The 2023 Bassmaster Classic wasn’t the first time that Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson had stacked big weights and solid limits of smallmouth bass on the Tennessee River out of Knoxville, Tennessee. Back in March of 2021, Gussy first put the “moping” technique to use, sinking Kenora, Ontario-designed Smeltinator jigs to fill his ‘well for weigh-in at the 2021 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite. Over two years ago, Gussy went wire-to-wire for all four days of the event, weighing 63 pounds, besting second place by an impressive seven pounds. Gussy trailered home to the far north with over $100,000 in his pocket.
Word of the “moping” technique traveled quickly through social wires, sending serious bassers on the hunt for Gussy’s favored jig head — Bass Tactics’ Smeltinator jig.
Two years later and Gussy did it again, ‘moping’ suspended smallmouths with the Smeltinator jig on forward facing, proving the money method for a Bassmaster Classic title, the $300K payout, and honors as the top bass stick on the planet.
The Smeltinator is hardly new to the fishing scene. The jig and the moping technique has been dominating the Canadian tournament scene for a decade. Gussy, Northland Fishing Tackle founder John Peterson, Canadian professional angler Jamie Bruce, and Bryan Gustafson of Bass Tactics have won many tournaments and cashed big checks at events like the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship and the Kenora Bass Invitational using the Smeltinator jig and the moping technique.
The “moping” technique involves fishing a fluke or minnow-style plastic on the Smeltinator jig and the Smeltinator Underspin jig over the top of deep suspending smallmouth bass. The design of the jig allows the bait to hang perfectly horizontal like a real shiner, smelt, or minnow. These suspending smallmouths are “feeding up” on these schools of baitfish. Hanging the Smeltinator above actively feeding fish has proven to provide big bites and big tournament weights.
As in-the-know bassheads around the world will tell you, getting your hands on Bass Tactics Smeltinator jigs hasn’t been easy, with the small, Kenora, Ontario-based tackle company barely keeping up to product demand.
With a relationship that goes back 20 years, Gustafson’s sponsor Northland Fishing Tackle talked seriously with both Gussy and Bass Tactics founder Bryan Gustafson (no relation) to join forces and push product development, production, marketing, and sales into a much bigger realm.
Thus, Northland Fishing Tackle has announced that the company has a licensing agreement with Bryan Gustafson and Bass Tactics to produce, distribute, and sell the Smeltinator and Smeltinator Underspin jigs under the Northland Fishing Tackle brand name.
“I couldn’t be happier with the deal we worked out with Bryan Gustafson to take over the production, distribution, and sales of the Smeltinator jig,” said Mike Anselmo, Northland Fishing Tackle marketing director. “The molds, manufacturing, and overall design will remain exactly the same, but will now fall under the Northland Fishing Tackle banner. Bryan Gustafson has a winner on his hands with the Smeltinator. We will step in and make sure that the availability and supply will keep up with the growing demand. That said, in just a short time, anglers across the globe will have no issues getting their hands on these outstanding jigs.”