How Long Does Artificial Bait Last?

Whether you’re looking to save your artificial bait from one season to the next or pondering if the tackle box full of plastics from your grandfather is still good to use, you may wonder how long artificial bait lasts. Do plastic worms go bad? Will soft plastics be effective a year into use, or worse yet, can spoiled bait even deter fish?

Artificial bait, such as plastic worms, can last several years when stored properly, but do not necessarily go bad. However, plastic bait can become compromised. If it’s dried out, lost its shape, goopy, or crumbly, toss your artificial bait and start fresh.

The rest of this article will explain a few topics related to this question in great detail, including what artificial bait is made of, enemies to plastic bait, and how to maximize the life of your bait. If you want to preserve your artificial bait and make sure you don’t fish with something you shouldn’t, read on.

What Is Artificial Bait?

Artificial bait is renowned as the hassle-less, less stinky, convenient sibling to live baits. According to Berkley Fishing chemist and fish expert John Prochnow, “They eliminate the hassle factor. Artificial baits are always ready to go. You don’t have to drive miles out of your way to find a bait shop or spend time digging worms before heading for the lake.” Additionally, they travel well and don’t risk spreading diseases, either. 

While all of this is true, there are a few factors that can diminish the quality and effectiveness of artificial bait. It’s helpful to understand what it consists of and how it’s made to understand what can put your artificial bait at risk.

What Artificial Bait Is Made Of

According to the chemists at Berkley Fishing, most standard artificial bait like worms, crawfish, and lizards, are made mainly of polyvinyl chloride, sometimes referred to as PVC. They typically also include a few other additives. 

As the National Institute of Health’s Tox Town points out, PVC is the same material that products like hoses, flooring, pipes, medical devices, and more are made of.  

How Artificial Bait Is Made

To make a soft plastic bait, the PVC is first heated up to a liquid form.

To this liquid, an oil-based resin is added and combined together. A softer bait typically means it has more oil-based resin. 

Note: Some types of artificial bait, like Berkley Gulp!, which is available on Amazon uses a water-based resin instead of oil-based. This ingredient swap creates a similar bait consistency but allows for greater scent distribution. This is because no oil barrier would otherwise limit how the scent disperses when placed in the water. 

After the PVC and resin are melted together to form a liquid, this formula is then poured into a mold. This shapes the material as it cools to make the plastic bait you know and love. Worms, crayfish, frogs, minnows, or lizards, you name it. Artificial baits come in many styles.

Can Artificial Bait Go Bad?

The answer is no; artificial bait can not necessarily go bad like you may think of a perishable food product expiring. It does not spoil or rot.

However, artificial bait can become compromised and, therefore, less effective, making it perform worse than the day you bought it. 

What will cause your soft plastic artificial bait to diminish in quality? There are a few factors that can harm it, as outlined below. 

Hot Temperatures

Heat plus your artificial bait equals a bad combination. Direct sunlight or extremely high temperatures do not do your soft plastics any favors. They will melt over time and become a solid chunk that’s no longer shaped like they were at purchase.

According to Michael A. Joyce’s book, Residential Construction Academy, the heat stability of pure PVC (the main material in most artificial bait) is extremely poor. The maximum temperature it can withstand and still maintain normal operations is 140°F (60°C). Beyond that, heat distortion starts to occur. 

Live Science tells us that the inside of your car on a hot summer day can easily reach that temperature. If that means one thing, it means to keep your bait out of places like a hot car on a summer day, a window in direct sunlight, or areas of similar temperatures. 

Dryness From Open Air

Air is a major enemy to your artificial soft plastic bait. When left exposed to air, they’ll dry out quickly and become hardened – therefore looking less natural and overall less appealing to the fish you want to hook. 

All things considered, a rigid, hard, dried out piece of artificial bait is considered “gone bad.” While it’s not spoiled, it is bad. Toss them out, or if you’re feeling ambitious, see what you can do to revive it.

If you find your artificial bait has dried out, all hope is not lost. To infuse moisture back into your soft plastics, you have a couple of options:

  • Place your artificial bait in a strong Ziploc bag that you’re confident zips tightly. Add fishing scents and/or a drop of mineral oil to your bait. Then, massage the liquid into all pieces, and leave sealed to allow the liquid to soak in. Your bait will be revived within a day or two. 
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop your soft plastic bait in. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for a few minutes. Remove the bait and lay it flat to dry. Finally, store in a tightly sealed bag or container to maintain moisture and flexible consistency. 

Mixing With Other Artificial Baits

Experienced anglers will tell you that some artificial soft plastic bait types do not mix well with others. When certain types are stored together and in contact for an extended period of time, a reaction can occur, causing them to break down.

Have a look for yourself in this YouTube video by Online Outdoorsman:

While this doesn’t apply to all types of soft plastic bait, those with this precarious property have a warning on their label to remind fishers of this. This is true of two well-known companies: Z-Man, which sells artificial bait made without PVC altogether, and Vudu

Even though they may not be mixed with other materials or artificial bait brands, they’re still excellent, durable, high-quality baits. They should be stored in their original packaging or something else that ensures their separation from others. 

How to Maximize the Life of Your Artificial Bait

If you want to enjoy your artificial bait for a long time to come, it’s important that you store and care for it properly. Essentially, avoid the problem areas mentioned above, and your bait should stay in tip-top shape.

  1. Store your artificial soft plastic bait in a tightly sealed bag or container. If it starts to dry out, add moisture with a few drops of oil or fishing scents. 
  2. Keep it at a moderately cool temperature and avoid extreme heat. 
  3. Store artificial bait with those of the same kind. Avoid mixing your soft plastic baits so you do not risk a reaction that will melt or make the bait stick together. 


When properly stored and maintained, your artificial bait will last 3, 5, 10, even 20 years without going bad. 

However, the air that will dry them out, high heat, or mixing with other types of artificial bait can be their nemesis. Given the right care, storage, maintenance, and revival as needed, you are sure to enjoy your artificial bait for years to come.

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