By Bob Jensen
There are a lot of differences between open water fishing and ice fishing. Many of those differences are obvious. A couple of similarities are very noticeable though. At times, lure color and lure shape can significantly impact our fishing success, through the ice or in open water. A couple of fishing trips made that very clear to me.
I was sharing a boat on a river with a couple of river-rat friends. I call them river-rats with all respect. They would be considered expert anglers wherever they fish, but they are particularly outstanding anglers on a river.
A heavy wind had gone through the previous day and turned the water in the main channel to a chocolate milk color. My friends thought that backwater areas would provide the best chance for action. The backwaters had been protected from the wind and were a little clearer. It was still cloudy, just not as cloudy.
The river-rats tied on Pro Model crankbaits in flashy colors. These are fat baits that rattle as they come through the water. They suggested that I do the same, but I usually like to use something different, just to see if the fish are showing a preference. I tied on a natural colored, jerk bait. This bait is thinner in shape than the Pro Model crankbaits. It didn’t take long for me to learn that, in that situation, the fatter, brighter bait was much better. I switched to a flashier thin bait. No help. I switched to a Pro Model in a subtle color. Still no help. Eventually, I tied on a Pro Model in the same color that my friends were catching with. I quickly learned that the gaudy colored, fatter, rattling bait created more noise and flash and was definitely what the bass wanted. I also re-learned that it’s a good idea to do what the experts suggest.
Now to ice fishing. Shape, color, and noise are just as important under the ice as they are in open water. A good number of years ago, we were after crappies on a lake where the water looked like root beer. We were experimenting with spoons that had glow paint and also rattled. We would shine a special flashlight on the baits and they would glow brightly for maybe twenty minutes, then the glow would fade. Hit them with the flashlight and they would glow again. Interesting stuff, but how would the crappies react?
We moved around and eventually found a school of crappies. We dropped our glowing, rattling baits to the fish and they ate them. After about twenty minutes of good action, the bite stopped. We could still see the crappies on our sonar, but they wouldn’t take a bait. Then we noticed that our baits weren’t glowing as brightly. We charged them up, dropped them down, and started catching again. In this case, it didn’t matter what color we used as long as it was glowing. And it was also apparent that the glow was more important than the rattles.
A new bait that most fish haven’t seen yet is the Clam Rattlin’ PT Spoon. It’s available in several glow colors and features a painted treble hook. This spoon works very well in stained water, but also calls’em in from farther away in clear water.
Much of the time we attribute fishing success to a “magic” bait. And, sometimes there is a bait that’s special. But if we pay more attention to the small details when we’re fishing, we’re going to catch more fish.