The days of using plastic baits as a far-out alternative are over. Recent advancements in fishing technology have led to some great upgrades to baits in general. Plastics have benefited greatly from this. From micro baits to scented plastics, there are a variety of different styles that will definitely add some tricks to your bag. Ice fishing with soft plastics can be a fun and rewarding strategy and can even beat traditional tackle when the bite is tough.
Micro Plastics- Go small, GO BIG
One of the common sayings you will hear out fishing is “big bait, big fish.” While this may be true in certain scenarios, going small has become a common tactic used more recently, especially in the ice fishing world.
With cold water temperatures the fish become more finicky and smaller baits can give you a better chance to trigger a strike. Using small plastics can greatly increase your chances of catching fish when you are on the ice. Your local bait shop will likely have a large variety of different syles and colors, so I recommend having at least a few different options to try.
Typically the best way to present small plastics is rigging them on a jig head. You will find a large variety of sizes and colors when it comes to jig heads as well. I tend to gravitate more towards bright colors like chartreuse or orange, and I have also had a lot of luck with gold and sliver jig heads.
Now that we have tackled size, let’s talk types.
The Smell of Success: Scented Baits
Scented baits are one of the latest and greatest advancement in fishing tech. It is well documented that fish are sensitive to scents in the water. From salted baits to fish and bait scents, there are tons of different options. The Berkley Gulp product line is one of my favorites. They offer a large variety of styles and colors, and they boast to have the strongest scented baits.
From what I have seen, the key with these scented baits is to keep them in the water for a good amount of time while fishing the same spot. This allows the bait scent to build up in the water and will help to attract the fish to your bait. Doing this allows this bait to be effective. Be patient. Don’t be afraid to take your time.
Bug Imitations, Get buggy with it!
Bug imitations are one of my go to plastic baits through the ice. There are a variety of different styles. From actual insect imittations to worm and grub syles, these can be deadly ice fishing. My personal favorites are the Trout Magnet and Crappie Magnet series. These look like a small worm with a tail in the fork. when you jig these, they swim in the water.
The trick with the bug imitations is to make sure that you fish with small versions. This will help to trigger more finicky fish through the ice. When jigging these, you can use some very small motions to make these look alive. I also like to tip these with bait as well to increase my chances. These are great if you are after trout or panfish species, but I have honestly caught tons of species on these.
If you havent tried any bug variations yet, add these to your tackle box and you will put more fish on the ice.
Minnow Imitations…If It Looks Like A Fish
These are one of the more versatile plastic baits on the market. There are several different styles of minnow baits. The paddle tail and curly tail versions are nice because they add a little vibration in the water when you move them. Jigging them makes the paddle or curly tail move, helping to attract fish with the motion. There are also standard variations with a normal tail. Berkley makes some incredibly life-like versions of different fishing species.
Again there are several styles here. I recommend have several different sizes and colors in your tackle. Don’t be afraid to add a minnow or minnow head to increase your chances.
Tube Jigs: Weird Looking, Great For Fishing
Tube jigs are one of those baits that are quite bizarre looking, but can be used for a variety of different species. Many bass fishermen use these when normal fishing. Once the lakes freeze, these can be killer baits for ice fishing. They look like they could be confused for a fish or crawfish as well. Whatever it is, the fish love these. Fish them in rocky areas and bounce them near the bottom to imitate crawfish.
I tend to prefer salted tubes. They also have glow in the dark versions that can be utilized at night or to stand out in murky or deeper water. If the fish are finicky, try the glow version. Don’t forget to bring these up frequently to “charge” them and keep that bright glow. This can be done with sunlight or a headlamp as well.
If you have lake trout where you ice fish, this should be your go to. In the mountain lakes where I am from the lake trout asbsolutely love sucker meat. We fish tubes tipped with sucker meat and do very well. As with most of the different plastic baits, don’t be afraid to try this for your local species as well.
Curly Tail Grubs Are Classic For A Reason
There is no way that we can talk about ice fishing plastics without talking the curly tail grub. This is probably one of the most popular plastic baits ever made, and for good reason. These are an extremely versatile bait. It’s another bait that seems like it might be a fish imitator, but who really knows. The fish like these, and that’s all that matters.
The curly tail creates a nice vibration and helps to draw the attention of the fish. These can be used to catch almost any species of fish. As with most of these baits, movement is key. This will keep the vibration constant and create action in the water. Tip these with live bait and get ready to catch fish.
Plastic Baits Are A Great Addition ToYour Tackle
With all of the incredible plastic variations, these are a great addition to any tackle box. Sometimes trying to use live baits can be very prohibitive depending on the time of year and many other factors. With so many plastics variations, you don’t have to worry so much. The other great thing is that these baits have a tremendous life span. Most come in resealable bags and will stay moist for several years if you store them outside of very extreme temperatures.
Setup a tackle box just for your plastic baits. I like to have a large variety of different jig head weights and colors to allow me to experiment. One tip of advice: don’t shy away from bright colors. Many people seem to think that bright colors only work in murky water. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I ice fish several clear water lakes and I have always had luck with fluorescent patterns.
In the end, don’t be afraid to experiment and try different styles and patterns. You may find that you discover a new trick for crushing the fish. If you have any other tips or plastic baits that work well for you, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.