If we had a dollar for every time we heard “plastics don’t work here”, we would have a pretty good stack of dollar bills. Now, if we could bet that stack of ones on our plastics catching fish in each place they supposedly don’t work, but did, we would each be able to buy ourselves some pretty nice, new fishing gear. Unfortunately, we can’t travel to all the places that plastics supposedly don’t work to prove people wrong, but we can tell you about some instances where we have debunked the myth.
Where we live in west-central Wisconsin, ice fishing with plastics is nothing new and most good fisherman will acknowledge they can be a successful presentation on area waters. I said most, not all. We still run into a few doubters and it is always rewarding to prove them wrong.
When we first started fishing some of the cranberry marshes in the central part of the state, we were flat out told to leave our plastics at home. For our buddies, who had fished these marshes since they were little kids, thought they already knew how our B-Y Baits would fair. Boy, were they wrong. Not only did our plastics catch numbers of fish, but some real dandies that these marshes would usually only give up during the early summer spawning seasons. Some of these marshes were rarely fished in the winter due to the fact that the results just hadn’t been there. I’m not saying that people wouldn’t catch fish on waxworms and minnows from time to time on these marshes, but on those days our plastics would do just as well if not better anyway. The real difference is on the days when they would have fish continually swimming up to their minnow, only to turn tail and sink back down. We can catch those fish with our B-Y Baits. On days when our friends would declare “they’re just not biting today” and head home for lunch, we are able to stick it out and fool some of those tight-lipped fish into biting.
We were fishing a marsh in early January where there was another large group of people with some kids nearby running some tip-ups, tip-downs and jigging waxworms. They would hoot and holler every time someone landed a fish or had one on so we had a pretty good idea of how they were doing. We listened as they landed a couple small bass and what they proclaimed to be an 11” crappie early that morning. After that flurry of aggressive activity in the morning, they went a few hours without seeing much action on their lines and had all but given up fishing for the day because in their eyes, the bite was over. Little did they know, not only were we catching the same small bass and medium sized crappies they were, but we were also getting some very nice sized gills and bigger crappies just a few paces away. Once the bite slowed and the fish were no longer cruising through like they were earlier, we did need to step out of our shacks and hole-hop to keep catching fish. However, while they were standing around shooting the breeze because their minnows were no longer on the menu, we were doing our best to not let them see the slabs we were pulling from the same area. We actually caught some of our best fish that day at high noon. I couldn’t help but chuckle, while pulling another nice crappie through the hole, and listening to one of the guys explain to his kids that the bite will “pick back up again once it gets closer to dark”. By the time they came back for the evening bite, we had a five gallon pail full of nice crappies and gills and were making our way off the ice to clean fish. “Slow day huh?” One of the fishermen proclaimed. We simply nodded in agreement as we made our way to our vehicles, trying to hold back laughter at what we had just witnessed.
The Castle Rock and Petenwell Flowage system is another area in our neck of the woods where people are reluctant to acknowledge plastics as a viable alternative to live bait. On both of these lakes the most typical set-up we see people having success with is running rosies under a tip-down. You really can’t argue with the success of this setup because we have seen it produce nice crappies, walleyes and the occasional catfish as well. However, on a cold, windy day on those wide open lakes, you can’t tell me you would rather be out battling the wind and the holes icing up than sitting in a nice warm shack working those fish over with a B-Y Baits plastic. For we have caught the same nice crappies, walleyes and catfish on our plastics, but we get to fight them on our jigging rod instead of hand-lining them like you have to with most tip-down setups. The other advantage is, while you are walking back to your cooler to rig up the next rosie on your tip-down, we have already dropped down and began working the next fish in the school. The other advantage is we still catch fish when they aren’t hitting minnows. We love hearing “lots of lookers but not a lot of biters” when we head to these lakes because we know we can still fool them with our plastics when the fish are too finicky to chase minnows around. The other common method used out on these bodies of water is a few spikes or waxworms loaded up on the treble hook of a Kastmaster, Sweedish Pimple or Buckshot Rattle Spoon. This one always puzzles me because if those fish are aggressive enough to hit a spoon, why not replace the waxworms/spikes with a SuperMinnow or BloodWorm? Because the same plastic will usually last you all day long, you avoid having to replace the stolen live bait out in the cold. Also, you can easily change your presentation by switching styles or colors of plastics, where there are only so many ways to rig a waxworm. Next time you are on one of these lakes and the fish just aren’t hitting your minnows, try a MudBug, WaterBug or MegaMudBug rigged on a 4mm tungsten jig. Or if they are hitting your spoon and you get sick of rebaiting after every fish, try a SuperMinnow or a BloodWorm on one of the trebles. White, Pearl Pink, Fluorescent orange and Purple are our colors of choice on these bodies of water.
