By Ned Kehde
When we were working on a gear guide about Northland Fishing Tackle’s new IMPULSE Core Swimbait with Jeff Gustafson of Kenora, Ontario, and Tony Roach of Moose Lake, Minnesota, we realized that we had failed to publish a gear guide about its IMPULSE Smelt Minnow. We quickly concluded that it was high time that we publish one.
This realization corresponded with Gustafson’s thirteenth-place finish at the FLW Tour event at Lake Travis, Texas, on Feb. 16, 17, and 18. At this tournament, a significant number of the largemouth bass that he caught were inveigled on a Northland’s smelt-colored IMPULSE Jerk Minnow, which Gustafson described as a five-inch version of the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow. (In the endnotes to this gear guide, Gustafson’s insights about the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow and IMPULSE Jerk Minnow are detailed.)
The IMPULSE Smelt Minnow is made in two sizes: three inches and four inches.
They are enhanced with a scent that is called MircoPlankton formula IMPULSE Attractant, which is infused into the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow’s scent-dispersing soft-plastic body, and it possesses a 100-percent retention rate.
The tip of its head is flat. Adjacent to its head, a pectoral fin is embossed on each side of its torso. Between the pectoral fin and the tip of its head, there is an outlining of a gill membrane. Its torso is artistically embellished with fish-like scales. Its back is flat. Its torso is somewhat shaped like a triangle. The last inch or so of the torso becomes significantly slimmer as it approaches its junction with the tail.
The tail is forked or V-shaped. The folks at Northland call it a “Whale Tail.” And as anglers present it to their quarries, it readily exhibits alluring, but subtle, flickers and shakes.
Northland introduced the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow in 2011, and Gustafson calls it the northern anglers’ rendition of a bait that southern anglers call a fluke-style soft-plastic bait. The northern anglers affix their rendition to a jig with an exposed hook. Whereas southern anglers employ it in a variety of ways, such as on a drop-shot rig, on a weightless hook, on a Neko rig, on a Texas-rig with a slip sinker, on a belly-weighted hook, on a Carolina rig, and some of them even rig it on a shaky head jig.
The IMPULSE Smelt Minnow possesses the straight and slender profile of a rainbow smelt rather than the shad-profiles of the fluke-style soft-plastic baits that southern anglers employ.
Unlike the southern renditions, the torso of the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow is devoid of hook slots, which northern anglers applaud. Northern anglers have found that hook slots are a nuisance to deal with when they are affixing a fluke-style bait to a jig with an exposed hook. The staff at Northland recommends affixing it on one of their Slurp! Jigs or Eye-Ball Jigs. These jigs have barbed collars, which will keep the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow snuggly attached to the collars and heads of these jigs. When anglers need to employ a vigorous twitching and shaking presentation, it is recommended that they affix it to the jig so the back of the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow is up, its belly is down, and the hook is protruding from its back. When anglers need to employ a restrained swimming action, it is recommended that anglers turn it upside down; so, their flat back is down, their belly is up, and the hook is protruding from its belly.
When anglers need to employ a vigorous twitching and shaking presentation, it is recommended that they affix it to the jig so the back of the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow is up, its belly is down, and the hook is protruding from its back. When anglers need to employ a restrained swimming action, it is recommended that anglers turn it upside down; so, their flat back is down, their belly is up, and the hook is protruding from their belly.
It is available in six colors: Chartreuse Shad, Electric Chicken, Emerald Shiner, Fathead, Smelt, and White. Some hues have a laminated sheen that is aimed to replicate the flash and tones of some of the species that black bass forage upon.
A package of eight four-inchers costs $4.69, and some venues sell it for $3.99. A package of 10 three-inchers costs $4.69.
(1) On Feb. 26, 27, and 28, we exchanged several emails with Jeff Gustafson about the history of the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow and how, when, and where he uses it.
He traced the advent of its usage at the Lake of the Woods, Ontario, and Rainey Lake, Ontario, to the turn of the millennium, which is when the rainbow smelt populations in those two waterways multiplied dramatically, and the smallmouth bass began to forage upon these colorful and shining creatures. Its name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word smoelt, which means shining. Gustafson notes that the smelt is an invasive species, and its population has gone through peaks and valleys in the Lake of the Woods and Rainey Lake.
He says Al, Bill, Jim, and Ron Lindner, of Brainerd, Minnesota, and In-Fisherman and Lindner’s Angling Edge fame deserve a lot of credit for pioneering ways to catch the suspended smallmouth bass when they are foraging upon smelt in the middle of the lake. This tactic is called “hanging,” which is accomplished when an angler employs a vertical presentation with a fluke- or smelt-style bait affixed to a jig directly beside and nearly under the boat. When these anglers employed this vertical presentation, their fluke-style or smelt-style lures were always situated slightly above the depth of water that the smallmouth bass were abiding in. Ron Lindner used to call this tactic “moping.” It is similar to what some modern-day anglers call a Damiki Rig. Gustafson also credited Alex Keszler of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Ted
Gustafson also credited Alex Keszler of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Ted Stewner of Winnipeg, and John Guzej of Winnipeg as being hanging and moping pioneers.
