• Brad Thomas

Ice Fishing is Here!

Some of us have been watching the weather like hawks crossing our talons to see if we can break out the ice fishing gear. Well the time is now! Of course, there are some areas that are not safe. Before you travel check out The Nebraska Fish & Game Association Ice Thickness Report Map.

Let’s talk about baits and lures to catch more crappie on your next ice fishing trip. I get asked this question a lot, “what is the best live bait to use while ice fishing for crappie?” So I decided to list them below.

1. Wax Worms

· They are the caterpillar larvae of wax mouths and can be up to 1” long. They are usually white in color and hold up well in the cold weather.

· Tip: put them on a small tungsten jig or a plain size 10 hook.

· To get the most at of them don’t let them freeze. Store them at least 55 – 65 deg.

2. Mealworms

· These are the larva of a darkling beetle. They are ¼ to 1” long.

· Fish them with a plain hook or a jig, but my personal opinion they work great when tipping bait on spoons or ice jigs.

· Not very cold tolerant, try to keep them warm at all possible.

3. Night crawlers

· I hope everyone knows what a night crawler is, I can remember my dad teaching me how to put them on my hook.

· I have a lot of success just tipping a tungsten jig with them.

4. Spikes

· These are bluebottle fly maggots that are about ½” length and their tough exterior keeps them on the hook longer.

· These are great tippers for jigs, spoons, or any artificial baits you might use.

5. Minnows

· This would be the most lively, natural action you can get.

· I have huge success catching slabs with this bait.

· The best length would be 1-2”, there are many ways to hook them. My favorite is through the lips.

“My lake I fish only allows me to use artificial baits, what works for you?” Well this is a loaded question for sure, because in my opinion it’s the way you present the bait to catch the crappie and not just the bait. But below are my go to.

1. Hand Ties

· With a slightest movement of the rod or water these baits dance in the water. Tip, make sure you tie the jig with a loop knot.

· They come in all kind of colors and styles.

· It seems there are a lot of companies that make them; I shop local to Nebraska, 402 Jigs makes a mean looking jig.

· What color works best? To me it’s all about seeing the bait so I usually use orange head black body with a chartreuse tail.

2. Soft Plastics

· These are definitely your budget friendly of all the artificial baits.

· You can get them in all different colors and styles.

· Again, a lot companies make them, but J.E. Custom Jigs in Nebraska makes a great durable plastic.

3. Spoons

· I use these when I’m struggling to get bites, they are flashy and can easily attract crappie.

· They seem to be deadly when you tip them with a wax worm.

· Again staying in Nebraska, Trio Tackle and J.E. Custom Jigs have great spoons to offer.

4. Lipless Crankbait

· Surprised yet? I was at first but they do work.

· It is designed for jigging and the action of smooth swimming motion with some vibration and the rattles really attract the crappie.

· My favorite lure for this is the Rapala Jigging Rap at 1 ¼” long with about 30 different color options, which makes this lure deadly.

It is always exciting when new ice fishing baits come out, so don’t be afraid to email me or comment your favorite bait. When you’re struggling out there on the ice remember, you might have to go to the simplest techniques to have success. Make sure you check your rules/regulation for the lake you are fishing to see if you can use live bait.

Be safe and enjoy!

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