The Best River Trout Fishing Lure

The Best River Trout Fishing Lure

There are many artificial lures that can be used to catch trout in rivers and streams. However, there is one lure that have been proven to be the best over the course of time.

The best river trout fishing lure is the Worden’s Original Rooster Tail. It is an inline spinner. This simple, yet extremely effective lure has been around for decades. It comes in many sizes as well as a myriad of color patterns and is extremely effective for all trout species. Rooster tail spinners come with a natural built in action and flash, making them easy for anglers to use.

spinner fishing for trout

For the most part, Rooster Tails mimic bait fish. They put out both flash and vibration, which mimics a wounded bait fish. While light, these lures cast quite well on ultralight spinning tackle. They are available in many different color patterns and sizes. The size and color of the bait used will be determined by the prevailing conditions.

The Rooster Tail is also manufactured with a single hook. This is another aspect of the bait that makes it the best river trout fishing lure. Many anglers prefer to release their trout unharmed. The single hook certainly makes this easier. Also, many local fishing regulations require the use of a single hook, even on artificial lures. This makes the Rooster Tail with the single hook an excellent choice for anglers chasing trout in rivers.

best 13 brown trout fishing lures

Rooster Tail options

Anglers should should let current conditions determine which Rooster Tail is used. Experienced anglers understand that river fishing conditions change constantly. Rains that occur up river will quickly stain and rise the water level. Conversely, periods of no rain will result in the water being lower in clear. Each of these conditions will need a different river trout fishing lure.

Generally speaking, when the water is clear and the sun is out bright, light colored lures with silver blades work best. This color pattern takes the best advantage of the bright sun in clear water. The flash can be seen from quite a distance and will draw trout to the bait.

rainbow trout fishing lures

Conversely, in low light conditions and when the water is stained, gold is a much more effective blade finish. When matched with a brightly colored body and tail dressing, this combination is extremely effective when visibility is reduced. Gold has always been an excellent finish in off colored water. These rules are an not hard and fast, but are just a guide. Anglers should always experiment with color and size until a productive pattern emerges.

rooster tail

Anglers can click this link to shop Amazon for Rooster Tail spinners

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brown trout fishing

Most anglers choose their Rooster Tail by the size of the fish they are pursuing in the waters that they are fishing. This is pretty basic and quite logical. Smaller streams and rivers will generally have smaller fish that can be a bit spooky. Therefore, smaller lures that make a more subtle presentation are often the best choice. Larger baits are usually a better choice in larger, more open rivers where the chance for a better fish is present.

River trout fishing lure techniques

One attribute that makes the rooster tail the best river trout fishing lure is the ease with which it is used. The lure is simply cast out and brought back in using a slow, steady retrieve. It really is that simple! However, as in all fishing, there are nuances which will increase success.

fishing for brown trout

The best approach is to cast directly across the stream. Then, the angler uses a twitch of the rod tip to get the spinner blade spinning. The angler uses a combination of the current and the retrieve speed to retrieve the bait. Often times, the strike occurs as the line straightens out and the spinner swings in the current. This is not unlike fly anglers who do the same thing when swinging a nymph.

Rooster tails will produce both in the swift portions of rivers such as riffles as well as the holes and pools. This versatility is another thing that makes the rooster tail the best river trout fishing lure. In the riffles, anglers will usually need to keep their rod tip high and just keep a tight line and the current will do the rest. In the slower pools, the bait should be allowed to sink and then retrieved in steadily.

trout fishing with streamers

Here is a comprehensive post on fishing with spinners in rivers and streams.

Best waters for using a Rooster Tail

The best waters to use the Rooster tail for trout fishing are generally streams and smaller rivers. These baits are quite light and do not make much commotion when entering the water. In the smaller streams, a subtle presentation can often make the difference between catching fish and going home empty-handed.

top trout fishing lures

Rooster Tails are also fairly light. This means that anglers will be limited in their casting range. Also, the lighter weight results in them sinking quite slowly. For these reasons, deep, large, fast-moving rivers are often better fished with larger, heavier lures.

More river trout fishing lures

While the Wardens rooster tail is the best river trout fishing lure, there are certainly other lures that will catch fish. These include other spinner manufacturers, spoons, plugs, and soft plastic baits.


There are several other spinners that have good reputations for catching trout and other species. These include the Panther Martin, Mepps Aglia, and Blue Fox. The Panther Martin and Blue Fox in particular are much heavier spinners and are better choices for anglers fishing larger, deeper rivers. The Mepps Aglia can be fished much like the rooster tail.


Spoons come in a wide variety of sizes and finishes. The Acme Kastmaster is a very popular river trout fishing lure. The small size with a gold finish is particularly effective. Larger spoons are excellent choices when fishing big rivers with a lot of current. They also work very well when trolled.


Anglers seeking a trophy trout will often choose to use a plug. The rapid a is one of the more popular river trout fishing lures. This bait will not draw as many strikes. However, they will almost always be larger fish. This bait works well, however it does come with multiple treble hooks.


A lead head jig with a soft plastic grub body is most often thought to be a bass or walleye fishing lure. However, it can be very effective on trout as well. Depending on the color in grub combination, they can be used to mimic both crustaceans and bait fish. There are very effective when both bounced on the bottom or went swimming naturally in the current.

In conclusion, this article on the best river trout fishing lure will help anglers catch more fish!

Best 5 Live Baits for Freshwater Fishing

Top 6 Live Baits for Freshwater Fishing

This post will list the top 6 live baits for freshwater fishing. While artificial lures catch plenty of fish, many anglers prefer to fish with the real thing. Live bait fishing in freshwater is fairly straightforward. However, there are nuances and tips that will help increase success!

top Tennessee game fish species

The top 6 live baits for freshwater fishing are;

  • Nightcrawlers and worms
  • Minnows
  • Crayfish
  • Crickets and grasshoppers
  • Leeches
  • Grubs

There are other effective live baits for freshwater fishing. However, these 5 baits are the most common, are readily available, and fairly easy to keep alive. Most of the baits on the list are found throughout North America and will catch just about every species of game fish.

catfish fishing tips

Nightcrawlers and worms

The best live bait for freshwater fishing may be nightcrawlers and worms and are first on the list of top 6 live baits for freshwater fishing. There are several reasons for this. Most importantly, nearly every freshwater game fish species that swims will devour them. They are also widely distributed, affordable, and easy to keep alive. These are the reasons why a live nightcrawlers and worms the best choice for freshwater anglers fishing with live bait.

best bait for freshwater fishing

Nightcrawlers and worms are very convenient to use as fishing bait. They are widely distributed and are available at just about every freshwater fishing bait store. Several major chains that sell fishing equipment keep them in stock as well. In many areas, they can be purchased at convenience stores and gas stations as well.

Click on the title link to read Capt Jim’s E-book Fishing for Crappie, Bluegill, and Panfish

Nightcrawlers and worms are fairly easy to keep alive. This is the main reason that they are so widely available to anglers fishing in freshwater rivers and lakes. As long as they are kept cool and slightly damp, worms will live a long time. Most anglers keep them in the refrigerator. Nightcrawlers usually come packaged in some type of dirt or topsoil.

best live bait for freshwater fishing

Anglers can certainly catch their own nightcrawlers as well. This is best done in the early evening at night. They will come out after a fresh rain but anglers will also water the lawn just before dark. Then, using a flashlight muted some darker clear paper, angler search for them in freshly cut lawns. These rascals are quick and it does take some practice to learn to capture them! Garden worms are much easier to procure by digging in fertile soil. Compost piles will attract them as well.

chesapeake Bay blue catfish

Live bait freshwater fishing with nightcrawlers and worms

Nightcrawlers and worms can be hooked in several ways. They can be hooked right through the the front. This allows the bait to swim and undulate very naturally in the water. Many anglers feel that this leaves too much of the bait exposed away from the hook. However, most game fish, especially larger ones, will inhale the entire bait, even a large nightcrawler. This should result in a good hookup.

Anglers bottom fishing for catfish and other species will often thread the nightcrawler on a hook. Since in many instances the bait is in a fixed position, this is an effective technique. Hooking the worm in this fashion allows the juices and sense to dispersed into the water. This will hopefully attract a catfish or other species that feeds on or near the bottom. Anglers using smaller worms will often put several on the hook.

Walleye anglers have been using special harnesses to present nightcrawlers for many years. These come in a variety of designs. All of them are meant to present the nightcrawler in a very slow but natural swimming motion. Most have multiple hooks and some have spinners and other devices to help attract fish. They are used in conjunction with special bottom bouncing sinkers.

Anglers can read a comprehensive article on freshwater fishing tackle in this link

Minnesota game fish

Techniques for fishing with live worms

Nightcrawlers and worms can be fished effectively in a wide range of environments. In most instances, the best approach is to hook the nightcrawler as lightly as possible with as little weight as required. This will result in a more natural presentation. Nightcrawlers can be fished under a float, free lined with little or no weight, and fished on the bottom.

Fishing with live worms and nightcrawlers in rivers

Nightcrawlersand worms work very well for anglers fishing in rivers. They will catch a wide variety of species including largemouth and smallmouth bass, pan fish, trout, catfish, walleye, and more. In swift moving streams and rivers, the best approach is to allow the bait to drift naturally with the current. Deeper holes and slower moving areas are usually best. Smallmouth bass and trout will be caught by anglers using nightcrawlers in these faster moving waters.

rainbow trout fishing lures

Many anglers pursue catfish in larger slower moving rivers using nightcrawlers. In this application, most anglers do well by bottom fishing. Some amount of casting weight is needed to both get the bait out far enough from shore as well is keep it on the bottom. Anglers fishing in boats use special sinkers to hold the bottom. Bass and panfish will also be caught in these warmer, slower moving rivers.

fishing for bluegill

Worms are top baits for many panfish species as well. A worm or piece of nightcrawler fished under a float has produced many panfish for anglers over the decades. Most panfish have small mouths. Therefore, a smaller garden worm or red wiggler is the best choice when targeting these diminutive little game fish.


best live bait for crappie

Big fish eat little fish, it is a basic fact of life. Therefore, live minnows are a fantastic bait used by anglers freshwater fishing all over the world. They are second on the list of top 6 live baits for freshwater fishing. Small minnows are very effective on crappie. Live minnows are by far the top live bait for crappie. Large bluegill and trout will take them as well.

Medium sized minnows will fool smallmouth bass, walleye, larger trout, and a host of other species. Anglers targeting trophy largemouth bass, pike, musky, and other species will use live minnows up to a foot long!

bass fishing

Anglers can either purchase live minnows or catch their own. In areas where they are effective baits, live minnows are available at most bait and tackle shops. Most are commercially raised and fairly easy to keep alive in an aerated bucket or livewell. Bait fish species vary by region and the list is long. However, shops will carry the best minnows for their particular region.

Anglers can catch live minnows in traps or by using seines, cast nets, and dip nets. This can be great sport itself. A minnow trap set in the evening will often catch enough baits for a morning of fishing. Nets and seines can quickly catch a lot of minnows. Anglers in large lakes use cast nets to catch live herring and shad for striped bass and catfish. Anglers should check local fishing regulations before catching live bait fish.

top 18 Minnesota game fish species

Freshwater fishing with live minnows

Live minnows can be presented in a variety of manners. In shallow water, live minnows are most often fished under a float. This allows anglers to suspend the bait at the desired depth, usually just above the bottom or submerged vegetation or structure. Anglers can hook the minnow through the lips or under the dorsal fin.

