Give ‘Em What They Want With Bob Jensen

by Bob Jensen

Walleye are an easy target to spot with a good sonar, but getting them to bite sometimes takes some study.
Walleye are an easy target to spot with a good sonar, but getting them to bite sometimes takes some study.

Successful ice fishing depends first on fishing a healthy lake with an abundant fish population-and second on getting to the area of that lake that’s holding the most fish. You have to be where there are concentrations of fish if you want increase your odds for success.

Find ’em and then you have to give ’em what they want. This can be challenging. That’s one of the fun parts of fishing: Figuring out what they want to eat.

At times they can be incredibly finicky. You may need to figure out what bait they want, what color, what size, and what action. If you don’t, you’re going to be eating frozen pizza for supper.

You’ll greatly increase the odds of catching some fish if you use a depth-finder. Modern depth-finders show the fish, they show the bottom, they show the cover-and they even show your lure and how the fish are reacting to your bait.

Yellow perch are usually more cooperative--move until you find a school and you'll usually collect dinner.
Yellow perch are usually more cooperative–move until you find a school and you’ll usually collect dinner.

Lets say you catch a few, then they keep coming and looking-as evidenced on the sonar-but they quit biting. They may have become conditioned to the bait. Try using the same bait in a different color. Or a slightly different bait in the same color. Or a larger lure-or a smaller one. Vary the action. Usually you’ll get a few more to eat.

But if they come in and look but don’t eat, that could mean they need something extra to tempt them. Add a live minnow or a meal worm to the hook. Often the added sight and scent of the real thing does the job.

A Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon is a tremendous walleye and perch bait. But sometimes the rattles aren’t what the fish want. If that appears to be the situation, go to a Forage Minnow spoon. It’s the same shape as the Buck-Shot, but it’s quiet, and sometimes that’s what will make the fish bite.

Crappies are great winter fish--but remember they love live minnows best of all.
Crappies are great winter fish–but remember they love live minnows best of all.

Try going to a smaller bait. Sometimes finicky fish will eat a small bait but ignore a big bait. The key here is, if what you’re doing isn’t working, then do something else. Usually, if you keep trying different presentations, you’re going to eventually figure out what the fish want on that day.

Last but not least, if the fish under one of your holes won’t bite, move to the next and then the next. Somewhere, somebody is hungry.

And remember, just because they want a particular bait on this day, that doesn’t mean that’s what they’re going to eat the same thing tomorrow. When it comes to fish, you’ve got to continually try different things to make them bite, or to make them bite better. If you do that, you’ll be more successful more often.

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