Perhaps one of the most utilized and familiar tactics used by today’s modern ice angler is that of the rattle reel and or bobber and minnow combination.
As simple as it sounds, three key factors will help you put more fish on the ice than your buddies when using rattle reels or bobbers. Split shot placement, hook placement on the minnow, and the minnow itself is where it’s at!
shot placement (or its distance from the minnow) is extremely important—and
must be mastered. The good news is that is also applied to any bobber
situation—hard or soft water! Ever been in a Turkish prison? Ever been in a
fish house (or a boat) where one angler is out fishing the others 3 to 1? If
your answer is” no”, then you’re lying–lol. It’s the classic—everybody has the
same bait, the same color lure, the same line variety, the same depth, the
same…..you get the drift. But did anyone in the group take note of how far the
distance between the minnow and the split shot is on the “hot rod”? Probably
not. The fact is, that little detail can be a deal-breaker in the numbers of
fish you will catch. It is important to match the activity of the minnow to the
mood or feeding attitude of the fish. How many times have you witnessed on the
Vexilar or AquaVu a fish cruising up to the bait, waiting for a second then
sinking slowly away—all the time the bobber and minnow is cranking out the Indy
500 in the hole. Odds are the minnow had a leash that was too long– so it was
able to swim away from an inactive fish as it approached your minnow and “kinda
tried” to eat. Time to adjust the split shot placement and shorten the
“leash”—to restrict the minnow from dodging death. Last I checked, It is much
easier to catch a dog tied to a tree on a short leash verse a long leash
correct? Especially if you’re not in the mood the play keep away.
with an average of 7 inches of “leash” in between my minnow and split shot and
adjust the distance from there. Now if the fish are fairly active, a 7”-10”
leash will typically work fine. But of course that only happens 10% of the
time, so typically I start at 7” then move the split shot ½” at a time closer
the hook until bites are produced. On average, a 4”-7” leash will catch the
inactive or lazy fish. The shorter the leash—the smaller circle the minnow can
swim to potentially escape from being eaten. Here’s some basic math—a 4” leash
equals an 8” circle the minnow can swim—a 7” leash equals a 14” circle the
minnow can potentially swim. So with that in mind, putting your split shot 12”
from the bait might not be that good of an idea in general.
the fishing first begins, make sure everyone varies their “leash” length and
bait depth a little but make sure that everyone has the same size/weight of
split shot on their line so that it is easier to work as a team and figure out
what the best distance is. The reason for equal weights is that all of the
minnows are “anchored” the same. The first question you should ask the angler
who caught the first two or three fish is: “How far is your split shot from
your hook?” The second question should be: “How high off the bottom is the
bait?” The third question I like to ask is: “Where or how are you hooking your
that’s what I said. Is the minnow hooked in the lips? In front of the dorsal
fin or behind the dorsal fin? As a basic rule, avoid hooking the minnow through
the lips while ice fishing with a rattle reel or bobber. It’s my personal
professional opinion that hooking the minnow in front of the dorsal fin is
better than the “traditional” behind the dorsal fin. The reason is that it is
much easier for the minnow to actively swim around on “the leash”. I compare it
to tying a rope around your waist (in front of the dorsal fin) verses around
your ankles (behind the dorsal fin or close to the tail)and trying to run 100
yards. It’s easier to run with the rope around your waist. This, of course,
keeps the minnow happy and healthy much longer—which helps keep your dialed in
presentation more tempting. On that note, picking the right minnow is not to be
taken for granted.
to choose the minnow that is medium-sized (for the species that is being used).
I avoid the monsters or the tiny minnows—the same goes for leeches. Oops, wrong
season. I also aim for the minnows that are jumping out of the minnow scoop or
jumping out of my hand multiple times. If the minnow is hard to catch or grip
because it’s out of control—that’s the minnow I want. Give the lazy minnow to
your buddies and start placing your bets. Let’s face it, not all minnows are
created equal. Time on the hook will separate the good minnows from the bad
minnows quickly. Pay attention to the activity of the minnow via bobber movement,
line twitching, or via underwater camera. If you notice your bobber or rattle
reel line not moving around much, ditch the dead beat minnow and replace it
with a new minnow pronto! Also, if you have to “wake up the minnow” by jigging
the line—ditch the old minnow and get a new one. There is no time for wimpy
minnows. One of the downfalls and success killers while fishing in a sleeper
fish house overnight is not getting up occasionally to put new minnows on the
hook—that’s a free tip by the way.
what it boils down to so far is that a good starting point for an effective
rattle reel or bobber minnow combination is: a lively medium-sized minnow
hooked lightly in front of the dorsal fin, with the split shot placed 7” up
from the hook. Remember, that’s just a starting point. Trial and error along
with detailed observations of what’s working will quickly help you deduct what
is needed at the time to capitalize on the fishing situation at hand. I bet you
will never look at a rattle reel or bobber minnow combination the same again.
Good luck out there, be safe and be nice to everyone on the ice.