Anglers fishing with minnows in freshwater can use them in deep water as well. A minnow lip hooked on a drop shot rig works very well. A bare jig can be used and is very convenient as the hook and weight is combined in one unit. This works very well for anglers ice fishing.

crappie fishing


Crayfish are a terrific freshwater fishing baits. They are primarily used for bass, particularly smallmouth bass, but will fool most freshwater game fish species. Tiny crayfish are deadly on large bluegill. Catfish and walleye will devour them in rivers.

live bait fishing

Crayfish are fairly easy to catch in traps. A trap baited with a chunk of bacon and left overnight in a likely spot should catch a bunch of crayfish. Some bait shops sell them, but crayfish are less available than minnows and worms.

Crayfish love rocks and are often found near them. That is one reason they are such productive baits for smallmouth bass and walleye, which relate to rocky structures as well. Crayfish are especially effective in streams and rivers, which is prime habitat for crayfish.

bass fishing

Crayfish are most often hooked in the tail from the underside. They are drifted in the current in streams and rivers or along rip rap, rocky and gravel points, and submerged rock piles in lakes. They are usually fished with little weight, perhaps just a spilt shot or two if required.

Crickets and grasshoppers

bluegill crickets

Crickets are a bit of a specialty bait. They are mostly used for bluegill and other panfish. Gray crickets are raised commercially and are the species that are available at bait shops that sell them. Many anglers believe that crickets catch the largest bluegill. They are mostly fished in shallow water under a float and are usually hooked under the collar.

bluegill fishing

Grasshoppers are rarely sold in bait shops. Anglers can catch them in the morning when dew on the vegetation slows them down. They are similar to crickets in the manner in which they are hooked as well as being excellent baits for panfish. Grasshoppers will also catch all species of trout in streams as well.



Leeches are found throughout North America and the rest of the world. However, they are really only used as fishing bait in the northern states and Canada. They are very enticing in the water as the undulate quite seductively. Walleye and smallmouth bass in particular love them!

Leeches are available at bait shops and even online. They do best in an aerated container, but will live in the refrigerator if the water is changed every day or two. Leeches do not like warm or dirty water.

walleye fishing in Michigan

Most anglers fish leeches on or very close to the bottom. A worm harness or Carolina rig works well. Structure such as channel edges, rockpiles, submerged vegetation, and reefs are top spots to fish a live leech.

Grubs and maggots

Grubs and maggots are universally used by anglers ice fishing. They will fool just about every species that can be caught through the ice. Mealworms and wax worms (waxies) are the most popular. Anglers often fish them in conjunction with a jig.They are final on the list of top 6 live baits for freshwater fishing.


Grubs and maggots are readily available at bait shops in ice fishing country. They are also available to order online. Most are fairly easy to keep alive as long as they do not get too warm or too cold. They are also terrific for panfish in open water.

Fishing with live nightcrawlers in lakes

Nightcrawlers certainly work very well in lakes, too. Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, catfish, trout, and panfish are the primary species being sought. However, just about every other species that swims will take one.

In shallow water, anglers free line baits near cover. Weed edges, sloping points, docks, bridges, ledges, submerged rock piles, and submerged weed beds are just a few examples of good fish holding cover. Anglers can use a float to suspend the nightcrawler just above the structure. This both reduces snags and gives anglers a visual reference when a fish takes the bait. Anglers fishing for panfish will do well just using a small piece of a nightcrawler on a small hook.

Anglers fishing with nightcrawlers in deeper water will usually choose to use some type of sinker. There are quite a few different designs of fishing sinkers that anglers can use to keep their baits on or near the bottom. This applies to rigs as well. Species such as catfish and sturgeon are found very close to the bottom. Rigs that present the nightcrawler on the bottom will do best.

Slow trolling with a live nightcrawler is an extremely effective technique for walleye and smallmouth bass in deeper portions of lakes. Using special bottom bouncing sinkers, the nightcrawler is hooked on a Lindy Rig or other set up that allows the nightcrawler to swim naturally in the water. Precise boat control keeps the bait right in the strike zone.

Live bait for freshwater fishing; species that will hit a nightcrawler

The list of species that will take a nightcrawler is very long. It includes just about every game fish in North America. There are a few subtle differences in location a presentation that will help anglers catch more fish.


Both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass will take a live nightcrawler. In fact, the most popular lure for largemouth bass is a plastic worm. There is good reason for this! Too many anglers today overlooked the effectiveness of a live nightcrawler when targeting largemouth bass. However, smallmouth bass anglers are quite familiar with how well these baits work.

best stream fishing lures

A live nightcrawler cast out towards a weed line, dock, rock pile, or other structure in fairly shallow water will catch both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Anglers specifically seeking smallmouth will do well to fish it on a drop shot style rig on submerged rock piles and weed beds in 15 to 30 feet of water.


trout fishing blue ridge

Trout will certainly take a live nightcrawler as it drifts in the current. All of the major trout species, rainbow, brook, brown, and others all feed on worms at one time or another. They can be particularly effective when the water levels are high and stained. In those situations, the scent of a live bait can be the best choice. Generally, slower, deeper pools are the best spots to catch trout on a nightcrawler.


tailwater fishing tips and techniques

Many catfish have been landed over the years by anglers using nightcrawlers for bait. Most often, they are threaded on the hook and fished on the bottom. Anglers seeking trophy catfish will often use several nightcrawlers at once on a large hook. Deeper outside bends in river channels are excellent spots to try. Catfish in lakes will be caught on channel edges and around submerged structure such as fallen timber.


walleye fishing

Nightcrawlers are a terrific live bait for walleye! Anglers have been using them successfully for many decades. Most often, they are fished on or near the bottom using specially designed harnesses. Both trolling and drifting are effective depending on the prevailing conditions.


best bluegill lures

Nightcrawlers work very well on panfish. They are very economical bait as only a small piece of the worm is needed. This results in a dozen nightcrawlers producing a lot of bluegill, sunfish, shallow cracker, and other species. The piece of nightcrawler can be fished on a small hook with a split shot and allowed to free fall through the water column. Many anglers fish the piece of nightcrawler under a small bomber.

In conclusion, this article on the top 6 live baits for freshwater fishing will help anglers achieve more success!

6 Essential Saltwater Fly Patterns

6 Essential Saltwater Fly Patterns

This post will list the 6 essential saltwater fly patterns. Saltwater fly fishing is terrific sport! Catching a trophy fish on a fly is challenging and rewarding. The beginning of the process is choosing the best fly for the situation.

Florida fishing flies

The 6 essential saltwater fly patterns are;
  • Clouser Deep Minnow
  • Lefty’s Deceiver
  • Crystal Minnow
  • D.T. Special
  • Gotcha
  • Gurgler

best saltwater fishing fly

There are many saltwater fly patterns available to anglers. In fact, much like with artificial lures, choosing the proper fly can actually be overwhelming. This is particularly true with novice anglers just getting into the sport. However, even experienced fly casters can be intimidated by the number of patterns available. The purpose of this article is to simplify the process by narrowing it down to the six essential saltwater fishing flies.

Click to read a comprehensive article on fly fishing in Florida by Capt Jim

All of the fly patterns on this list can be tied using a variety of materials and color combinations. In most cases, there is no one set color combination as is often the case with freshwater fishing flies. Instead, successful fly anglers match the size and color of the fly to the current fishing conditions.

fly fishing Sarasota Bay

White is an excellent all round color followed by natural hues such as pink and olive. Many anglers still prefer to tie with bucktail while some consider more modern synthetic materials to be more durable. There is no right or wrong answer, it is all about angler preference.

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Clouser Deep Minnow fly pattern

The Clouser Minnow was invented by Bob Clouser as a smallmouth bass fly. Bob fished the Susquehanna River. It was not long before saltwater anglers discovered how effective this fly was on a wide variety of species. It will catch just about every saltwater game fish species and has become perhaps the most popular saltwater fishing fly.


Click this link to shop Amazon for Clouser Minnow flies

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Versatility is what makes the Clouser Deep Minnow tops on the list of the 6 essential saltwater fly patterns. It can be tied on any hook size. The weight of the eyes can be varied for multiple applications. Every color combination imaginable can be utilized to mimic any type of forage.

6 essential saltwater fishing flies

Clouser Minnow details

The Clouser Minnow consists of a hook, weighted eyes, and some dressing. If this sounds familiar, it should. That is basically the description of a buck tail jig, which is a very effective saltwater fishing lure.

The fly is usually tied with two different colors. In most cases, anglers use white on the bottom and a contrasting color on the top. White and chartreuse is a very popular color pattern. Dark natural colors such as green and olive work well, too. Anglers can certainly use two dark colors as well as one color. All white Clouser Minnows are extremely effective in clear water.

best fly for saltwater fish

Most anglers add a bunch of some type of flashy material between the two colors. This really imitates bait fish species such as silver sides, anchovies, and glass minnows. Crystal Flash works well and comes in a good variety of colors.

Clouser Minnow flies can be tied with both buck tail and synthetic material. Many anglers feel that buck tail provides more action. Synthetic material is deemed by most to be more durable. As in many situations, there is a trade off.

Weighted eyes on the Clouser Minnow

The key to the success of the Clouser Minnow is the weighted eyes. They get the fly down in the water column. The weighted eyes also provide the “jigging” action that makes the fly rise and fall when retrieved.

fly fishing

Eyes come in a variety of weights and colors. This certainly adds to the productivity of the Clouser Minnow. Anglers can tailor the fly to the conditions that they will be fishing. Heavy eyes tied on a larger hook and used on a sinking line will allow anglers to fish the fly fairly deep. Conversely, light eyes fished on a floating or sink tip line will work much shallower.

Another great aspect of the Clouser Minnow is that it rides with the hook up. This results in the fly being fairly weedless. It can be worked through shallow grass fairly easily.

Tying the Clouser Minnow

The Clouser Minnow is an easy fly to tie. With the hook in the vice in the upright position, the eyes are tied on. The eyes need to sit back a bit to allow room for material to be tied on the front of the hook. It is a good idea to add a drop of glue here to help keep the eyes in place.

fly fishing in Florida

A strip of material is then tied onto the top of the hook. Since the fly rides hook up, this will be the bottom or belly of the pattern. Most anglers use white for this strip. The hook is then turned over on the vice. This is usually where the flash is tied in. After that, the other colored material (unless one solid color is used) is tied on top. Anglers can get creative and add a peacock strip or something to outline the top. A whip finish or half hitches finishes off the fly.

Lefty’s Deceiver

The Lefty’s Deceiver was created by legendary fly tier and fisher Lefty Kreh. It is a definitive bait fish pattern. It is unweighted and can be tied in any size or color. Anglers can keep it simple or get creative!

lefty's deceiver

Click this link to shop Amazon for Deceiver flies

The Deceiver is white on the bottom with a little red under the throat. The back is usually darker, with green being a popular color. Peacock is often used on the back to accentuate the profile. It has some flash mixed in. It usually has a few feathers splayed. This gives the fly great action in the water. Lefty’s Deceiver is second on the list of the 6 essential saltwater fly patterns.

The Deceiver pattern is an unweighted fly. It is fairly wide, offering a broad profile. It is an excellent fly when used to imitate bait fish such as herring and sardines which are broadly shaped. As mentioned earlier, it is usually white on the bottom than transitioning into a darker back. This color combination mimics many natural bait fish.

saltwater fishing flies

Lefty’s Deceiver can be used to cover the entire water column. When used with a floating line it will stay near the surface as it is an unweighted pattern. Anglers wishing to fish it deeper can do so with a sink tip or full sinking line. It is an excellent fly choice any time bait fish are present and will full just about every saltwater species that will take a fly.

D.T. Special

saltwater fishing flies

The D.T. Special is a very good bait fish pattern. It works very well for schooling fish such as Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks, and false albacore. It has the shank of the hook wrapped in thread, splayed feathers on the tail with a touch of buck tail and flash. Bead chain eyes can be added. It can be tied in a variety of colors, however white is predominantly used.

