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Downsize for More Winter Fish

by Mort Bank

My favorite times to ice fish are during November, December, then March and April. It's these months of early and late ice that find the fish in shallow water of 6 to 12 feet. Shallow water fish means two things -- fish are hungry and aggressive.

Unfortunately, during January and February, fishing success is a lot tougher and is often referred to as the "dog days" of winter. Fish move deeper and don't feed as aggressively or as often. Fish can still be caught but it takes a different presentation. The key is to "downsize" your jigging lures and baits.


One of my favorite jigging lures is Rapala's new No. 4 size Ultra Light Rippin Rap. While I've caught just about everything that swims on the Rippin Rap it excels on walleyes, pike and big perch. It comes in 12 different colors but I like blue/chrome, silver or the perch pattern during daylight. During low light or for stained water the glow or UV color patterns are like a beacon in the night.

Jigging will call in fish from a long distance with vibration, flash and sound. I start by positioning the Rippin Rap about 6 inches off the bottom, jig it slowly, then drop my rod tip so the lure settles to the bottom. Then I lift my rod tip quickly so my lure is 2 to 3 feet off the bottom and resume jigging. This allows bigger fish to ambush the Rippin Rap from below.

At this time of year it's important to tip one of the treble hooks with a small minnow head or wax worm.


VMC's Rattle Spoon is also very effective. It has that "flutter" action plus a unique rattle that fish just can't resist. My favorite colors are the Gold Pink Fire UV and the perch pattern. I work it similar to the Rippin Rap.

VMC also makes their Tungsten Tubby Jig that works well when perch and walleyes abandon the shallows and seek deeper water. Despite its compact size it sinks to deep water in seconds -- much faster than the typical leadhead jig.

Its small size is also a plus for fish in a negative or neutral mood. I like to tip it with a Trigger X plastics.


Just when I thought no one could improve on swimming minnow jigs, Custom Jigs and Spins introduced their Rotating Power Minnow(RPM). New for 2016, this must-have lure brings several novel features to the vertical swimming jig category.

First, its fishy-looking silhouette. The RPM's baitfish-simulating body is anatomically accurate, with its arched back, wide belly and large eyeballs. The RPM is also heavy for its size, falling fast to get you into the fish zone quicker. It comes in 11 different colors that mimic every baitfish that swims.

Next is the action. Unlike most swimming jigs, the RPM doesn't drop lifelessly. Instead, it has a wide, natural swim and sway on the fall, as well as when its jigged. It has a tail fin that gives the RPM its lifelike motion and a built-in swivel that subsidizes rotation. This rotating line tie keeps your line from twisting.

Its hook design is unique as well. It doesn't have the typical nose hook that often ends up catching the bottom of your ice hole.

The RPM even has a colored epoxy "eye" molded onto the lower treble hook. Fish will often like to peck at it and end up getting hooked. The RPM also has a small tail-treble hook designed to catch "short" strikers.


Another exciting ice fishing innovations is Aqua-Vu's High Definition underwater camera. Two years in the making, Aqua-Vu has perfected an affordable HD viewing system that yields the clearest, most dynamic underwater video ever. Their ultra-wide field of view also allows anglers to see every underwater detail -- from minnows and zooplankton to a big fish hiding in a brushpile or weeds.

In addition to its exceptional daytime visibility, Aqua-Vu's HD system is specially equipped for enhanced low light and night fishing situations. Says Thomas Maschhoff, Vice President of Aqua-Vu, "Our new Multi-Vu Underwater Viewing System offers the angler a clear picture of the action that was never available before. It's a dramatic difference that anglers will appreciate after just one look." 

Anglers will be blown away by the clarity and color of this digital HD camera, adds Maschhoff.

All of these new fishing innovations should make for an entertaining winter of fishing. •