THE EARLY DAYS!
When I started in the fishing industry as a guide in 1982, we relied a lot on the use of bait to catch many of our fish species. For walleye, it was nightcrawlers, minnows and leeches. There were soft plastic baits available but the use of scent, impregnated in those lures, hadn’t happened yet. I used a lot of Mr Twister curly tail plastic and old classic double tail. Back in the day these were the go-to plastic, and since that time they have expanded their products considerably.The design of the curly tail started a revolution in soft plastic lures. Mister Twister developed the concept and introduced the first curly tail in 1972.
SOFT PLASTIC GOES SCIENTIFIC
I met a young biologist who was doing research on fear pheromones, a chemical given off by bait fish when in the presence of predator fish. He brought me into his lab to check things out. I was fascinated by the research and disappointed to learn a short time later that he had left his position and headed down to the U.S.
BERKLEY HIRES BIOLOGIST TO DEVELOP SCENT PRODUCTS
As it turns out he was hired by Berkley to develop a scent product for their new soft plastics. In 1985 Berkley released Strike — the first product to include real baitfish. About three years later, Dr. Keith Jones’ research into fish feeding stimulants produced Powerbait Trout Dough. This breakthrough then snowballed with the production of several different Powerbait Products. As the years went by Berkley continued their research including biodegradable Gulp product for one and the new Max Scent Powerbait.
A TRUE BELIEVER!
Over the years I have been a true believer in Powerbait and soft plastics in general. I have a basement full of the stuff, and it’s interesting to see the progression of these lures. Like many hardcore anglers, I hardly use live bait at all anymore.
One thing I have learned over that time, is to pay attention on how each lure works in the water. If the soft plastic doesn’t quite look natural your catch ration will drop, sometimes dramatically depending on fish activity level. There are obviously different looks for different activity levels of the fish.
For example, a boot tail, or swimbait is great when fish are active, especially in shallow water. When the water is cold and bite is off, a nice finesse minnow style works well.
In today’s day and age, there is a lot of competition in the soft plastic market. Some of the things I look for in new product are softness combined with durability.
Berkley products have that but so do some other companies. For me personally Z-Man is right up there with Berkley for both those qualities.
Z-MAN IS HOT
Z-Man’s proprietary ElaZtech® material is remarkably soft, pliable, and tougher than traditional soft plastics. ElaZtech resists nicks, cuts, and tears better than most soft baits meaning they will last longer, especially if you Super Glue them to your jig head. I also like the fact that they are buoyant, which makes them pretty darn appealing. They are also non-toxic, a good thing.
A MYRIAD OF CHOICES
I will also use Northlands Tackle Impulse product, specifically the Impulse three-inch brown leech. This is my #1 smallmouth bait. Their core swimbait is pretty darn good on both walleye and bass. They are not quite as durable as some but they are soft and pliable, which is a good thing.
Live Target has put a lot research in developing a new line of soft plastics. The Ghost Tail Minnow, which I have fished, uses LIVETARGET’s Injected Core Technology (ICT) to create a ultra-realistic dropshot bait. According to the manufacturer, The Inner-Core is anatomically precise and produces a vibrant metallic flash, while the Exo-Skin generates a finesse quivering action. The tail design creates action the emulates the movement of a small minnow, while helping the bait track straight while swimming or in current.
Soft plastics are not just for bass and walleye. Big pike and musky love big swimbaits. Lake trout can be partial to them as well. Basically, soft plastic will catch pretty much anything that swims!
I have asked some of the top anglers in western Canada to give their take on soft plastics and how to use them. Part Two of this story continues here from a man who makes his living using them, professional tournament angler Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson.