Thursday, December 15, 2022

Baits and Lures you Need for Ice Fishing


This article in its entirety can be seen in the January Issue of "The Iowa Sportsman" Magazine, click below for the online version of the entire issue.



Ice fishing opportunities are increasing across the state of Iowa right now, and there is no better time to go out and give it a try.  What was once a simple sport of drilling a hole in the ice and sitting on a five-gallon bucket has turned into a high-tech world of endless possibilities.  Thirty years ago, there were a couple of companies that made ice fishing jigs, and they all looked very similar, today there are so many choices it may leave you a little cross-eyed.  Let’s explore the endless choices ice anglers have in the modern-day world of ice fishing.

One thing that hasn’t really changed much in ice fishing is the two basic offerings you can drop down the hole to entice your targeted species.  Anglers typically choose a jig, or a spoon.  These two types of baits have served ice anglers well since the beginning.  I don’t see any changes to these two lures when it comes to ice fishing.  Jigs are typically known for bluegills, crappies, yellow bass and perch, while spoons are used for bigger fish, such as large crappies, bass and walleyes.  This is one misconception many ice anglers have today, spoons are for EVERY species of fish living under the ice.  The sooner you gather up the many different sizes of spoons available on the market, the more fish you will be catching.  Let’s dig into these two different lures for ice fishing, as well as live bait and plastics.

JIGS: Gone are the standard jigs of yesteryear, a trip to any local tackle shop or a Scheels will have you mesmerized by all the different colors and sizes of jigs.  The color patterns seem to be endless, as well as different sizes for these small baits.  Like any tackle box, your ice fishing jig box should have a variety of colors and sizes.  Each seasoned angler has their favorites, and until you find your favorite for the water you fish, have a good stock of the basics for sure.  Blacks, whites, reds, greens and gold will cover most situations very well.  Jigs also come in many sizes, and two different metals: lead and tungsten.  The tungsten jigs will be much more expensive due to the extreme measures it takes to make them compared to a lead jig.  Both work great, and at times lead will be better than tungsten, and sometimes tungsten is better than lead.  A good rule of thumb is if you are fishing less than ten feet of water, a lead jig is a good choice, if you are deeper than ten feet, a tungsten jig may produce better.  The theory of this is all about the fall rate of each jig.  The same size lead jig will fall slower in the water column than a tungsten jig.  If you find fish under the ice, sometimes they want that slow fall and slow rocking motion of a lead jig.  Fish in shallow water can spook when dropping a jig on them too quickly.  It may be hard to believe that there is much difference, but the fish and the waters in West Lake Okoboji will prove this point time and time again.  If you are fishing deeper water, the tungsten jig will fall quicker and get down to the fish much faster than a lead jig of the same size.  If you are “fishing fast” on the ice, a tungsten jig will help you do that.  Jigs come in two different styles, a horizontal jig and the less popular vertical jig.  The jigs are as their name indicates, the horizontal jig rests side to side, while the vertical jig stays in the upright position.  The horizontal jig gets used much more by anglers, however on those tough days, give a vertical jig a try, they look completely different in the water and sometimes the fish want something a little different.  Jigs will catch all sizes of fish, but typically are chosen to target bluegills, crappies, yellow bass and perch.

SPOONS: Like the jig, the spoon has developed into a huge array of choices for anglers in the past couple of decades.  Today, all the larger tackle companies have a spoon on the market as well as some smaller tackle makers too.  The shape and sizes of spoons vary from company to company as do the many different color patterns designers have come up with.  Again, like the jig, anglers have their favorite styles and colors that they will try.  Spoon colors really do touch every color of the rainbow and the patterns are truly spectacular.  When selecting a spoon, the size can be as or more important than the actual color.  Many times during the ice season, the predator fish are feeding on a particular size of bait.  If your spoon matches that size, you are going to have a wonderful day!  Use your flasher to see how the fish react to your spoon and make changes if they are not biting.  Perhaps a smaller, larger or different color would be better.  Common colors all anglers should have in their spoon box include white, glow colors, red, green, gold and silver.  Like the jigs, spoons will catch every species under the ice, when in doubt, give them a try!

BAITS: No matter if you are fishing a spoon or a jig, tipping it with live bait or a plastic is a must.  There are days when fish are aggressive and an unbaited spoon catches fish, but those are not the norm.  Adding a waxworm or spike to your jig will give it a bigger profile and add much needed scent to your lure.  I always carry both kinds of live bait, as some days they really want a waxworm, while some days they really want spikes.  Live bait can be tedious to keep alive and having to bait your hook often isn’t a lot of fun under freezing conditions, however some days it is a must.  I will always try plastics on my jigs too.  Some of the larger plastics can help slow down the fall of your jig and adds a lot of action that live bait does not.  Using plastics on really cold days can help you to fish a little faster as you won’t be changing your live bait out.  The main thing with plastics and the live bait varieties is to change things up and try different combinations.  If you are looking to get some plastics for the first time, these three colors are “can’t miss” for your time on the ice: white, red and motor oil.

Ice fishing is a great way to spend a couple of hours, or a couple days enjoying the winter season here in Iowa.  The sport has really grown in the past decade, and with that growth so has the baits and lures we use to enjoy our time.  If you have a good variety of jigs, spoons, live bait and plastics you will surely fool some winter fish in the upcoming months.

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