Although it’s true that many lures designed for open water fishing aren’t appropriate for ice fishing, there are several styles of lures that were designed for ice fishing that are also very good for open water fishing. It was sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s that we started using spoons that were thought of as ice-fishing baits in open water. And we caught fish: Mostly walleyes, but when we got on a school of crappies or perch, we caught them as well.
When you go ice-fishing, you’re fishing straight up and down. Baits designed to be fished straight up and down need to be designed differently than baits that are to be reeled in or trolled. Ice-fishing baits need to wobble as they fall. Open water baits need to wobble as they move horizontally.
For a long time spoons were the primary ice-fishing lure. Some spoons wobble a lot as they fall, others have a very tight wobble. There are times when the fish prefer a spoon that has a tighter wobble, there are times when a wider wobble is preferred. Frequently the wider wobble and slower fall is best in stained water. A Pinhead Pro is a good example of a spoon with a tighter, faster fall, while a Leech Flutter Spoon has a wider wobble and falls slower. They’re both fish catchers.
Glide baits are another lure style that was created with ice fishing in mind, but are productive in open water as well. These baits have a fin that make them glide to the side as they fall. The Tikka Mino is a fairly recent addition to the glide bait category of lures. They are more durable than other baits of this type and are outstanding for fooling walleyes and panfish in open water as well as under the ice.
When we first started using ice fishing baits in open water, we fished in deeper water directly below the boat. We located the fish with sonar, then dropped ice-fishing baits on them. Sometimes we caught’em better with ice-fishing baits than we did with traditional open water baits.
We learned though, that although these baits were designed to be fished vertically there are times that casting them can be productive. I was with a couple of friends in South Dakota fishing with the glide style baits. We were catching walleyes and perch from directly under the boat. The action was consistent, but not as fast as we would like. One of the guys started casting the glide bait, letting it sink, then aggressively snapping it back to the boat. We quickly learned that casting a glide bait could at times be even more effective than vertically jigging it.
From now until the end of the open water fishing season, if you have some ice-fishing baits, be sure to take them along. You might learn that baits designed for ice fishing can be productive year ‘round.
By Bob Jensen