As with all fishing, selecting the proper lure is crucial for success. With the wide variety of lures that are available to the modern ice angler, many are baffled by all of the choices. Some lures are particularly effective for a certain species of fish, while others perform well for a wide range of fish.
Below are some preferred lures by species.
Throughout much of the ice fishing region, panfish such as perch, crappie and bluegill are very popular. Because panfish tend to have a small mouth and are relatively neutral during the ice fishing season, most lures and baits are relatively small.
In shallow water, the most popular baits are ice jigs such as the Frostee Jig, Genz Worm and Genz Bug.
Larger lures are particularly useful when searching for active fish or angling in relatively deep water (over 15 feet or so). The Kastmaster in 1/12 and 1/8 oz size, the Hali Sukkula, the smaller sized Reef Runner Cicadas, the Swedish Pimple in sizes 2 and 4, and the Northland Forage Minnow sink fast and allow the angler to get to the strike zone quickly. Replacing the treble hook on any lure with a Hali Replacement Chain Hooks or Hali Replacement Bead Chain Hooks allows the fish to ingest the hook better at the strike.
Most of time, these lures are tipped with natural baits like maggots, wax worms, minnow heads or perch eyes. Soft plastics like the Berkley Power Honey Worm or artificial baits such as the Berkley Gulp! Maggots and Waxies provide attraction without the hassle of carrying and storing live bait. Berkley Crappie Nibbles are also popular for tipping a lure.
Most walleye fishing is done in fairly deep water. Spoons and vibrating baits are by far the most popular lures for these deep water delicacies. Spoons such as the larger Kastmasters in 1/4 – 3/4 oz. and the Swedish Pimples in size 4-6 , work well tipped with minnows, soft artificials or plain. Reef Runner Cicadas and Heddon Sonars are popular, particularly in very murky or deep water. Jigging lures such as the Rapala Balanced Jigging Lures and Rapala Jigging Shad Raps are staples in clear water.
Although most pike are taken on tip-ups, they are very receptive to lures jigged fairly aggressively. Rapala Balanced Jigging Lures in sizes 7 and 9 as well as the larger Heddon Sonars take many of these sporty fish. Large spoons such as the larger Kastmasters, Swedish Pimples and the new Yo-zuri Live Bait Jig fool large fish every winter. Recently, large soft plastics such as the Storm WildEye Shad have become popular. Wire or heavy Fluorocarbon leaders should be used to protect the line from sharp teeth and gill covers.
All smelt lures have one similarity; the hooks are small to tiny, as this popular winter-time target has a very small mouth. Tiny jigs such as the Genz Bugs produce best in shallow water or when the smelt are near the surface, while jigging spoons with small single hooks or chain hooks like the Hali Replacement Chain Hooks allows the angler to drop the bait back to the fish much more quickly.
For smaller trout, standard panfish presentations work well. Recently stocked trout are especially fond of salmon eggs such as Mike’s Jarred Salmon Eggs or the Berkley Power Eggs. Paste baits such as the Berkley Trout Baits are popular with anglers as they are easily transported and work well.
Larger trout, such as lake trout (makinaw) prefer similar baits to walleye and northern pike. Tipping lures with a strip of cut sucker is popular anywhere lakers swim, if it is legal.
Most of the best baits for bass are the larger panfish jigs as well as the lures commonly used for walleye. In many cases smaller is better, as black bass have a low metabolic rate during the winter.
By selecting a proper location and presenting the right lures at the right time, your success will increase many times over.
See you on the ice.