There are many anglers who believe that on those tough fishing days when the fish are in a negative mood, you need to use live bait to pry their mouths open. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Since we are entering the time of the ice season when fish are generally less cooperative than during early or late ice conditions, we are going to share a few tips that will help you put fish on the ice using plastics even on the toughest of fishing days.
One of the biggest advantages of using plastics on a tough bite is the endless presentations you can use. If you are using live bait like minnows, spikes or waxworms, the only thing you can change is the jig you are putting them on and the way you are hooking them. With plastics, you can change the color, size and style of the bait without ever even tying on a different jig.
There are many details you have to pay attention to when there seem to be more “lookers” than “biters” hovering below you. First off, make sure your plastic is hooked straight and is sitting as flat and horizontal as possible. Before you even drop down, dance your bait in the hole. Can you jig it for a few seconds and keep it facing the same direction or is it just dancing circles? If it is dancing circles you will not get a bite because this does not look natural. The other thing that can really turn fish off is allowing it to quickly drop to the bottom. Yes, we all love our tungsten jigs for the feel and ability to get down deep in a hurry, but there aren’t a lot of critters in a fish’s diet that drop like a rock through the water column. On tough days it works better to lightly flutter your bait while you slowly drop it through the water column. This should help gain the attention of some interested parties down below. A smaller jig will help with this as well. Many times we will downsize to a 3mm jig if our standard 4mm size isn’t doing the trick. Some other details to pay attention to involve the rod you are using. By using the lightest line you can get away with you will greatly increase your chances of a fish inhaling your jig. We use 2lb test most of the time and don’t have too much trouble reeling in those gamefish we encounter from time to time as well. A light spring bobber is also key because it not only helps see those very light bites, but it can help smooth out your jigging strokes. This gives the bait a more fluid motion as opposed to a “herky jerky” action you would get from your rod tip alone.
Once you have some interested fish below, the real fun starts. Now you need to crack the code of what is going to trigger them to bite. Sometimes it is a slow climb through the water column until you get a fish to chase. Sometimes it is a constant light fluttering right in front of their nose. Sometimes they want to hit it on that slow drop we talked about earlier. Everyday can be a little different. Very rarely do you want to completely stop moving your plastic to trigger a bite, but we have seen that work on occasion too. Generally, once you completely stop movement the fish can easily figure out that what you are trying to fool them with is not alive. Another effective method is to deadstick your bait until an interested party shows up on your flasher, and then begin to gently wiggle the bait and pull away from them until they hit it. Some of the worst things you can do are big aggressive jigging strokes or allowing your bait to drop below an interested fish.
Color can be important, but usually size and bait style are more important on tough days. The color we are using on a particular day is determined by the light conditions below the ice. The size and style of the bait is determined by the aggression level of the fish that day. In order to target the larger fish, we want to use the most aggressive presentation we can get away with and still trigger a bite. On a tough bite, we generally find ourselves using our MudBug, BloodWorm or MayFly.
Anyone and seemingly anything can catch fish on those days when the bite is lights out and aggressive fish are flying around everywhere. The ability to ice fish on those tough fishing days is what separates the true fisherman from the weekend minnow soakers. Luckily for us, our plastics can be deadly, even on a tough bite once you know how to use them. Time and time again our B-Y Baits have proven they can ice fish even on tough days and this is what truly sets our plastics apart from others on the market!
- Darrin Anderson