It wasn’t all that long ago that bass anglers were the only ones that had seemingly limitless choices in plastic profiles. When it came to panfish anglers and baits in that desired 1-2 inch size, there was generally the tube and the grub. To add to the frustration, plastic baits made in minuscule sizes really suffered in the action department. Thankfully, advances in molding technology and the plastic material itself, coupled with an increased demand for panfish-sized baits by both open water and ice anglers, pan fisherman now have an ever-growing pool of plastic profiles and colors to choose from. We have nearly everything that panfish feed on at any time of the year, available to us in a detailed plastic replica. I think just about every angler has heard the term “match the hatch,” and understands the concept behind it. Matching the hatch isn’t the be-all-end-all of selecting the plastics, but it can be a great starting point as you dial in the most productive profile and color for the given situation.
If you’re chasing midsummer crappies around a sunken island, a minnow imitator like the Impulse Mini Smelt is a logical place to start. Choose a natural color that matches the local forage. If you feel you’re around fish but not get the bites you should, experiment with some brighter colors, especially if presented with some darker water. If your quarry is jumbo perch on deep gravel flats, the Impulse Rigged Mini Crawfish is a great selection. If you find the fish using the gravel to mud transition area instead, a bottom-dwelling invertebrate profile may be in order, like the Impulse Stone Fly or the Impulse Mayfly. How about some big bull bluegills hanging off of a deep weed line? A free-swimming invert profile like the Impulse Zoo Plankton. These newer profiles imitate open water invertebrates, a plastic profile that often gets overlooked yet fills an important niche when arming your panfish assault kit. These baits lean towards the small size of panfish plastic at just 1 and 1.25 inches respectively, but they both feature a meaty head area, so they hold on a jig hook extremely well for a small profile. This beefy head also improves the sonar return off the baits, a bonus when fishing vertical, in either open water or frozen.
Playing the match the hatch game is really pretty simple. Just let the presumed forage of the sought species guide your profile selection, and adjust and experiment from there.
But if there could be just one rule when it comes to selecting fishing lures in general, it would have to be “there are no rules.” And sometimes going against the grain can bring amazing results. Case in point, the Impulse Crazy Legs, and the Impulse T-Bone. These profiles simply imitate something that looks edible, rather than a specific creature, yet they both excel at catching fish. They give a new look to a school of panfish, and although they catch plenty of fish right out of the package, they’re designed to be customizable. I first got my hands on these when there was still some ice in my neck of the woods and was honestly a little surprised at their effectiveness.
On the Impulse Crazy Legs, removing the two outer “legs” makes for an awesome vertical presentation. Now in the open water season, I’ve found that removing the middle leg, and fishing it beneath a float with a pull and pause retrieve is absolutely deadly. The two outer legs will swim inward on the pull, and then return outward on the pause. It’s a killer way to cover water with such a small bait.
The Impulse T-Bone lends itself to even more customization options with 4 appendages or legs extending out from the bulbous center. It excels vertical with just one leg left on for an ultra-finesse presentation. I also put it to work under afloat with the pull and pause retrieve, but with two opposite appendages removed. It resembles a wacky-rigged soft plastic stickbait as you would use for bass, but in a 1.25-inch size!
All Northland’s panfish profiled plastics feature their Impulse formula, of which I’ve been made a believer. Once fish pick up an Impulse bait, they simply don’t let it go. All unrigged panfish plastics also come in the new 20 count disc packaging, which makes the handling of tiny baits (especially with cold fingers), easier than ever. No more digging into a tiny zip bag to try and retrieve a single bait. The clear discs also lock together to form a stacking system, perfect for organizing plastics to your liking and taking just what you need for a particular body of water. Easy carry too – a stack of several easily fits into the pocket a rain jacket, ice jacket, or wader pouch.
Whether you “match the hatch” or “go against the grain,” Northland’s expanding line of Impulse panfish profiles fits the bill. Use your imagination with these offerings. There really isn’t a wrong way to fish them.