We see it all the time: You have the best ice fishing flasher that money can buy, and you have found the fish. But you can’t get those guys to bite your hook. How do you make sure that your lure is irresistible for the fish?
It’s the lure.
When you ice fish, you typically choose between using live bait or an artificial lure. There are a few advantages of artificial lures. You do not have to worry about keeping an artificial lure alive, and you can use them over and over again. You don’t have variation in the quality of the bait that your local bait shop happens to have on hand the day you decide to fish.
Simply fill up your tackle box with a variety of lures, and you can use them for years and years.
Choosing the perfect artificial lure requires you to decide what fish you are trying to attract, and the water/weather conditions of where you are fishing.
Our Favorite Ice Fishing Lures
The following lures are some classics that have been tried and tested over time, and they have repeatedly proven to be sound choices to have in your winter tackle box.
The Chubby Darter
The Chubby Darter is manufactured by Salmo. It was introduced in 2002 and it is one of the only, if not the only, vertical wobbler in existence. It comes in three sizes, the 3.5cm, 4.5cm, and 5cm. It also comes in seven different colors so you will be able to find a color that works well in the water you are fishing in. The smaller sizes are great on perch, with the larger ones working well for walleyes and other sport fish.
The Chubby Darter is a sinking bait, but it is designed to sink slowly so it is tantalizing as it passes the fish. Anglers have discovered that this is a great lure for attracting walleye, perch, bass, crappie, and pike.
It’s action is excellent for someone who is willing to work the line with some action when they are up on top of the ice. A quick jigging action up will cause this lure to dance with a balanced appearance. It to work best when dancing a couple feet from the bottom.
Best for: Jigging for perch and walleye, especially on a slow day.
Clam Leech Flutter Spoon
Another amazingly productive lure is the Clam Leech Flutter Spoon. Every ice angler needs a few good jigging spoons, and who better to go to for one than a name like Clam that is synonymous with ice fishing.
These spoons are designed to mimic the swimming action of a leech. They have highly reflective colors so they quickly catch the eye of the fish, and then they flutter and swim in such an appealing manner that the curiosity and hunger of the fish is engaged, and the results are more fish in your skillet.
These lures come with a fast snap clip so you can quickly and easily change lures even while you wear ice fishing gloves.
They are made from a zinc alloy that makes them lighter, so they sink slower, and remain in the prime target area longer, so they attract more fish. They have impeccable balance, belly dots, and a feathered trailer that drives the fish wild. They are available in 11 spectacular colors.
Best for: Big perch
Rapala Jigging Rap
The Rapala Jigging Rap has been known to lure all manners of game fish. The lure resembles a natural bait fish because of its size and shape. It has a tail fin that adds to the alluring swimming action, so game fish are tricked into thinking they have found a delectable minnow swimming in their midst.
This lure is so good at attracting fish that most anglers who own one use it for ice fishing, and all other fishing throughout the year. They are designed to sink quickly to the depth you have established so they are swimming and teasing the fish you are after, and they can even be used as a vertical jig when the fish are slow to bite and you have to encourage them.
These lures are offered in a variety of sizes, including the W2 that weighs 1/8 ounce and measures 1 ¼”, the W3 that weighs 3/16 ounces and measures 1 ½”, the W5 that weighs 5/16 ounces and measures 2”, the W7 that weighs 5/8 ounces and measures 2 ¾”, and the W9 that weighs 7/8 ounces and measures 3 ½”. There is a perfect size and weight of Rapala Jigging Rap for whatever conditions or fish you are after.
The only thing to watch for is that with the hook layout, this snags easily. That is normally not a problem in winter, but can be in particular lakes.
Best for: Walleyes and Trout
Jammin Jig Bobber Fry
Jammin Jigs makes a bunch of different lures for ice fishing, and we have had good success with several. Where we really think they excel is with the jigs geared toward smaller and medium-sized fish. Perhaps our favorite of any of them is the Bobber Fry jig with a #12 hook.
For folks who want to hit some of the funnest and highest-action fish you will find in the winter — we’re talking about Crappies, Trout, and Panfish — the Bobber Fry jig is a must-have in the ice fishing tackle box. It comes in a number of different colors, and has enough striping on the jig to provide some contrast and a natural-looking appearance. It works very well when a smaller leech or wax worm is hooked-on, but we have had success using the jig completely naked and without any live bait on it.
We have had good luck with some of the other Jammin Jig lures as well — namely the Jig-a-Whopper — but the Bobber Fry is a real go-to in our box.
Best for: Perch and Crappie
What to Look For in Your Lure
When you are looking for the perfect artificial lure you need to remember that fish can be fickle. They tend to eat the things they are accustomed to having around them, so using lures that are realistic in appearance, and mimic the common baits the fish are accustomed to will increase the probability of success. This is even more pronounced in fly fishing, where you not only have to match the local fare, but you have to “match the hatch” at any given time.
Fish are also curious and they are attracted to (or scared by) noises. They will often investigate a lure that mimics an injured bait, or one that makes a sound that they cannot identify. If you have the advantage of an ice fishing house, you can really control both the motion of the jig as well as the sound it gives off.
The color of the lure you buy will depend on whether the water you are fishing in is murky or clear. The variety of color is designed to reflect light and draw attention from the fish. You can use duller and more subdued colors if the water is clearer, but in murky waters you often have to use lures that are bright, and shiny. The reflection of the light off of a shiny object looks like how light reflects off of the scales of bait fish.
The size of the lure should be adjusted according to what type of fish you are trying to catch. If you are fishing for a perch you do not want to use the biggest lure that you can find. You want to use a lure that is size appropriate for the mouth shape, and size of the fish. A large-mouth bass will attack a very large lure, but a perch wants a lure that is about the size of a medium size minnow. Keep in mind that small lures are a little harder to work with, especially if you have ice fishing gloves on or it is a little cold. You may want to have a heater along and even some reader glasses so you can make quick work of changing-out small lures.