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Bait vs. Artificials


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I usually ice fish Minnetonka for walleyes and panfish. I hate having too get bait everytime I go out, plus it's a mess. Does anyone out there have luck with anything artificial? What do you use? I'm wondering if I HAVE to use bait like minnows or if I can get by with fake stuff.

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I'd like to know an alternative as well. All open water season I'm able to avoid live bait. Come hard water I'm stuck with minnows 95% of the time. Once in a while jigging spoons will work, but the fish have to be hot and heavy.

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There's a good article on jigging spoons/swimming lures for hard water walleyes in the latest issue of In Fisherman. They recommend tipping the spoon with a minnow head; you would have to just keep some dead, frozen minnows handy, so that would keep you out of live bait, per se. For pannies, I have had luck in the past on Berkley Crappie Nibblers; they give off a cloud of scent when fished. Just pop one on your glo-devil or whatever and go get 'em. Waxies are a solid, no hastle live bait that works for crappies, too. I have only limited experience fishing for hard water waldogs, but this year I plan on getting out somewhere for some first ice action, probably Tonka. Can't wait!

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Get yourself some summertime shiners, salt them, and put them in the freezer. Jig em in the winter. Bait store is now located next to your popsicles.

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I'm big on the finesse plastics from Customs Jigs and Spins (www.CustomJigsandSpins.com), and to be honest, they were probably one of my go-to options for Tonka last winter. CrappieTom and I did a number on the crappies and gills out there on plain Size 10 Shrimpos last winter for the I.C.E. Series event.

Live-bait is definitely not always needed when ice fishing, and often times you can get by without it. A handful of finesse plastics and you're good to go. There are also several different options available for plastics nowadays too…

finesselg.gif

Standard Finesse Plastic

micronoodellg.gif

Micro Noodel

wedgeelg.gif

Wedgee

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Noodel

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Nuclear Ant Legs - for dressing up the Nuclear Ants

All of these options work great as live-bait substitutes.

The beauty of plastics is that you don't have to worry about digging around in a bait container or minnow bucket to grab new bait. You also catch more fish on one plastic than you do on one piece of live-bait. And on those days when the panfish are going crazy, the last thing I want to do is to be fiddling around with live-bait when I could just drop the jig back down when fishing with plastics.

Some of the actions the plastics give off can be tough to mimic with live-bait as well...

Now, this doesn't mean live-bait should be thrown out the window, because it also plays a crucial part in ice fishing as well. It's just that plastics can work as an alternative somedays...

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Ouch Buzz.... I had some luck using Gulp and Power Bait Maggots on the Custom Bait jigs. Red Gulp (some might call it pink but I won't) and the natural colored maggots. Another way to avoid buying bait is simply to mooch off Tonka Boy as I did all winter. He won't bait your hook for you though.

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Matt,

good call on the finesse plastics. I've used them and they work good for panfish. The thing is, waxies are easy to keep in the fridge and don't make a mess so I guess I'm really looking for a artificial bait for Walleyes. Is it possible?

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I'll often times use the Size 6 Ratsos and Shrimpos for walleyes in the Metro. In the Metro that seems to work somedays when those walleyes turn negative.

You can also use 2-inch Power Minnows for walleye through the ice as well...

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Ok, I was thinking of buying some Maggots in bulk for the hardwater season, but now I'm thinking that maybe trying the plastics thing. Is there something about fishing with plastics that would be different than with live bait?

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Don't discount live-bait, and I would still buy your maggies. Plastics have their time and place just like everything else. There are days when live-well is what's needed to take the cake. In my opinion it's important that you have both.

I prefer Eurolarva (spikes, maggies, etc). They are smaller than waxies and they hold up better. They also come in a few different colors as well and you can get them mixed. They are my number one choice for live-bait when targeting pannies.

You can fish live-bait pretty similar to plastics when using certain techniques. It can also depend on whether or not you're using a vertical or horizontal jig. For vertical jigs you're looking to make the jig dance and quiver. With a horizontal jig you're looking to make the jig's back end kick and bounce quickly. When using a finesse plastic you can really incorporate some cool actions. With live-bait you're looking at utilizing the bait qualities.

However, the action desired by the fish can change from day to day, and even from hour to hour. My best advice would be to use you flasher/electronics as your guide and as your fish's mood indicator. Try different techniques and actions and see how the fish react to each. If fish seem to be shying away then change things up, if fish seem to be flying in but won't take the bait then you need to change your technique for jigging once a fish gets close, and so on. Sometimes all it takes is a few extra pauses or jiggles that will seal the deal. And then there are those times when you can't have enough action, not to mention those times when it's the complete opposite and the only way to get a fish to bite is to keep the jig perfectly still.

Live-bait presents something different than plastic. Profile and appeal are key in this comparison. The profile of a plastic can make a difference in it's effectiveness. Same when trying to match a certain color. Lets face it, sometimes live-bait just doesn't match the preferred color scheme, so tossing a matching color plastic into the mix could trigger the fish into biting. Sometimes it even takes tossing in a completely crazy color scheme into the mix that entices the fish into biting.

