FR.com: Thanks to Freshwater Phil for guest posting this awesome post on Ice Fishing. It’s the season, after all!
Largemouth bass are a warm water species, which makes fishing for them in cooler water quite challenging. Fishing for largemouth bass under ice is a completely different ball game. At those temperatures, they are almost inactive, and need to be coerced into reaction strikes. More often than not, largemouth bass will be active on warmer overcast days in winter, so try to pick your days carefully.
Basic Ice Fishing Gear
We’ll start with basic gear required to successfully target bass on ice. First and foremost, you want to stay comfortable. Most important to ice fishing, is a proper pair of boots. Baffin impacts or Baffin Titans are rated to -100 degrees Celsius, and 100% waterproof as well. While this may seem like overkill, you’ll quickly realize that winter boot ratings don’t take being inactive for hours on end on snow or slush covered ice into account when publishing a given rating.
Next, you’ll want to wear waterproof snow pants, preferably bib style. Better yet, a survival suit, especially early on in the season when the ice is thin. A warm winter hat and gloves, and you’re ready to head out.
Next will be the gear you bring along. There are various approaches to ice fishing. From a basic walk out on the ice and drilling as you go, to using a snowmobile and pop up shelter for harsh weather and long distance travel, to setting up heated cabins. For this article, I’ll stick to the bare minimum basics, which are my preferred method.
A good auger is essential. I prefer a manual auger, the model I use is a 6 inch Fin Bore 3. Ultra sharp curved blades make for easy drilling in ice up to 20 inches or so. On cold days, drilling many holes will help you keep warm when fishing the open ice without shelter. Optional items to bring along are an ice scoop, used to clear slush or ice from the holes, a light folding chair, and possibly a flasher (Vexilar/Humminbird) if you can afford one and are fishing in deeper water.
I use 20 to 30 series reels spooled with braid, and a 6 lb fluorocarbon leader at least 10 feet long tied on to the end of the mainline. I mount them on medium light to medium action ice fishing rods. Though we are allowed to use up to 10 lines per person on ice in my region of Quebec, I usually stick to using only 1 rod at a time, as I’m actively jigging for most species I target on ice.
Finding Largemouth Bass
Largemouth bass will typically be found in the deeper areas of shallow water bays or canals, often not too far away from weedbeds. They will stay closer to bottom, typically with 2 feet off the bottom or less, although they occasionally suspend in very deep water.
As opposed to the summer when largemouth bass prefer big lures or baits, winter is the time to scale down your presentation. I use lures designed for panfish, good choice are the W2 Rapala Jigging rap, Williams Peewee Wabbler, and mini Acme Kastmaster spoon. These lures are all about 1 to 1.5 inches long. I tip them with either a live meal worm, or a small bit of nightcrawler.
Getting Reaction Strikes From Bass
An effective way of getting reaction strikes are either to let you lure fall to the bottom, then snap your line up sharply and let it fall again. Keep your line tight on the fall, as that’s when you often get hit. Another effective method is to jiggle your lure while raising your arm slowly, then stopping and waiting. If you have the luxury of using a flasher, you will see how the fish react to your motions.
The key to successful ice fishing for bass is to drill lots of holes in your target area, and to keep moving from hole to hole. If they are there, you should eventually be able to trigger some strikes, but as in all cold water fishing, patience is the key.
Once you hook a bass, avoid the urge to horse it, as you are using light tackle and tiny lures. Ever so slowly ease its head up the ice hole when it’s ready to give up, and you should be able to lip it quite easily. Time is of essence when releasing fish, so snap a few quick pics and put it back head first down the hole. Be sure to push it below the ice so it has room to swim off to recuperate.
Happy fishing, and please be safe on the ice. I invite you to visit my web site at www.freshwaterphil.com for more information on freshwater fishing in Canada.
Freshwater Phil is a Canadian Angler living in the city of Montreal. Leave a comment below and go check out his website for tons of great fishing information.