When it comes to plastic on the ice, I think of two things. One of them is good, the other not good at all. Plastic bottles and other forms of plastic litter that some people leave on the ice is not good, but the plastic that more and more anglers are using on their ice jigs can be very, very good. Very, very good for catching fish. Most of us know what we should do with our plastic litter, following are some ideas about what we should do to catch more fish on plastic baits.
Ice anglers started using plastic baits a good number of years ago, but it was slow to catch on. In recent years, plastic has created a very loyal following. It’s a loyal following because plastic baits offer so many advantages that live bait doesn’t. There are certainly times when live bait will be productive. There are more than a few ice anglers who prefer live bait or parts of live bait when walleyes are the target. But when it comes to panfish, especially bluegills but also crappies and perch, plastic is the go-to.
John Crane fishes through the ice from as soon as it’s safe to as late as it’s safe. He has a plastic bait attached to his jig or spoon most of the time. He likes plastic because it catches fish, but also because it prevents the cold hands factor. You don’t need to keep plastic in water like you do minnows, and when the fish are active, you don’t need to re-bait after every catch. You can get your bait back to the biting fish faster with plastic.
J.C. wants his plastic baits to be soft. Soft plastic baits will provide more wiggle with less rod movement than hard-plastic baits. The wiggle catches the fish’s attention. The Maki baits that Crane prefers are hand-poured, which enables them to be of the softest texture. Soft baits aren’t quite as durable as harder baits, but they catch more fish, and they really aren’t that much less durable. If you go through a bag of plastic baits in a day of ice fishing, it’s been a very good day.
Matt Johnson is another expert ice angler who goes with plastic much of the time. He lets the fish’s activity level tell him which plastic shape to go with. When he’s got biters below his hole in the ice, he wants to move the bait aggressively. That’s when he attaches something like a Maki Mino or Polli to his jig. These shapes don’t have a lot of action, and Matt prefers less action when he’s aggressively working the bait.
Matt pays very close attention to what his FLX-28 sonar is revealing. If it shows fish coming in and looking at his lure but not eating it, that indicates that the fish want a less aggressive presentation. This is when he slides a plastic onto his line that has more appendages. A Maki or Jamei are often what he chooses. These baits have legs that wiggle with minimal motion on the jig, and this is what less aggressive fish often go for. The new Silkie jig trailers are catching on quickly with ice anglers. They wiggle without rod movement.
It’s usually a good idea to employ a jig head of one color with a body of another color. A pink Drop Jig with a white Maki body can be outstanding. So can a Drop Jig with some orange and a chartreuse body. Try different color combinations and let the fish tell you what they want on that day. Color preferences will change from day to day and even hour to hour.
Give plastic baits a try the next time you’re on the ice. You might discover what other ice anglers have discovered: Fish under the ice like plastic baits.