Twelve years ago when I got heavily invested in the tourney side of ice fishing, if someone had offered me some plastic baits for targeting bluegills and crappie through the ice my answer would have been, “No thanks.” The baits available back then from the big companies were stiff, lifeless and even less appealing to the fish. That all changed roughly 7 years when fishing a tourney in Minnesota.
Not that I didn’t have some plastics stuffed in my Ice Armor blue suit at most events, but that one tourney on Lake Chisago convinced me of the effectiveness of the new generation of soft plastics that were gaining popularity back then. I started fishing with a Little Atom Nuggie and the fish were biting, then the fish kept biting, and I kept fishing that bait, all morning long! Today there is a larger selection of manufactures to choose from, and most of their baits will catch fish on a consistent level.
The question one has to ask is not should I fish with plastics, but to build a variety of types that will land the most fish. There are tails, creatures, bugs and teasers, and they will catch fish, trick is to dial in the water you are fishing. Small presentations can work best when fishing shallow weedbeds, while bigger baits will get the job done over deep water.
Back in the day, you bought artificial baits to use if you ran out of live bait, and you never ran out, so they never got used. The best thing I can say about plastics is this, often now they are going down the hole just as often as the wiggly live stuff. I will not say they are as good as live bait in all situations, but there are times when everything is right, and they actually do fish just as good as nature’s made.