During the developmental stages of the moping tactic, these anglers used fluke-style baits made by Lunker City Fishing Specialities, Berkley Fishing, and Zoom Bait Company, and Gustafson said he used those baits until Northland created its smelt rendition. And Gustafson estimates that he and his friends have tangled with thousands of smallmouth bass with these baits. He has also won a few tournaments at Lake of the Woods and Rainey Lake by hanging and moping, but he says Keszler, Stewner, Guzej, Jim Lindner, and Bill Lindner garnered most of the big-time tournament laurels at these Canadian waterways.
Gustafson has found that the best time of the year for moping and hanging at the Lake of the Woods and Rainey Lake occurs in mid-summer and into the fall.
Nowadays Gustafson uses only the Northland’s renditions of these fluke-style baits. He is extremely fond of their color schemes and the MircoPlankton formula IMPULSE Attractant. He uses the three-inch IMPULSE Smelt Minnow when the smallmouth bass is wary and tentative and unresponsive. He also uses the three-inches when he is in pursuit of vast numbers of smallmouth bass rather than lunkers, which can occur when he is working as a guide. He says it is a great tactic for clients to employ when he is guiding them, because all they have to do is drop it over the side of the boat and hold it almost dead still, and when a smallmouth bass engulfs the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow, it nearly rips the rod out of the client’s hand.
But most of the time, he and his friends wield the four-inch IMPULSE Smelt Minnow, which corresponds to the size of the smelt that inhabits the Canadian waters that he and his friends ply. They rig it on a Northland’s Slurp! Jig. And when Gustafson is competing in a tournament, he uses a custom-made and vintage Northland Mimic Minnow jig that sports a Gamaktsu hook. (But to his chagrin, the Mimic Minnow is no longer available.)
He uses his sonar devices to search for the smallmouth bass and smelt in water as shallow as 12 feet and as deep as 40 feet. Once he finds them, he positions the boat directly above them. The key to his presentation is to keep the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow and jig above the smallmouth bass and hold it as still as humanly possible. What’s more, it is important not to allow the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow rig to touch the bottom, and in fact, if it does touch the bottom, it seems to make the smallmouth bass become uninterested in the rig.
He has discovered that a heavy jig is superior to a lightweight one. One reason why that is the case is that a heavy one does not move around as much as a light one does when an angler is trying to employ a dead-still vertical presentation. Another reason is that a heavy jig plummets into the correct zone quickly, which is important when an angler is focusing upon suspended fish that are following and foraging on smelt or shad that moving about. The lightest jig he will employ is a 1/4-ouncer, and when he is fishing around the deep-water fish, he opts for a 3/8-ouncer. He watches what transpires with the smallmouth bass, smelt, and the IMPULSE Smelt Minnow rig on his sonar devices. And he says it is important to find what he calls the sweet spot, which can be seen on the sonar. He works with a Humminbird Helix 10, and he watches the rig sink and stops it slightly above the smallmouth bass, and when it is in the sweet spot, he will watch a smallmouth bass come up to the rig and engulf it. He says it is a joy to see this transpire
Gustafson recommends using this rig on either a seven-foot or a seven-foot, six-inch spinning rod. He uses a Loomis IMX 892S spinning rod and a Shimano Sustain 2500 reel. The reel is spooled with 10-pound-test Power Pro braided line with a six-foot 10-pound-test fluorocarbon leader.
When Gustafson was competing at the FLW Tour event at Lake Travis, two of the five largemouth bass that he took to the tournament stage on day one were caught while he was employing a vertical presentation with a Heartland’s Jerk Minnow affixed to a 1/4-ounce jig. The five largemouth bass that he took to the stage on the second day of the tournament were caught while he was employing a vertical presentation with a Heartland’s Jerk Minnow affixed to a 1/4-ounce jig, and it was a smelt-hue Jerk Minnow. Early in the morning during the third day, he caught a big largemouth bass by casting and retrieving a swimbait. And after he landed that bass, he examined that area with his Humminbird Helix 10 unit, and he found what looked to be a small group of big largemouth bass. He dropped his five-inch Jerk Minnow rig vertically down to them, and he immediately hooked a largemouth bass that looked as if it weighed somewhere between four and five pounds, but that brute liberated itself at the side of the boat. After that occurred, this group of largemouth bass became wary, and he struggled to catch several small ones and only one more that was big enough to take to the tournament stage. In sum, seven of the 12 largemouth bass that he brought to the tournament stage were caught by vertically fishing with a smelt-colored Heartland’s Jerk Minnow affixed to a 1/4-ounce jig. Those seven helped him finish in thirteenth place and garner a $10,000 check. Even though the water temperature was around 65 degrees, he caught those seven in 22 to 35 feet of water, using the same hanging or moping tactics that the Lindners and a few other Minnesota and Canadian anglers developed many years ago. He credited his Humminbird Helix 10 unit for helping to find Lake Travis’ deep-water lairs.