One of the great bait debates is whether an angler should go with live bait or artificials. Some anglers will not grip a rod handle unless there is a bait pail or bucket nearby. Others steadfastly hit the water as an artificials purist, relying exclusively on a reliable body bait, spoon, spinner, jig, vinyl/plastic device or a combination of these artificial lures.
Expert angler Scott Brauer with Gasport-based Maki Plastics eagerly promotes his line of baits but, as a reader of all fishing situations, he will go with live baits, artificial lures or any combination of the two that will catch the most fish in less time.
Brauer travels the country, working fishing contests. Following a recent run to Michigan, he turned around and headed to Vermont for a recreational run. His readings of fishing conditions are based on what is happening under the ice as he heads out each day in search of fish.
He prefers a flasher for sonar readings. During his Niagara Falls Expo seminar, he pointed out that LCD screens have readings with some lag time.
“I like to put the flasher screen on the other side of the hole so I can watch the instant a fish moves up to bite my lure,” he said. An accompanying video of underwater fish movements showed how quickly even light-tap strikes occur at the end of the line.
This warm winter has changed ice-fishing approaches for Brauer. “Right now, the midwinter switchover is different. Less snow and ice cover and good light penetration has lakes in better shape for insect-larvae and shrimp-body lures,” he notes. On ice and in all fish-catching situations, Brauer urges anglers to check stomach contents when cleaning fish to match hatches and other food fish are feeding on now.
“With all these swarms of larvae and freshwater shrimp, you’ll see a mass of these creatures when microorganisms begin moving off bottom,” he said. For this reason, he recommends downsizing lures as fish migrate around the lake in search of these tiny microorganisms.
“This pattern will hold now, through ice season and at ice-out,” he says. Both plastics and live baits work well. He prefers a mousy grub with its tail that moves like larval action. He squishes a larger waxworm. “The squashed body often works better than a whole grub; it gives off an odor while jigging and sometimes you’ll get more hits on an emptied waxworm casing than an intact body,” he advises.
As for color selection, he says, “Red is one of my favorite colors in general, but I go with plastic colors that fish are currently feeding upon.” For example, the red grubs often work better for Brauer than the white versions. He relies on stomach contents of previously caught fish and a system of color changes to find the preferred color fish find interesting that day.
As for hole placement on ice, he says, “You’re better off planning and locating a travel corridor rather than working holes everywhere.” Modern smartphones can Google structure areas, so that drilling 2 to 6 holes in one area might be better than drilling a dozen or more holes in a line just to check out a possible structure or preferred bottom composition.
Colors of lures, choices of baits, body sizes on jigs, spoons and weighted flies all vary. Fish move up and down the water column in search of food sources and comfort levels of oxygen, which can change quickly with changes of snow cover and the thickness of ice.
In general, Brauer suggests going with the smallest of jig bodies right now and dropping down to the shortest of plastic tails. A 1/8-inch plastic has been working best of late for him.
To check out the many versions of Maki Plastic lures, visit their website at makiplastic.com.