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Like most diverse fishing flies, the D.T. Special can be worked throughout the water column and will fool a wide variety of species. It is easy to cast as it does not weigh a lot and has minimal bulk. I can be especially effective in shallow, clear water when fish are a bit finicky. It is usually worked fairly quickly with sharp strips followed by a pause.

6 essential saltwater fly patterns

Anglers can tie a variation of this fly on a long shank hook for Spanish mackerel and bluefish. This really reduces cut-offs and eliminates the need for a steel leader. This in turn drastically increases strikes. The longer shank acts as a leader, giving the fish and extra inch or so to take the fly without cutting it off. It does not sound like much, but it really makes a difference.

5 essential saltwater fishing flies

Crystal Minnow

The Crystal Minnow is a variation of the Clouser Minnow. It is a very good snook fly here in Florida. It is next on the list of 6 essential saltwater fly patterns. Anglers fly fishing lighted docks and bridges at night do very well with this pattern. It can be tied to imitate both bait fish and shrimp and other crustaceans. White and pink are popular colors patters.

essential saltwater fishing flies

The fly has bead chain eyes. These are not heavy enough to turn the fly over. Therefore, it sits upright. The shank has some type of body material to add bulk and color. A tail extends to the rear. This is a very easy fly to tie and is extremely effective. It is the perfect choice when fishing in clear water, when fish can be finicky, and especially when they are feeding on small bait fish such as glass minnows.

Gotcha fly

6 essential saltwater fishing flies

The Gotcha fly pattern is the perfect shrimp imitation. It is similar to a Clouser but with a few slight variations. It usually uses smaller bead chain eyes. The Gotcha also is tied with a short tail in the shank of the hook is wrapped some type of material. It is usually tied on a smaller hook, in sizes #4 and #6.

The smaller hook and lighter be chain eyes result in the fly making a very subtle entry into the water. Bonefish, permit, and other species are very spooky and clear shallow water. This fly is the perfect choice in these circumstances. Gotcha patterns are usually tied in natural colors such as pink, white, brown, and olive, often with combinations of those.

Top 25 Florida game fish

While best known for sight casting to shallow water game fish, this fly pattern will produce anywhere that saltwater fish eat shrimp. Therefore, it will catch just about every species that swims as rarely will any game fish turned down the opportunity to devour a tasty shrimp. It is usually worked a bit slower and with more finesse than some of the other bait fish fly patterns.

top game fish in Florida

Gurgler fly pattern

fly fishing

Every angler fly fishing and saltwater should have a surfaced fly in his or her fly box. It is quite thrilling to see a game fish take a fly on the surface. However, many poppers and surface flies are quite bulky and can be difficult to cast, especially when it is breezy and also for novice anglers.

For these reasons, Capt. Jim recommends the Gurgler are fly pattern. It is last on the list of 6 essential saltwater fly patterns. It is a bit less bulky than some of the other popper and surface fly patterns. It can be tied in any variety of colors and sizes. The Gurgler uses a bent over piece of foam to produce the surface disruption which attracts game fish.

In conclusion, this article on the 6 essential saltwater fly patterns will help fly anglers catch more fish!

Best Live Bait for Smallmouth Bass

Best Live Bait for Smallmouth Bass

Many anglers fish for smallmouth bass using live bait. After all, why use an imitation when you can use the real thing? There are several effective live baits for smallmouth bass. However, there is one live bait that rises above the others.

The best live bait for smallmouth bass is a live crawfish. There are several reasons for this. Crayfish are plentiful near rocks, a structure that smallmouth bass prefer. Crayfish are very high in protein. This is something that smallmouth bass and other game fish need. Crayfish are fairly large and make a substantial meal. Finally, all things considered crayfish are fairly easy for smallmouth bass to catch.

Smallmouth bass and crayfish have one thing in common, they love rocks! In fact, one of the reasons that smallmouth bass are caught so often on rocky structure is there affinity for crayfish. Often times, the best fishing spots for smallmouth bass include rip rap, submerged rocky islands, and points with gravel or other rock on. This is not a coincidence.

Crayfish live in the crevices and under rocks in both rivers and lakes. A live crayfish properly presented is an extremely productive live bait for smallmouth bass. They will certainly catch other species as well. However, smallmouth bass in particular have crayfish as a very high percentage of their diet. Anglers may enjoy this comprehensive post, Smallmouth Bass Fishing for Beginners as well.

Anglers can read a comprehensive article on freshwater fishing tackle in this link.

How to acquire live crayfish for smallmouth bass bait

Crayfish are not available at a lot of bait shops. Some bait shops that cater to smallmouth bass anglers will keep them in stock. This really depends on the geographical part of the country. The Ozarks and Midwest bait shops tend to have them more often than others.

This means that the majority of anglers will have to catch their own crayfish to use for bait. Fortunately, this is not very difficult. Special crayfish traps can be purchased online which do a very good job of catching these little crustaceans. Minnow traps will also catch their fair share.

The best approach is to bait the minnow trap with some type of meat. Bacon works very well as crayfish bait. The trap is then placed in a slower moving deeper pool in a stream or river or along a rocky shoreline in a lake. Crayfish are nocturnal. Therefore, traps will do best if allowed to set overnight.

Anglers can also catch crayfish by hand. This is best done smaller creeks and streams. A large aquarium that can be placed behind a rock. The angler then lifts the rock and often times if a crayfish is there the current will sweep it into the net. Seines can work well for catching crayfish to. This requires one angler to hold the saying and the other two kick rocks upstream, washing the crayfish down into the seine.

Best method to hook live crayfish for smallmouth bass

Crayfish are almost always hooked in the tail. Anglers hold the crayfish by the front of their body, squeezing the pinchers in tight. Then, the hook is put through the tail of the crayfish from the bottom than out of the top. Since crayfish generally school backwards when fleeing, this results in a natural presentation.

Anglers should keep the terminal tackle as light as possible. Often times, a simple hook and a light split shot is all that is required. This works very well when working a crayfish down a sloping point or over a fairly shallow submerged rock pile. Anglers fishing and streams and rivers will do well with the same rig. The hook size should match the size of the bait. A #4 short shank live bait hook is a good all-around choice.

Anglers fishing with live crayfish in deeper water will often opt for a variation of a Carolina rig. With this set up, the line passes through a sliding sinker and then is tied to a swivel. A 2 foot leader is used between the swivel and the hook. This keeps the bait on the bottom while allowing the crayfish to move around a bit. It is very effective!

Techniques for fishing live crayfish for smallmouth bass

For best results, the crayfish should be worked right on the bottom fairly slowly. Crayfish walked forward and feed when not threatened. When they do feel threatened, their response is to flick their tail and shoot backwards raising their clause a defense. Many and artificial lure has been designed to mimic this behavior.

Anglers fishing with live crayfish and lakes will do well to work drop-offs on sloping points in water between 10 feet deep and 20 feet deep. Submerged islands and rock piles are prime spots as well. The area around bridges is often filled with rip rap. This is a terrific place to seek out a smallmouth bass as well.

Crayfish work very well on smallmouth bass and streams and rivers, too. In fact, this is really their natural environment. Most artificial lures that anglers use for smallmouth bass and rivers mimic crayfish. The best technique is to free line the crayfish on a hook with a small split shot. In areas with a lot of snags, anglers can fish the bait under a float as well.

Other live baits for smallmouth bass

While crayfish are the best live bait for smallmouth bass, there are other live baits which produce fish as well. These include nightcrawlers, minnows, helgremites, and leeches.


Most every freshwater angler has fish with a nightcrawler at one time or another. They may be the best all around freshwater fishing live bait that there is. However, they come in a close second to the crayfish when pursuing smallmouth bass. One advantage nightcrawlers have over crayfish is their convenience. Nightcrawlers are available at just about every bait and tackle store. They are also much easier to keep alive in store than are live crayfish. They are fished much in the same manner, with free lining on a hook with little weight being the best choice.

best live bait for freshwater fishing


Big fish eat little fish. It has been that way forever and will continue to be so. Smallmouth bass are no exception in that they will readily take a frisky live minnow. Depending on the geographic location, anglers have several choices as far as the types of minnow that can be used. Commercially Ray shiners are quite popular. Larger Missouri minnow’s work well, too. Anglers can catch their own minnows as well. However, they need to check local regulations to make sure that they stay in legal compliance.

In shallow water fishing situations, minnows are fished under a float for smallmouth bass. This results in the minnow pulling frantically against the bobber. This will definitely attract a hungry smallmouth bass or other species. In deeper water, minnows are fished on a variation of a drop shot rig. With this set up, the weight sits on the bottom while the minnow is suspended a foot or so above.


Helgremites are a bit of a specialized bait. Very few bait shops sell them and anglers will have to catch their own. They are almost always found in moving water and streams in creeks. Helgramites are the larva of the dobsonfly. They are superb live baits for smallmouth bass. The only reason that they rank behind crayfish is the difficulty in obtaining them. Anglers catch them in seines and with that’s and running water behind rocks.


Leeches are another specialized bait that northern anglers use for smallmouth bass. They are primarily available to anglers fishing for walleye. However, they are a very good smallmouth bass bait and 10 to catch larger fish than some of the other live baits. Leeches have a tremendous and seductive swimming action and the water.

In conclusion, this article on the best live bait for smallmouth bass will help anglers catch more of these terrific game fish!

Freshwater Fishing Tackle and Lures, a Beginners Guide

Freshwater Fishing Tackle and Lures, a Beginners Guide

This article on freshwater fishing tackle and lures will help anglers new to the sport choose the tackle and lures that will need to get started fishing. The selection of fishing equipment is extensive. It can be quite confusing. In this article Capt Jim will break it down and give recommendations. There is no one set of tackle and lures that will cover every fishing situation.

freshwater fishing tackle and lures

Capt Jim Klopfer is a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. He grew up in Maryland, fishing both freshwater and saltwater. Capt Jim fishes the lakes and rivers of Florida often. He also has a home in Franklin, NC. He fishes there for trout and smallmouth bass. In this article Capt Jim will not list every lure option, this will just overwhelm anglers. Instead, he will give you his personal favorites.

Freshwater fishing rods and reels

The primary piece of equipment that an angler will need is the fishing rod and reel. The rods are fairly similar. The reel seat and guides are a bit different. Rods come in various “actions”. Capt Jim likes a “fast” action. This means that the rod is stout at the butt (reel) end but limber at the tip. Most outfits are well matched from the manufacturer.

freshwater fishing tackle

Fishing rods have recommendations for line and lure size right on the blank. This really aids anglers in determining the best rod and reel combination to use for their application.

Click on the title link to read Capt Jim’s E-book Fishing for Crappie, Bluegill, and Panfish

However, there are three choices when it comes to reels. These are spin cast (closed faced), spinning (open faced), and conventional (baitcasting). Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Spin cast rods and reels

Many anglers caught their first fish on a spin cast outfit. These have several names including “push button” and “closed faced”. The line is released by pushing a button on the the back then releasing it to let the line out. A cowl with a hole in it covers the spool. These reels are inexpensive and fairly easy to use. They are not a bad choice for children and novice anglers.

freshwater fishing lures

Spin cast reels do have their limitations. They do not hold much line. Also, the retrieve ratios are usually low, meaning the line comes back in slowly. Finally, the drags are fair at best. That said, these outfits do have a loyal following and plenty of big fish have been landed by anglers using them.

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fishing for crappie, bluegill, and panfish

Spin Cast outfits are available in a variety of sizes. Ultra light rigs are best for panfish while the largest versions can handle a big catfish. Below are a few recommendations for anglers to choose from.

