The early ice fishing formula for success with ‘Tackle’ Terry Tuma

With the arrival of hard water, “Tackle” Terry Tuma answers some questions for fishing multiple species through holes in the lakes the next several months. Catch a live seminar with “T3” next weekend at the St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show at RiverCentre.

Q: Will jigging spoons catch winter crappies and sunfish?

“Tackle” Terry: Most winter panfish anglers will avoid spoons because they consider them strictly walleye lures. They shouldn’t!

Size, color, vibration and action is key to catching aggressive and lockjaw pans. Work more aggressive presentations for periods of high panfish activity levels. I do this by intensifying lift-drops coupled with short pauses and holds with my Rapala jigging spoons. Slow down the movement for those tough biters with fewer, shorter lift-drops and increase hold times.

Lures in sizes of 1/12 and 1/16 ounces are both attractors and triggers. Tease the slabs by adding one waxworm on each tine, or a minnow on one tine hooked parallel to the dorsal fin. Drill two holes 2 to 3 feet apart for both stubborn crappies or sunfish and rapidly pound bottom in one hole which becomes an attractor. Trigger with a dead stick, bobber system or small, slower presentation in the other opening. This is a one-two approach that will produce winter walleyes, too!

Q: When should I set the hook with jigs for ice walleyes?

“Tackle” Terry: On all water bodies, a heavy thump indicates a walleye has inhaled your bait, so set the hook quickly. If you feel ticks, fish are just nipping baits, so hold off. Gently and slowly lift the jig up an inch to force the walleye to bite up. Another approach is to drop the rod tip down to create semi-slack line and let the fish chew the minnow for a few seconds. Stinger hooks are a last resort, though I try to avoid them. Finally, be sure your hook gap is wide and hooks are sharp!

Q: How do you hook minnows under bobbers for ice crappies? And what about size?!

“Tackle” Terry: Place your hook parallel to the dorsal fin point-forward for a natural look. Hook it near the tail to imitate an injured baitfish for reluctant biters. Pin minnows (1-inch long or less) usually are my best producers. That said, always keep crappie minnows, small fatheads, and shiners in the bait bucket.

As for size, that really depends on mood, water clarity, light levels, and “matching the hatch.” Always replace the bait after you catch a crappie. Likewise, use a new minnow after 8 to 10 minutes to refresh scent and movement.

Q: Where should I cut off minnow heads and how often should I change them in ice fishing scenarios?

“Tackle” Terry: You’ll see an excellent  increase in scent and taste by changing heads every five to 10 minutes, especially for non-aggressive walleyes. This may determine whether a fish bites or not. Always pinch off the head between the dorsal fin and gill plate instead of cutting. That added “meat” and jagged skin edge boosts the scent, flash and movement factor, which intensifies the strike response!

Q: How do you adjust when marking ice sunfish on electronics but you can’t get them to bite?

“Tackle” Terry: Raise or lower your lure to the fish in water column, then try subtle jigging, hold, or draw it up 2 to 3 inches above band to coax bites. Do not waste more than 30 seconds working these fish. Target different ones.

If this reoccurs, change lure size, drop speed, color, or design. Experiment with one, two, or three spikes and waxworm size, too. These fish are curiosity seekers and not active eaters. Fish usually are negative to neutral if change-ups produce, assuming you started with legitimate bait and lure selections.

Categories: Blog Content, Fishing, How To’s, Ice Fishing, Terry Tuma

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