Midwinter regularly means a lot of snow, thick ice, frigid windchills, and fish that can be more challenging to catch. Although they can be lethargic due to the harsh conditions at this time of year, walleyes, northern pike, and bass can still be consistently caught with hardbaits. The Yo-Zuri 3DR-X Vibe, 2 1/8” Vibe, and Rattl’N Vibe Mini are all great options to chase predators throughout the midwinter period.
At 2 3/8” and 1/2 oz., the 3DR-X Vibe is a new lipless deep-bodied crank with rattles that can be highly effective in the transition from early ice to the beginning of midwinter. The 3DR-X Vibe is large enough to get the attention of predators from a distance but still small enough that they will strike upon approaching it.
One of my favorite uses of this Vibe is lowlight conditions at dawn and dusk. When predators push up into the 8-12’ depths of the water column early and late in the day, they are looking to feed. These prime times are a great opportunity to use the 3DR-X Vibe to capitalize on the aggressiveness of these fish. Jigging in 1-2’ intervals, dropping the lure to the bottom and bouncing it several times followed by a 1-2’ lift, and then slowing down to more of a rocking motion once a fish approaches works great for simulating injured or dying baitfish. Going with 6 lb test Hybrid Ice is a solid line choice that offers strength, thin line diameter, abrasion resistance, and maximum action capability.
2 1/8” Rattl’N Vibe
The 2 1/8” Rattl’N Vibe is a 3/8 oz. lipless crankbait that offers anglers an opportunity to effectively downsize from a bigger options that might draw fish in but does get them to commit. Its thin profile, rattle, and balance make this Vibe a solid choice as the midwinter period progresses.
Jigging the 2 1/8” Vibe on sharp breaks in 14-20’ of water and 12-14’ underwater humps adjacent to 18-20’ of water works great for walleyes, northern pike, and bass in midwinter. I like to work this lure several feet off the bottom with 2-4’ rips of the rod tip to make a lot of noise. Lifting the lure fast, then pause completely as it sinks back to the original depth, and then pause for a few seconds is a good cadence to use as the fish will hit the lure at any time during the movement. This can be highly productive for northern pike specifically as they often cruise higher in the water column in midwinter than other predators. When fishing walleyes and bass in the same locations with the 2 1/8” Vibe, I like to drop it all the way to the bottom and stir up the substrate with bouncing movements to mimic young minnows feeding on invertebrates and worms. The cadence for this approach includes several bounces to the bottom, lifting the lure up to 1’ off of the bottom, and then pausing. When walleyes and bass approach, lift upward slowly with fluid movements to elicit strikes. Because this lure will be used to chase predators of all sizes, I again go with 6 lb test Yo-Zuri Hybrid Ice line.
Rattl’N Vibe Mini
At 1 5/8” and 3/16 oz., the Rattl’N Vibe Mini is arguably the most versatile hardbait available as it ices everything from perch to northern pike well over three feet in length. It is a lipless crankbait that is a smaller version of the other Vibes, which is important when fish show interest in the bigger version but do not bite them. Sometimes downsizing to the Rattl’N Vibe Mini can turn finicky fish that swim by the 3DR-X Vibe or 2 1/8” Vibe into fish that eat.
The Mini can be fished effectively at any time of the day and at any depth in the water column. With 15 available patterns, these small Vibes can be used to match whatever forage upon which the fish are feeding. Natural patterns like the Hot and Green Perch work well in clear water less than 12’ deep. The Luminescent, UV, and metallic patterns are solid options to go with in stained water, where light penetration is significantly decreased due to heavy snow and ice cover, and in deep water. Generally speaking, the cadence with the Rattl’N Vibe Mini is going to be a lift of 1-2’, pause and drop, and then lift again. As a fish approaches, a slight movement of the lure coupled with a lift is recommended. This is a small lure and the fish still need to see it, so lifting too aggressively might take the offering out of their view or make them disinterested if they are lethargic. When pursuing predators with the Mini, I recommend going with 4 lb test Yo-Zuri Hybrid Ice line as it will offer the line strength needed to land bass, walleyes, and northern pike while still giving you the best action possible with such a small lure.
Midwinter can pose a host of obstacles to anglers chasing predators below the ice, but this is no time to give up on using hardbaits. Now is the time to turn to a variety of Vibes like the Yo-Zuri 3DR-X Vibe, 2 1/8” Rattl’N Vibe, and Rattl’N Vibe Mini to catch more fish!