If you are an open water caster just getting into the game of hard water fishing, you should know that using artificial bait for ice fishing is extremely doable and effective.
What Artificial Ice Fishing Lure Can You Use? Since you can’t cast like in open water, you will need to place bait vertically under your position on the ice (by the way, you know a regular freshwater fishing license covers you for ice fishing like other times, right?). The answer is basically three types of jigging lures that can be fished convincingly in a vertical fashion.
Metal jigging spoons
Metal jigging spoons have little effect when swimming horizontally through the water. However, you can also use them by raising and lowering them by shaking them or making a subtle movement with the tip of the rod that will make the bait shake slightly. These actions can be varied in terms of depth and frequency and with different emphasis depending on the bait and disposition of the fish.
Jigging spoons, which are used as artificial bait for ice fishing, vary in size and ratio, depending on the depth fished and the species sought. There are thick and slim versions. Pikeperch, pike, chain pickers and lake trout are particularly good targets.
Balanced fish profile jigging lures
This is a unique sub-category of lures in general, but a particularly well-known artificial lure for ice fishing. Balanced fish-profile jigging lures have body shapes that resemble bait fishing, a line tie at the top center, a single hook on both the nose and tail, a triple hook under the mid-abdomen, and a plastic wedge-like tail fin helps the lure achieve a circular swimming motion (some people call them swimming devices). The best known examples are the Rapala Jigging Rap and the Nils Master Jigging Shad. Another version, though heavier and with more gliding motion, is the Rapala Flat Jig. These are useful for many species, again depending on the bait size.
Small lead-head devices
Lightweight jig head devices are particularly suitable for yellow perch, crappie and sunfish and are used for cast-and-retrieve and lift-and-drop vertical fishing in all seasons. As artificial bait for ice fishing, these baits are used both at the bottom of the water column and at different levels between the bottom and the surface. A stand head is good for bottom fishing as it keeps the hook in a better position for spearing the fish. There is a wide range of body and tail types.
One of the most important keys to success with artificial bait for ice fishing is manipulation of the bait. You need to experiment not only to get some good action out of the bait, but also to see what the fish prefer at a given time and place. To add to the scent, tip the tail hook of your bait with a tiny minnow, piece of worm, or maggot. Just make sure that the bait effect is not compromised. And don’t forget your fishing license.
Ken Schultz was a longtime contributor to Field & Stream magazine and is the former fishing editor of ESPNoutdoors.com. He has written and photographed nineteen books on sport fishing subjects as well as an annual fishing tips calendar. His writing has appeared on various websites for nearly two decades. His author website is kenschultz.com.