Every serious crappie fisherman out there has his own thoughts on what works best and why. The majority of traditional ice fishermen you see braving the frozen lakes and ponds stick to live bait with the belief that not much can beat the real thing. However, high-tech materials and phosphorescent paints have been changing the minds of anglers as to what catches the most fish.
|Large crappie taken by a jig tipped with a minnow.|
Each bait type has its own advantages, making each seem better from one angler to the next. For instance, artificial baits such as jigs and micro twister tails can be fished faster and cover more water than live bait. These synthetics are very durable and can be used to catch more than just a fish or two. Moreover, if you plan on changing holes or your general fishing location, you can simply bring your bait to the surface, paying no mind about your bait freezing and dying.
Newer phosphorescent paints and scent dispersing technology allow artificials to attract the attention of fish, no matter how lackadaisical they seem. Another key reason that anglers choose to use artificials instead of the real thing is that these synthetics do not need to be kept warm to stay alive. Anglers can store synthetics anywhere without having to take any extra precautions to keep their baits in good condition. Artificials also save anglers from getting up extra early in the morning to pick up minnows at the bait shop before heading out fishing.
Natural baits like minnows or wax worms can produce amazing results for anglers who know where to find fish. Over the course of a crappies life, it has greedily eaten hundreds of minnows to stay alive, making your offering very hard to resist. As lifelike as the new artificial baits are, there is nothing that can imitate the action or scent like the real thing. Minnows swim and dance under the water driving fish wild and, in most cases, the biggest crappies are taken with live baits.
As good as these two types of baits are individually, they can be even deadlier when combined. In most cases, artificial baits catch more crappie, while natural baits catch the biggest. Combining these two methods should give you the best of both worlds. This combination is great for fishing heavy cover areas such as sunken trees and weed beds. While the action and flash from plain jigs and spoons attracts fish, these baits get tangled and snagged by the heavy cover. The addition of a minnow helps protect the hook from these potential foul ups. Additionally, this combination has an exceptional way of drawing attention in all types of water conditions.
Combining minnows with fluorescent red, yellow and chartreuse colored jigs is great for dark or murky water conditions; cream, tan and white jigs seem to work best in clearer waters. If you are fishing deep, low-light conditions, glowing jigs tipped with a minnow can be your best bet for taking more fish. It's also a good idea for anglers to charge their jigs regularly so that they will give off as much light as possible when put down deep in dark colored waters. Start off trying a few different colors and see what works best for the depth and clarity of water that you're fishing.
Not only is the color of your jig important to finding fish, but so is the live bait you are tipping your jig with. The scent from the minnow helps draw fish into your bait. The flash and brightness of the jig combined with the scent of a minnow -- a match made in heaven -- will make it easy for crappies to find your bait.
The scent of the minnow isn't the only benefit of combining live baits with artificials. The action and buoyancy of live minnows is key in getting fish to bite and bite down hard. When a minnow is hooked onto the jig, the buoyancy is changed, allowing it to float more and fall slower through the water column. Live prey does not dart up and down throughout the water column so the more subtle your bait, the more realistic it will look to fish.
|Having a wide assortment of micro jigs will help in finding what finicky fish are keying on.|
When you hook your minnow to your jig, hook it through the head rather than through the back below the pectoral fin. If you hook the minnow through the lower lip and out the top of the head, your minnow will sit in a more natural upright position and crappies will freely engulf the whole bait.
To fish these jig and minnow combinations, start by lowering your jig to the halfway point between the surface and the bottom, and then slowly lower the jig to the bottom. Keep a taut line while lowering your jig minnow combo and see how the fish react. If you have good electronics, you can watch the fish move closer or farther away from your offering. If you don't, just keep a closer eye on your line.
The most aggressive fish are the ones that come up and bite your bait on the initial drop and the first few lift and fall regimens. After you have weeded out a few of these gluttons, you can slowly work on getting the real lunkers out of the pack.
With the minnow and jig combo, anglers should always err to the side of using a more subtle jigging approach rather than exaggerated motions. Sharp vertical jigging will provoke a fear response in the same fish you are trying to lure, so avoid this type of motion, especially around finicky fish. Slowly lifting and dropping your presentation with short pauses in between allows the swimming action of the minnow to take over and will produce the best results. Just be patient; many times it takes a little while to excite fish into biting. But once you get them going, you'll have a steady bite for hours on end.
Many anglers have had those exceptional days on the ice when, no matter what you lower down the hole or how it's presented, the fish seem to gobble it up with reckless abandon. Unfortunately, not all days are like that, and many of us have to work a little harder to get consistent bites. Both jigs and minnows have been used with great success across the country for crappie. But instead of trying to figure out when to use each one, try combining these two techniques to put more and bigger crappie on the ice.