Freshwater fishing with spinning outfits

For most anglers freshwater fishing, spinning tackle is the best choice. Some anglers refer to them as ‘open faced” reels. This is due to the fact that the spool is open and easily seen. A bail covers the spool. It is flipped to allow the line to be cast. Anglers put the line under their index finger and let it slide off when casting.

Manitoba fishing tips

Spinning reels are affordable, versatile, and fairly easy to use. They come in many different sizes. Reels are sized by number, usually using four digits. A 1000 reel is small while a 6000 reel will catch a big fish. Most spinning reels can be reeled from either side. The handles swap over. This is an advantage that neither spin cast or conventional reels offer.

Anglers have a wide range of choices when it comes to a spinning outfit. A quality unit can be purchased for under $100. A serviceable rig can be purchased for much less that that. Below are a few option to choose from for anglers that would like to shop. “10” sized reels are the same as “1000”, 30 sized reels are the same as “3000”.

Click this link to shop Amazon for KastKing spinning combos

A 1000-2000 series reel on a matching rod is a good all round choice for anglers fishing for smaller fish such as panfish, trout, small bass, and small catfish in smaller waters. Anglers will often be casting small lures and baits. Light tackle is required for this. 4lb or 6lb line should be used with these outfits.

bluegill and panfish lures

A 3000-4000 series reel is better suited for anglers tossing heavier lures and baits for larger fish. These are still light enough to fish for smaller fish. However, the battle will not be as enjoyable. Still, it is a good choice for anglers who will be fishing in a variety of waters for both small and medium sized fish. Bass, walleye, larger trout, carp, and catfish are examples of this. Spools should be filled with 8lb to 12lb line.

5000-6000 series reels and larger are for anglers seeking big fish. This includes casting heavy baits for big catfish and carp. Big striped bass, northern pike and musky will also require this heavier tackle. For the most part, this type of tackle is too heavy for average freshwater fishing. Lines testing 17lb to 20lb work best.

Conventional, or bait casting rods and reels

The third option for anglers is a conventional or ‘baitcasting” outfit. These are most often used by experienced anglers. They cost more money and are difficult to master. However, in skilled hands, they are awesome! The line comes on the spool. When cast, anglers “thumb” the spool to prevent an over run (tangled line).

light tackle trolling in saltwater

Click this link to shop Amazon for Lew’s baitcasting outfits

Conventional outfits are the best choice for anglers who like to troll. Reels can even be purchased with “line counters” to let anglers know how far back the lure is. These are also good for anglers who like to bottom fish for big catfish. Below are a few recommendations.

Click this link to shop Amazon for a conventional freshwater rod and reel

Freshwater fishing line choices

Fishing line comes in several variations as well. Like everything else, there are advantages and disadvantages to them. The choices are monofilament, flourocarbon, and braid.

trout fishing blue ridge

Monofilament is the best choice for most novice anglers. It is inexpensive and knots are easy to tie. Flourocarbon is great, but quite expensive. Braided line is expensive, but lasts a long time. It has no stretch, improving the sensitivity. Knots are more difficult to tie and anglers often use a leader with braid.

Click these links to shop Amazon for braided and monofilament fishing line

Fish hooks, sinkers, and floats

Anglers freshwater fishing with live or cut bait will need hooks, sinkers, and sometimes leaders and swivels. This is just basic gear for basic fishing.

Freshwater fishing hooks

Hooks come in a variety of sizes and styles. It gets a tad confusing in the larger sizes. The larger the number, the smaller the hook. A #2 hook is much larger than a #12 hook. However, in the larger hooks, they use the “ought” sizing. A 1/0 hook is larger than a #2 hook. A 5/0 hook is larger than a 1/0 hook. Confused?

fishing with spinners in rivers and streams

Just to keep it simple, anglers should get “baitholder” style hooks in various sizes. These have little barbs on the shank that help hold the bait. #10-#8 is good for panfish. #2 would be good for crappie and smaller bass. #1/0 is a good size for catfish. Anglers should match the hook to the size of the bait, not the size of the fish being sought. This will result in a more natural presentation.

Fishing sinkers

Fishing sinkers also come in many sizes and shapes. Basically, they all do the same thing; get the bait down in the water column. Small split shot can be pinched on the line and are good for fishing in shallow water. Egg sinkers slide on the line. Bank sinkers are used for bottom fishing. Anglers can read all about light tackle bottom fishing in this article on light tackle bottom fishing.

Fishing floats

Floats, or bobbers, are used to suspend the bait at a desired depth. They also serve to provide casting weight as well as giving a visual reference to a bite. Bobbers come in various sizes and styles. A handful of round red and white bobbers in several sizes will cover most situations.

Click this link to shop Amazon for fishing floats

Freshwater fishing lures

It surprises many anglers new to the sport that artificial lures can out-fish live bait. How can a fake or plastic bait be more appealing that something real? The answer is that fish bite for several reasons. These include angler, hunger, excitement, competition, and defense.

Oklahoma bass fishing women

Lures have two big advantages. Anglers can cover a lot more water with artificial lures than they can with bait. Also, lures can trigger strikes from inactive fish. Many lures are designed to vibrate or flash to elicit these reflex strikes.

Lures come in several basic design types. These include soft plastic baits, jigs, hard body baits or “plugs”, spinners, spinnerbaits, and spoons. Capt Jim will cover each of these along with his preferred baits.

Soft plastic freshwater fishing lures

Soft plastic baits are incredibly effective fishing lures. Back in the day “rubber worms” fooled a lot of bass. Since their introduction in the 1960’s, soft plastic baits have come a long way. Bait mimic everything from worms, lizards, frogs, crayfish, minnows, and more. Some resemble nothing that lives but still catch fish! They are fished on a hook or some type of jig head.

gulp jerk shad


Capt Jim really likes the GULP line of baits. He uses the saltwater versions extensively on his fishing charters. The freshwater baits work great as well. They come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. GULP baits are heavily scented and really combine artificial lures with live bait.

Click these links to shop Amazon for Gulp Alive minnow and Jerk Shad baits

mister twister

Click this link to shop Amazon for MIster Twister lures

Mister Twister makes a terrific line of soft plastic baits. They basically invented the curly tail grub. These range from tiny baits for panfish to larger ones for big bass. Capt Jim will give a few of the baits that he likes best.

Click this link to shop Amazon for MIster Twister lures


The Yamamoto Senko is a fantastic soft plastic bait. It is Capt Jim’s favorite plastic worm, by far. The Senko has incredible action and does not require a lot of action by the anglers. It can be rigged a variety of ways. Green pumpkin flake is a great all round color.

Click here to shop Amazon for Senko baits

Rigging soft plastic baits

Soft plastic baits can be rigged several ways. Plastic worms are rigged to be weedless on special hooks. This is called a “Texas rig”. Swimbait hooks are another special design that work well on larger baits.

Click this link to shop Amazon for swimbait and worm hooks

Soft plastic lures can also be rigged on a jig head. This is the method that Capt Jim prefers. It works especially well on smaller panfish baits. However, larger plastic baits are extremely effective on jig heads, particularly for walleye and smallmouth bass.

Freshwater fishing jigs

Jigs are similar to a soft plastic bait rigged on a jig head. The difference is that the jig is a complete unit. It comes with a jig head along with some type of dressing over the hook. This can be a natural material such as buck tail or marabou. These look very natural in the water. Synthetic hair is popular as well. Some come with rubber legs that undulate enticingly in the water.

road runner


Capt Jim’s favorite jig for freshwater fishing is the Blakemore Roadrunner. It comes in sizes for every fishing application and will catch every species. The lure can be purchased with a marabout tail or plain so that anglers can add a soft plastic tail. It also has a spinner blade which adds flash and vibration.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Road Runner lures

Freshwater fishing plugs

Plugs are hard baits that used to be wood and are now almost all plastic. For the most part, they mimic bait fish. However, some are crayfish and other imitations. Some plugs are worked on the surface. These are called “topwater” plugs. Others have a lip which causes them to dive down into the water. Plugs can be cast or trolled.

walleye fishing

Plugs are easy to cast. Most have a built in action that makes them easy to use. On the negative side, plugs are expensive. They also have treble hooks which are more dangerous when casting or unhooking fish. However, they are very productive and a lot of fun to fish!

tiny torpedo

The Heddon Tiny Torpedo is Capt Jim’s favorite topwater plug. It has been around a long time and still catches fish. The size is perfect for catching fish of all sizes.

Rapala x rap

The Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait is Capt Jim’s favorite subsurface plug. This type of bait is knows as a “jerk bait” due to the manner in which it is worked. The lure is sharply jerked then paused. This pause usually draws the strike. Colors vary depending on the water fished. White is a great all round color.  #8 is a good size for most species.


The Bill Lewis Rattletrap is a lipless crankbait. It is easy to use. The angler simply casts it out and reels it back in with a steady pace. This lure has a ton of built in action that provokes strikes from inactive fish. Chrome with a blue back is a top color pattern

Click these links to shop Amazon for Tiny Torpedo Rapala X-Rap and Rat-L-Trap lures


best panfish fishing lures

Spinners are simple yet effective freshwater fishing lures. They consist of a shaft with a blade that rotates, emitting flash and vibration. The hook is on the tail and is often dressed with hair. Spinners are easy to use and are extremely effective, particularly in streams and rivers. They can also be trolled.

rooster tail

The Wordens Roostertail is Capt Jim’s favorite spinner. It is also by far his favorite river fishing lure. The Roostertail is extremely effective on all trout species. It also produces panfish in lakes and ponds. The larger versions will catch pike, musky, and bass. Color patterns are endless. Capt Jim likes bright colors with a gold blade. They are available in single hook versions for trout fishing where treble hooks are not allowed.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Rooster tail spinners


Spinnerbaits are odd looking lures that really do not resemble anything in nature. However, they do combine two great lures; spinners and jigs. They have a wire frame that resembles a safety pin. A blade or blades run at the top. A jig with a skirt or grub is at the bottom.

beetle spin

These are terrific artificial lures for novice anglers! The cast well and are very easy to use. They also have a single hook, which makes releasing fish easy. The design also makes them very weedless. There are a lot of great spinnerbaits out there. However, Capt Jim loves the Johnson Beetlespin. The small versions are extremely productive on panfish. Larger models catch bass and other species. Black is his favorite color.

Click here to shop Amazon for Beetle spin lures

Freshwater spoons

Spoons are a simple lure that have been around a very long time. Basically they are a bent piece of metal with a hook at the rear. Properly designed, they wobble and flash enticingly, putting out flash and vibration. Spoons cast a long way and are easy for novice anglers to use. Anglers should use a swivel with a spoon to reduce line twist.



Spoons can not only be cast, but are extremely effective when trolled. Walleye, trout, and salmon anglers have been catching fish with them for decades. The spoon that Capt Jim likes best is the Acme Kastmaster. Small models are great for river fishing for trout and smallmouth bass. Larger spoons work well for other game fish. Gold is his first choice, silver is second.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Kastmaster spoons


An article on spoons would not be complete without recognizing the Eppinger Daredevil. This is THE lure for northern pike. It is also effective on musky, bass, walleye, and other species. It comes in several color patterns, with the red and white and “five of diamonds” patterns being the best.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Daredevil spoons


There are a few other items that anglers will need to get started fishing in freshwater. These include a pair of pliers, landing net, good pair of sunglasses, bait bucket (if fishing with minnows), fillet knife (if keeping fish), and waders, if needed. Like any hobby, equipment is needed to enjoy the sport!

In conclusion, this article on freshwater fishing tackle and lures will help beginner anglers understand what gear they need to get started!

Ice Fishing Basics, How to get started

Ice Fishing Basics, how to get started.

This article, ice fishing basics, how to get started, will cover everything the angler needs to know to take his or her new equipment out on the ice and catch fish! Ice fishing is really not all that different from open water fishing. The main consideration is that anglers only have the opportunity to use a vertical presentation.

