The importance of zooplankton, insect larvae and other invertebrates cannot be understated when it comes to ice fishing crappie — and other panfish for that matter. When papermouths are fixated on a specific type of forage, having a top-notch replica tied on is essential. This is especially true with fussy fish, something reinforced recently during a trip to Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
I spent day one of my trip with ice fishing guide Brian "Bro" Brosdahl. Having detailed information about the lake, he recommended using a small fishing jig tipped with a bloodworm plastic lure — a Northland Impulse Bro's Bloodworm to be exact. The reason being that bloodworms were a key forage base in the lake and its resident panfish are keen on snacks with a thin profile.
The presentation was straightforward. Get the bait to bottom and then slowly inch it up through the water column to mimic a worm's undulating action. Once a fish came into the area, as seen on the sonar, the swimming sequence was customized to trigger a hit. Engaging the fish with some catch-me-if-you-can jigging maneuvers, followed by an abrupt halt, was one reliable jigging sequence.
Day two saw a completely different crappie meal plan on another beautiful Grand Rapids' lake. Crappie were "filter feeding" tiny foodstuffs suspended in the water column, according to pro Scott Glorvigen. Success this day came thanks to tiny, maggot-tipped ice jigs. The ace up my sleeve was a Custom Jigs and Spins' Chekai. Its tungsten composition meant that despite its small stature, it quickly sank into the strike zone of crappie cruising between 20 to 25 feet.
Quivering and then pausing the jig caught a few fish, but the bulk of them hit a motionless offering. Lightly shaking the bait to send out vibrations, followed by dead-sticking it for long periods was the ticket for tempting filter-feeding crappie to chew. A spring-bobber rod was a necessity for detecting the ultra-faint bite.
While there are many approaches for tempting fish to bite, spending time with hard-water wizards Brosdahl and Glorvigen reiterated an all-important strategy. Focusing on fish food and tailoring your tactics to "match the hatch," so to speak, is one of the most time-honored and universal ways to catch fish.