Ice Team

2012-2013 Ice Annual

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fish come in? Just a few sniffing around? Were those fish coming up to the bait quickly or checking it out twice or three times before they leave? Were the fish slowly rising and turning away even before they got close to the bait? Big water trout are notorious for doing all of these things mentioned, so how do we decipher the code? In my experience, when the fish are moving semi- aggressively, coming in two or three times, and you are seeing this from multiple fish — it's time to hunker down and downsize a bit. Now, for most folks I guide or fish with, it's the opposite. Their thoughts? "Well, there will be a hungry one. Look at how these fish are moving, so let's keep cutting and dropping to find that one that wants to eat." And on the other spectrum, "Oh, these fish are moving slow, they must want something smaller or maybe even live bait." Through my time on the water, it has been evident that we should just move on to find a more active school when they are slow risers or just show themselves without even moving on a bait. But, for those fish that do show a bit of activity, it's time to flip over the fish trap and get to business. On the business end, the lures we select for our down- size approach is key as well. For the most part, what works best to get bit by these big water cruisers is to go from one extreme to the other. We are talking of using a pan fish approach to trout fishing. Wow, big leap in tactics, but it's what we have to do to get it done. So, this means having another rod rigged to handle stuff we would be using when typically targeting perch or larger crappies through the ice, but having enough oomph to land tackle breaking fish. Beyond the custom rods that a lot of folks use for this type of duty, look at the 26-inch perch rod from the Jason Mitchell Elite Series. It is a great rod, and one that I use a lot for these tactics to land monster fish. But, for those who want a bit beefier stick, go with the 28- inch walleye model from Jason Mitchell. For line, I exclusively use a superline for these down- sizing approaches, as I want as much strength per the line diam- eter as I can. With the advent of Berkley's new NanoFil, I can use 10lb test but still have a very thin diameter line for stealth purposes. Team this with a reel that balances well with the rod along with a reel that has a super clean drag. The smooth drag is a must, as we all know how trout love to peel drag — this will be even more prevalent now with a lighter rig in hand. We are not talking 100 ounce jigs or the miniature stuff we use when downsizing for 'gills — more so the 1/16 ounce stuff and a bit bigger. Northland Tackle makes a bunch of great stuff for our miniature trout lure esca- pades. Small spoons like the Forage Minnow, Buckshot or Macho Minnow are the no brainers. The tiniest sizes and colors though, should match the same that are get- "In my experience, when the fish are moving semi- aggressive, coming in two or three times, and you are seeing this from multiple fish—it's time to hunker down and downsize a bit. " JIM HUDSON A professional fishing guide and a national fishing promoter. Jim is one of the best big water ice anglers in the business and has a knack for tracking and catching monster fish in vast bodies of water like Lake Superior. ting you chased around by the fish from those lures' bigger counterparts. Also, the smallest Slurpies Fry Tails is a great downsize bait. It is a tube jig, but pan fish sized at 1.5 and 2 inches. Whistler Jigs and Thumper Jigs are awesome as well, and even with the small variety of these types of jigs, they have a stout hook that is needed to land trout up and over 20 pounds. Plus they have a little bit of flair with the flash they send off with their added jewelry attached. Same goes with a couple of sleeper baits for this type of fishing, the Buck-A-Roo and Bug-A-Boo jigs. Combine the slow fall from the marabou of the Bug- a-Boo and the downsized approach with the 1/16 ounce variety — KILLER. Same goes with the flash and flow from the bucktail of a quivering Buck-A-Roo in the same size or a bit beefier in the 1/8 ouncer. These are all stellar baits for our downsizing missions and all types of baits that can handle the abuse a big trout will throw at you due to their hook sizes and toughness — some- thing you must take into consideration when looking for downsized trout bait. On to our lure selection. Remember, I said pan fish. The downsize approach is all relative to the day-to day-cues we see from our fishy friends, and relative to the depth of water in which we fish for the species of trout we are after. Here we discussed tactics to get you bit on big trout that roam depths of 50 feet of water or shallower, typically brown trout, steelhead and splake of the Great Lakes along with big lake trout of the inland water variety. But, downsizing is something we do just as well for the big Lake Trout we fish in depths over 50 feet to well over 200 feet. Our lures downsize from 2 ounces to ½ ounce, and now we are fishing a medium action rod instead of a heavy action bait-caster set-up. Either way, you get the picture. For whatever trout you are pursuing, when you see them coming at you fast and hard, but just can't seal the deal on our bigger offerings, it's time to downsize and throw 'em a curve from our pan fish playbook — and go small for that BIG BITE! Editors Note: Author Jim Hudson is a member of our elite Clam Pro Staff, where he owns and operates the premier guide service on Lake Superior, Hudson's On the Spot Guide Service. Jim, along with a host of other Clam Pro Staff, educates new and experienced anglers through his Ice Roads on Ice Clinics. To learn more you can find Jim at or THE ICE ANNUAL << ICE TEAM.COM 23

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