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Five Essential Ice Fishing Baits

Whether you are a novice ice fisherman or have decades of experience, my recommendations for essential ice fishing lures and baits may help you catch more fish this winter.

Rapala Jigging Raps
No matter what body of water I am going to, or whatever species I am targeting, Jigging Raps are always with me. I don’t keep a detailed record, but I have probably caught more fish on Jigging Raps than any other lure. If I had the absurd choice of having to pick one lure to ice fish with the rest of my life, this would be it. My most productive colors are the Silver Fluorescent Chartreuse and the Gold Fluorescent Red. I choose the size based on the water depth and the species I hope to catch. The three smaller sizes are great for panfish, while the two larger sizes work for walleye, pike or lake trout. Some of my friends will tip the hook with grubs, minnows or pieces of minnows, but I have always fished mine without bait.

Lifting the Jigging Rap sharply causes the bait to zigzag, attracting fish. This alone may trigger the instinct for the fish to attack, but sometimes a more subtle presentation or even fishing it motionless is required to get the fish to bite. FishUSA stocks Jigging Raps in 26 colors, each in 5 sizes. Many of the custom colors are exclusive to FishUSA. It’s always good to have different colors to experiment. On any given day, fickle fish may prefer one color over another, or a color you’ve never tried before.

Lindy Tungsten Ice Worm Jigs
The Tungsten Ice Worm is a dense, horizontal jig with a nice profile and brilliant colors. Tungsten sinks faster than lead jigs and aids sensitivity and hook-setting. I keep a small tray with an assortment of sizes and colors. My favorite colors are Chartreuse Glow, Chartreuse/Lime and Chartreuse/Orange. I will either fish these with the slightest of twitches – just enough to keep it moving, or large looping lifts and drops. Tipping the hook with bait or small plastics is deadly for panfish. FishUSA stocks 10 colors, each in 3 sizes.

Bay de Noc Lure Co. Swedish Pimples
Swedish Pimples are a proven fish-catcher with a track record exceeding 100 years! It catches all species of fish. My track record is not nearly as long, but I’ve been using them for decades. All are rigged with a treble hook, come with a red flipper and include a bonus yellow flipper with an extra split ring in the package. Sizes 2, 3 and 4 include a spare single hook. Over the years, I have built quite a collection of sizes and colors and they all catch fish. I almost always tip the hook with bait. FishUSA stocks 13 colors, each in 5 sizes.

Bay de Noc also offers a specialty line called Crushed Ice Transparent. It is the same lure, but with some real eye-catching colors. You’ll want at least a couple of these colors in your collection.

Custom Jigs & Spins Ratso Jigs
No ice fishing arsenal is complete without plastics and the Ratso Jig does nothing but catch fish. Tip them with a single live or Berkley maggot for best results. Glow Brite, Lemon Lime and Candy Corn are killer colors. The Ratso is really pushing for a dominant share of my jigging time! FishUSA stocks 8 colors, each in 2 sizes.

Berkley Gulp! Alive! Bait
Buy the following three jars of Berkley Bait and thank me later.

  • Berkley Gulp! Alive! Maggots
    The fish will never know you faked them out! These durable maggot imitations last long on the hook and in the jar. And they won’t die on you and turn black. Bait stores hate ‘em.
  • Berkley Gulp! Alive! Waxies
    More of the same as Maggots, but longer in length and available in 3 colors.
  • Gulp Alive! Minnows
    I have enjoyed great success with the Emerald Shiner color. If you keep it moving, it is hard to distinguish from a real minnow. There is no fuss with minnow buckets or keeping minnows alive, and no hassles where certified bait certificates are required. FishUSA stocks 6 colors in multiple sizes.

These are the base lures and baits I use ice fishing, year after year. I love to experiment and try new lures every season, but keep coming back to these core products. These lures satisfy my ice fishing cravings and I’m confident they will help you catch more fish!

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