I guess my main point here is that there is no magic way or technique that will work day in and day out on any given condition. You have to change things up and keep trying new things to figure out what the fish want. What works for one person might not work for the next, and what works on one lake might not work on a different lake...

Exciting isn't it. grin.gif You have the chance to develop your own technique, something completely off-the-wall, and the beauty of it is that it has the potential of turning a day of fishing into a day of catching smile.gif

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Thanks for the advice, that helps alot. I'm really just a Panfish NEWBIE. The forums here have really helped me out this last Open Water season. Even converted a friend of mine into a Panfish junkie. So for this coming up Ice season I'm just trying to soak up all the info I can.

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Lets take this a step further...I try not to target panfish myself until post walleye season. How would I effectively target game fish with artifical baits? I spend a great deal of time reading various articals on fishing (I even keep files crazy.gif) and they almost always refer to either spoons or jigging raps. Sure I've pulled in the pannies, but never once a walleye or nort without some form of live bait. How can I be more effective, mainly on bodies of water with heavy traffic (i.e. metro)? Numbers are often hard to come by in these situations so chances are few.

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Great topic Tonka Boy, this will be a good one...

For larger game fish like walleye and pike, you can get by working a swimming lure without live-bait, and often times I'll do just that. I'll head to a local lake with few different swimming lures and a rod to match. I rarely use live-bait with a Nils Master Jigging Shad or a Jigging Rap. The action and jigging techniques can and will trigger fish into biting without live-bait. Granted, sometimes a chunk of bait might increase your odds (like a minnow head and a few maggots), but I typically work those type of lures without live-bait.

I've taken quite a few Metro 'eyes on swimming lures without live-bait. And sometimes Metro walleye will crush these lures harder than anything else. Not to mention bruiser pike too.

One of my preferred methods for catching pike through the ice is by jigging, I very seldom use tip-ups, only as a second line or when trying to locate migration routes. And when jigging for pike, I'll drop down a swimming lure as one of my main options. That and jigging spoons (however, I'll generally tip my jigging spoons with some sort of bait).

Large plastic tubes will catch pike through the ice as well. For walleye it might a little tough sometimes, but I've had days where walleye will take various different minnow-imitating plastic baits, as well as twister-tails under the ice.

For me, I would pick up some swimming lures and use those as live-bait alternatives when targeting walleye and pike through the ice. They come in all different sizes and colors, and it is entirely possible to down-size and target negative fish with swimming lures as well. So, just because one size or color isn't working doesn't mean that a smaller size or a different color won't trigger the fish into biting. I will sometimes down-size to the Nils Master Jigger-O (which is a 1.5 inch swimming lure) for negative walleye. Another option would be either the 1 1/4 or 1.5 inch Jigging Rap. These are also excellent crappie lures smile.gif

What about other people? What's worked for you and what have you found out to be the case with targeting walleye and pike without live-bait?

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Matt,

Thanks for all the info. Sorry to be a noob and bug you but what are your top 3 lures for panfish and your top 3 for walleye (bait & Artificial) Thanks.

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Good question ratdog. I can give which ones I've done well with and which ones I usually try first, but it doesn't mean they work all the time, or that they will work for you.

These are probably my most consistent colors, sizes and models...

Pannies

With live-bait...

- Lindy Techni-Glo Fatboy (size 10 red glow)

- Custom Jigs and Spins Glow-Brite Two Spot (size 10)

- Custom Jigs and Spins red or orange Two Spot (size 10)

- Lindy Techni-Glo Genz Bug (size 8 or 10, blue or green glow)

- Custom Jigs and Spins Glow-Brite/Pink Rat Finkee (size 8 or 10)

- Scenic Tackle Go Devil (1/16oz in either red, pink, or blue glow)

- Size 10 Shrimpo head (glow pink)

Without live-bait...

- Custom Jigs and Spins Shrimpo (size 10 pink or blue glow)

- Custom Jigs and Spins Ratso (size 8 pink/white or black)

- Custom Jigs and Spins Nuclear Ant (size 10 red, pink or purple)

- Size 10 Shrimpo head with Custom Jigs and Spins Redworm or White Wedgee

Walleye

With live-bait...

- Scenic Tackle Go Devil (1/8oz blue glow)

- Scenic Tackle Go Devil (1/8oz perch)

- Custom Jigs and Spins Slender Spoon (1/8oz gold/green)

- Scenic Tackle Angel Eye (gold)

- JB Lures Rattling Varmit (1/8oz various colors)

Without live-bait...

- Nils Master Jigging Shad (silver/blue)

- Jigging Rap (perch or gold)

- Custom Jigs and Spins Shrimpo (size 6 Glow-Brite blue)

- Custom Jigs and Spins Ratso (size 6 Glow-Brite blue)

These are just a few options, and if you look at the jigs in my tackle box it looks like a paint-by-numbers grin.gif So there are a lot of other choices that I turn to throughout the ice season as well. Many of which are very similar to the above mentioned but maybe a different color or possibly I'll change a size up or down...

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