The last part of our state that people have been extremely reluctant to using plastics is in the north. It seems like once you get into the northern third of the great state of Wisconsin plastics aren’t even on the radar for ice fishing. I think a lot of this has to do with the thought that they don’t work in clear water, but we have clear water lakes in the southern part of the state as well. Take Lake Blackhawk for instance. Its crystal clear waters can make for some real tough fishing, but that doesn’t stop Brandon from icing slob gills and crappies out of there on a regular basis using B-Y Baits. So we know plastics work in clear water, but they don’t work up north? We have found exactly the opposite to be true. On our trips to the northwoods, when we locate some fish they aggressively attack our plastics. All species I might add. When we went up to the northernmost part of the state over New Years, we actually used spoons with a bright colored SuperMinnow because the fish were so aggressive, we didn’t need to downsize to a tungsten jig. Not only did this setup land us plenty of crappies and perch, but we also had the joy of fighting a few very respectable northerns and bass on the jig poles as well. When the bite slowed some the second day, we went back to the tungsten jig and were able to fool finicky gills and crappies with ease. The water in the lakes we were fishing couldn’t be any more crystal clear. We fished a couple lakes where we could see our tiny plastic down almost 20ft.
Just last weekend we took a family trip up to the cabin in Bayfield County. You really can’t get much farther north than that. I took a couple family members out to a few lakes we have had success on in the past, but knew it was going to be a little more difficult getting them to catch fish because they had very little experience fishing w/ plastics. Needless to say, after a half hour of showing them a few things they were both able to fool plenty of nice gills and crappies into biting a White B-Y Baits MudBug. We ended up having a pretty good day and icing more fish than I had even expected. The funny thing is, when reading fishing reports before we made the trip up, numerous sources were saying how tough the bite was and it was “strictly a live bait bite at this point in the winter”. We experienced quite the opposite, as our tip-ups and Automatic Fisherman yielded five flags and only three fish the entire weekend. Had we only been soaking minnows we would have had a terrible weekend of fishing. White, Pearl Pink, Fluorescent Green and Lumina Copper are great colors for the clear water lakes in the north. Not to mention there are so many lakes that haven’t ever even seen profiles like our MayFly and MudBug.
Now don’t get me wrong, fishing with plastics isn’t for everyone and it isn’t necessarily easy at first. There are lots of tiny details that go into fooling fish to bite on something that isn’t alive. However, once you learn these tricks of the trade, it opens the door to so many more presentations that live bait just doesn’t allow. I encourage you to read our previous blogs, as well as the tips and techniques posted on our website to learn things about ice fishing with plastics that would take you years to figure out on your own. We have had so many people come back to us and tell us about the success they had using our plastics once they took the time to read some of our tips and put them into action. One other thing I would like to mention is just because you have tried plastics in the past and failed, please don’t neglect to give our B-Y Baits a shot. They are not like anything else on the market today. I have said it many times, but our plastics are smaller, more detailed and more life-like than anything you have tried in the past. All those things put together allow us to catch fish when others don’t, and in places that other plastics just don’t work!
- Darrin Anderson