Matt Johnson Outdoors
Heartbeat Hula
Matt Johnson Outdoors
By: Tom "CrappieTom" Sawvell

Got your  attention  with the  title,
didn't I?  Don't  worry,  this will fit.
You'll see.

We  are  at  a  time  in  the  winter
when we  begin to hear  of  down
sizing the  baits to get fish  to hit.
But just what does this entail and
how small is small?

Cold fronts, an injection of dirty water, even noise can put fish in a
funk bite-wise, especially the panfish....so as you read keep in mind it
is this group of fish that I am referring to while trying to explain this. A
frontal weather system will be the most common of all causes to pay
attention to and we will stick with that as a hypothetical in this
instance too.

Say a major cold front comes piling thru an area right when a steady
bite has been occurring. You are now faced with much colder air,
clear, high skies and a stiff north wind. You only have a day or so to
fish and won't pass on the opportunity and you find the fish on the
locater but they will not respond to anything you drop down there. You
dig through the tackle and find a smaller jig and a smaller piece of
plastic and think "this will do it", but nada. But why?

Lets start with the jig. Many of the typical jigs, whether vertical or
horizontal, are in the 1/32 to 1/64 category. Some may be larger, some
smaller. I call these utility jigs simply because they are the best tool
when the bite is on and size doesn't seem to get in the way of the bite
or hinder it. When the fish develop lock-jaw though, even that 1/64
can be way too big to tempt these fish. They still will eat, but instead of
eating a pancake, they eat the crumbs. They get like a sick child....you
can get them to take a random "taste" of something, but you'll be
doing real good to get them to eat the whole spoonful.

Dropping down to a jig in the 1/100 to 1/200th ounce range is where we
need to begin looking for a bite to develop. As an example, Custom
Jigs and Spins makes Demons, Rat Finkes, Ratsos and Shrimpos that
will fall somewhere in between those weight ranges and are dynamic
as far as being down-sizing baits with a wide range of colors provided
to choose from. Both horizontal and vertical needs are met, with the
Demons and Shrimpos being the up-right numbers and the others
mentioned being of horizontal nature. When I go this small, I am using
no more than 2 pound line and a spring bobber. At any rate and
regardless of the jig's manufacturer, this is the minimum size range
you need to look at to truly consider your baits as being properly
down-sized. Marmuskas of hardly any weight value exist and take
some huge fish....these lures are way smaller than the 1/200th ounce
numbers in my opinion.

So now you've got the jig peeled down to almost nothing and maybe
are tossing a small piece of a waxie or maggot on to give it some odor.
The fish show some interest, some may even be caught. Still, you are
seeing many more there on the locater and they appear interested
and maybe even bump the jig occasionally, so you toss on a plastic to
help out. Maybe you have elected to use a jig with a plastic installed
like the Shrimpo or the Ratso. If this is the case you must now find out
which on of the two presentations is the fish getter, vertical or
horizontal. This does make a huge difference and usually the only way
to find out is to offer both and see which one wins out and then switch
both lines to that presentation. What, though, if you need to go
shopping for some plastic to put on jigs have that are bare?

Everyone has plastic out there and everyone says theirs' is the cats
meow, but few really fall into the category of being a true finesse
plastic. Again, Custom Jigs and Spins has answered the call to this
need with a line of finesse plastics designed specifically for this type
of active duty. (There are a couple other makers who have very
similar, ultra fine plastic products aimed at this particular market and
are readily available at most bait shops or sporting goods store)
These plastics are sweet. Very thin at the hook end and tapering away
to almost nothing at the tail, they seem almost transparent. Not to
worry though, a sunfish that can see the gills pumping and the
appendages moving on a water flea at 20 feet in dark water will not be
able to miss this plastic, but it is exactly this lithe whip-like piece that
will get the fish. I even cut off about half of the heavy end of these
plastics so all I am using is the thin stuff. This is very hard to hook and
keep in place yes, but the fishing is worth it. That and the heavier
plastics just will not get the appropriate attention you want that these
ultra light plastics command.

So how do you know when the plastic is the "right stuff"? In Custom's
case, if the jig comes with the plastic, you are on track. Be sure to pick
up some replacement plastic (Custom also sells these in various
colors, some of which glow) that matches what the jigs come with.
Quality plastics are very tender and those whip-like tails will get
nipped off....the jig isn't trashed but the plastic is. In the package,
Custom's tackle is a balanced jig/plastic. And Custom has refined
those dainty tails to a perfection not easily found anywhere on a
packaged jig! Now, if you are looking to pick up plastic to do your own
tinkering keep in mind the need to stay ultra thin with almost no
distinguishable body. Your best finesse plastics start at almost
nothing and ends at absolutely nothing more than a wisp. Single tail,
split or double tail, paddle tail....makes no never mind....if it isn't ultra
thin and transparent, its way too heavy for what you want. The tails
have got to be very transparent even if they are of glo plastic. The key
here is that transparency equates to motion
and that is where the "heartbeat hula" comes into play.

