October 5, 2022

Ice Fishing with Plastics

The dominance of plastics that prevails for bass and walleye fishermen, with swim baits and all forms of plastic worms, has come to the ice fishing world. But instead of baits large enough to choke a large bass, ice fishermen use miniatures that pass for all kinds of forage, including minnows, aquatic insects, fresh water shrimp (scuds), bloodworms and more.

There is an overwhelming number of tiny soft plastics to consider. Building your inventory of micro plastics is not just an investment in ice fishing, but all these baits double as great open water lures for panfish under a bobber. Plastics can be fished standing alone or tip your favorite jig or spoon with it. A super sensitive ice rod that enables you to both feel and see the lightest bite, like the 13 Fishing Tickle Stick, will help you close the deal and fill your bucket.

Following are some micro plastics you’ll want to try this season:


Bobby Garland Itty Bit Swim’R
The Bobby Garland Itty Bit Swim’R is all of 1-1/4 inches long, is available in 20 colors and comes in a generous pack of 25 baits. It has a jointed body and a scent channel in the belly of the bait that you can fill with your favorite fish attractant. Try the “Ice Out”, “Chartreuse Red Glitter”, and “MoGlo Electric Chicken” colors for starters.


Clam Maki Leechi
The Clam Maki Leechi is a super-soft lifelike leech imitation that will compel fussy fish to strike. You can thread it on a hook, nip it or wacky rig it. Choose from six colors in a package of eight.


Northland Impulse Water Fleas
Yes, there really is such a thing as a water flea! Their biological name is “Cladocera” and they are a small crustacean found in most fresh water lakes and ponds. At 1-1/2 inches long, the Northland imitation will likely be the largest water flea a fish has ever seen, and they might find it irresistible! The finely tapered legs and tail quiver with the slightest jigging action. Northland Impulse Water Fleas are available in 8 colors and come in a package of 20.


Ratso Jigs
A personal favorite of mine, I consider the Ratso Jigs a must-have for your ice fishing tackle. Many perch, crappies and bluegills have fallen for this bait. If the fish are timid, tip it with a Berkley Gulp! Alive! Maggot. Ratsos can suggest a minnow or nymph, or just something that looks good to eat. My best colors are the “Glow Brite”, “Glow Brite Chartreuse” and “Lemon Lime”.


Northland Impulse Perch Eye
The Northland Impulse Perch Eye precludes the need to first catch a fish to get an eye for bait. More than once on Canadian fishing trips I’ve seen locals slamming fish on perch eyes. Northland makes it easier with this durable, half-inch bait available in three colors and is infused with “Impulse Instinctual Attractant”, in other words – scent.


13 Fishing Battle Beetle
The engineers at 13 Fishing are very creative, as you can see from their full selection of Superior Soft Plastics. All their plastics are infused with “Donkey Sauce”, a proprietary formulation of amino acids and proteins that stimulate feeding and aggression. Good starter colors for the Battle Beetle are the “Cherry Bomb” and “Panfish Whiskey Sour”.


Clam Maki Bloodi
My final suggestion is an imitation you shouldn’t be without, and that is for a bloodworm. Bloodworms are chironomid larvae whose life cycle begins when after mating in the air, female midges skim across the surface of the water depositing their eggs. The tiny eggs sink to the bottom and emerge in a few weeks, living in the mud. After maturation, the larvae become pupae, ascend to the surface and hatch to begin the life cycle again. Bloodworms are a prime food source for perch, crappies, bluegills and trout, and I think the best imitation is the Clam Maki Bloodi.

Learning how to fish soft plastics will reduce your dependence on live bait and are so durable at times you can fish one all day and use it again the next. Keeping a broad selection on hand will allow for some fun experimentation. Stock up as you discover which patterns and colors work best for you.

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John Scherrer

Erie, PA John is a freelance writer and a life-long Erie resident who has fished across North America. Fly fishing, light spinning tackle, and ice fishing are his preferred methods to fish his home waters of Lake Erie.

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