By Josh & Emily Jensen
Close your eyes and picture yourself out on your favorite body of water. You have a temperate breeze, partly cloudy conditions, and to top it off the weather has held out like this all the whole week - it's a perfect day for fishing! As you're baiting your hook, you reach for that carton of wax worms and… whoops! There it goes.. right in the water...DANG IT! We’ve all been there. Mistakes happen, but losing your live bait doesn't mean packing it up for the day if you have some micro plastics handy!
For many anglers, plastics (especially micro plastics) can be intimidating. There are so many shapes, sizes, and colors to choose from! Let's start by defining what a "micro plastic" really is. A micro plastic is a plastic bait ranging anywhere from 1/2" to 2" long. They are usually soft with a lot of action and an angler could go bankrupt trying to figure out which one works best for them!
In this guide, we’ll walk you through some of our favorite tips for picking the right plastics before you get on the water and how to use them properly once you're ready to fish!
AT THE STORE: CHOOSING A WINNING COMBINATION
To start, we'd like to mention to never overlook the small hand-poured plastics companies. We have found these baits tend to be different in that the "hand-poured action" can drive those panfish nuts! Now, whether you are at the store or ordering online, breaking down the baits into categories is a good place to start. The three groups we tend to use are Insect, Minnow, and Creature. This method helps eliminate all the different names that manufacturers give their baits and helps you hone in on what you're looking for by appearance.
Everyone has their preferences - but when choosing a bait we tend to lean towards a minnow profile most days. The minnow style is exactly that - it looks like a minnow. Typically it is narrow, lean, and with a lot of tail action. This is typically what Crappies prefer, but bigger Gills may also go for these, especially in the fall.
The insect category will generally make your bait more popular with those bull Bluegills. They usually offer a meatier body with a bunch of wiggly legs and sometimes an elongated tail. Insect baits will also offer you the best overall chance at getting a bite, being that you are mimicking the bottom of the food chain.
Creature baits.. the third category where you may look at a body style and ask yourself, what the heck is this?! Don't let the weird profile scare you away, it's really just another tool in your tackle box. One of those baits that you really didn't know you needed - until you need it. The creature category can also tell you a lot about a particular body of water. You may discover things like a preferred bug or minow forage that you've overlooked in the past - or just something different the fish haven't seen before that piques their curiosity. Either way, if it doesn't look like anything else in your tackle box - it could be worth a try!
The next thing to wade through is what color to get. With every shade of color under the sun available and the ability to add colored flakes to make even more combinations, it can become quite confusing.
As a rule of thumb for us, dark colors go with sunny days and bright colors go with cloudy days. This can also translate to water clarity, aside from clear plastics. We've discovered that on a clear body of water, a clear (especially with a silver flake) minnow type plastic is hard to beat no matter the weather.
Our recommendation would be to start with five basic colors: White, Pink, Purple, Black and Chartreuse. Let the fish fine-tune your color choices from there, and as you become more confident you may want to try even more new colors! Following this formula will help you gain confidence in these baits and be successful.
ON THE WATER: HOW TO FISH 'EM
So you've chosen a few plastics - you are back on your favorite body of water with a bag full of what looks like gummy candy… what to do now?
For us, we like to troll our little baits. Even the non-swimming baits. The fact is, the more water you cover the better chance you have of finding fish. Sometimes if you do get a couple of bites in the same spot, it's worth parking the boat to see if you can capitalize on a feeding school.
There is also something to be said for the bobber presentation with microplastics that brings you back to your younger days, but this involves a little more than just sitting and watching the bobber. Casting out as far as you can and twitching or slowing swimming the bait back can be dynamite for those suspended schools. Whether you're onshore or in a boat, structure is always a good place to make a few casts at with a bobber setup. Whether it’s a defined weed line, reeds, brush-piles, or rocks - anything that holds minnows or bugs adjacent to cover will hold the attention of panfish.
These baits are great for ice fishing too! The first advantage that plastics offer in the winter is that they are adjustable. If a bait is too big, or if you want to use just the tail and no body, simply pinch off the part you don’t want and hook up what you need! The second advantage is that they don’t freeze! Even when deadsticking, these little guys can replace minnows because even the slightest breeze on the line keeps them twitching in the water.
For almost all applications we like to use 8lb test Xplasma Asegai Braided Line tied to a Hitena #28 Ultra Power Swivel with a three-foot 4lb test Seaguar InvizX Fluorocarbon leader (Summer) or 2lb Seaguar InvizX (Winter). We use 7' light power fast action rods for most applications on the water.
When fishing structure vertically, believe it or not our Widow Maker tungsten jigs make an open water appearance. For other applications, a 1/32 oz or 1/16 oz lead round head jig will do the trick.
As far as what we use for plastics, you’ll find baits from several companies such as: IJO Plastics, Xtreme Plastics, BY-Baits, Maki Plastics...and more! It’s best to keep as many varieties as you can in your arsenal. This way you will be prepared to “Match the Hatch
That’s it! No more dirty hands and no more dirt-filled coolers. Refer to this guide before the next time you hit the water (or the ice) and you’ll hopefully be going home with an ice cream pail full of fish for dinner and a day full of memories!
Meet Crappie Junction
Crappie Junction is the team of Emily and Josh Jensen. They promote the sport of fishing through media and person to person interaction with anglers across the Midwest. Check them out on Facebook or through their Website.