Give It Your All on the Ice!


Back when my father Poppee was still alive, our ice fishing system was pretty simple, I did all the work and Poppee caught all the fish! By planning ahead, checking a map, and having contacts telling us the hot bites, he was able to catch some nice fish. I would be busy scouting the map, drilling holes, moving tents and searching for fish.

I thought I had the raw end of the deal.

Now that he’s gone, I still must plan ahead, scout the map, drill the holes, move the tent, search for fish…and now I have to catch them, too!

You can always come up with excuses. Weather, the great equalizer, comes into play. A nice, cloudy day turns sunny and shuts the bite down. The wind blows, opens giant cracks in the ice and shuts down the bite. It starts to snow; the snow turns to sleet and shuts the bite down. There are so many anglers on the spot that the bite shuts down. Basically, when I arrive on any frozen lake in North America, the bite always shuts down. And when I try to film a MidWest Outdoors TV show, the bite is automatically shut down as soon as the camera is pulled out!

The point is, ice fishing is an ever-changing, evolving game. The bite is always shutting down, yet some anglers always seem to catch fish, no matter how tough the bite. It is up to you to make the most of it. To some, it may mean firing up the grill, putting on the cheese brats and just enjoying the outdoors. But I like figuring out what is catchable on any given day and how to catch it!

I’ll start shallow and simple for panfish, like a size 3-mm black/purple glow Chekai tungsten jig with two red spikes. It’s a proven fish catcher that catch every bluegill within eye shot. When the action slows, it’s time to readjust.

Readjustment takes place with more colors of proven jigs. The Chekai jig is now available in 6 Wonderglow colors (white, chartreuse, pink, orange, blue and red), which brings the total to 27 different color choices of a 3mm jig! I still like that purple glow, though.

The dilemma begins with deciding whether to move to find aggressive biters or try to attract fish to you. So, I grab another rod with something shiny. A 1/8-ounce, hammered nickel Slender Spoon is too big for all but the most aggressive perch and crappies, but it is just right to attract them in. As fish come up to the spoon and peck at it, it’s time to switch back to the Chekai for more catching. It’s the bait-and-switch technique since I’ve got several rods rigged and ready.

When I’m in white bass country, I have the one-two punch of a size 6 Wonderglow Demon Jigging spoon backed up with a Wonderglow Tungsten size 8 Tutso. The larger, more aggressive whites will hit the spoon, but when we get those “sniffers” coming up time and time again, I make the switch and downsize to the Tutso with a few waxies. The two keys, though, are to have the lures in different sizes, but in the same color; and to always switch back to the larger spoon after a fish is caught, since that attracts them in from a distance and catches the bigger fish. Again, it works best if you have two rods rigged and ready.

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My favorite lure to use when fish are aggressive is the RPM. The RPM has been a great lure for walleyes, white bass and largemouths. It has accounted for a bunch of great fish. Six-inch to 1-foot pumps of the rod propels it to swim and attract. Sometimes, walleyes blast in fast and furious, and other times, a jiggle-and-lift gets them to strike.


I know the lure works, but sometimes the walleyes come flying in and are gone just as quickly. It is the same with the Slender Spoon. I’ll be using a large, 1/4-ounce spoon, and here comes a walleye. Then she puts on the brakes, loiters and is gone. That’s when a dropper comes into play.

The Custom Jigs & Spins Pro Finesse Drop Chain will work on most any jigging spoon and the RPM as well. I have tried them on Lightnin’ Spoons, Slender Spoons and Demon Jigging Spoons. We have tipped them with spikes, waxworms, whole minnows and minnow parts depending on what we are after, and they also work on the RPM. It is the same concept: The fish is attracted to the shiny bait, and yet for whatever reason shies away, but has no trouble snatching the bait on the dropper!

I’ll always have at least one deadstick going whenever I’m fishing. I love, love, love to put a Demon on that deadstick. It’s got a nice ring to it, “Deadstickin’ the Demon”—diabolical! If I’m after gamefish, the size 4 Demon is the way to go. Hook a minnow through the dorsal and send her down. If it’s crappie I’m after, then out pops a Demon 6 with a minnow.

A deadstick needs to be a softer rod than your jigging rod, so that the fish can pull on it with little resistance.

So, this month, give it your all and pull out all the stops out on the ice with the bait-and-switch. If that fails, try a dropper on your favorite jigging spoon or RPM, and you’ll put more fish on ice!