"Tinkering With the Lures of Ice and Snow"
By Justin Hoffman
Anglers are a believing bunch. Most of us are
willing to take a lure straight from the package and tie it on our
line, never once questioning whether it will catch fish like the
manufacturer professes it to. The fact of the matter is, every lure
on the market can be improved or tinkered with in order to improve
its fish catching abilities, allowing the intuitive angler the
freedom to catch more and bigger fish each time they head out.
In terms of ice fishing, tinkering is not as
widespread as it is for open water fishing, and in my opinion, that
is a big mistake. Why show the fish the same lure time and time
again, when you have the creative ability to show them something
that will truly get their engine running?
Putting On the Prism
or foil sided tape is a nifty invention that can dramatically alter
your lures appearance. Primarily used by Great lakes trollers in
search of salmon and trout, ice fishing anglers in the know are
slowly beginning to realize the potential this self-adhesive has.
Since prism tape has reflective qualities, it can
replicate the flash and sheen that baitfish and prey give off,
attracting and drawing in those hungry predators from afar. And,
because it comes in long rolls or large sheets, it can be cut and
formed into any shape you desire, allowing limitless customization
benefits to the angler.
Depending on the water clarity, prism tape can be added to a spoon
to offer more flash when murky, yet can also give your species of
choice greater color combinations to choose from. For instance, this
can be most effective when targeting walleye, as biologists have
discovered that red, yellow, green and orange are the most visible
hues in the spectrum for this species. (Snipping a square of red or
orange tape and sticking it to your silver spoon could possibly lead
you to many more fish!)
The other benefit of carrying prism tape with you on
the ice, is that it allows you to make a quick lure color change if
one shade suddenly turns hot. If your buddy starts slaying the fish
on a purple spoon, you can get in on the game (and hopefully the
fish), by applying the appropriate color, right there in the field.
Now what could be simpler than that?
Upgrading your hooks to a high quality and razor
sharp model will see your catch rates increase tremendously.
Making Some Sound
We all know the importance of rattling crankbaits, or how adding BB
shot to soft plastics helps attract more fish. Fish will hone in on
these sounds through the use of their lateral line, enabling them to
locate prey and ultimately feed. Although there are some spoons and
lures on the market that have sound producing modifications, for the
most part, this is an untouched territory when it comes to the
majority of ice fishing tackle.
When dealing with murky water, or when fish are
scattered or neutral, sound producing lures are paramount. In order
to achieve a "beat' down below, I've found that the simple addition
of a plastic or steel worm rattle, super glued to the belly of your
spoon, will nicely do the trick. These lightweight rattles won't
interfere with the fluttering action of your bait, but will add an
enticing clatter to the water beneath your feet.
Regulate the size of rattles in accordance to your
bait. For an extra feature, mask the rattle with a strip of prism
tape. Not only will this hold the chamber more securely, but will
give off an additional flash to fool the fish.
Toss In Some Feathers
The quintessential aspect of a topwater bass lure is the
feather-adorned rear treble. This undulating appendage provides
flash, color and an added target, all excellent features to provoke
a fish to strike. How about a feathered-treble on the ice fishing
spoons we all use?
This nifty little adaptation has accounted for many
more fish for me over the years. The way I looked at it is, if it
works for surface striking bass, why the heck won't it work for
perch, walleye and lakers below the ice. The truth is - it does.
My top two choices in terms of feathered-trebles are
made by Excalibur and Gamakatsu. Not only are the feathers well
constructed and colorful on these two models, but they also come
combined with a high-quality and razor sharp hook. Put the two
together and you can't help but catch fish.
A feathered treble won't in any way interfere or
impede with a tipped minnow. In fact, I feel that it gives the
minnow a bulked-up appearance, definitely helpful and not a
hindrance to the fish. If you find the feathers to be too long in
length, simply trim it down to size with a pair of sharp scissors.
Biggie-Size Those Hooks
It still amazes me the number of ice fishing lures on the market
that come standard with inferior and sub-sized hooks. I've seen some
walleye spoons that are more appropriate for panfishing, judging by
the tiny treble hook that was displayed.
Upgrading your hook a size or more will accomplish
two things. It will ensure a positive hook set when a fish strikes,
increasing the chance of metal meeting flesh. A larger hook will
also allow you to tip your lures with bigger minnows - oftentimes a
benefit when chasing down aggressive prey.
I religiously change the hooks on all of my baits
before heading out on the ice each year. Not only do I feel that
larger trebles have increased the amount of fish I ice, I also know
that this upgrade to premium hooks certainly helps in the landing
My three standard hooks I prefer to use are the
Excalibur Rotating Treble, the Owner Treble and the Mustad Ultra
Point Triple-Grip. The thing I like about these three styles is the
luxury I now have by doing away with my hook hone. These hooks are
as sharp out of the package as they ever will be, and will in fact
become duller if you attempt to file them. This is a definite plus
in my books. The rotating action of the Excalibur treble is also an
effective feature - especially when applying pressure to a fish that
is directly beneath your rod tip.
Wimpy hooks made from inferior materials should be a
thing of the past. But until they are, biggie-size those hooks and
upgrade to a premium quality design. You won't regret it.
Tinker with your ice baits this year, and be
prepared to take your lures to the next level. Change is good below
the ice, and will ultimately enable you to enjoy a better season out
on the hard stuff this year.
There's no better feeling than perfecting your ice