Superplastics for Spring Panfish

New high-performance soft lures entice crappies, bluegills and perch galore

Even among the best bass fishermen in the country, whispers of words like big crappie attract a captive audience. So it was for Major League Fishing star David Walker, a confirmed snitch. One day, while driving home from his latest bass derby, Walker found himself daydreaming about a local crappie lake and the ingredients for an epic fish fry. “After a hectic bass tournament, I love coming home and fishing a boat full of crappies or white bass with my girls,” says Walker, a magician with a small jig and a soft lure.

A lifelong fan of panfish, Walker recently discovered a new bait concept for crappies, perch and bluegills. Ironically, the idea first occurred to him while he was tournament fishing for bass.

About superplastics
“When I started casting these so-called ‘superplastics’ for bass several years ago, I quickly learned an almost magical advantage of the material known as ElaZtech, which was that panfish and other nuisance fish couldn’t peck the tails off the back of the bass. your bass jigs,” recalls Walker. “While fishing for bass with traditional soft plastics, it has always been a headache and a huge waste of time when you have perch, sunfish and other tail-pecking fish in the area. But using these ElaZtech baits, I found that the panfish could peck at them all they wanted, with little to no effect on the bait. I could stay in the game, non-stop, reeling broken baits back into the boat, and constantly re-rigging a new tail.”

Meanwhile, Walker was thinking about crappies. He knew that ElaZtech’s advantages had tremendous panfish potential. “This is a material that is wonderfully soft and lively, so it’s easy to activate, so it moves and ripples fluidly in the water,” he notes.

“Like most anglers, I accepted for years that traditional panfish-sized soft plastics just don’t move as well underwater. Because they are relatively stiff, traditional soft crappie baits tend to lose action the smaller you make them. Therefore, you often had to resort to larger baits than you wanted or had to retrieve them faster to achieve the desired tail flick or swimming action. Neither is ideal for a fish that often exhibits size and speed selectivity in its feeding habits.

“You will understand that when I started fishing ElaZtech, I was very excited about its advantages for bass. But secretly, I couldn’t wait until panfish-sized superplastics arrived on the scene. Combine a super soft, live bait with crazy durability and you’ll quickly appreciate what I’m saying. This material has all the characteristics of the perfect panfish bait.”

sink rate swimbaits
A few days after the completion of a recent bass tournament, Walker found himself in his favorite crappie lake. He saw the aqua blue packets of the new Z-Man Micro Finesse baits lying on the deck of his boat and a light bulb went on. “I grabbed a packet of Shad FryZ™, a cool little 1-3/4-inch paddletail lure, and set it on a 1/10-ounce Micro Finesse ShroomZ™ panfish jig. Almost immediately, it became my favorite crappie bait, and here’s why.”

From the very first casts, Walker noticed that in the water the tail of the bait activated and kicked realistically with almost no effort, even at slow retrieve speeds. “The Shad FryZ is one of those rare crappie-sized swimbaits whose tail flicks and thumps as it falls. Crappies can be very speed sensitive, in terms of lure retrieve and sink rate. Too many traditional crappie baits require excessive speed to activate; often that is too fast for crappies, especially in colder waters.”

A deep thinking angler who is always conjuring up ways to maximize lure performance, Walker suggests that bait buoyancy and sink rate remain two ignored factors in the crappie catching equation. “Consider that the natural buoyancy of the Shad FryZ slows down its sink rate. So while I can benefit from the added casting weight of a 1/10 ounce jig, the rigged bait flutters and fishes more like a 1/16 ounce. And it still exhibits that nice, natural, bite-inducing tail kick on the drop.

“As seasoned anglers know, crappies primarily feed,” Walker continues. “Therefore, keeping the lure at your eye level or a few feet above is paramount, especially in spring.”

Unlike traditional PVC soft plastics, which sink, Walker points out, ElaZtech baits float, which slows the jighead’s sinking speed. “That’s something you simply can’t do with other crappie baits, because traditional plastisol baits sink quickly, often past the active attack zones of crappie and other panfish.”

Tricks with superplastics
To further tune the sink rate, Walker reels in “straight 6- or 8-pound leaderless braided test line,” he suggests. “After testing those 2, 3, and 4 pound micro-thin test braids, I found that the thicker diameter braid, which floats, slows down the sinking speed of the lure a bit more.”

Walker offers another tip for creating a semi-permanent soft “lure” that will catch dozens of fish without replacing the tail. “Add a drop of Loctite Gel Control glue to the jighead before threading the Shad FryZ or other Micro Finesse body,” he explains. “This locks the bait in place and has allowed me to catch close to 50 crappies on a single bait, all without re-rigging or even repositioning the original bait on the hook.”

Analogous to how braided superlines were initially perceived by anglers, Walker acknowledges that anglers often approach superplastics with hesitation. “Like superlines, which require different knots, ElaZtech baits require slightly different rigging and storage,” he notes. “But the advantages are too dramatic to ignore.

“To bait a jighead, thread the body onto the hook in the traditional way. Then, instead of pushing it up and over the jig barbs, grab the bait by the head and pull and pull it tight towards the head of the jig. This material is so elastic and resistant that it can hardly be torn by hand.

“For storage, just keep the baits in their original packages, don’t mix them with regular soft plastics in the storage bins, and your super plastics will last for years. That’s all about it.”

Shad FryZ recovers
While spring anglers generally target shallow water fish, Walker prefers to pursue larger, less pressured fish in 5 to 15 feet of water, just outside of eventual spawning grounds. “Count the lure down to the correct depth and start a slow and steady retrieve. Pause every 5 to 10 seconds. Let the bait stop and dangle momentarily. The tail will float; It won’t unnaturally drop below the jig head and blow out the fish. It’s a real key to ‘talking’ lethargic crappies into biting.”

“As a bass angler familiar with the toughness of ElaZtech, I spent years trying to cut and customize larger worms into panfish-sized offerings. They worked, but the new Micro Finesse baits give me panfish profiles and actions I’m looking for, without the need for a knife.

“As crappie fans discover the advantages of panfish superplastics – super soft, easy to activate and very durable – we will all be eating a lot more crappie dinners.”

About Z-Man Fishing Products: A dynamic company based in Charleston, South Carolina, Z-Man Fishing Products has been fusing cutting-edge fishing tackle with technology for nearly three decades. Z-Man has long been one of the industry’s largest suppliers of silicone skirt material used in jigs, spinnerbaits, and other lures. Creator of the original ChatterBait®, Z-Man is also the renowned innovator of 10X Tough ElaZtech® soft baits, among the most sought after baits in freshwater and saltwater. Z-Man is one of the fastest growing lure brands in the world.