By Bob Jensen
So far this ice fishing season, I’ve been thinking more about ice fishing than actually doing it. Hopefully that will change soon. Looking through my ice fishing equipment reminds of some of the things that I’ve discovered about catching fish through the ice. The action that we put on a lure can play a big role in our catching success.
At times lots of action and noise can attract a fish to our bait. When this is the case, a technique called “pounding” can be the ticket. “Pounding” is accomplished when an angler uses a heavier lure, usually a spoon but sometimes a jig, and aggressively bounces it off the bottom. When the spoon hits the bottom it makes noise as it bounces off rocks, or it creates a “dust cloud” when it lands on a softer bottom. Either way, it gets a nearby fish’s attention. Pounding is often productive in stained water or around rocks. A fish might be on one side of a large rock while your bait is on the other side of the rock. By bouncing your bait off the rock, it gets the fish’s attention. A spoon with rattles, something like a Rattlin’ P.T. Spoon, is often better. The rattles along with the pounding is going to get a fish’s attention. Pounding works well for walleyes or perch.
Sometimes the fish want a bait that’s almost motionless. I learned that a few February’s ago on an ice fishing trip to South Dakota. A severe cold front with cloudless blue skies had blown in. The fast fishing of yesterday was replaced with terribly slow fishing the next day. Sonar revealed that perch would come in and look at our tiny baits, then swim slowly away. We tried different colors, different sizes, and a variety of actions. Finally, in frustration, when the next perch came in to investigate my bait as I sat in the portable shelter, I rested my elbow of the arm that I was jigging with on my knee and held the bait as motionless as possible. After several seconds of observation, the perch gently sucked in my jig. Several others followed. In recent years, successful ice anglers have been tipping their jigs with Maki plastic baits. These baits are very soft and wiggle just the right way when the fish, mostly panfish, want a bait with minimal action.
Last thing. In years past, anglers have often preferred bigger hooks on their baits. The thought is that bigger hooks mean better hooking percentages. In the summer when we’re moving our baits faster, bigger hooks are a good idea. But in some situations smaller hooks can be a very good idea. In the summer when live bait is being used, a smaller hook enables the live bait to move more freely and be more appealing to fish.
In the winter, smaller treble hooks on spoons and some other baits have been producing better catches than similar baits with bigger trebles. The Tikka Flash employs a much smaller than ordinary treble, and hooking percentages are up significantly. It’s easier for a fish to inhale the bait since the hook is smaller.
Those of us who like to fish are fortunate to have access to lots of fishing information. We need to be open to new ideas that might conflict with our usual way of doing things when we go fishing. When we start doing that, we’ll start catching even more fish.