When the water is just a few degrees above freezing, fish metabolism rates slow down to a crawl. As a result, most fish feed infrequently during winter, and it often takes them a day or more to digest a meal. Not surprisingly, the bite can be tough—even for panfish. Enter ice-fishing pro Tony Boshold. Follow his game plan and you can catch slabs all winter long.
First, attach a spring bobber to your ice rod so you’ll never miss a bite. Boshold favours interchangeable St. Croix coils, available in light, medium, medium- heavy and heavy spring weights; you can switch springs to match the specific weight of your lures. For maximum sensitivity, the spring should be angling downward 30 degrees.
2. Secret rig
Teardrop-shaped spoons and jigs are popular ice-fishing lures, and Boshold tips them with soft, plastic dressings. But instead of skewering the trailer onto the hook so that it hangs vertically, he threads it on so that it sits horizontally; the jig or spoon, meanwhile, rests vertically.
Boshold refers to this hitherto secret technique as the “vertizontal” rig. He says it not only hooks almost 100 per cent of the panfish that bite, it also attracts more fish.
3. Trailer trouble
When you feel a bite and miss the fish, it usually won’t hit again because it has pulled down the trailer. Ditto if you don’t put the soft-plastic dressing on perfectly straight because it will spin when you drop it down the hole. To remedy these problems, Boshold puts a drop of superglue on the shank of the hook before sliding the soft-plastic into place. The only time he doesn’t anchor his soft-plastic dressings is when he’s experimenting with differently coloured trailers.
4. Twist stopper
If you pull line off your spinning reel without opening the bail, or if you turn the reel handle when the drag is operating while you’re fighting a fish, you’re bound to twist your line. This will cause your lure and soft-plastic dressing to spin in circles―and when that happens, the fish won’t bite. Instead, be sure to open the bail and peel off the line when you’re dropping down your lure. Or, you could use a small bait casting or fly reel to avoid the threat of line twist altogether.
5. Lure combos
Boshold routinely drills a dozen or more holes, then methodically fishes each one with five pre-rigged rods all sporting a different lure and vertizontal soft-plastic dressing. He tries every combination in every hole before deciding whether to stay or move on to a new area―and start all over again.