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Article by: Brennan Chapman
Posted: Dec 3, 2019

If you’re reading this from the Midwest or even further north, you’re probably scratching your head thinking, “its ice fishing season, right?” Well, perhaps. For some of us brave souls, there are some open water fishing opportunities ahead and for many further south, plenty of great days of cold water fishing yet to be had. However, you are now fishing harder for fewer bites, and that is something that you have to settle with before you grab your keys and walk out that door. Your scaly friend’s metabolisms are slowing down quickly and if that hasn’t been reflected yet in your amount of daily hooksets, rest assured that it will. It is time to downsize your presentation, slow it down, and put your patience to the test. For us tackle crafters, we can now hone in on the details that now matter the most, by tweaking, altering, and creating specific baits, baits that you just can’t find in stores, which will have us back to setting hooks in no time. 

We are not playing favorites in this write-up. Several species will get the love that they deserve, but it is the principal behind these changes that are of most importance. Whether you’re a seasoned Walleye angler dodging ice chunks below the locks of the Mississippi river, or you’re after the pre-spawn catch-of- a- lifetime Largemouth, casting on the rip-rap of Lake Guntersville, when the water gets cold, we all have one thing in common: SLOWER.

Slow your presentation down. For Walleye, you might be dragging jigs. Bass, creeping a Carolina rig or Football jig, Umbrella rig, or maybe you’ve airbrushed a custom Blade Bait, Jerk Bait, or Rat’L Trap that the fish won’t let you put down. Your fish are going deeper. When they were deeper this past summer, you were probably able to pitch heavy jigs. With water this cold, you may need to lighten up. Heavy baits mean faster movement, and fast is not our friend right now. Sure it will take longer to get to the bottom, and you will need to jig, drag, or swim the bait painfully slow, but this is when it is important to go as light as you can, when you can. Combining a slower presentation with the other key components below will keep your line tight all season long.

Cold Water Smallmouth

When the bites shrink, maybe your bait should too? That bulky profiled bait that was working well a month ago isn’t going so hot now, time to downsize.  Many Walleye anglers will be tempted to use live bait. However, by downsizing your plastic to a slimmer profile like a Ringworm, Zipper Goby, or Thump Grub, you may be able to avoid frostbitten hands while digging in the minnow bucket.  Bass folks, the trailers on your Football jigs may no longer be necessary. Compact and plush skirts are likely all you need. As a tackle crafter, you have the luxury of tailor fitting each and every bait to the needs and desires of fish, all season long. 

Softbait Tails for Cold Water

If you’re like me and you have inches of ice on your favorite body of water, then we’re in the same boat, and that boat is in storage till spring; welcome to ice season, but that is a topic for another day.

Catch cold weather walleyes
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