Gear Review: Northland Tackle Smeltinator


Northland Fishing Smeltinator Jig


Designed by Canadian Bryan Gustafson, the Smeltinator gained notoriety in the U.S. after fellow countryman Jeff Gustafson won a 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series event on the Tennessee River, following it up by winning the 2023 Bassmaster Classic on the bait in the same area. The inventor licensed Smeltinator manufacturing rights to Northland Tackle to increase production based on its exploding popularity. Northland Tackle founder John Peterson collaborated with the two Canadians to make the jig head a standout. 

The premium components of the Smeltinator are really what makes this jig head stand out from others. It features a sticky sharp, strong Gamakatsu hook, lifelike 3D holographic eyes and sculpted gill plates. The universal ribbed bait keeper holds plastics on the jig head to avoid tearing. Available in 13 colors; four weights: 1/8, 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 ounce; and five hook sizes: 1/0 to 5/0, the jig is useful in a wide array of applications with different soft plastic baits. 


The Smeltinator for decades dominated the Canadian fishing scene. Specifically, it’s ideally suited for the “moping” technique, which involves catching suspended smallmouth using forward-facing sonar. 

The design of the jig allows it to hang perfectly horizontal like a real shiner, smelt or shad. Suspending smallmouth “feed up” on these schools of baitfish. Hanging, or moping, the Smeltinator above actively feeding fish has proven to yield serious bites and big tournament weights.





At a glance the Smeltinator looks like any other finesse jig; it’s far from that. What you get is a uniquely-designed jig that can be adapted for any smallmouth fishing condition, from rivers to lakes. 

Here are examples of the versatility of the Smeltinator. The rise of forward-facing sonar and pressured waters create the need for precise baitfish imitations whether they are small perch or giant shad. For small finesse swimbaits and minnows around 3 inches in length, the 1/0 or 2/0 hook size is recommended. The 2/0 and 3/0 hook sizes pair up well for baits around 4 inches, the variation used by Gussy to win his two titles in east Tennessee. For baits that are greater than 5 inches, anglers will lean towards the 4/0 or 5/0 hook size.