Ice-water bass

Seigo Saito
2011 Bassmaster Classic champ Kevin VanDam

We got a big blast of winter here in southern Michigan, which means our ice-fishing season is just around the corner.

Now, talking ice fishing may bore anglers in those regions of the country that never freeze, but I've found that there is a nationwide curiosity about this sport. It's a question that comes up at sport shows around the country, as many anglers think the water here is too cold to get bass to bite.

That's hardly the case! Although the water may be frozen at top, the water near the bottom is warmer, and the fish still have to eat. Furthermore, we catch them in some of the same areas we fish during late fall and summer, and they will hit an artificial lure aggressively.

On our lakes, those areas are the outside edges of weed dropoffs and on the corners of flats. The fish will school up around weeds, and, once you find them, you can really have a ball.

Finding them is a lot easier with today's equipment. I use a Humminbird Ice 55 designed for ice fishing, and it has made a tremendous difference in how I fish. It not only shows the structure and cover, but will show whether there are fish in that immediate area. It's so effective that I won't even fish in an ice hole unless the sonar shows fish are directly below.

It's a lot like the drop shotting we do on the Great Lakes, where we drive around until we mark fish, drop baits to the specific depth and work each bass individually.

With the Ice 55, I can watch my lure descend and see the fish react to it. That helps me determine which presentation creates the most interest.

My favorite lure is the Jigging Rapala, but I've also caught them on small spoons and blade baits. Last year, I talked to a guy at my brother's store who wore out the bass by jigging a Strike King Red Eye Shad under the ice!

It's surprising how aggressive the fish will be in ice fishing. More times than not, I can get more strikes working the lure harder than I can with a more subtle presentation.

I use a 4-foot spinning rod made from a broken section of a bass rod. It's perfect because I can stand over the hole and jig the bait while watching the graph screen, giving me a better hook set than if I were kneeling down with a shorter rod.

I use 6- or 8-pound Bass Pro Shops fluorocarbon line on a spinning reel and spray my line and rod guides with my KVD Line Conditioner to keep it from freezing up.

And what about the cold weather? The hands and feet are the biggest concern, which is why I carry hand warmers to insert inside my gloves and wear Irish Setter Snow Claw boots that keep my feet warm and dry.

Besides, when catching bass, who cares if it's cold outside?

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