With so many lures available to anglers today, it can sometimes be a challenge to best determine what lures we should use when pursuing our favorite species through the ice. Lipless crankbaits, a renown fish-catching lure type throughout the open water season, work incredibly well throughout the hardwater months in the Ice Belt. Yo-Zuri offers several sizes and patterns of lipless crankbaits that ice anglers can count on when chasing everything from panfish to predators.
Early ice starts right after there is enough ice to walk on lakes and lasts until about the third or fourth week of January. It is the time of the ice season where big, noisy baits work really well for walleyes and northern pike alike. The Yo-Zuri 3DR-X Vibe is a 2 3/8” deep-bodied lipless crankbait that rattles as it is ripped through the water column. The patented scale pattern adds an extra dimension of realism to its presentation so that even less aggressive fish might be tempted to strike. Going with ten pound test Dark Green SuperBraid, ten pound test Hybrid, or ten pound test T7 Fluorocarbon is recommended to avoid bite-offs as fish often take the entire lure in their mouths when they hit.
Early Ice Scenario
One of the best situations in which a larger lipless crankbait like the 3DR-X Vibe works well on early ice is in 8-10’ water with a sand/rock bottom adjacent to deep water. Finding areas with sparse weed patches can be even better as they may attract and even hold fish in some cases. Dropping the 3DR-X to the bottom and pounding it several times followed by quick 1-2’ rips upward can be a great way to draw fish in from afar. Once fish approach, it may be necessary to dial back the rips to a more subtle jigging movement interspersed with a quick, short twitch. The twitch with the 3DR-X Vibe is intended to simulate a wounded minnow and will often provoke a strike.
Once the ice thickens to 20” or more the bite windows can become much narrower each day, oftentimes requiring that fishing efforts be refined to dawn and dusk to maximize fish-catching potential. With the increased snow and ice that comes with mid-winter, it is often necessary to refine lure sizes and the cadence at which they are worked to get more finicky fish to bite. A 2 1/8” lipless crankbait like the Yo-Zuri Rattl’N Vibe can be a great solution to mid-winter blues as it is a shorter and thinner profile lure that mimics minnows upon which the fish are feeding. Six pound test T7 Fluorocarbon or six pound test Hybrid lines offer the strength needed to land bigger fish while still allowing a more finesse-based presentation that is important to get finicky predators to bite.
A classic mid-winter scenario occurs on underwater humps. An area that comes up to 10’ of water but is surrounded by 20’+ of water is an area in which walleyes and northern pike cruise for unsuspecting prey during lowlight periods in mid-winter. Dropping the Rattl’N Vibe to bottom, letting it sit on the bottom of the structure for a few seconds, and then gently lifting it up to about 1’ off the bottom can be a great way to entice fish to bite. The subtler lift and fall presentation coupled with light jigging strokes when fish approach the Vibe uses the built-in rattle system to initiate clicks the fish can hear and then react with strikes. Luminescent patterns are especially productive this time of year because of their glow characteristic, making lures more easily seen when visibility is low.
Late ice is the time during the ice season when snow has begun to melt or has melted off the ice and back into the lake. This is a prime time to pursue large panfish using miniature lipless crankbaits. The Rattl’N Vibe Mini is a 1 5/8” miniature crank that big crappies cannot resist during late ice. If the lake being fished is commonly known for bass, northerns, or walleyes, then going with four pound Hybrid Ice is recommended. If the system being fished has predators, but they are not as pronounced, then the Mini works great with three pound Hybrid Ice line.
Late Ice Scenario
A classic late ice scenario for big crappies includes a combination of using the basin of the lake and shoreline structure. During midday using metallic, UV, or luminescent Rattl’N Vibe Minis over basin areas are solid considerations for initiating uphits. For example, if fish are located 15’ down in 25’ of water, then jigging a Black Silver Rattl’N Vibe Mini around 13-14’ just above the school is recommended. As the day progresses into the last hour of daylight, changing positions to old weedlines can be a fruitful approach. Even if the weeds are dead, they may be the only cover available, and big crappies will often congregate in and around them as the sun gets closer to setting. The same lure and patterns can be used in this area, but jigging rapidly in, around, and just outside of the weeds within 2-3’ of the bottom can be highly productive to lure big slabs out of hiding.
Whether you are in pursuit of predators or panfish, lipless crankbaits can be a highly effective lure style to use throughout the entirety of the ice season. Adding lipless cranks like the Yo-Zuri 3DR-X Vibe, Rattl’N Vibe, and Rattl’N Vibe Mini to your arsenal will increase your chance of catching some great fish on hardwater. Visit yo-zuri.com today to learn more about the different Vibes mentioned in this article.
Tight lines and have a safe ice season!