Soft lures have gone from nowhere in sea fishing a decade or so ago to being some anglers preferred lures. The market is vast, and certainly there are some conditions that are better suited to the more subtle approach of soft lures than certain noisy, big vibration hard lures.
Along the Yorkshire coast, soft lures do not have quite the following they might, despite the widespread recognition that soft plastic shads are great for cod and pollack. Quite often there are issues of water clarity that put people off trying the more subtle forms, such as xlayers and other ribbed worms. There is a belief that good water clarity works in the favour of this type of lure, whereas it can work against less realistic hard lures.
That said, I was still shocked to see the results of a survey by French anglers from the forum Pecheaubar, in which 230 anglers were polled about their favourite lures. The results show just two hard lures in the top 20! Just as surprising is the almost complete absence of the most common and successful hard lures used over here, such as the Megabass Zonk, Ima Susuke, Duo Tide Minnows and Tackle House Contact Feed Shallows. Where are they in the list?
One might imagine that familiarity with certain makes (e.g. Lucky Craft) or lack of access to domestic Japanese lures have left them with a poor selection of hard lures to choose from. But this is unlikely. For example, Sakura have teamed up with Ima and Sebile and so some of the best hard lures should be accessible to at least some French anglers. And a glance at French tackle supplier websites shows a good variety of the top Japanese makes of hard lure. Perhaps we can only conclude that their local angling conditions suit soft lures more than they suit hard lures, and while this is possible it strikes me as unlikely. I can't imagine the conditions in Bretagne being much different to Cornwall. Perhaps we need a survey from Cornish anglers to find out?! To be fair, Irish anglers who also fish in very clear waters are big fans of soft lures too, especially xlayers.
There is one other possible explanation of course: perhaps, like anglers everywhere, French anglers just resent paying some of the eye-watering prices being asked for hard lures and refuse to do so! After all, if there's an effective alternative at a fraction of the price, wouldn't we all do the same?