Hardwater Bassin’By Ted Pilgrim - December 8, 2016
Ice fishing for largemouth bass is sort of an economized version of its openwater counterpart. Hobbit-size rods. Little bitty plastic worms, micro hair jigs and small spoons, and even scaled-down "ice crankbaits," each worked with utmost finesse, mesmerize wintertime bass. We say mesmerize because sometimes in freezing water, bass like to hover and stare things down for agonizing minutes at a time before leisurely paddling off in the other direction, or finally, mercifully, opening up and eating. Ice bass do head shakes in slow motion, so if you're watching on an underwater camera, the sluggish drama looks particularly awesome.
Hardwater Sight FishingMost of the rest of the time bass languish in water shallower than about 18 feet, and in many lakes, that means sight fishing near remnant veg beds. Viewing through a "widescreen" hole, delivering baits to bass while sitting in a spacious shelter is a can't-miss hardwater event. Well worth the price of admission, sighting merely costs the effort to cut the crater, either by drilling a sequence of at least six holes in a rectangular shape, or by using a chainsaw or an Ice Saw.
The trick is to keep the jighead relatively still while pulsing the tips of the plastic like it's a little tense. Best way to pull this off is to OD on coffee first thing in the morning. Get your hands nice and shaky with a caffeine buzz; that's about the right jigging cadence for triggering coldwater bass.
One slick softbait alternative is a micro wacky rig. Skewer the middle of a Custom Jigs Noodel-essentially a micro wacky worm- onto a tungsten 'shaky head' (a #10 Majmun is perfect) and go to town. Another option is a downsized dropshot rig, wielding the same micro softbaits on a different presentation, albeit in vertical fashion.
Same deal with bait moves as before. Take your time. Pause for painfully long seconds before giving the bait one or two tiny undulations. Pause again and wait. No, really, wait! (Everything takes its time when the water's 35-degrees.)
Hobbit RodsAll of these fine-tuned moves are best accomplished with, frankly, a fine-tuned ice rod. You can't believe how delicately bass can nip bitsy artificial things that fit into a contact lens. It's why whether you're working a tiny tungsten jig and inch-long Wedgee plastic or a 1/16-ounce Slender Spoon, the right rod's a big deal for hardwater bass.
St. Croix has borrowed the concept of a split grip handle from its Mojo Bass openwater rods and applied it to ice. Wise move, dudes. Sensitivity reigns supreme at Croix, and a Mojo Ice split grip ice rod sports an exposed blank, perfect for pencil-gripping with an index finger. Grab a pair of fingerless gloves and catch the vibe. A 32-inch medium Mojo Ice is just right for tungsten jigs and plastic, while the 36-inch MIR36L-a lightweight gem of a rod-is exceptional for working small hair jigs, spoons or downsized swimming lures like Custom Jigs & Spins RPM (sort of a secret bass lure). Spool with 4- or 5-pound test micro braid, such as PowerPro Ice Tec, and you'll be fishing the most sensitive, fine-tuned bass instrument on the ice.