Anglers can read all about the ice fishing tackle and gear that they need in this article.

Understanding fish migrations when ice fishing

Anglers ice fishing must first decide where they are going to fish. Those that have a “home Lake” that they fish exclusively have that decision already made for them. Other anglers have a wide choice of bodies of water from which to choose. Fishing reports from local bait shops and online forums are a good resource to use for novice anglers getting started. Bait and tackle bought at local shops is money well spent as the advice you will get from these businesses is invaluable!

Anglers who would like to read more about ice fishing can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “A Complete Guide to Ice Fishing” by clicking on the title link.

ice fishing gear

While ice certainly hinders anglers from using boats, it does not at all change the migration patterns of fish below. The winter patterns are very similar to summer, except in reverse. Early in the ice fishing season, which is fall, fish are likely to be found quite shallow. As midwinter approaches, and the water gets even colder, fish will migrate to deeper holes, points, and main lake channels. The pattern will reverse itself as spring approaches.

Drilling ice fishing holes

One good strategy for novice ice anglers is to drill a dozen or so holes 10 feet apart. Ideally, these holes will be in multiple depths over quality, fish holding structure. Points are excellent spots to take this approach. This is especially true if they drop off into the main river channel. Drilling multiple holes like this allows anglers to cover a lot of water. They can also set up tip ups or tip downs in the holes that they are not actively fishing.

Holes will need to be cleaned out occasionally. This is where the skimmer comes into play. This will make fishing easier. One tip veteran ice anglers use is to keep some slush in the hole when fishing shallow. This can make a big difference when the fish are wary.

Ice fishing strategies

Early in the ice fishing season, weed beds and other structure in 10 to 15 feet of water are a good place to start. Anglers should drill the first couple holes there, then work out deeper. This is especially effective on a sloping flat or point. Holes should not be drilled at the same depth. Determining the depth at which fish are feeding at is a crucial aspect of ice fishing!

Successful ice fishing anglers do a lot of the work before the lake freezes. The same spots that produce in late spring and summer will produce in the winter as well. Anglers can use a hand held GPS unit to mark underwater structure such as drop-offs, bends in the channel, rock piles, weed beds, and more. The combination of cover and structure usually results in a productive fishing spot.

GPS units are not only for finding fish. They are important safety equipment as well. This is not really an issue on smaller lakes. However, on large bodies of water it is easy for anglers to get turned around in bad weather. Also, if a medical issue arises, help will know where to go.

Anglers can shop Amazon for  ice fishing rod and reel combos

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Structure is a physical change in the lake or river bottom. These include river channel edges and bends, points, flats, and drop-offs. These are things that pretty much do not change. Fish use structure as underwater roads on which they migrate. Cover consists of things such as fallen timber, rock piles, reefs, and weed beds. Fish use structure to migrate but cover to hide in and ambush prey.

Effects of weather when ice fishing

It surprises many anglers new to ice fishing that fish under the ice respond very similar to fish in open water. Early and late in the day are the best times to fish. Fish have fixed pupils. That means they can’t adjust to changing light conditions. They see best in low light conditions. That is why, generally speaking, fish bite better early, late, and on cloudy days.

Pressure systems greatly affect fish activity as well, just as in open water fishing. Fish will bite best as a cold front approaches. As the pressure starts to drop, fish will feed actively and aggressively. When it drops further, they will slow down. As the front moves through and the pressure rises up high, fish will often shut down. Those “post cold front” trips can be tough!

Wind and weather changes will also affect the current under the ice. This can drastically affect the bite! Only experience will help anglers understand how the wind direction and speed will affect fish habits in each body of water.

Ice fishing techniques

Now that the body of water has been chosen in the holes have been drilled, it is time to go fishing! One nice thing about ice fishing is that the actual fishing gear is really fairly simple. Anglers can choose to fish with live bait, artificial lures, or a combination of the two. This latter choice is often times the best as it combines the best of both worlds; the flash and movement of and artificial lure with the feel and taste of live bait.

ice fishing for yellow perch

Ice fishing with jigs

For most anglers ice fishing, a jig is the best choice when getting started. Quality jig heads are very light, brightly colored, with a very sharp hook. One of the best jigs to use are VMC Neon Moon Eye jig heads. They are manufactured with a very thin shank. They also have a bait holder. These two factors combine to help both live and artificial baits stay on the hook. Live bait will also remain lively for a longer period of time.

ice fishing basics


The VMC Neon Moon Eye jig has a couple other advantages as well. It’s slender design cuts through the water, making it a great choice when fishing in current. Finally, the glowing head helps game fish find the bait. This is especially helpful in low light conditions when fish bite best!

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It is important to match the jig to the species being sought after. Tiny jigs are best used for panfish. Conversely, larger baits will produce walleye and pike. Jigs are very effective and many anglers prefer them over live bait for both the convenience and productivity. The latest grubs are extremely realistic with their 3-D technology.

Fishing the jig

The technique used for fishing a jig under the ice is fairly simple. The angler opens the bail and the jig is allowed to fall through the water column to the bottom. Subtle movements are used to hop the jig very gently up off of the bottom. In this frigid water, the fishes metabolism has slowed.

A fast-moving, erratic action will not produce in most cases. The old saying “if you think you’re moving it slow enough, cut your speed in half, and you’re probably just about right” is a good philosophy.

After the jig has been worked right on the bottom for a fair amount of time, It can be slowly worked up through the water column. Tapping the jig gently on the bottom will help game fish find the lure. This is especially true for anglers seeking walleye.

Many fish will be found suspended in the water column, not just right on the bottom. This is a situation where a fish finder can be invaluable. Anglers can actually see the jig working and then see fish rise up to take. It is kind of like a fishing video game!

ice fish finder

Click to shop Amazon for an ice fishing fish finder

Ice fishing with spoons and plugs

northern pike ice fishing

The same approach can be used for anglers using other artificial lures as well. Small specially designed hard baits such as the Rapala Jigging Rap will produce fish. Often times these lures will attract larger game fish. Spoons can also be fished in a similar manner. They come in a wide variety of sizes from tiny are designed for panfish to larger spoons which will fool a big walleye or northern pike.

Anglers can read more about ice fishing with lures in this article.

Ice fishing with live bait

Live bait is certainly quite productive when chasing fish under the ice. The most commonly used live baits are wax worms, maggots, grubs, nightcrawlers, and minnows. In areas where ice fishing is popular, these are readily available at local shops. With the exception of minnows, most live bait is easy to store and keep alive.

ice fishing gear

Anglers ice fishing with live bait can fish them on a bare hook or a jig head. As mentioned above, the jig head is a very convenient device for presenting live bait as it has the weight in the hook all in one unit. Anglers can use a hook and a tiny split shot as well. At times a float is used to suspend the live bait at a determined depth.

Commercial baits produce as well

There are also many prepared baits that are available. The main advantage to these baits is the convenience. In some respects, this goes for fishing with artificial lures as well. The GULP line of baits kind of bridges the two. They are artificial lures but are heavily scented as well.

Often times, once a depth that the fish are feeding at is found, that pattern will produce fish and other spots as well. Most fish species tend to school up fairly tightly in the winter. This means that anglers will have to move around quite a bit in search of fish at times. However, once a school of fish is located, the action can be fantastic.

Fish finders are useful ice fishing tools

Fish finders are another excellent tool that anglers can use to increase their success. Often times patient anglers can use the fish finder to determine how a fish wants the lure or bait. By noticing how fish react, anglers can adjust the presentation to draw a strike. This can take a while, so patience is required.

Panfish are often times easy to locate on the fish finder. They will usually be suspended, often times relating to some type of structure, cover, or break line. Larger predators such as pike will show up as larger marks. Walleye can be tricky as they often hug the bottom.

Ice fishing with tip downs

Tip downs are another piece of equipment that anglers can use when ice fishing. These devices allow a rod and reel or line to be fished unattended. Live bait is normally used. When a fish strikes, the device pivots due to the weight of the fish pulling down. The rod tip will usually dip down into the hole that is being fished. Tip downs allow anglers to fish more holes at one time. This can certainly aid in locating fish.

While it may sound boring, fishing with tip downs is actually a lot a fun! It is a great way to introduce youngsters to the sport of ice fishing. They can play in the snow or chase the dog around while waiting for a fish to strike. When the bite is on and multiple tip downs are going off at once, it can be great fun as everyone scurries around trying to be the first one to get to the bent rod!

Ice fishing with tip ups

Tip ups are similar to tip down in that they can be left alone to “fish” themselves. Tip ups come in many different styles. However, there are two main types; round tip ups and wooden tip ups. Round tip ups cover the hole so it does not freeze up. This works great for anglers that want to do less “supervising” of their hole. For the most part, these anglers are seeking larger fish such as northern pike and lake trout.

Wooden tip ups require tending to much more than the round tip ups do. The hole will freeze up. These rigs have larger spools which are best for deeper water. Live bait is used since the rig fishes unattended. The best approach is to hook the bait behind the dorsal fin. It will be more lively and appear to the game fish to be fleeing. This will trigger more strikes.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing basics will help novice anglers be more successful when ice fishing!

Ice Fishing with Lures, a Comprehensive Guide

Ice Fishing with lures

This subject of this post is ice fishing with lures. While many anglers enjoy ice fishing with live bait, more and more are using lures to catch fish. Artificial lures do have a couple of advantages over live bait. Also, many anglers combine both live bait and lures. This is really the best of both worlds!

ice fishing with lures

The main advantage the anglers ice fishing with lures have over those fishing with live bait is convenience. Bait needs to be purchased and kept alive. Artificial lures sit in the tackle box, ready to fish at any time. While some live baits are pretty easy to keep alive, minnows and other baits require more time and effort.

There are many effective and productive ice fishing lures. However, there are some that stand above the rest. The following list of the top 10 ice fishing lures will cover every situation than an anglers ice fishing with lures will face.

crappie fishing

The top 10 ice fishing lures are;

  • VMC Neon Moon Eye Jig

  • Rapala Jigging Rap

  • Clam jig

  • Marmooska jig

  • Chubby Darter

  • Bro Bug jig

  • Sweedish Pimple spoon

  • Kastmaster spoon

  • Clam Leech flutter spoon

  • Rat-L-Trap

Anglers who would like to read more about ice fishing can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “A Complete Guide to Ice Fishing” by clicking on the title link.

Lures can also trigger strikes when fish are not feeding. The flash and vibration of a lure may excite a fish that is otherwise reluctant to take a live bait. Anglers do need to be subtle with the action they impart to a lure, as fish do slow down in the cold water. Jigs are the top ice fishing lure, with spoons and plugs being second and third.

ice fish finder

Click to shop Amazon for an ice fishing fish finder

Ice fishing tackle when using lures

The same rods and reels that anglers use when ice fishing with live bait work fine when presenting lures. Anglers chasing panfish will do best keeping the line as light as possible. 2 lb test is often used. As the quarry increases in size, so should the line size. However, the water is very clear and anglers should go with the lightest line possible.

ice fishing

Anglers can shop Amazon for  ice fishing rod and reel combos

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Anglers can read an article on ice fishing tackle and gear to get more information.

ice fishing tackle and gear

Lure selection

Ice fishing lures come in several types along with many colors and sizes. Lures designed to catch panfish are tiny! Larger lures are aimed at walleye, northern pike, and other larger game fish. Jigs are by far the most popular lure used by anglers ice fishing. Jig heads are often used plain to present live baits. Spoons are another very popular lure. Plugs are the final lure type used by anglers ice fishing with lures.

ice fishing jigs

Ice fishing jigs

Quality ice fishing jig heads are very light, brightly colored, with a very sharp hook. Jigs come in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and colors. However, they all basically work the same. The jig head consists of a hook with a heavier head molded in near the eye. Tungsten is often used as it is very dense. The head is often brightly colored. The weight of the head determines how fast it will sink and move in the water. It also gives the lure the action for which it gets its name. A grub body is added to the jig to complete the lure.

ice fishing for bluegill and panfish

Many anglers use a bare jig head in conjunction with live bait. This can be done when seeking bluegill using wax worms on a light jig head. Small pieces of nightcrawler can be used as well. A minnow can be used for crappie and other game fish.

