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Lure Review

A blast from the past, re-introducing the wiggling and wobbling Panther Martin Vivif swim bait

Date: 1/01/04
Tackle type: Lures
Manufacturer: Panther Martin
Reviewer: JIP

Total Score: 8.58 + Best Value Award!

Introduction: It's the start of the new year, and to start 2004 off right Panther Martin is re-introducing a popular blast from the past. The Vivif, a swim bait that swam in our waters decades ago, has been revived with a series of modifications designed to further enhance the performance of this proven fish catcher.


Panther Martin Vivif Specifications

Material Soft PVC
Colors 6 available
Sizes 1/3, 1, and 2.5 oz
Length 2.5, 4, and 6 inches
MSRP $2.99-$3.99 (4 per pack)
Price Found at Bass Pro $1.99-$2.99 (4 per pack)

Impressions: "The Fish Lure Guaranteed to Catch Fish Or It Costs You Nothing!" was the advertising headline from 1958 when the original Vivif was first introduced. In French, Vivif means living minnow and that's exactly what the first Vivif lures were designed to imitate. The originals sported a hand painted body, a flexible fish tail that wiggled when retrieved, and a double hook that pointed downwards.


Introducing the 2004 Panther Martin Vivif that's very affordable and attractive


Today the Panther Martin Vivif displays a similar but much improved design. The body of the Vivif is molded out of soft PVC material that features lively colors/patterns, a dorsal fin, and an impregnated holographic film. The new Vivif comes pre-rigged with a weighted head and a single Mustard hook extending up from the back instead of the bottom like the original Vivif.


Complete Rig for Vivif Tests

Rod Quantum Cabo PTs Inshore
Reel Quantum Energy PT
Line 12 lb. Sufix DNA

Field Tests: The original Vivif from the past proved to be an effective fish catcher and we hoped the newly redesigned version would do the same.  But with every little tweak, performance can be affected. So we set out to test the Vivif swim bait by targeting fish in both salt and freshwater conditions.


The Vivif's unique heart-shaped tail produces a lot of wiggle and wobble


Casting: Nicely weighted, the Panther Martin Vivif glides through the air with its tail wiggling, but causes no problems in casting your lure to great distances. Equipped with the right rod and reel, you can easily cast the larger sized Vivif baits far afield or pitch the smaller size lure in or around potentially fish holding structure.


Retrieving: The new Panther Martin Vivifs come in 6 exciting patterns and all utilize the new holographic film inside its body which adds significant flash when you retrieve this lure. As with many other swimbaits, the Vivif has a eye-catching kicking tail, but because of its unique shape, the tail thrashing action is unlike that of its competitors. The heart-shaped tail is actually wider than most swimbaits of similar size, and when retrieved it displaces enough water to cause the entire lure to wobble from head to tail. While the larger lures provide plenty of swimming action, the smaller sized one, 1/3 ounce, did not produce as much of the same attractive tail whipping action. This is due to the smaller sized tail and body, but though the tail kicks to a lesser extent it still produced fish in clearer water.


As light hits the holographic film, the Vivif turns on with eye-catching flashes


You can fish the Panther Martin swim bait at just about any depth and target many species of fish including bass, stripers, halibut, rockfish, pike, pickerel, and much more. Cast out and retrieve right away or count down to the desired depth and start working the bait back to you.  Because of its slanted mouth, this lure worked very well on the bottom, especially when covering the sandy bottoms for halibut or running it along jagged rocks for rockcod. When the Vivif comes in contact with structure, it deflects right off and glides right over instead of digging in.


While I have seen other swimbaits run tilted to one side, the Vivif doesn't exhibit this flaw because of its functional dorsal fin. This added feature allows the Vivif to track straighter when it runs, definitely a fine improvement from the original Vivif.


A slanted mouth and the position where the fishing line is tied on helps the Vivif move about smoothly as it's being dragged on the bottom

 Constructed out of soft PVC, the Vivif is quite durable, but like other soft swimbaits, the durability really depends on what your target fish is. For toothy fish, if they aren't just nibbling at the tail all the time and hook up with every strike, then the Vivif will last through many more strikes. When striper fishing, we ran into many schools of small sized fish.  They would hit and run, often missing the hook entirely, just grabbing the tail end. After about 20 landed fish and many more misses, the tail of the Vivif finally broke lose.


Panther Martin added a simple dorsal fin that helps this lure track straighter


Considering the cost versus durability, the Vivif has done an exceptional job in this category. Once the tail breaks off, it's cheap enough to throw away. The overall cost of use is much less than those rigs that consist of a body and separate jig head. There are some alternatives to simply disposing the lure when isn't usable anymore, don't just toss it out. You can cut open the remains and salvage the lead head and use it for other purposes such as melting and molding it into other jig heads, make weights out of them, or use the jig head as is and attach live bait to it.


Panther Martin Vivif Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Good construction and durable design using Mustard hooks that won't corrode easily 8
Performance The lure swims nicely and tracks straight which is important in the overall performance to get fish to strike.  Its tail design not only wiggles the tail, but wobbles the entire body as well 9
Price Amazing value!  This lure works well for many types of fish and costs very little to buy.  If the tail breaks, buy some more without emptying your wallet 10
Features A simple swim bait that features holographic film, sharp Mustard hook, and realistic 3D eyes 8
Design (Ergonomics) A wide tail for added action and a simple dorsal fin makes it track straighter, some little tweaks add a lot to the newly designed Vivif 8
Application A swim bait that'll catch multiple types of fish and can be used in freshwater and saltwater applications at depths as little as 1' to over 100' down 8.5

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Wide uniquely shaped tail L Smallest size doesn't demonstrate as much action as the larger ones
J Plenty of wiggling action  
J Unbelievable value!!!  
J Versatile  
J Saltwater and Freshwater capable  

Conclusion: Swimbaits like the Vivif have been around for decades and have helped anglers land masses of fish since their introduction. Just like in the fashion industry, fads come and go, and in fishing, swimbaits are now back and more popular than ever. Panther Martin has resurrected the Vivif back from the annals of fishing history, and this attractive lure doesn't disappoint. The Vivif produces superior wiggling and wobbling actions generated by its uniquely shaped tail, and the striking holographic design that puts out enough flash to effectively draw fish closer to tempt strikes. The Vivif is durable when fished in saltwater or freshwater and is extremely affordable at well less then 1 dollar a piece. With impressive action and a remarkably low cost, the Panther Martin Vivif truly deserves our Best Value Award.









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