By Hays Baldwin
Years of guiding experience: 6
Favorite lakes: Gull, Independence and Lake of the Woods
While much of the early ice rush is up to Upper Red, nobody really talks about Lake of the Woods. But it can be a phenomenal option early on. The ice is choppy on the lake this year, so be cautious as you work your way out on the lake.
We didn’t even need four-wheelers on a recent two-day trip to the southern basin, between Zippel Bay and Long Point. In the morning, it was fishing structure and shallow rocks in 16 to 20 feet of water with aggressive jigging (with baits like Slab Raps and Ripping Raps) and dead sticks.
As the day progressed, we walked out to deeper water in the 24 to 26 foot range, jigging smaller jigs and spoons (1/8-ounce). Our best bite was when the sun was at its highest point.
In late afternoon/evenings, we worked our way back to the those shallow rocks we fished in the mornings. Fishing can be spotty on the south end of the lake, but once you locate fish in an area, it can produce fish for a few days. The schools of fish are massive out there.
Baldwin runs Fishing 218 Guide Service, a multi-species guide service based in the Brainerd Lakes area. He can be reached at (612) 419-4828.