Ice Fishing Lures for Warm Water Bass

Ice Fishing Lures for Warm Water Bass thumbnail
Mike Iaconelli

I was fishing earlier this winter — ice fishing actually — up on Mille Lacs, Minnesota when something struck me that I want to share with you. I may have talked a little about it before but it’s worth mentioning again.

Fish are coldblooded, prehistoric creatures. They don’t know what a lure is supposed to do or why it was invented. They have no ability to think or reason. A fish will bite something because it looks like food or because they’re predators and they can’t help themselves. What they do is simple and straightforward, even if we don’t always understand it.

So anyway, back to the Mille Lacs trip.

We were supposed to be fishing for walleye and yellow perch. We caught plenty of them, too. But in the mix was a surprising number of bass — nice, healthy ones. The lure we used was a Rapala Jigging Rap Ice Jig. They come in five weights and sizes, and in at least 10 colors.

Rapala Jigging Rap Ice Jig
Rapala Jigging Rap Ice Jig

Basically they look like a small minnow with flat sides. You tie them on through a loop on their back that’s in a place that allows them to hang perfectly horizontal when they’re in the water. They have one treble hook on the bottom just below the line tie and a single hook in front and another one in the back. To top all of that off they have a wide, flat plastic tail.

They are a true engineering marvel.

There’s nothing especially tough about fishing with them. Just drop them straight down below your boat and jig them up and down. If the water’s cold, go slow and easy up and even slower and easier going back down. When the water warms increase your speed accordingly.

But do not, under any circumstances, rip them when you pull them up. These baits are designed to be jigged slowly. They are not blade baits. If you pull them up too fast, you’ll destroy their unique vibration.

And, when you let them down do so on a semi-slack line, and watch it carefully. You want them to fall semi-freely so you get the benefit of their unique spiral, but you also want to be able to set the hook in an instant. Dropping them down properly is as much art as it is science.

Most of your bites will come on the fall.

The reason I’m talking about them now is because they are more than ice fishing lures, no matter what their name implies. They are dynamite baits when bass are suspended in schools. It doesn’t matter how deep they’re holding or how cold or warm the water is where you’re fishing.

Abu Garcia Delay Series Casting Rod & Abu Garcia REVO series Casting Reel
Abu Garcia IKE Delay Series Casting Rod & Abu Garcia REVO series Casting Reel

When you’re fishing one of the bigger and heavier Rapala Jigging Rap Ice Jigs I’d suggest a 7 foot, 6 inch Abu Garcia IKE Delay Series Casting Rod — medium action. I pair it with a 6.6:1 Abu Garcia REVO IKE Casting Reel. It’s spooled with straight 10, 12 or 15-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon.

With the smaller and lighter lures I drop down to a 7 foot Abu Garcia Ike Delay Series Casting Rod. I use the same reel but I lighten up my line to something between 8 and 12-pound-test.

Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Line
Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Line

I always fish my Jigging Raps with straight fluorocarbon line. Never use a leader. You’ll get better action and catch more bass that way.

Give a Rapala Jigging Rap Ice Jig a shot this summer when the bass school up offshore over deep water breaks. That’ll show them something they’ve never seen before, and just might put a few giants in your livewell.

Just When You Think You Know It All…

Just When You Think You Know It All… thumbnail
Mike Iaconelli

Just when you think you know it all something comes along that you’ve never heard about, not even thought about. That’s what happened to me this winter on the Upper Mississippi River when I was fishing Pool 2. I was introduced to the tumble rig.

We were fishing near a power plant with a warm water discharge. Typically that’s where you find a lot of fish in a small area, and that’s exactly what we found. But, even though we were catching fish, the bite wasn’t anything close to what we expected.

That’s when the fellow I was fishing with said we should try a tumble rig. Somewhat embarrassed, I told him I didn’t know what that was and probably didn’t have the tackle to rig one. No problem, he had what we needed.

The idea was to fish suckers, a swimbait or a plastic minnow on a live line but make them look dead. All you really do is hook them, cast them out and let them tumble along the bottom with the current. It was amazing! We immediately started catching more fish and bigger fish. Honestly, I can’t remember a fishing day turning around so quickly with only a change of bait.

We fished in a fairly strong current but I’m thinking it’ll work just as well in a reservoir or when the wind is making current. If the current isn’t strong enough to move the bait, you can always help it along a little. But, I mean just a little. Think natural when you fish a tumble rig.

The one problem with it is that it will twist your line. But we solved that by using a VMC Spin Shot Hook. There are three models to choose from — the Neko, the Wide Gap, the Power Shot. They’ll all work depending on what bait you choose and how you hook it. Grab the one that works for you.

VMC Spinshot HooksWe hooked ours in a variety of different ways. Open point worked best — nose or back — if the bottom was relatively clean. If it was covered in drift and other stuff, we Texas rigged the hook with the point skin hooked. And sometimes we just skin hooked the bait almost anywhere.

Berkley Powerbaits
Berkley Powerbaits

We were using spinning tackle so we tried not to bury the hook too deep because it was difficult to get a good hookset that way.

Our swimbait choice was a Berkley Powerbait Power Swimmer Swimbait. It looks good tumbling along and it feels natural when they bite it. We also used a traditional Berkley Powerbait Jerk Shad. I’m thinking, though, that you could also use a Gulp Jerk Shad, a Gulp Alive Jerk Shad, a Powerbait Jerk Shad or a Powerbait Maxscent Flatnose Jerk Shad. They all look and feel natural.

My rod was an Abu Garcia Ike Finesse Series Spinning rod. The 7 foot medium action and 7 foot, 6 inch medium heavy action worked best for me.

Abu Garcia IKE Finesse Series Spinning Rod & Abu Garcia REVO IKE Spinning Reel
Abu Garcia IKE Finesse Series Spinning Rod & Abu Garcia REVO IKE Spinning Reel

I’d suggest a 20 or 30 size Abu Garcia REVO Ike Series Spinning reel — your choice. I used both.

The best line setup is 6-10-pound-test braid to fluorocarbon leader (long) or a straight fluorocarbon spool. I like the straight fluorocarbon best because I helps keep the bait down on the bottom where it needs to be to attract the better size fish. All my lines are made by Berkley, either X5 or X9 Braid or Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon.

Berkley 5X Braided & Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon lines
Berkley 5X Braided & Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Lines

I know this sounds crazy to some of you. A dead minnow tumbling along the bottom? Really? Come on Ike? We know better.

It goes against everything we know as anglers. I’ll be the first to admit that. But I’m telling you that this is a super good technique. I don’t write about anything that doesn’t catch fish. That’s not who I am, and I’m telling you this is the thing.

Give it a try. Let me know what you think.


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