With the notable exception of whitefish, lakers, rainbows and brookies, which adore cold water, most of the fish we chase during winter slow down significantly in frosty water. Walleye, for example, eat three per cent of their body weight daily in the summer, but only the bare minimum to stay alive in the dead of winter. Ditto for bass, black crappies, bluegills, sauger and yellow perch.
Because these fish are such passive eaters during the winter, you need to be able to easily hook one when you see it on the sonar screen nosing your bait. And the best way to do that is by separating your hook from the lure.
While many anglers visualize fish rushing in and smacking their baits, that’s not how most fish feed, especially these lethargic winter feeders. Instead, they methodically approach the lure and inspect it. If they decide it looks good enough to eat, they then open their mouths, flare their gills and create a vacuum into which dinner arrives—or not. And that’s the problem.
If your minnow head, maggot, soft-plastic bait or lively minnow is anchored to the hook on even a light- to moderately weighted lure, it barely pivots. Create a degree of separation, however, and it flies into the fish’s mouth. That’s why I use lures such as the Clam Speed Spoon, which has a tiny chain separating the hook from the blade.
You can get the same effect with a Williams Ice Jig or Syclops spoon by separating the hook from the O-ring with a Stringease Fastach clip or HT Enterprise Chain Rig. While not as light and flexible, you can also add one or two additional split rings or a short piece of mono or fluoro between the lure and hook.
Every Friday this winter we’ll be sharing fishing editor Gord Pyzer’s top ice fishing tips for 2015. Check back regularly to learn his tackle tricks and simple techniques for icing more panfish, northern pike, sauger, trout, walleye and whitefish.