. It was quickly discovered during this period of time, that salt could be added to plastisol as a filler without effecting the color of the bait. Salt did three things: it reduced the overall cost of manufacturing; it caused the plastic to sink; and the small shards of salt caused the plastic to tear easily, which meant consumers would have to buy more baits, and that was paramount over everything.
Now, salt is not a bad thing, it is simply over used by soft plastic bait manufactures, and they do so for the wrong reasons. In the case of stick baits, like the Senko, Yum Dinger, Ocho or Riot Stick, salt is a necessity, because these baits are intended to rapidly sink. The more salt they are impregnated with, the quicker they sink. Some companies added as much as 40% salt to their stick baits to achieve the desired sink rate. The unfortunate outcome of having exorbitant amounts of salt (at least for the angler) is reduced durability, but in this one instance, the benefit of salt’s high sink rate far outweighs its detrimental qualities.
Where the benefits of salt are completely outweighed by its negative properties are apparent in creature baits and all other baits that are intended to be fished off the bottom in a Texas rigged presentation with weight. In this situation, the bait’s fall rate is dictated by the lead or tungsten weight, not the concentration of salt. In this situation, baits heavily impregnated with salt will fall over and lay flat on the bottom, motionless and unalluring. Buoyant creature bait, on the other hand, will remain poised in an upright position, allowing its appendages to move freely in the water column, so the bait remains an enticing and realistic looking morsel. In the case of most “craw” like creature baits, this posture mimics the natural defensive posture of a crawfish. Unsalted, buoyant worms mimic leaches or lampreys burrowing into the lake bottom. This is why shakeyheads can be such an effective presentation on heavily pressured lakes. A buoyant worm like the Riot Baits’ Urami worm can provide a “shakeyhead-like” presentation while simply being Texas rigged. The buoyant 5 1/2” body of the Urami can actually elevate a 2/0 EWG into a vertical position.
The same buoyancy of a non-salted bait is beneficial in a drop shot application too. Many heavily salted drop shot baits simply droop into a near vertical position on a circle hook while their more buoyant, non-salted counterparts will remain horizontal in the water column like a natural bait fish.
So, salt or no salt? It all depends on what the desired presentation is. Both have their merits, but it is important to dispel the myths and know why and when to chose a salted bait or an unsalted one.