Too many 'bells and whistles' in your ice fishing box? Learn how to choose the one that's guaranteed to put 'slabs,' 'pigs,' 'hogs,' and/or 'donkeys' in your ice fishing hole.
Ice fishing has come a long way since its early days, and with the evolution of the sport, there are now far more options as far as different types of bait and lures to use. Deciding which to use on any given day can be hard, but sometimes overthinking the situation makes it worse.
Here's how to make fast, easy bait decisions on what to drop below the ice on your next trip.
Start Big and Fast
When I'm ice fishing, whether it be for perch, crappies, bluegills, or walleyes, I always start with the biggest and fastest sinking baits in my tackle box. For bluegills this often means small jigging spoons like a #2 sized Swedish Pimple by Bays De Noc Tackle Co. For larger fish like walleyes, I'll use Rapala Rippin Raps, along with the classic Jigging Rap.
Using electronics is a major plus in this situation; it allows me to see how aggressively fish are reacting to my presentation, even if they don't actually bite my setup. This will help me make a quick decision on whether to change lures or not.
Downsize First, Then Select Other Options
Before you pull out all the tops and resort to dynamite, simply try smaller versions of the meatier options previously mentioned.
I've got some very small 1/16-ounce spoons that will work extremely well for panfish, even when they're finicky. If the smaller spoons and jigging raps aren't producing fish, you'll need to weigh other options.
Live Bait is a Last-Ditch Effort
When ice fishing, I always try to see if I can get bites on fast-moving baits without the aid of live bait first. If you can commit aggressive fish to a spoon with a plain hook, you'll be a lot more efficient at getting your bait back in the hole, and not have to hassle with baiting hooks in cold temperatures.
For bluegills, I will often use a 1/32-ounce tungsten jig or a Custom Jigs and Spins Diamond Jig tipped with a small plastic tail. The plastic tail is more durable than live bait, and often seems to actually catch larger fish too.
Experiment With Color & Match the Hatch
Fellow ice fisherman talk all the time about secret colors. One guy likes bright pink. Another likes bright green. Whatever your preference, try to keep an open mind and be willing to try different or off the wall colors.
Fish tend to be more pressured through the ice due to their predictable concentrations and the amount of anglers on the lake. Sometimes it takes a goofy adjustment to make the fish bite something that looks "different." With all of that said, I strongly prefer natural colors whenever I can get an idea of what the fish might be eating.
I really like using black, purple, green pumpkin or some variation of brown, and chrome/black is one of the most deadly color combinations for baitfish consuming fish species in any body of water through the ice.
Hopefully these considerations will help you put more and bigger fish on the ice in what's left of this winter. Remember: don't overthink the situation.
If it makes sense to you, it just might make sense to the fish too.