By Nick Simonson
First ice often brings with it some of the fastest fishing of the year. Whether it’s panfish, walleyes or pike, many species still have that late-fall feedbag on as the hardwater season starts and they’ll aggressively take after spoons, jigs and active offerings that catch their attention. With those first careful steps onto this winter’s early ice, take an assortment of bright and flashy lures to draw fish in, while cycling through confidence colors and brighter offerings that might get their cues from a more natural prey item.
Flash & Flicker
Each lake seems to have a confidence color in that unnatural spectrum that fish can’t seem to resist. Whether it’s bright pink or glow red, like early season adventures on Lake of the Woods have established in my tacklebox, or flashy orange offerings on a small prairie lake that will remain nameless, these out-of-the-ordinary hues help set the stage at this early point in the season. Additionally, they make for great attractor patterns all winter, calling predators in from a distance on their respective waters and providing the bright visual cues needed to seal the deal with aggressive first-ice fish. With a little trial and error on a favorite water, it’s easy to determine what colors work best this time of year, and what wild hues will rule the day.
A Crazy Hatch
There are also a number of patterns designed to match the hatch and add a little extra, whether the forage is minnows, perch, bluegills or other small prey items. Spoons and jigging lures in bright purples or blues add some color to a fathead minnow pattern to give something to fish that looks like what they love to eat but is a little bit different. Sometimes, in nature, that little difference is the cue predators need to target what they see as the weak link in the school or the odd fish out in the bait ball.
Additionally, the classic fire tiger pattern consisting of bright green, white and fluorescent orange with jagged black stripes is a must have anywhere walleyes and pike are feeding on young-of-the-year perch, or those panfish are the only other forage base for the predators in a given water. This color pattern has been adjusted to confidence colors such as pink, orange and purple and these new tweaks on an old favorite are helpful in further defining the tints that trigger a bite under the ice. Look for similar variants on bluegills, crappies, shiner minnows and other prey species to add to hard water tackleboxes.
Change It Up
Much like fast-shifting fiber optic or LED Christmas lights provide a quick change in color this time of year, be ready to cycle through these bright and beautiful baits with a fast snap or small clip at the end of the line. This will not only help limit line twist and keep offerings like spoons, jigging lures and other flashy baits moving somewhat naturally, but also allow a quick swap from one bright color to another – or if you want to be a Scrooge about it – a shift to a more natural pattern. This allows for a quick exploration of what works and what doesn’t while covering water and inspecting a number of holes along a likely break or other area of interest on a lake.
By combining stand-out patterns that are designed to draw fish in and trigger a reaction strike, along with those that take a cue from natural prey and turn their coloration up a notch, it’s easy to decide on what fish like best; especially now, when they’re biting more readily. Snap a clip on and go through a handful of new baits in bright colors to get the most out of first ice and add a bit more merriness to your angling efforts this time of year…in our outdoors.
Featured Photo: A red Lindy Flyer is ready for deployment. Bright colors can trigger ferocious reaction strikes this time of year. Simonson Photo.