Most anglers ice fishing with lures buy the jig heads and grub bodies separately. Every angler has his or her favorite bait. Some have body shapes that do not resemble anything found in the wild. Yet, they undulate seductively and catch fish! Color combinations are endless, as are jig head and body choices. There are many quality jig manufacturers. Some of the best are small companies found in local shops. Several popular options are listed below.

ice fishing for rainbow trout

VMC Neon Moon Eye jigs

VMC Neon Moon Eye jig heads are excellent ice fishing lures. They are manufactured with a very thin shank. Moon Eye jigs also have a bait holder tab. These two factors combine to help both live and artificial baits stay on the hook. Live bait will also remain lively for a longer period of time.

Fishing Lido Key is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

The VMC Neon Moon Eye jig has a couple other advantages over some other jigs as well. It has a slender design which cuts through the water. This makes it a great choice when fishing in current. The glowing head helps game fish find the bait, this is especially helpful in low light conditions when fish bite best!

Clam jigs

Clam manufactures several very productive ice fishing jigs. Their lures are made of Tungsten, which is very dense. They sink quickly despite having a small profile. The Clam XL and XXL are good examples of this. These Clam jigs hang at a 45 degree angle with larger than average hooks. The larger hooks result in better hook up ratios when using larger soft plastics or live baits. They are available in a wide range of sizes and colors.

The Clam Drop Kick was designed by Dave Genz. It has a unique and tantalizing action that pan fish in particular can not resist. It also has a flat top, making it easier to see on a fish finder. The Drop Kick has a large hook with a 90 degree eye. This results in most fish being hooked and landed.

Marmooska jigs

The Marmooska jig is a great all round jig, especially for pan fish. It has an offset designed head that gives anglers great control while also producing a great fish-catching action. The Marmooska jig pivots, which increases hook-ups and landed fish. The hook is very light wire. It is available in multiple sizes and colors.

Bro Bug jigs

The Bro Bug jig is another extremely effective pan fish and bluegill jig. It has a long shank and a barbless wire bait collar. This makes it an excellent choice when presenting live bait like wax worms. It is available in tiny sizes, starting at 1/72 of an ounce! They can make a difference when the bite is tough. The Bro Bug was designed to mimic larvae that hatches on the bottom, something bluegill and other species feed on under the ice.

Ice fishing spoons

Ice fishing spoons have been around for a long time. They continue to be effective to this day. Spoons come in a variety of sizes. While tiny spoons do catch pan fish, most anglers use spoons when chasing larger game fish species. Spoons flutter as they slowly sink, producing flash and vibration.

walleye fishing

Spoons will catch fish throughout the water column. Most bites occur as the bait falls, seemingly helpless. Fish will take the bait right on the bottom as well, particularly walleye. Spoons are easy to see on a fish finder. Anglers should work the bait just above any fish marked on the machine. Silver and gold are the most popular finishes, though painted spoons are popular as well.

Click to read this article on the best ice fishing spoons

Spoons can be used with live bait as well. In most cases, anglers ice fishing with lures will use a small piece of nightcrawler, wax worm, or meal worm to sweeten up the hook a but. One underutilized technique is to use a small strip of cut bait on a spoon. This can be extremely effective for pike and other large game fish. Dead minnows can be used as well. Some top spoons are listed below.

Sweedish Pimple spoon

The Sweedish Pimple is a classic ice fishing spoon. It is particularly known to be effective on walleye and trout. For many anglers ice fishing with lures, the conversation starts, and ends, with this spoon. The design is time-proven and has not changed much. However, it is now offered in many different sizes and finishes. They are even available with rattles.

Kastmaster spoon

The Kastmaster by Acme is another old school ice fishing spoon that has fooled countless fish over the years. Silver, gold, and prism tape spoons are the most productive, though many other colors are available as well. 1/12 ounce to 3/8 ounce Kastmaster spoons will catch just about every species available to anglers ice fishing with lures.

Clam Leech Flutter Spoon

The Clam Leech Flutter Spoon is a heavy, fast sinking bait with a lot of action. It gets it’s name as it resembles a leech. It is an excellent spoon when fish are aggressive and works well both plain and tipped. Walleye and yellow perch in particular fall prey to this lure. It is available in a dozen different finishes.

Ice fishing plugs

Anglers also use plugs when ice fishing. While plugs in open water are generally not used in a vertical presentation, specially designed ice fishing plugs will produce fish. These lures have the line tie in the center and when jigged up fall in a circular, swimming manner. They do imitate a wounded bait fish.

ice fishing for walleye

Ice fishing plugs come in a wide range of sizes. The smallest versions will catch panfish. However, most anglers use plugs when trying to catch larger game fish species. Some of the best ice fishing plugs are listed below.

Rapala Jigging Rap

The conversation about ice fishing plugs starts with the Rapala Jigging Rap. It is a long time favorite that has been producing fish for many decades. The center tie and rear lip result in an erratic, circular swimming action when jigged. Smaller #2 and #3 sized Jigging Raps will fool perch. Anglers seeking larger game will do better using the #7 size Rapala Jigging Rap.

Chubby Darter

The Chubby Darter is another ice-fishing legend. Anglers will find it to be an effective vertical ice fishing lure. The Darter has a slow sink rate in the water. The unique shape of the lure results in a tantalizing swimming action that draws strikes. The Chubby Darter is a favorite among ice anglers, being effective for catching walleye, perch, bass, crappie, and pike. The Chubby Darter is available in 1 3/8- and 1 ¾-inch models and 6 patterns.


The Bill Lewis Rattletrap is an often overlooked ice fishing lure. Well known to open water anglers, the smaller versions such as the Tiny Trap can be very effective under the ice. They are an aggressive lure and work best when fish are active and willing to chase a bait.

Tips for ice fishing with lures

If there is one mistake anglers ice fishing with lures make it is to be too aggressive in the presentation. Fish metabolism slows greatly in the frigid water. They will be spooked off of a drastically gyrating lure! Subtle, gentle movements produce the best results. There are times that no action works best. This is referred to as “dead sticking” and is a tactic used by veteran ice anglers. It often works best with a piece of bait on the lure.

walleye fishing

Anglers should use the lightest line possible. Many will go as low as 2 lb test when chasing pan fish in gin clear water. Serious ice fishing anglers opt for flourocarbon line. It is expensive, but sinks and in virtually invisible in the water. Flourocarbon line also stretches less than monofilament, resulting in better hook ups and more fish landed.

Anglers should adjust the size of the lure to the fish being sought. While larger fish can be taken on tiny lures, the larger sized lures will fool larger game fish. Conversely, bluegill and panfish anglers will do best with the tiniest of lures.

Using lures with live bait when ice fishing

Many anglers combine live bait and artificial lures. This can be an extremely effective presentation! It is best to go conservative when adding live bait to artificial lures. All that is really needed is just a little taste. Too large a pice will hamper the action of the lure. Anglers fishing with live bait on a bare jig head can be more generous. A live minnow and jig is a proven combination on a wide variety of species. Most anglers targeting panfish will add a grub of some sort to sweeten the hook.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing with lures will help anglers catch more fish on artificial baits through the ice!

Ice Fishing with Live Bait, Tips and Techniques

Ice Fishing With Live Bait

In this post we will cover ice fishing with live bait. In cold water, the metabolism of fish slows down dramatically. Most do not need to feed as often and do not feed as aggressively. Cold water species such as trout do remain quite active. While artificial lures will catch plenty of fish under the ice, many anglers have more confidence fishing with live bait.

ice fishing with live bait

There are obvious reasons why live bait produces for anglers ice fishing. Why try to duplicate the real thing when you can use the real thing? One of the great advantages of artificial lures is that anglers can cover more water. This really is not an issue when ice fishing. Anglers can not cast over water, since they are fishing through a hole in the ice.

Anglers who would like to read more about ice fishing can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “A Complete Guide to Ice Fishing” by clicking on the title link.

However, one common and very productive technique is to combine both live bait and artificial lures when ice fishing. The most popular ice fishing lure is the jig. Anglers can use a bare jig head to use with live bait. They can also “tip” a jig, spoon, or plug with live bait to increase its effectiveness.

ice fishing with live bait

Tackle and rigging for ice fishing with live bait

The same basic rods and reels that anglers have been using when ice fishing for decades work fine when ice fishing with live bait. Anglers will do best by using the lightest line possible given the situation they are fishing and the species being pursued. Many anglers go as light as 2 pound test line when chasing bluegill and other pan fish under the ice.

Anglers can read more about ice fishing tackle in this article.

ice fishing for crappie

Probably the most popular method of live bait fishing under the ice is using a jig head with live bait. Jig heads combine the hook and weight in one tidy little unit. Most ice fishing jig heads are quite brightly colored, which serves to help attract the fish as well. Anglers can also attach a soft plastic grub body to the jig head and then tip the lure. The same approach will apply to other artificial lures as well.

Anglers can shop Amazon for  ice fishing rod and reel combos

“Fishing Lido Key is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

ice fish finder

Click to shop Amazon for an ice fishing fish finder

There are times when anglers will do best fishing a standard live bait hook. This is generally done when fish are finicky. Sometimes the bait fluttering down into the water column in a natural manner is the presentation required to draw strike. A small selection of hooks, split shot, and floats should be in every ice fishing tackle box.

ice fishing for yellpow perch

Best live baits for ice fishing

Anglers have quite a few choices when it comes to ice fishing with live bait. The top ice fishing baits include wax worms, minnows, nightcrawlers, mealworms, and leeches. While there are some other exotic live baits, these are the most popular ones that are the easiest to obtain and have proven to be productive.


Wax worms are perhaps the most popular live bait for anglers ice fishing. This is particularly true for those pursuing bluegill and other pan fish. However, wax worms will catch just about every species. These are very popular baits and most tackle shops that cater to anglers ice fishing will keep a good supply on hand. They are also available at pet shops and can be purchased online.

ice fishing for crappie

Wax worms are the larval form of a bee moth. They average three quarters of an inch to 1 inch long. They are usually white. Wax worms hold up quite well in cold weather. When not fishing, anglers should store them at room temperature. They can be kept alive for a month or two if handled in this manner. However, they can die if exposed to freezing temperatures for very long.

Wax worms are not a natural forage for fish. However, for whatever reason, fish cannot resist them! While panfish are usually the main quarry of ice anglers, other species will hit them as well. Larger species such as walleye and trout in particular will fall prey to a well presented wax worm.

ice fishing for bluegill and panfish

Wax worms are most often presented on a tiny jig head. This just seems to be the combination that fish like best. Tiny jigs as light as 1/64 of an ounce with small hooks will fool yellow perch, bluegill, and other pan fish. They can be used to tip a jig and grub combo as well as spoons and other lures. Wax worms can be fished on a bare hook, though this is not done very often.


Nightcrawlers are a terrific and productive freshwater fishing bait for just about every species that swims. They are just as productive for anglers ice fishing as they are when used during the open water. Walleye, trout, bass, pan fish and more will delightfully take a nice lively nightcrawler!

ice fishing for northern pike

Nightcrawlers are easily obtained most bait shops. They can be purchased online as well. In the warmer months, anglers can catch their own. Nightcrawlers will stay alive a long time at room temperature or a little below. They will die if exposed to temperatures that are too cold or too hot. Nightcrawlers are usually kept in a bed of top soil or dirt.

