It’s winter and it’ll stay winter until the end of February, but that shouldn’t mean that you have to subsist on supermarkets for sustenance. Bluegill, sunfish, perch, crappie, and trout are still abundant and lethargic enough for an easy catch during this time. Cooked fresh and cooked properly, they are fantastic eatin’!
When not using live bait, lures are your other option. Go through everything in this article so that you can set up your own ice fishing tackle that covers all presentations and aspects related to the vertical presentation (geometry comes to play). All you need is to tie it to your fishing line or ice rod, and you’re good to go!
Baits are categorized into hard baits, spoons, jigs, and plastics. Let’s go over all of them, Survivors.
Gliding baits are quite possibly the most productive ice fishing innovation to hit the hard water in recent years. The vertical presentation is limited to jerks and pauses in an upward direction allowing the bait to fall below. Your presentation should include jigging with 6-12” strokes while following your bait back down on a controlled slack line.
Vibrating baits are excellent tools for getting fish on your screen in a hurry. These are ideal if the bite is slow and you’re looking to draw fish in. The ultimate at attracting bait through the ice, the loud vibrations and hard wobbles displace water and make a fishes lateral lines tingle. These principals are what make them great at catching a fish’s attention from afar. If the fish don’t charge in and pull the rod out of your hand you may have to go to a finesse bait to make them commit.
Spoons are likely one of the most used baits in the ice fishing industry and have an excellent track record. Spoons can be broken up into two categories: flutter spoons and jigging Spoons. Both are a vertical presentation but have different properties and actions.
Flutter spoons are usually thinner, wider and concave shaped to entice a slow fall that flashes and flutters on its way down. These can be fished with varying cadences depending on the fish’s mood. Try to apply 4-6” jigging strokes on the bait with long pauses. For the larger flutter spoons, do a larger harder stroke to draw fish in from afar — this is fantastic for lake trout.
Jigging spoons are presented to fish in a very similar nature to the flutter spoons however they do not have the flash or wobble. The bait presents itself in a darting action and this varying presentation drives fish wild and usually elicits a bite. Constant shaking of the bait will get rattles shaking in the baits if applicable and also commit a fish to strike.
The standard jig is a staple in all tackle boxes throughout the year and is very effective. The jig can be used on a still line or an ice fishing rod. The diversity of a jig is all in the hands of the user and when tipped with a minnow or a soft plastic can be extremely efficient.
Another great option is the hair jig, which has regained their popularity over the last couple of years and the fish catches prove that! The natural action and color patterns make these baits look like the real deal. Some manufacturers use a simple mix of bucktail and flash while other manufacturers like Mighty Mitch and Jungle Joe Jigflies out of Marathon, who use only the highest grade of tying materials. These are great baits when utilizing a natural presentation. These can be snapped, shook, dead sticked – you name the presentation or scenario and they can work wonders. Toss a minnow trailer on the hook and you are in business.
Minnow-style plastics are some of the most common out there for anglers. These style baits mimic the real deal and come in a wide variety of fish catching colors. The swimbait market is taking the industry by storm over the past year or two and many different sizes, colors and actions are now available. Using a swimbait or fluke style bait on the back of a standard jig is an excellent presentation for all species.
Grubs are one of the best baits for panfish on the market. There are more to grubs than the staple curly tail that we have all used. Take a look at your tackle shop in the panfish isles and an endless variety of colors, shapes and sizes will await you. The selection shouldn’t scare you as a few key considerations should be taken prior to your purchase. If you are in dirty water or require attracting the fish to you go with a bigger bulkier profile in the brighter or darker colorways. For clear finicky fish, natural color is often the better choice with some appendages that move naturally under slack line. These are only recommendations as I have had great success on bright bulky baits in clear water conditions.
The staple of all plastic baits for trout through the ice is the tube jig. This bait has been around since the beginning and is a great baitfish/crawfish imitation. Coming in a wide variety of sizes shapes and colors these baits can be used for all species and all year long.
- For dirty stained waters focus on brighter colors with a louder, harder vibrating cadence.
- For clearwater lakes, natural colors is king– silver, golds, whites, and blues are all excellent choices.