It’s winter here in Colorado, and soft-water fishing is over for the most part. Sure, you can find a lake that’s ice-free, but why fight it?
Most people are concentrating on trout during this time of year, but lots of us still have bass on the brain.
If you were going to fish for bass through the ice, where would you begin?
Here’s my approach to locating bass through the ice:
First, I would look at a good map or transfer waypoints from my boat to a handheld GPS unit. This will get me over some of my higher-percentage areas that hold fish.
The areas I would look for this time of year would be steep, sloping banks or inside channel swings. Bass will use these channels and deep water to feed. Bass like to move vertical in the water column this time of year in search of food. If cover is available near by, even better! Also, changes in bottom contour will hold fish, as well.
Once you find an area to fish, start by drilling lots of holes at different depths. I would not drill any shallower than 15 feet at this point, and concentrate the rest of my holes out towards deeper water. Bass tend to be deeper this time of year and like to school up.
Next, I would drop my favorite brand of fish finder/sonar in the hole and start to look for quality returns. If you do not see anything on the screen, move over to the next hole and try again. Do this until you get some solid returns showing fish.
Here is where you are going to think I’m crazy! So you now have a hole, your sonar is set up and you are seeing fish. The question now is, “What to use?” Here’s where it gets tricky.
I know there are basics to ice fishing, and dropping a crankbait into a 10-inch hole is not going to get you your best results. However, using lures that can be presented in a vertical manner would be a good thing. Remember, we’re talking bass through the ice, so let’s keep it conventional.
What would be wrong with a drop shot set up on an ice rod? Who says you can’t yo-yo a lipless crankbait through the ice? Why not drop a senko or fluke-type bait down to the fish?
Does fishing always have to be by the rules? Sure, you could tip a jig head with a live minnow, but what’s the fun in that? Are we not true bass fishermen? Let’s keep it true to conventional bass fishing techniques!
Now you have your arsenal of set ups, holes drilled, fish on sonar and wondering what to use first. My first choice would be the drop shot. This is a great presentation for cold water because you can put that bait right in the fish’s face.
My next choice would be some sort of a jigging spoon. I would go with a silver spoon as my first choice. Remember, there might be snow on the ice, and low-light conditions might apply, so I want as much flash as possible.
If no takers, downsize your bait and maybe go to a gold spoon.
My last choice of bait would be some sort of hard-body bait like the lipless crankbait.
We can’t count out other ideas, like drop-shotting with a jig-n-pig as your main weight (fished on the bottom) with a 2-foot (or more) leader and an octopus hook for the drop-shot presentation.
One last key to success is to pay attention to how deep you were getting bit. Knowing the depth of the fish you were catching can help you throughout the day, in case you need to move to another hole.
I know all this sounds crazy, but it’s crazy ideas and thinking outside the box that will put more fish in the boat (or on the ice, in this case). Never limit yourself when it comes to fishing. An open mind is good and just might give you bragging rights with your buddies. Give this technique a try, and see how it works for you.
Good luck out there, and be safe!
By Jim Strawbridge