Nightcrawlers can be fished on a live bait hook as well as on a jig. Often times, allowing the nightcrawler to slowly descend through the water column on a hook with no weight or a tiny split shot is the best presentation. Those pursuing walleye will do well to fish them on a jig head right on the bottom, which is where they feed. Anglers chasing tasty pan fish will do best pitching off a small piece of nightcrawler. Anglers do not need to use a very large piece of bait in this situation. Finally, a small piece of nightcrawler can be used to tip artificial lures.


Big fish eat little fish, it is a basic fishing fact. This is true for anglers ice fishing with live bait as well. A helpless minnow that is struggling on the hook will attract a variety of game fish. Minnows are the favored bait of crappie anglers. Northern pike, walleye, lake trout, and bass will also take a well presented live minnow.

northern pike ice fishing

Live minnows are available at most tackle shops that cater to anglers that are ice fishing. Shiners, suckers, and fathead minnows are the most popular. Minnows are a bit more difficult to keep alive then are some of the other live baits. Special bait bucket with aerators will keep them frisky all day. Dead minnows will produce, at times even better than live bait. However, generally speaking, healthy and active live baits are the best choice.

Small minnows are best for anglers chasing crappie and trout. The minnow should be between one and 2 inches long. Anglers chasing larger game fish can step up the size of the bait. A northern pike will take a minnow as long as 6 inches! It is important to match the hook to the size of the bait as well. A light wire #6 hook is a good choice for anglers crappie fishing.

ice fishing for brook trout

Some anglers will use a float to suspend the live minnow at the desired depth. The resistance of the float can also cause the minnow to swim frantically. This will often times trigger a strike. Anglers can go up in size from there with the size of the bait being used.

Hooking the minnow properly is crucial to success

Many anglers ice fishing with minnows hook them incorrectly. Hooking minnows through the lips works well in open water fishing. However, it will quickly kill the bait when ice fishing. Also, since it is a vertical presentation, the minnow will appear unnatural. The best choice is to hook the minnow in the back halfway between the tail and the dorsal fin. This will keep the bait frisky and alive. It will also cause the bait to swim away, putting out distress signals. This will often trigger a bite.

ice fishing for lake trout

Minnows can also be used in conjunction with an artificial lure. When using a jig, the minnow can be hooked through the back and lowered to the bottom. This can be a productive method to take walleye. Minnows can also be used to tip a spoon as well. Most bait shops have a selection of minnows. Anglers should choose the minnow that matches the area being fished as well as the species being sought. Fat head minnows are best for river mouths. Emerald and golden shiners are usually best for deeper waters in lakes.

Minnows are often the the bait of choice for anglers using tip ups and tip downs. Since this method of fishing does not require the angler to attend to the hole, the bait needs to supply the action. Minnows do that quite well. Also, most anglers using tip ups and tip downs are in pursuit of larger game fish such as pike, walleye, lake trout, and more. A large, live minnow is often the best bait in this application.


Mealworms are another excellent live bait used by anglers ice fishing. They are the larval stage of a darkling beetle. They are generally short and fat, rarely exceeding 1 inch in length. Mealworms are favored especially by pan fish anglers. However, trout will greedily devour them as well. Due to their size, mealworms are perfect for tipping a jig or other artificial lure.

ice fishing for panfish

Mealworms are bit more difficult to keep alive in the cold. For that reason, they tend to be more popular towards the end of the ice fishing season. They are available at local tackle shops and can also be purchased online. Some pet shops also keep them in stock. They should be kept at room temperature and will die if exposed to freezing temperatures.


Leeches are not used very often by anglers ice fishing with live bait. The primary reason for this is that they tend to curl up in a ball in cold water. However, anglers have learned a little trick. By keeping the leeches and a refrigerator for a period of time, they can acclimate to the cold and then be used as live bait under the ice. This does take a little more time and effort, but the results can be worth it.

Other ice fishing baits

There are a few other choices for anglers ice fishing with live bait. These include salmon eggs, cut bait, and commercially prepared baits such as Berkeley power bait and GULP. Salmon eggs are particularly effective on trout and white fish. Anglers can fish them on a weighted hook or and artificial lure. Sometimes color does make a difference, angler should keep experimenting until a productive pattern emerges.

ice fishing for rainbow trout

Cut bait is often overlooked by anglers ice fishing. There are often times when lethargic fish would rather not chase a live bait. In these instances, a freshly dead minnow or fresh piece of cut bait can be much more productive. The best approach is to fish the piece of bait right on the bottom with no action. Artificial lures can be tipped with a piece of cut bait as well.

There are numerous commercially available prepared baits as well. The main advantage of these baits is the convenience. While not technically live bait, they are fish the same way and can be as productive at times. These include the Berkeley power bait, ice nuggets, and more. They can be stored in the tackle box for a very long time.

Ice fishing techniques when using live bait

Ice fishing with live bait is fairly basic. However, as with any other type of fishing, there are nuances that will spell the difference between success and failure. If there is one mistake anglers make when ice fishing with live bait, it is giving the bait too much action. As mentioned above, the metabolism of fish in cold water is very slow. They will not be in a mood to chase down a bait. Also, it is just not natural looking in that cold water.

Anglers fishing live bait on a jig head will do well to let the bait slowly float to the bottom with the bail open. If at any point the line stops moving, speeds up or even twitches, the angler should close the bail and quickly reel until tight. If no strike occurs on the fall, the bait should be left to sit on the bottom. Gently tapping the jig head up and down on the bottom will often times draw a walleye or other fish to the bait. Patience can be required as it can take 10 minutes or more for the fish to commit to the bait.

Artificial lures such as spoons and jigs can also be tipped with live bait. The same basic approach applies. Anglers should let the spoon or plug flutter down to the bottom naturally. Suspended fish will often hit the bait on the way down. If anglers are marking fish on a fish finder, it is best to work the lure slightly above the fish. Most fish feed up as opposed to down. A subtle jigging motion will generally be more productive than an aggressive one.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing with live bait should help anglers catch more fish through the hard water!

Ice Fishing for Walleye, Proven Techniques

Ice fishing for Walleye, Pro Tips

Many anglers enjoy ice fishing for walleye. Walleye are one of the most popular freshwater game fish for anglers fishing northern waters. This certainly is true when lakes and rivers freeze over as well. This article will cover the tackle, lures and baits, locations, and techniques to help anglers be more successful when chasing walleye through the ice!

Anglers who would like to read more about ice fishing can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “A Complete Guide to Ice Fishing” by clicking on the title link.

Special thanks to Rick DeGagné who owns The Hook ‘n’ Cook Inn, Victoria Beach, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. While not a guide, Rick is an expert at ice fishing for walleye. While Lake Winnipeg will be discussed, the tips, tackle, and baits shared will work on hard water walleye anywhere!

Ice fishing tackle and gear

Ice fishing requires some specialized gear and equipment. Some of this is not inexpensive. The rods, reels, lines, and terminal tackle are reasonably affordable. However, ice augers, fish finders, apparel, shelters, GPS units, and even specialized vehicles do get pricey. Most of these items have safety ramifications and anglers should not skimp in these areas. Ice fishing is great fun, but must be done with angler safety in mind. Anglers can read more about ice fishing tackle and gear in this article.

Ice fishing rods and reels

Anglers can shop Amazon for  ice fishing rod and reel combos

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Ice anglers will do well using shorter rods ranging from 24” to 36” and sometimes 42”. Although it is much easier to use a shorter rod, Rick prefers to use a Med/heavy 36” rod with 6lb line when ripping lipless rattle baits like the Live Target. For other lures especially when dead sticking, Rick suggests using shorter 28” rods. However, there is no “wrong” choice, it really is a matter of preference.

Ice fishing shelters

Shelters are a must, especially on larger bodies of water. Insulated flip-overs or pop-ups heated by propane heaters are the preferred choice. Like many other productive lakes, Lake Winnipeg is considered by many to be a featureless lake and therefore the fish are nomadic and are always on the move chasing bait fish. It is common to have to move on the ice so being portable is the way to go.

For this reason most hard core fishermen wear special ice fishing gear that protects them from the extreme cold and winds. Some are also have floatation features. They consist of bibs and jackets. An example would be Striker Ice Climate jacket and bibs. They come with removable liners so they are very useful in different temperatures. A very good pair of boots is also very important! Cold feet will shorten your time on the ice quickly. A great brand would be Baffin boots. They are made for extreme climates.

Fish finders/sonar

Fish Finders are a must when ice fishing. It can mean the difference between catching 1 fish or catching 10. Flashers are probably more popular with anglers but graphs are starting to gain more popularity as more advanced technology keeps coming out every year. They are well worth the investment for anglers who are serious about ice fishing for walleye.

ice fish finder

Click to shop Amazon for an ice fishing fish finder

Ice fishing augers

Ice thickness can get up to 5 feet thick on far north waters, depending on the season. On average it gets to be 3 to 4 feet thick near the end of the season. Gas powered augers are a must on Lake Winnipeg and other lakes with very thick ice. Electric augers will work but performance is limited in extreme cold and very thick ice. I’ve seen every brand of electric augers breakdown when the ice is 4 feet thick and very cold temps. Skimmers or scoops are also a necessity to clear the slush and ice chips left in the hole. Augers also vary in size, but on Lake Winnipeg 8” to 10” augers are most popular.

GPS units

GPS units are essential for locating underwater structure. Most anglers do their “homework” during the open water, marking potential holding spots for winter walleye. Also, GPS units are essential safety gear as well. Weather can turn quickly, reducing visibility. Also, if an anglers gets in trouble and needs medical attention, help will know where to come.

Ice fishing for walleye with lures

walleye fishing

Artificial lures are extremely effective when ice fishing for walleye. They provide weight to sink, flash and vibration, and of course a hook. Many walleye anglers, Rick included, almost always combine live bait with an artificial lure. Ice fishing lures must be presented vertically, as opposed to open water fishing where they can be cast and retrieved. Most ice fishing lures fall into three categories; jigs, spoons, and plugs.

Ice fishing jigs

Jigs are very popular ice fishing lures for walleye and other species. Anglers chasing panfish use tiny versions. Most anglers ice fishing for walleye choose jigs that weigh 1/8 to ½ ounce. Water depth and current will dictate which size is required. Most quality jigs are Tungsten, which a very dense.

Jigs are usually used in conjunction with a soft plastic bait. This is proven combination that catches fish all year long. The jig and grub can be tipped with a live or frozen minnow.

ice fishing with lures

The best approach when ice fishing for walleye is to allow the jig to float down naturally through the water column. Most walleye will be found on or near the bottom. However, a roaming game fish of any species may intercept it on the way down. Once the jig hits the bottom, it should be bounced lightly. The noise may attract a walleye. Anglers need to be patient and use their sonar units!

Ice fishing spoons

Ice fishing spoons work very well for several reasons. Most are heavy and sink quickly. This results in the bait getting down to the bottom quickly when fishing deeper water. They put out both flash and vibration, which will hopefully attract a hungry walleye. The hook up ratio is good with spoons as well.

ice fishing for beginners

Jigging spoons are also fairly easy to fish. The spoon is lowered down to the bottom, then jigged off the bottom using quick movements. As in all fishing, anglers should vary the retrieve until a productive pattern emerges. The same applies to ice fishing spoon sizes and colors, anglers should experiment with various sizes and finishes. Spoons can be tipped with salted frozen minnows as well.

Ice fishing plugs

While many anglers picture plugs being cast out and retrieved, some are effective in a vertical presentation. These really only include specially designed ice fishing plugs as well as lipless crank baits.

