“Why don’t we do this at home?” I often would think during ice excursions while watching flasher marks turn red and anticipating a strike. It always seemed like the stuff we did through holes in the ice on those trips should work from a boat as well.
Eventually I had to try it, and I soon confirmed that ice lures and strategies indeed work well in Georgia and on other open waters. And the more I play with the concept, the more I find success—and the more I find new applications.
Southern bass and other gamefish congregate in deep channel bends during the winter, making them ideal targets for stationary set-ups and vertical presentations. Ice lures ranging from spoons to jigging plugs work wonderfully for the task and are seldom (if ever) seen by the fish; however, anglers who live outside of ice-fishing country never give thought to ice lures and know little about them.
We’ll look at a few specific ice lures that lend themselves well to open-water fishing. These are good starters, but don’t stop with them. Many hard-water baits have outstanding soft-water applications.
A Darter looks like a lipless crankbait and indeed has loud rattles like that type of lure. Designed primarily for vertical presentations, it darts erratically and enticingly, with rattles calling loudly, when you jig it. Vary the sharpness and length of your lifts as well as the cadence.
Rapala Jigging Rap
A slender minnow imitator that gets down in a hurry, a Jigging Rap swims in circles when fished vertically, gliding on the lift and then plunging down. When it drops, let it fall uninhibited so it can bang the bottom and kick up sediment. Available sizes equip you for everything from bluegills to big bass. Include a small swivel just up from the bait to spare line twist.
Northland UV Buck-Shot Spoon
Open-water anglers often jig spoons during winter but rarely consider the rattling “ice spoon” variety. A Buck-Shot’s rattles and UV colors attract attention. Tip the treble with a minnow head or night crawler to multiply the attraction. Bait tipping sounds foreign to most bass fishermen, but a little meaty scent adds tremendous appeal to a spoon during the winter.
Outside ice country, most anglers completely abandon bluegills during winter, as if the ‘gills hibernate. Tip a Lindy Tungsten Toad or a or Northland Gill-Getter Jig with a piece of ‘crawler and search deep holes, and you’ll likely discover that bluegills stay wide awake throughout the winter and can serve up big fun.
I also go “ice style” with searching strategies, using a Hummingbird 597ci that’s set up for ice with a portable carrying case and transducer on a cable so I can have quality electronics, with graph and GPS, even when I’m fishing from a jonboat.
Like ice specialists, I use the electronics not only to find structure, cover and fish (any of which I may mark on the GPS), but to gauge the fish’s reactions to presentations. There’s little more fun than watching the mark from a fish thicken, turn red and rise toward your bait immediately before you feel a strike.
When water clarity allows, I couple the graph with an Aqua View AV Micro so I can see exactly what I’m marking.