My passion for Bass fishing burns 12 months out of the year. Unfortunately I live in Wisconsin and once the ice would form on the lakes I would have to rely on T.V. shows and reading everything I could get my hands on about Bass fishing. That is until a few years ago.
I have always been a Ice fisherman but usually just set tip-ups out for Northern Pike or Walleyes and would occasionally catch a Bass or two by mistake. Of course that was the biggest thrill versus catching a Northern or Walleye. That got me thinking that if the Bass are chasing wild shinners I might just get them to bite artificials. The bait of choice is a #7 Jigging Rapala in Silver and Black. Although I have caught them on all different colors the Silver and Black combination seems to be the best. I always remove the treble hook that comes with the bait and replace it with a Red #6 Treble, that has not only increased the number of bites I get but also the hook up ratio.
I use the typical ice fishing rods that you can find at any sporting goods store. I like the 36" medium heavy action rods. I use 8lb flourocarbon line, the water is usually very clear in the winter time and I do think the lighter line helps get more bites but I don’t like going less than 8 lb. because you will be running the line against the edge of the ice no matter how careful you are.
I have found the Bass to be literally anywhere in the water column from laying right on the bottom to 2 feet under the ice. I have heard many anglers say "you can’t catch Bass in the Winter they go dormant and don’t feed or move". Although I believe their metabolism slows down, I don’t buy the theory that they stop feeding or moving around. I have had days on the ice where the Bass with come flying up of the bottom as I lower my bait in the hole and rip the rod right out of my hands. And on other days they will come to the bait and just ignore it. I have been able to get the negative fish to bite after much experimenting with different presentations.
A critical part of my success is Electronics. I use a Vexilar Flasher, the incredible sensitivity allows you to see your lure and the fish and how the fish are reacting to your lure. Without the electronics you would not even know a fish is there if they are not real aggressive.
I always let the bait fall right to the bottom that tends to get the Bass’s attention if they are anywhere near. I then bring the bait up about 8 – 12 inches off the bottom. If they are in the feeding mood the strike will come right away. If they are a little sluggish you may have to gently jig the Rapala. The Rapala is design to move erratically in the water when jigged hard, but I never had the Bass react to a real aggressive jigging presentation.
The fun about Ice fishing for Bass is that they huddle up in the winter time and if you find one you will find many others. My best day has been 34 Bass from 14 inches to 20 inches long. I will start the day by punching 20 – 30 holes with my power augur and once I start fishing the holes if I don’t get a bite or see a Bass move on the locator in just a few minutes I will move to the next hole. Even if the Bass are not in the mood to bite right away they always seem to come and take a look at the Rapala if they are anywhere near. Once you get the first Bass to bite the holes next to it will usually hold a Bass or two as well. I look for Bass in the 8 – 15 foot depth range although I have caught them as deep as 25 feet. Finding bluegills seems to be the biggest key even if there are not any weeds nearby. The Bass will feed on the Bluegills in the winter time, I have caught many Bass in the Winter with full bellies and they were either suspending right under the school of gills or right in the middle of the school.
Over the years I have had many pan – fishermen come up to me and say "I’ve never seen anybody catch Bass like that" I have tried to show guys how I do it but many lose interest if the bite is not fast and furious, so I’ve been able to keep the Bass fishing to myself. No matter how many guys are on the ice there is a pretty good chance I’ll be the only one jigging for Bass.