If you haven’t stepped outside in the last week, you might not have noticed the rise in temps in our area. The rise in overnight temps as well as daytime temps have been staying well above freezing. And with that goes our ice fishing adventures, our fun toys, and those dreaded layers of warm clothing! But not all is lost, we learned a few techniques over the winter, we tried a couple new buckshot spoons, and we have some plastics that all will help us during soft water season. First thing is first tho, lets dig out our soft water gear and inspect what we have and lets get organized on how we think this season will play out….
Then what we want to do is to sort our ice fishing gear for stuff we can use all year round. I grabbed my crappie bites, pink fry, and bloodworm plastics. I know I have use for these all year round, they work well for crappie and gills, as well as other small fish. Most of the year I target bigger fish such as walleyes and bass, so I put these in my big tackle box and grab them if I am going for the smaller fish. Smaller plastics like northland mayfly nyph & tapeworms come in flat plastic bags and can fit into a pocket of my shoulder tackle box, just in case we decide to switch to panfish on the fly.
Next, add in a few new plastics & lures that you know will help you net those fish that will be spawning in early spring. I picked up these rubber salamanders from a fishing expo last weekend. They are made by Al’s Tackle, a local tackle maker. In early spring, fish will be spawning and guarding the nest, so the bite can vary greatly from day to day. One trick to pulling in those lunkers is to drag a known predator across the bottom, threatening the nest. Most fish while guarding the nest will only bite to protect, so make sure you are ready to rig a trailing hook to catch those short bites! Salamanders and crawfish are just a couple of the main plastics you can use to target nesting fish.
Then we check out our other plastics, such as worms and such, making sure we have our favorites, and discard broken ones. These are my main plastic boxes from my shoulder tackle box. It’s light weight, easy to carry, and can stuff all kinds of lures in there. It makes it very helpful when trudging thru heavy weeds, down creek banks, over fences, etc. You want to keep your quick-carry tackle as efficient as possible, yet able to adapt to what bite is working. 95% of my worms in the box are already rigged with 2 weedless hooks, as well as scented. I prefer Kelly’s brand bass crawlers in the weedless, with their weedless hook worm as a secondary, only difference being size. I use them on a swivel, unweighted, and retrieve slowly, which corkscrews thru the water very nicely. My favorite color is purple with white spots. I have other worms and tube baits in the pockets of my shoulder tackle box, however they do not come pre-rigged so they are not as easy to switch to. I do however keep a couple rigged and ready, but those bass seem to love my Kelly’s selection more than anything else.
Then its time to get the other tackle in order. My other 2 boxes from my shoulder tackle box are filled with top water frog lures and spinner baits, as well as some essential tackle like hooks, snap swivels, and twister tails. Hula poppers and jitterbugs have me covered for open area top water, while scum frogs gets me in the lilies and weedy marsh top water. I have yet to find anything more fun than that instantaneous action when a large mouth comes up and grabs your top water lure. From that first loud splash, till you put that bad boy on the bank, it’s non-stop fun & action. Spinners and cranks are fun to retrieve, as well as provides great hooksets on those largemouth. Once in awhile you will run into bass and other fish that want a little more flicker in the water without the disturbance, so it’s always a good idea to keep jig heads ready with twister tails.
As far as my big tackle box goes, I usually bring it with me but leave it in the truck just in case I might need an item or 2 out of it for the day. I like to keep backup items in there, such as more line, tools to repair reels, as well as tackle for catfish, walleye, and pike. I keep catfish tackle in the main box because I rarely go fishing for catfish. The same can be said for my walleye & pike lures, however that is only because walleye and pike are not readily found in our area farm ponds. Some of my shadraps and flickershad lures could easily catch bass, however they also catch weeds, and that is where most of time I am fishing since bass love weed cover.
Its always a good idea to have everything handy, till you have to start lugging everything you own up hills, over fences, thru weeds, and steep banks. Take it from me, it is alot easier to bring only what you need, and keep the rest in the car. Your legs will thank you for it! Till you venture out tho, you can always get all your stuff in order so you’re ready when you get the itch……