Hardwater bassin’


Bill Lindner

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.

All of which runs a little counter to what happens in waters hosting prodigious populations of largemouths or smallmouths. Especially in ponds, lakes and reservoirs in the southern edge of the ice belt, bass often bite well all winter. Meanwhile, peak fishing in northern natural lakes occurs at first and last ice. That said, it’s feasible to find underwater havens with an Aqua-Vu camera—sunken Christmas trees and other artificially placed cover—that collect cadres of big bass all winter. Put a lively golden shiner down there, and you’ll eventually catch every bass on the tree. Rig a deadstick or Frabill tip-up and wait for flags to fly.