Ice Plastics are all the Rave
Jan 8th, 2008 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Jan 8th, 2008 at 12:00 AM
Live bait vs. artificials. This is an argument that has raged on for years within various open water tournament circuits of various species of fish. Now when it comes to ice fishing, there are even more anglers who are finding that specialized soft plastic baits designed specifically for ice fishing are catching more and bigger fish. Panfish, like crappie, are especially attuned to these soft plastics.Plastics have several advantages over live-bait alternatives;No need to stop at a bait shop before each trip;Plastic baits remove all concerns about keeping live bait from freezing. No more rock-hard wax worms or minnows caught in suspended animation;Theres no need to re-bait as often. While your buddy is digging through his clothes to dip into his shirt to get another maggot, you can be dropping down the hole and catching another crappie.But, the real beauty of plastic baits, like Lindys line up of ice-fishing soft plastics, Techni-Glo Tails and Munchies Tiny Tails with various shapes like the Pin Tail, the Mini Spade, the Split Tail and the Micro Mino, rests in the fact you can take advantage of the feeding frenzy ignited by catching the first crappie or two. Once you start by catching one, you can catch one crappie after another as other fish come close to investigate. But, if you have to stop to re-bait you cant keep the school interested, and if they lose their curiosity, they leave.The fact the bait is artificial is a double-edged sword. Yes, transport and storage is a snap. But, the action of the bait is now all up to you. Dead-sticking with plastics is not an option.First, make certain your jig and plastic are aligned properly. A spinning bait is a real turnoff to fish. Test it in the hole and watch how it works before you lower it down. A little spin is OK, but its better if you have no spin at all.One way to make plastic appear alive is to use “straight-line” jigs like a Frostee Jig or a Genz Worm dressed with plastic trailer down the hole and “jiggle it” or “pound it” three or four times. Stop, then repeat at 10-second intervals. You can add a tiny Thill float and use the same technique. Look for aggressive biters. No fish in 30 seconds to a minute? Move to the next hole. If fishing stays tough, try going to the extremes. Finicky fish sometimes want the smallest jig/plastic presentation you can devise. Larger profiles may ‘match the hatch’ and mimic the size of the forage fish crappies are feeding on.You can also impart different appearances and action by varying the way you put plastic baits on jigs. Create an L shape by threading the head of a plastic bait like the Pin Tail onto the hook of a vertical jig, then pull it up the shaft and stick the point into the plastic body as it lies parallel to the bottom. For another, try something similar to what bass anglers call a ‘wacky worm.’ Pinch the tail off a Spade Tail and put the hook through the middle. That leaves two ends dangling. Another great tip for utilizing soft plastics is to use one of the hottest new baits on ice this year, Lindys Rattln’ Flyer Spoon. Thread your soft plastic on one of the hooks of the treble hook at the bottom of the spoon. Allow the plastic to stick out to the side. Let slack line out and watch your Flyer Spoon ‘cast’ out away from your hole and slowly drag and stop the spoon. Perch will often take the spoon right off of the bottom. Once the spoon is right below your hole, then give it a couple of quick jerks, stop and quiver the spoon. The plastic tail then looks alive!That’s the how. Now, concern yourself with the where. It helps if you took the time to scout the weed lines during open water with your boat and a GPS and sonar. Thats much easier than doing it in frigid weather with an auger. At first ice, location for crappies, bluegills and walleyes are similar. In lakes, check the green-weed edges in 4 to 14 feet of water. Look for the points and inside turns, especially those that lie in transition areas from sand to mud. The forage base will be richer there. Stay away from brown weeds that sap oxygen from the surrounding area as they decay. In Mississippi River backwaters, look for the edges of weed patches, lily-pad fields, bull rushes or cane beds that break to deeper water. In reservoirs, check the points and breaks into old river channels. In farm ponds, fish the breaks into the old creek channels. Bluegills will be mixed in with the crappie. For walleyes, up-size your jigs, such as the Fat Boy XL or Genz Worm XL, and check out the same green vegetation that held crappies. Change up jig colors, and dont forget to try the Glow in Living Color triggering power of Techni-Glo. Oh, theres one more advantage to plastic baits over live bait. Theres no chance your wife will wind up doing the laundry and washing the wax worms you forgot in your pocket.Notes: For you walleye anglers, check out the Walleye Masters Institute where more information on walleye fishing is given out in day than you could learn on your own in a year! This school is held twice, once on March 1st, 2008 at Rolling Meadows, Ill. and once on March 15th at Sioux Falls, S.D.The Rolling Meadows line-up includes 3 time PWT winner Bob Propst Jr.; 2007 FLW Angler of the Year Jason Pzrekurat; walleye angler Todd Heitkamp, a NOAA weather expert; Ted Takasaki, the 1998 PWT Champion and 1995 PWT Top Gun Angler; and Mike Norris, Chicagoland radio, newspaper and TV personality and top walleye expert.Speakers in Sioux Falls include Heitkamp, Przekurat, Takasaki, Norris and all-time PWT money winner Ron Seelhoff. Send a check for $99 for one session or $189 for both to the Walleye Masters Institute, P.O. Box 253, North Aurora, IL 60542-0253. For more information, phone (630) 842-8199.