I’ve always felt that success on the ice revolves around an angler’s ability to get inside the brain of the fish he seeks. Too often we are prone to mindlessly soak baits in hopes of intercepting that aggressive predatory fish. Still if our goal is to increase our success while on the ice there are things that can help stack the deck in our favor. I hope this short read helps you further enjoy your time on the ice and puts a couple extra hook sets in your upcoming season.
As a full time fishing guide here on Rainy Lake our biggest obstacle is producing results consistently. In all honesty yesterday’s outing truly means nothing to today’s group of anglers. I hope to share with you some insightful
“Guide Logic” as it pertains to the sport of ice fishing. I’m a humble man and share this information with you while revealing most of the things I’ve learned about the sport we all love has been from trial and error. Failures are part of the sport and should always be utilized to narrow our focus to greater success.
Let’s scoop out the slush and drop the puck team!!
The most critical component to success when ice fishing is being on the fish you target. While this sounds simplistic in nature, anglers are often found seeking fish that aren’t in proximity to their offering. Should your goal be to catch slab Crappies it’s imperative to fish in areas noted for the sought after fish and in a time period that promotes the success in finding these fish. As a guide we always try direct anglers trips into time periods that promote the bite we seek. We should never dictate our will on the fish. The fish must dictate our efforts as anglers. This is true for all species. Seek the body of water and timeframe on that particular fishery that puts you in the best position to succeed.
After we’ve selected both the water and timeframe to fish them, we need to truly understand the fishery. It’s all too common that I field inquiries from anglers around the “Ice Belt” on where to fish a specific fishery. I can tell you that this is a nearly impossible question to answer. What I will say is that you need to understand a few variables to help narrow your search. What is the dominate food source during the time of year you are fishing? Do your homework on where the buffet is being set up and you have just done yourself a huge favor. Remember that bugs can be as big of a food source as minnows. Look at what is in the mouth of fish that are caught and released. Look at what is in the stomach of fish that are kept for a meal. I like to deal with realism. If they ate it they will eat it again, and I plan on being the guy setting the table.
Upon deciphering what the fish are feeding upon it’s our job to simulate the actions of this food source. Here is where I see anglers fail in epic proportions. Too often we get on a spot with thousands of dollars worth of gear and countless hours of homework and then turn into robots. We robotically work a jigging spoon or plastic in some sort of “Ice Trance”.
Stop right there.
BEFORE you drop your MAKI plastic, hook it up and actually look at it in your ice hole. How does it react with a twitch, drop, vibrate, fall, lift, or snap. Do you see how hooking it differently can drastically affect the “Kick” of the bait?
Take a minute to fine tune your presentation before trying to fool the fish. We are dropping into their world, and it’s our job to fit in. Now remember we are not trying to simulate a “Jumping Bean”.
We are not trying to showcase the world’s quickest and most elusive minnow in the entire system. Fish under glass are normally experiencing reduced levels of oxygen and metabolism. This means fish go from an active stage in the fall to neutral to eventually negative during the heart of winter. Think EASY meals and low risk versus high rewards. It’s simply not effective for predator fish to expel too much energy for a small morsel of food. Again remember that we are now in the brain of that seemingly simple minded fish. We eat and spawn while attempting to avoid being the next meal.
Here is where we are going to put more fish on the ice for you if we haven’t already. Be the bait. Yes you are now working your presentation, angling in every sense of the meaning in the most seductive way possible to lure in fish. If I’m fishing deep basin crappies I am the absolute best mud bug meal you will find. If I’m working a suspended smelt pattern I try to simulate the best high protein minnow in the system. I want to attract, tempt and then trigger the fish. Remember those words. Attracting the fish can come from your jig stroke. Upon attracting the fish from afar we then move to the temptation stage. Get inside the head of that fish on your Vexilar by reading the mood of the fish by how it reacts on your sonar. Make the fish want the snack. Show him you’re injured and easy to catch, but appeal to the natural side of the equation. Meals don’t swim to the fish, rather fish are programmed to chase. You now need to slowly try get away with an obvious issue in doing so.
Let’s talk tackle!!
Here is my philosophy. I have certain colors that I find effective in the fisheries that I guide within. Still I would suggest profile might be a bigger player in the day to day chess match with the fish we seek. When using the Clam Epoxy drop and Maki plastic I might switch to a speed spoon or the new rattle spoon prior to switching a color combination. I believe profile has a higher immediate impact than color. This probably explains my incredible success with the Clam Bomb spoon this past winter. It’s a different profile than the normal jigging spoon and fish hammered it all season long. Don’t be afraid to be bold when ice fishing this year. As most guys that love to fish big Crappies I am very in tune to the various finesse presentations. Still last season we absolutely blitzed the fish with a Clam Speed spoon laced with a white Maki Plastic. It looked huge in comparison to our normal presentations, but those fish that we were trying to trick into biting were absolutely murdering the large presentation. Let this be a lesson to us all. Thinking outside the box can sometimes produce the bite that normal thought process misses.
Lastly, I will close with this thought.
Be willing to fail. When angler pressure goes deep, go shallow. When pressure is on structure, fish the mud. When other anglers pound the bottom, fish suspended
Try it every now and again.
This will of course not always produce the results you seek, but you will fish unpressured patterns. There will be bites that you uncover that no other anglers have thought about.
Enjoy the chase team!!