Put a finesse plastic in a wee bit of a jig while at home. Tie the jig to a
straw or a dowel with a piece of whatever line you are using for your
lightest fishing.... allow about two feet between the jig and
straw/dowel/whatever. Now fill a glass with water and set it in front of
you on a solid table or counter top and lower the jig half way into the
water and hold it there steadily. Concentrate on the jig, not your arm.
Eventually your heartbeat will be transmitted down the arm, into your
"rod", the line and finally all the way to the tail of that plastic. IF that
plastic is as I have described, it will simply be dancing the "hula" in
that glass of water. If you are on track, the jig's head will move slightly,
the plastic will not be able to be kept motionless. If the plastic and the
head move almost in unison, or if the plastic is at rest when the head
is, pitch the stuff in the circular file and go shopping again.

Down sizing is a tricky thing but if you pay attention to what you
purchase to get this job done, you can reap some huge rewards. Keep
in mind that major tackle vendors such as Custom Jigs and Spins
(along with Brainerd-based, Minnesota company) have years of
development behind their products and have had these specialty
products thoroughly field tested for a number of years. Both
companies offer ultra soft and transparent-to-perfection plastics that
fill this niche beautifully. Some of the plastics will also give you the
benefit of a subtle glow. This glowing plastic is yet another
consideration.

When we charge a glow head, we are directing the fish's' focus at the
head itself....creating a visible target for them if you will. It only takes a
speck of glow at times to captivate them. The best glo plastics will
possess the other listed assets along with a "soft" glo that creates a
quiet "halo" effect around the body, not a glaring traffic-
light-at-mid-night type of shine. The "soft" glo desired is easiest to
obtain when the plastic is very thin. Think about it....the component
that makes these things glo is a powder cooked into the plastic. In
ultra thin bodies the amount of the glo product is kept in check by the
need to keep the plastic itself very, very soft as well as ultra-thin. The
more of the glo component added to the liquid plastic, the thicker and
less resilient the finished product will be. In fact, those plastics which
are "over-glowed" will be way too stiff for any kind of cold water
fishing if not super brittle. Thicker and stiffer products glo, yes, but
they resemble floodlights when set next to a plastic with the ideal glo
properties and suppleness. When down-sizing is an issue, minimizing
the total profile is the objective. Loud, glaring plastics that glo actually
work in the opposite direction. Super thin and soft glowing plastics
create a mere "presence" and that is what gets the fish. Big and bold
might get your eye, but the fish see things in an entirely different
light....literally!

Some things to keep in mind when you shop: Custom's fishing ready
jigs with plastics are a tough one to beat with that tail filled with
perpetual motion. Any plastic you consider should be next to nothing
where you hook it on and be ultra thin at the end. Roll the package
these things come in. If they just flop over, they are too heavy for
effective down sizing. As a matter of fact, if you turn the package over
they should keep moving as a mass for a second or two....maybe
longer. Major tackle manufacturers of ice plastics have plastics in use
which are so soft that they feel alive which is why the plastics in the
package appear to act that way. Avoid buying the "bargain" brands.
The only time I buy off from bargain tables is if I find something that is
a label I know, trust and respect. Keep in mind, when you are looking
for downsizing plastics and jigs, just imagine in your mind what the
fish are looking at down there. When down sizing is a requirement, the
fish are studying everything you drop. They are not going to hit a
plastic with a bulky body or you wouldn't be down sizing would you?
Their food source likely has cilia, antennae, or other appendages
moving around its body....all very fine and hair-like....not stiff and
un-yielding. You want a plastic that is supple enough to look alive, not
just boldly "there". And remember transparent. Much of the food on
the shelf down where the fish live is quite transparent. The closer to
all of these little things you can get with your plastic the more reliable
and successful your efforts at down sizing will be!

Down sizing is productive and challenging all wrapped up in a little
ball. It doesn't have to be confusing or frustrating, however . I think
that a lot of the problems people encounter and don't thoroughly
understand about this concept could be avoided by trying to get the
"Hula" going at home so they can visualize first hand what they need
to change to get things right on the water. And that is ultimately where
the difference will become apparent.
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