Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

By Dave Genz

One of the big challenges in ice fishing is calling to distant
fish and getting them to come over to you. Sometimes, fish
investigate something flashy or noisy just because they notice it.
Other times, fish are cruising, seeking something to eat. If they
notice your lure, they’ll come over and often bite. But if they
don’t pick it up on their radar screens, or see another source of
food first, you lose.

One of the frustrations in ice fishing is that a bait might be
super at calling fish in from a distance, but might not get that
same fish to bite. You can salvage many situations by using a
“two-part presentation” you bring fish in with one bait, and catch
them with another.

When fishing through ice, one of the first challenges is to draw
a fish beneath you. This is a bigger part of ice fishing than many
anglers realize. You have to think about water conditions and lure
types. Even though any given bait can have a blend of attributes, I
classify them as “attractor” baits and “triggering” baits. As
usual, there are no neat categories, but lures tend to be more of
one or the other and there are so many exceptions to every rule you
try to make.

What makes a bait great at calling fish in from a distance? A
rattling lure or glow-in-the-dark lure are two good choices. So are
lures that create vibrations, such as a blade bait. Let me try to
make the point with an example. One of my current favorites for
calling fish in is the Rattl’r, a Lindy rattling jig spoon that
gives off vibrations and has tremendous flash. A fish can be a long
ways away from the hole and still notice this bait.

But don’t get the idea that an attractor bait doesn’t have
triggering power. I like to shake the spoon, and I keep shaking it
when a fish appears on the depth finder screen. Many fish that
check out the Rattl’r end up biting it, especially if you keep the
action going once the fish shows up. Tipping the spoon with live
bait or a minnow head helps, too.

But a certain percentage of the fish don’t bite it, or any noise
or “attractor” bait you use. If I call in a fish and it refuses to
take the bait, I reel up quickly and drop down a different bait,
usually a smaller, more subtle bait, with wiggling live bait
attached to it.

For example, I might drop down a jig loaded with maggots. I’ll
quiver that in front of the fish and let those maggots give off
juices and dance in front of the fish’s nose. In an awful lot of
cases, that’s more temptation than a fish can handle. Or, it can
take the swimming action of a Flyer, a totally different lure, to
get that fish to finally bite. That’s what I call the “bait and

Just remember: smaller, more subtle lures with unusual swimming
actions (like the Flyer) and live baits can tend to be better
triggering tools, especially when fish are not aggressive, but
don’t use only triggering baits. By their nature, a lot of baits
with triggering appeal are not the best tools for calling fish in
from a distance. Draw fish in with a bait that has great attracting
abilities. Try to get the fish to bite that bait. Keep doing what
you were doing; that brought the fish over in the first place.
Perhaps tone it down a bit, but don’t stop moving the bait. That
almost never causes a fish to bite.

If you can’t get the fish to bite in a reasonable amount of
time, make a switch before the fish leaves. Reel up quickly, bait
up a triggering lure, and get it down there. Practice putting live
bait on your hooks, so you can do it quickly when a fish arrives or
have another rod ready. You don’t have a lot of time to make the
switch, but if you can get a different bait down there quickly, you
stand a good chance of getting that fish to open its mouth.

Dave Genz’s latest book, Bluegills!, can be ordered by calling
toll-free (877) 328-0488. Visa and MasterCard accepted, or send
$11.95, plus $3 shipping, to: Winter Fishing Systems, 5930 16th
Ave. SE, St. Cloud, MN 56304.

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