The Rapala Jigging Rap is a legendary ice fishing plug. The #7 Jigging Rap is a good size for walleye. Rick likes brighter color patterns for these baits. The bait has a fin on the rear which results in a circular swimming motion as the lure falls through the water column.

Live Target Golden Shiner lipless plugs are a favorite of Rick. The lure is dropped down and ripped up. Most bites occur as the lure falls. The Bill Lewis Rattle Trap is another example of this type of lure.

Ice fishing for walleye with live bait

Many anglers choice to fish for walleye through the ice using live bait. There is certainly good reason for this! The most popular bait for walleye fishing is a live minnow. These are readily available at bait shops that cater to anglers ice fishing.

Live minnows can be fished on a bare jig head as well as a hook. Jig heads are the best choice in deeper water. Anglers fishing over weeds or other structure can fish a live minnow under a float. A small split shot will get the bait down. A float can be used to suspend the minnow at a certain depth.

It is very important to hook the minnow correctly. This is especially important when fishing a tip up or down where the rod is not being actively fished. It is fine to hook a minnow through the lips when being jigged on the bottom. However, on the other rigs or when suspended, it is important to hook the minnow near the tail, behind the dorsal fin. This will cause the minnow to swim down, pulling against the line. These struggles will attract hungry walleye to the bait!

ice fishing with live bait

Nightcrawlers are another popular live bait for anglers ice fishing for walleye. Like minnows, they can be fished on both jig heads and on hooks. Nightcrawlers tend to work better early and late in the season when the walleye are in water that is not as deep.

Best spots to catch walleye under the ice

The same spots and areas that produce walleye in open water fishing will produce under the ice as well. Walleye also exhibit a seasonal migration. It is a bit like summer, but in reverse. Early in the ice fishing season, fish will be found in shallower water. Weed beds, points, creek channel edges, and submerged islands in 15 to 20 feet of water are good spots to start fishing.

As the season progresses, walleye will generally move deeper. Main river channels, deeper reefs, and other spots will often be the most productive. As spring approaches, walleye will again ease in a bit shallower.

Effects of weather when ice fishing for walleye

Weather has a huge effect on fish activity under the ice just as it does in open water. Prime times to fish are early and late in the day. Also, approaching fronts will have the fish feeding. Conversely, post front conditions with a bright, high sky can make for a sluggish bite.

Ice fishing strategies for walleye

Once out on the ice, it is time to go fishing! However, successful anglers have a game plan, based on local information, weather, and experience. The best approach is to drill multiple holes in a crisscross pattern. Ideally, the holes will cover several different depths over cover and some type of structure break.

Minnesota ice fishing

Once the holes are drilled, the sonar unit can be deployed to see what life lurks below. Hopefully, bait and game fish will appear on the screen. Even if there is no action, it is still worth dropping a bait down. A jig and minnow is a good place to start. Spoons are a good second choice.

If fish are seen but they do not seem interested, it is time to try different lures, baits, and presentations. Finicky fish usually respond to slow, subtle movements and smaller baits. However, sometimes ripping a plug will result in a reflex strike.

2 pronged approach for walleye fishing success

There is a technique to fishing on Lake Winnipeg. It works on many other lakes as well. Anglers are allowed to use 2 rods in one hole. The longer rod is used for ripping the Live Target tipped with a minnow/shiner head through the eyes on the back treble and a shorter rod for a dead stick. The dead stick will consist of either a jig head tipped with either a live minnow through the tail or a frozen salted minnow/shiner, a bobber rigged with a live minnow hooked through the tail weighted down with split shot, or a spoon like a Macho Minnow tipped with a frozen salted shiner on the treble hook. The Macho minnow as it has a plastic fin that flutters with the slightest movement that seems to trigger a bite.

fishing for walleye, a beginners guide

Lake Winnipeg, like other lakes, is murky so you need to attract the fish. This is where the Live Target and other lipless baits comes in. You attract the fish by ripping the lure 4 to 5 feet off the bottom. The rattle is quite loud and can easily be heard in your shelter. I keep ripping the lure for a good 5 minutes then let it sit about 2 feet off the bottom for a few more minutes. Then I move to the dead stick and give it very subtle movements.

Teasing the walleye to the lure

This lure is about 1 foot off the bottom. The lure is worked back and forth until a fish appears on the fish finder. They usually come up from the bottom. The goal is to try and get them to chase your lure towards the ice at the right speed. If you reel too fast, you will lose them. If you reel in too slow, the fish will lose interest.  Yes you do catch some as the lure drops towards the bottom but most are caught on the chase towards the ice.

Bites often occur 2 or 3 feet below the ice from fish chasing the lure from the bottom in 20 foot. This is why a fish finder is important. The chase can last a long time with a fish chasing your lure up and down several times before biting the lure to then decide it is more interested in the dead stick. You then switch rods, start jigging the dead stick and start the chase with that lure. It is like playing a video game. Of course you can’t use this approach with a float rig. The live minnow will create it’s own chase with the fish.

Sometimes when the fish a lethargic, the Live Target just acts as a dinner bell and the fish are only interested in the dead stick. A less aggressive approach with the Live Target is best in this situation to not spook the fish.

ice fishing basics

Tip ups and tip downs can be good options as well. Live minnows are the best choice in the situation. However, dead minnows, nightcrawlers, and even cut bait can be effective as well. Sometimes a dead bait sitting motionless on the bottom is what is required to get a walleye to bite!

Walleye fishing on Lake Winnipeg

Lake Winnipeg produces huge Walleye. Many anglers from the U.S. come up here in search of trophy Greenbacks. Some come up 3 or 4 times a season. It is a world renowned sport fishery. Several 30” plus walleye are caught each season. March is the preferred month as the weather gets milder. It is called “March Madness” in the ice fishing world on Lake Winnipeg. All the local hotels and lodging gets booked solid during March.

Temperatures and weather on Lake Winnipeg during ice fishing season can get very extreme. Temperatures can get as cold as -40 degrees Celsius. It also gets very windy on Lake Winnipeg with gusts at some times reaching 70 km’s per hour. This is why the lake earned the nickname “Big Windy”. On average one can expect temperatures around – 20 Celsius during the winter with winds between 10 to 20 kms per hour.


Live minnows or frozen salted shiners/minnows is all that is used in winter months on Lake Winnipeg to try and match the forage in the winter. The South Basin of the lake is a sandy bottom with very little structure. The fish are always on the move looking for baitfish who are also always on the move. More people are purchasing nautical online to pinpoint subtle changes in depths or depth outlines on the bottom as well as a few rock outcroppings that may hold fish. Navionics or the FishSmart app are a couple of examples.

Successful anglers work together

Rick will usually start in the 20 feet of water range and is best to fish in groups as saves a lot of time locating the fish. Groups of 4 to 5 tents can cover a lot of area if each group fishes different depths and work together. The use of walkie talkies is handy in these situations. For example, 1 tent fishes 14 foot, the next 16 foot, and so on. In some locations this could easily span a kilometer or more. In other locations this could span 100 yards. Once a school of fish is located everyone moves into the general area.

Things to also look for are large ice ridges that stick out of the ice. These are caused by the strong winds which usually happen during the early ice freeze. These ridges create structure under the ice for bait fish to hide. Often walleye cruise the ice ridge lines feeding off these bait fish. The ice in these areas is usually quite thick. I usually add a 12” or even 18” extension to my auger to make it through the ice.

Most trophy walleye over 28” are released back into the water as there are pretty much all females full of eggs. They are the future of the fishery on the lake. Having said that, you are allowed to keep 1 Walleye over 28” per season.

Lake Winnipeg  as well as all of Manitoba is barbless so you must secure your bait on the hook or it will fall off. A small rubber stopper will do the trick. There are items on the market that are specifically made for this like the Bait Buttons. They come with a handy dispenser too.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing for walleye will help anglers catch more fish!




Best bait for shark fishing

Best bait for shark fishing 

Many anglers enjoy fishing for sharks. Most sharks are caught on the bottom by anglers using cut bait. However, in order to be successful, the best, freshest bait should be used. There are a lot of choices for those shark fishing.

The best bait for shark fishing is any fresh local fish that is bloody and oily. Top examples would be bluefish, menhaden, sardines, spot, mullet, jacks, and mackerel. The reality is that the best bait for shark fishing varies by location. Each area of the country has forage species that sharks feed on. Generally speaking, the bloodier and oilier the bait, the better!

best shark bait

In warmer the best baits for shark fishing include Spanish mackerel, false albacore, tuna, jack crevalle, mullet, ladyfish, threadfin herring, bluefish, and more. In reality, any fresh caught fish can be cut up and used effectively as bait. However, the above mentioned baits work best overall. Also, these are not game fish and can be harvested and used as bait.

Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.

Many of these fish work well as shark bait all along the east coast of the United States as well. Jacks, tuna, false albacore, mackerel, bluefish, and mullet are the preferred baits. Shark fishing is popular for anglers both surf fishing and fishing from boats all along the mid Atlantic.

top 25 Florida species

As we move north, the best baits for shark fishing change a little. Cold water species such as Boston (or tinker) mackerel, bluefish, herring, and various tuna species become more effective baits. This is mostly true for west coast anglers as well. The Pacific waters are cold, tuna and mackerel are the top shark baits.

How to get fresh shark bait

Anglers have several options when it comes to acquiring the fresh bait they need to go shark fishing. Make no mistake; fresh bait is far superior to frozen bait! Successful shark anglers take the time to get the bait they need.

best shark fishing bait

In most cases, anglers catch their own bait and then cut them up fresh. The good news is that this can be great fun! Many of the best bait species are actually great sport on light tackle. Jack crevalle, ladyfish, bluefish, and mackerel can all be caught on artificial lures such as silver spoons and jigs. This gives the shark angler something fun to do while waiting for the big one to bite!

Cast nets can also provide anglers with fresh shark bait. Mullet, herring, and sardines will usually not bite hooks. Cast nets are an effective method to take bait quickly and effectively. Also, enough excess bait is caught to be used as chum, too.

Cleaning stations are great places to get some excellent fresh bait for shark fishing. This is particularly true when tuna are running. Anglers will have a ton of crap meat that is great for shark fishing. The white belly strips in particular are terrific baits! Oily fish such as tuna and mackerel are preferred, as the scent disperses in the water better. However, sharks really are not fussy. They can be caught on just about any cut bait.

Using live bait for shark fishing

While the majority of anglers use fresh cut bait for shark fishing, live bait can be extremely effective as well. This is particularly true when big bait balls or schools are present. Sharks will linger on the edge of the bait school looking to pick off stragglers. These baits can be caught with a cast net or a gold hook or Sibiki rig.

Texas shark fishing

Anglers fishing with live bait for sharks usually free line the bait. This involves hooking the bait and allowing it to swim naturally. The hook will cause the bait to swim in an injured and erratic manner. This can be an extremely effective technique.

Tackle and rigging for shark fishing

For the most part, shark fishing is pretty basic. Anglers will normally use some type of steel leader to prevent the shark from cutting through the line with it’s razor sharp teeth. A weight of some type is generally used to keep the bait on the bottom. This is where the majority of sharks feed.

The tackle used for shark fishing will vary greatly. Small “sporty” sharks such as blackfin and bonnethead sharks can be caught using fairly light spinning tackle. Anglers fishing from boats for larger specimens generally use fairly stout conventional gear. Anglers fishing from the surf, jetties, and piers opt for heavy spinning tackle since long casts are often required.

It is important to treat sharks with respect! They are terrific game fish and should be treated as such. Anglers should practice conservation and only keep a shark to eat when a meal is desired. Sharks breed and grow slowly. They should be handles carefully and if not being kept released immediately.

In conclusion, this article on the best bait for shark fishing should help anglers catch more sharks!