Off-the-wall baits work for ice-fishing

When it comes to choosing your lure or presentation for ice-fishing, there certainly are some proven options for most species of fish.
The traditional jig and minnow for walleye, the white tube for lake trout, and a small spoon for whitefish, for instance.
But experimenting with lures, and finding new ways to catch fish, adds to the excitement fishing for many of us–that challenge of figuring out how to trick a fish into biting your lure is a rush.
If you only have a few hours to get out and you want to bring home some dinner, stick to what is proven. But if you have a long day to fish, sometimes experimenting with different lures can yield some great results.
Lipless rattle baits have been catching bass for decades across North America but their use in ice-fishing only been has exposed in the past few years. Anglers on Lake Winnipeg, known for its giant, aggressive walleye, started using these loud rattling baits and they worked really well.
It was the perfect scenario because these fish were eating minnows, the water is kind of cloudy, and the fish are aggressive in nature, so the loud rattling baits do a great job of calling in the fish, then the profile of the bait triggers them to bite.
Since the use of rattle baits became popularized for ice-fishing, anglers have experienced success on a variety of waters across the ice belt, fishing for walleye, lake trout, and pike, as well as crappie and perch.
On Lake of the Woods, for example, I’ve had success using the Northland Rippin’ Rap and the Jackall TN70 rattle baits for walleye, especially when they move shallower and are aggressive during the late-ice period.
These baits work well for lake trout and pike, as well.
I like to drop them down the hole first when I get to a new spot because if there are active fish around, you will have a better shot at getting their attention with these loud baits than you will with anything else.
They definitely select for bigger fish, too!
While the white tube jig has been a staple for lake trout anglers for years, more recently anglers are starting to use four- and five-inch long minnow imitators threaded onto a jig head for lake trout.
They mimic the baitfish trout are feeding on and since many of the plastics are scented, lake trout seem to eat them up pretty well.
Other soft plastics work well for trout, too. Most of these are designed for bass anglers but anything that resembles a three- to six-inch minnow could work in my opinion. My friends and I have had success with twister tail grubs and small swimbaits threaded onto a jig head, as well.
I usually only use white or natural baitfish colour patterns but it sometimes pays to try different things, especially if you notice trout chasing–but not biting–your baits. I’ve seen people that I’ve fished with hammer trout on both chartreuse and pink soft plastics, so you never know.
Across Sunset Country, we have some of the best crappie fishing to be found anywhere and many anglers chase them around on the ice. One of my favourite baits over the last several years is a little spoon from Northland called an Eye-Dropper spoon.
When you first look at it, it does not strike you as a panfish spoon. It is spinner blade, like you would use for walleye fishing in open water, that is filled with lead on the cup side, making it a spoon.
It gets to the bottom quickly and has a wide, fluttering action that seems to drive big crappies nuts. I tip this spoon with a couple of soft plastic waxies and it’s good to go–no live bait needed!
Sometimes when a fish comes across a bait it has never seen before, it can create a good reaction for the angler. So don’t be afraid to mix up your tackle selection and good things can happen!