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By Chip Leer
Is it possible for man to create something smarter, possibly superior to humankind itself? In Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, HAL, a fabrication of bits and bytes, overran its makers. Alright, fair enough, that’s a science fiction reference, not breaking news on CNN. So let’s take it down a notch, to fishing. In an effort to make laboratory and factory creations look, feel, smell and taste like the real thing, manufacturers ceaselessly endeavor to duplicate nature. But until science and industry are capable of producing 100% lifelike minnows, crawlers, leeches, and grubs, nothing will compare to bona fide bait, aside from cloning, which is a frightening concept anyway.
Okay, so the tackle industry wages anyway, developing, constructing, and marketing. Why? For one, we’ll forever need a means to deliver live bait – sinkers, floats, hooks, etc. Additionally, many sportsmen relish the challenge of succumbing fish by purely contrived means. Think about your bass and trout guys, it’s an artificials only affair. And sometimes, when the conditions are right, fake beats real. It happens through the ice and from a boat. For instance, a nastily vibrating crankbait that gets whacked double time versus a slip-float and minnow. But likely the principal reason why lures and artificial additives – grub bodies, craws, etc. – exist is that live bait can be so danged problematic.
Think about it. How fun is it managing a minnow-bucket on the ice? Water sloshing about, laying an icy coat on everything, including you. Minnows choking in an ice crusted coffee can, flailing in slush until they freeze in suspended animation overnight in the truck. What about those waxies? Stiff as board, dead, unless kept at “heated fish house temperatures” or in a pants pocket – fortunately, maggots are slightly more durable, preferring cold, but not freezing temperatures. Dead bait works, sometimes, on jigs and tip-ups, but you’re still dealing with decaying flesh with a short window of usefulness.
So just how does an ice angler operate bait-free? Concerted jigging is the first solution. Choose a lure that either mimics natural forage or demands notice do to its lavishness. And then, put effort into making the lure come alive, imitating an escaping or wounded minnow, combining authentic appearance with minnow motion.
From the visual side, realism manifests in a lure’s shape and finish. For instance, take Lindy’s Genz Worm, Fat Boy, and Coped, three panfish classics. The Genz Worm, with its horizontal, segmented body, strives to emulate edible aquatic critters. The Fat Boy, another horizontal creature, copies the profile of fry or baitfish, and we know what big fish do to little fish. And the vertical Coped, as its name implies, replicates an actual copepod, a commonly consumed zooplankton.
Another good example of merging realistic shape and look is Northland Tackle’s new Forage Minnow Fry. It sports a holographic Baitfish Image with scale outlines and a 3D eyeball, and the profile of actual panfish fry, thin and round. The same company’s Creep Worm – introduced last year – carries segmented body parts, making it appear buggy and consumable.
As authentic as these lures are, times are rare when fish will strike a naked one alone. They need some help – a smidgen of smell, taste, and feel. Take a Genz Worm and slide on two or three Power Wigglers – maggot imitators. The resulting package caters to all of a fish’s senses. Thread a Micro Power Grub or Tube on a Forage Minnow Fry. It’ll shook, jive, and make panfish salivate. Maybe, on your Coped, instead of a minnow, slip on some Berkley Crappie Nibbles – they’re scientifically formulated to smell and taste real.
And guess what? Fake baits don’t rot; can’t die; won’t freeze and will not squirm out of your hand.
Simulated noise, produced by a rattle chamber, is another means for
underscoring live bait. Grab a Northland Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon or
Lindy Rattl’r Spoon and dress it with a swirling Power Grub – a wonderful
mixture of sight and sound. Lake trout, walleyes, pike, and largemouth
bass will devour this recipe. Incredibly, so will voracious crappies,
bluegills, and perch.
Two other lake trout and walleye slayers are Lindy’s Flyer and Northland’s
Mini Air-Plane Jig. Both are horizontal, winged gizmos that circle
and weave. And you’ll be impressed at the results of replacing the
customary minnow tipping with a Power Grub or Tube. White and blue-shad
are good for lakers and chartreuse-green for walleyes.
With artificials, like a Flyer and Power Grub pairing, Tommy Skarlis likes to swim the bait, circularly, around the hole while incorporating velvety lifts and falls. The lure swims out and away while the tail gyrates, making it nearly intoxicating to gamefish.
No one will ever claim, or should ever claim, that artificial lures can replace live bait, because they cannot. But there are certain combos, that when worked properly, come alive, almost Six Million Dollar Man-like. And high-tech mimicry has certainly earned a place on the ice.
Editor’s note: ON ICE TOUR – cofounded by Chip Leer and Tommy Skarlis
– is an intensive effort aimed at expanding the sport of ice fishing through
instructional articles, seminars, in-store and ice fishing contest appearances,
and one on one exchanges with the public. Learn more about ON ICE
TOUR and the greatest of winter sports at http://www.onicetour.com/
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