Triggering the bite!

Jim with a nice one!
While some anglers have been doing well ice fishing Lake Winnipeg this winter, others struggle.  In talking and fishing over the years with a number of the top anglers on the ice, like Lee Nolden, Roger Stearns and friends Murray Olfasson and Jim Price, one thing remains clear, it pays to experiment. As Lee Nolden says, this year has been a very inconsistent one, with real good days and real slow days. Jim Price has been out three times and he has caught some good walleye all three occasions but every day the presentation has been different to some degree. The first time out, Jim caught most of his fish near the bottom on a subtle presentation, just a jig and a salted shiner. When I fished with him the second time out, we caught most of our fish suspended below the ice by lifting a jig through the fish and twitching the bait once. (see separate story)  On this particular day, something big and flashy would spook any fish high in the water column. Not so Jim’s last time out, he tied on a Red Flash Nickel spoon from Lucky Strike and used in to trigger inactive fish to bite. 

Red Flash Nickel spoon *(manufacturers image thus the barbed hooks)

Hawger spoon has been good to me

He said he would drop the lure to the bottom, twitch it  once,  then slowly lift it up to about four feet off the bottom. If he saw a mark come off the bottom, he would then lift the spoon until it was just below the ice in 11 feet of water and give it one twitch. “Wham” was the result and he ended up catching 14 walleye that day when his friends with the still lines caught three.
I have also had great luck for suspended fish on the Red using a Hawger spoon from Jig a Whopper in either gold or silver.I like to thread a salted shiner up the single hook head first and let it flutter.

Jigging spoons can be broken down into three categories. You have the light flutter spoons that work extremely well in shallower water. These are excellent choices right now for first ice walleye and stocked trout. One of my favourites is a Williams Ice jig. These light metal spoons will roll and flutter when dropped on a slack line.
In the second category are the spoons that fish a little more vertical. These include the Northland Forage Minnow, the Rattln Snakie and the Kastmaster, all extremely effective vertical jigging spoons. The Northland Buckshot Rattle jig falls in that category as well, though it has a little more size to side roll on the drop.
The third category involves spoons that have both a glide and flutter on the drop. This in-between category is especially effective on neutral fish. One that worked well on Lake Winnipeg last year as well was Lindy Legendary Tackle Flyer Spoon. It has a semi glide and flutter. There is no shortage of different kinds of jigging spoons in your local tackle shop. Over the last three years I have really expanded my stock to three small tackle boxes of jigging spoons from very light to quite heavy for winter lake trout fishing. For walleyes I prefer something in the one eight ounce range depending on depth, while for lake trout I will move up to three quarter of an ounce.
When using jigging spoons you are probably advised to use a nice small inline swivel to prevent line twist and lure spin as well as a small snap for lure attachment. Line twist and lure spin can really diminish your odds at catching fish.
I have replaced all my treble hooks on my jigging spoons with a single hook. This has dramatcially increased my hooking percentage. A single hook allows the fish to take the bait deeper on the bite, and with a Tru Turn hook most of the time the hook is set in the corner of the mouth. You can also thread on a minnow, another way to stop short strikes.

I mean that is what people who are not hardcore ice fisherman don’t understand about ice fishing; the satisfaction of getting a fish that you mark on your electronics to bite.  And it does pay to experiment out there!