Use lots of flash to attract trophy lakers
If you troll for lake trout during the open-water season, I bet there’s rarely a time when you don’t use an attractor—a dodger, flasher or gang troll—ahead of your bait. So why not use one in the winter?
How in the world, you’re wondering, can I vertically fish the likes of a dodger under the ice? Well, you can’t. But you can achieve a similar effect by placing two or three highly reflective spinner blades ahead of your lure. Simply space the clevises apart using rubber bobber stops.
Alternatively, you can splice in a Williams Firefly spinner (pictured below). It’s made on a custom basis for tackle stores across the country, so it can be difficult, but not impossible, to find. If you can’t track one down, try the new, more readily available Lake Clear LC422 Gang Troll, which features two #2 blades. As for the lure itself, I typically use a heavily weighted soft-plastic swimbait.
I’ll never forget the first time I tried this presentation—a eureka moment while ice fishing for lake trout with my grandson, Liam. As soon as I dropped the rig down the hole, I watched a lake trout scream onto my flasher screen and chase it. I immediately started reeling to imitate a fleeing school of panic-stricken minnows and the trout smacked it so hard it knocked me off my seat inside our shelter.
When you see the spinners sparkling ahead of your swimbait in the crystal clear water, you’ll understand why the strikes are so vicious. The swimbait looks like a laggard minnow that has fallen behind the school, or a slightly bigger fish chasing fleeing fry.
Use a lure that’s heavy enough that you can control the lift and flutter, and avoid tangles. My favourite combination is a half-ounce Freedom Tackle Hydra jig and a five-inch Bass Magnet Lures Shift’R Shad or XZone Swammer in a natural cisco, shad or shiner colour.
I let the lure fall under controlled slack but rarely let it descend all the way to the bottom, preferring to fish the rig in the middle or top one-third of the water column. This surprises many folks, but in the crystal-clear waters where lake trout live, the fish have no trouble spotting it.
Two final trade secrets: develop a steady, rhythmic jigging cadence and when you spot a trout on your sonar screen, move the bait away from the fish by pumping your rod tip and reeling in at a moderately brisk pace. Don’t worry—the trout will overtake it and smash it so hard your elbow will sting.