In many areas of the Midwest this winter, there has been as much open water fishing going on as there has been ice fishing. In a region where ice fishing usually dominates in December and January, warmer than ordinary temperatures have enabled anglers to extend their open water fishing. There are obvious differences in ice fishing and open water fishing, but when it comes to lure presentation, there are a good number of similarities. Let’s look at some of those similarities.
When we talk about lures for open water or ice fishing, color is always of big interest. Some anglers feel that lure color is very important; others don’t think it’s that critical. Both are right! When the fish are aggressive and want to eat, they’ll often take a lure regardless of color. Purple clown or plain white, they don’t care – put the bait in front of them and they’ll eat it.
Unfortunately, the fish aren’t that aggressive most of the time. When they aren’t aggressive, color can become a very important consideration. In open water or under the ice, a pretty good rule-of-thumb is to go with brighter colors in stained water and more natural colors in clear water. Glow is an especially big deal in stained water under the ice. Some baits are treated with a glow paint that is charged by a little flashlight such as a Glo-Buster Lurelight. Northland puts a glow paint on some their ice fishing baits that retains the glow for a long time. In stained water, especially under the ice, a bright glowing bait really helps. In clear water, experiment with various colors until you find what they want.
Lure size is also important when ice fishing or open water fishing. When the fish are finicky, go smaller. If they’re hitting good, go bigger. Bigger baits catch bigger fish.
How you work a lure is especially important. Sometimes the fish want a lure moving quickly, other times they want it stationary. This became very apparent a couple of years ago in South Dakota while perch fishing. We were fishing on a lake that had been getting a lot of fishing pressure, and a weather system had just gone through. Heavy fishing pressure and a weather change often create tough fishing, and it certainly did so in this situation. The perch didn’t want to eat. We could see them on the sonar, but we just couldn’t make them bite. Finally a member of our group tied on a tiny jig and tipped it with a Gulp! Maggot. A perch came in and just looked at it for maybe twenty seconds. Finally it ate it. We had tried live waxworms on the same jig, but the perch wouldn’t eat those. We guessed they were wiggling too much. The Gulp! smelled alive and looked alive, but it didn’t wiggle, and that’s just what the fish wanted in those tough conditions. Again, experiment with lure action and let the fish show you what they want.
Whether you’re going ice fishing or open water fishing, keep these ideas in mind and you’ll be more successful.
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