Ice Plastics 101
As we embark on a new ice season, I wanted to provide some thoughts to consider when choosing which ice plastics to use when targeting panfish.
About 10 years ago, I started bringing plastics along with live bait every time I went ice fishing. At that time, I saw other anglers having success with soft baits, but hadn't yet developed the confidence I needed to fish exclusively with plastics.
Fast forward to the present day, I can now say with certitude that I catch larger fish with plastics and my catch rate is the same (if not better) as with live bait. In the next few paragraphs, I'll detail some points to consider when buying plastics and choosing which ones to use during your next fishing outing.
Match the Hatch
It is important to consider the food source of the targeted fish. For instance, what is the type and size of the hatch? Keep in mind that this varies depending on the panfish species, lake, and mood of the fish. For this reason, it is wise to carry an assortment of plastics (i.e. different profiles, sizes, types, etc) to be able to match what the fish want at any given time.
Have you ever seen a fish swim up to your bait on the Vexilar and seconds later swim away? There is a good chance that the size of your bait was too large. When the fish are negative, consider downsizing your plastic to turn sniffers into biters. I have seen on many different occasions where downsizing to a 2.5mm or 3mm tungsten jig paired with a microplastic is the ticket to more fish on the ice. On the contrary, sometimes upsizing the size of the plastic can actually trigger more fish and larger fish into biting. Don't be afraid to try either approach if what you are doing isn't working.
Types of Plastics
One thing I like about soft plastics is the variety that they offer. Among others, plastics come in the shape of bugs, creatures, grubs, worms, and minnows. I personally like plastics that are supple and look lifelike underwater. With all the options on the market today, how does an angler decide which plastics to choose? My quick answer is to choose an assortment of different types and sizes. Color is a personal preference, although I generally like using natural colors on the lakes that I fish.
How to Rig Plastics
I always try to rig my plastics in the most natural way to the fish. As such, I am a big believer in hooking my plastics on straight so that they're not bent or crooked, which results in an unnatural presentation to the fish. I have two orientations that I prefer with plastics. The first is a horizontal presentation and the second is vertizontal. For the latter, I hook the plastic horizontally on a vertical jig (which will form an "L"). Don't be afraid to experiment with different ways of hooking your plastics to find the one that works the best for you.
On an Ending Note...
I hope that your upcoming ice season is fun, memorable, and successful. I look at every time out on the ice as an opportunity to learn something new. Using soft plastics can open a new world of possibilities for increasing your catch rate and landing that next trophy fish. To purchase ice plastics, please see my website for a large variety of different shapes and sizes.
Thank you and tight lines!