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Ice Fishing Tackle, You Better Have a Back-Up Plan!

Posted by Walt Matan, Chief Product Designer for Custom Jigs and Spins on Jan 12th 2024

Ice Fishing Tackle, You Better Have a Back-Up Plan!

If all you are catching is little better have a back-up plan!

I’ve learned a lot over the years on the hundreds of ice fishing adventures that I’ve been on, but nothing is more important to fishing success than having a back-up plan. Reason being, a fish's moods will change from day to day, their location changes, their feeding time varies and they just get downright ornery.

Because of all this and of course Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong) need a back up plan every time you go ice fishing.

I’ve done it all, once I left my minnow bucket full of minnows at the bait shop. I gave them a call and told them I’d pick them up after I was done fishing. They hid them behind the store and when I picked them up...they were frozen solid. I guess I should have told them to keep the live bait and leave the empty bucket out!

Boy on sled

It’s ok to forget some tackle...but don’t forget your fishing buddy!

Did you leave important gear at home?

Once I forgot my winter boots in the driveway...when I got home they were full of snow.

I drove to the lake and wondered where my buddies were fishing. I called them on the phone and walked around for an hour before finally giving up. It was two days later before I realized that we were on different lakes.

Heck, I even left my ice rods in the garage! So after that trip, I made sure to keep them in my sled in the garage. When I loaded up the sled and all the gear in the truck, I removed the rods, loaded the gear up in the truck and still forgot the rods. Now, I always keep the rods in the back of the truck.

fishing rods in a box

All your rods won’t catch fish...if you leave them in the garage!

Forgetfulness hits often

So on the next trip, I was going walleye fishing at dusk and I picked up a few dozen minnows for tip-ups and headed to the lake. I walked out to the spot and realized that I left the tip-ups back home. Why aren’t my tip-ups in my ice fishing tackle box? What to do? Luckily, I had those rods with me and I rigged up a bunch of deadsticks for everyone with some size 4 Glowbrite Demons on the lines.

Wonderglow Demons come in five sizes for all species of fish!

Wonderglow Demons come in five sizes for all species of fish!

I charged those Demons up with a flasher, tail hooked the minnows, set them in some shallow holes and waited. Pretty soon rods started popping and walleye were flopping! I don’t know if it was the glow Demons that made a difference, but I do know that I rarely use tip-ups anymore and I still catch plenty of walleye or northern pike on deadsticks with Demons! But still, I never forget to bring along that bucket of tip-ups, just in case. Always need a back-up plan.

Michigan Guide Andrew Hendrickson always has a back-up plan!

No auger? Ack!

Like everyone else, I use an electric auger. Actually it’s a Milwaukee Drill with a Strikemaster Auger and I guarantee you that I have a back-up battery and a back-up, back-up battery...that's the double back-up plan. I also have back-up batteries for the Livescope and flasher. One can never have too many batteries.

Last year, we were filming a MidWest Outdoors TV episode up in Northern Minnesota for big gills and crappie. The bite was off, fishing was slow so we changed lakes. Instead of finding bluegill, we lucked into the smallmouth, they were great fighters and we made a nice show. Here is the result of that back-up plan:

You better have more than one jig box filled with a variety of spoons and jigs. Slender Spoons, Demon Jigging Spoons, and Vertiglo Lightnin’ Spoons in a bunch of sizes and colors for all species of fish. Chekais , Majmuns, Glazbas, and Wolfinkees are great tungsten options for deeper water.

Don’t forget old school classic designs like the Ratfinkees , Gill Pills, and of course, Demons for picky fish.

jig box full of really good stuff (jigs)

Always good to kick it old school with some classic Custom Jigs & Spins Demons, Ratfinkees, 2-Spots and Rockers!

Back-up plan #64:

Always have a few jig boxes loaded up in your tackle bag as well as a smaller box in the pocket of your jacket with a mix of jigs, because what if you forget your tackle bag with all those magic jigs?

PocketBox shown over a pretty bluegill

Back-Up Plan #64: Always good to have a small jig box in your jacket pocket, just in case

What happens if you fall thru?

Here, a back-up plan will save your hide. I always check the ice with a spud bar at early and late ice and now I wear a flotation suit. I love my Graff-USA Flotesuit. Not only will it keep me alive, it is super lightweight, waterproof and has a ton of pockets for jig boxes, bait pucks and accessories, it’s a wearable back-up plan.

Walt holding a fish and wearing a Graff USA Flotesuit

The Graff-USA Flotesuit is lightweight, warm and will save your life!

Love the one you’re with!

I fish the Petenwell and Castle Rock Flowages in Wisconsin quite often. It’s chock full of walleye, white bass crappie and catfish. Instead of being species specific, I’m happy for whatever I get and whatever is swimming around the channel edges and submerged timber.

White bass with slender spoon in his mouth

White bass are always a great back-up plan

I had a few trees that I marked in open water season and headed to those spots. It was beautiful, you could see the shape of the trees on the Livescope, conditions were perfect. The problem fish! So I moved around to all my GPS spots that I knew that had these exact trees and of course, no fish. What to do. I decided to move away from the channel, even though there was a line of anglers in their huts all set up along the channel's edge.

I’d walk a ways, drill a hole and scan with the Livescope. After an hour or so of this I came upon a hump with fallen trees and brush and there were fish! So I dropped down a 1/8th ounce gold Slender Spoon and a white bass came right up and attacked.

Soon I had two more whites and a walleye flopping on the ice. On this day the fish didn’t like submerged standing trees, they wanted submerged fallen trees, big difference So I headed back to get the ATV, tent and the rest of my gear. It didn’t take long for a half dozen anglers to pack up and swarm my area. I guess their back-up plan was to follow my back-up plan!

Lots of fishermen on the ice

It seems like every angler's back-up plan is to follow me around the lake!

What about your ATV?

I always carry a tow strap and I mount it on a winch, just in case. I keep the ATV battery on a charger the day before and I make sure it starts before I leave the house and of course, I carry a set of jumper cables so in case of problems, I can start it off my Livescope battery. Always have a back-up plan.

Chekai to the rescue on his handy ATV

The World’s #1 Ice Angler’s ATV is fully equipped!

When it comes to ice jigs, everyone wants something new to try. This year Custom Jigs & Spins has reloaded all Chekai sizes with new Wonderglow colors. There is pink, orange, chartreuse, blue and red. Last year, all the Demons were enhanced with these same Wonderglow colors and it was a big success!

Chekai jigs in Wonderglow colors - new for 2024

Chekai Jigs now come in a variety of Wonderglow flavors!

But here’s the rub. One day I caught a nice shallow water bluegill on a tiny 3mm Chartreuse Wonderglow Chekai with two spikes, the next day from the same spot, they would come up, give it a sniff and run away. But they were all over a much larger Chartreuse Wonderglow size 8 Demon with two waxworms, go figure...always have a back-up plan.

Demon lures with live bait

Sometimes they want tungsten, sometimes they want the Demon...Back-Up Plan!

Poppee was my best backup

Unfortunately, I don’t have my best back-up plan of all anymore, my father, Poppee. If we weren’t catching fish, he’d tell me to drill him some more holes. If the fish would zoom up and not commit, he’d change lure colors.

If we were really bombing out, he’d tell me we needed to move to where we caught them last time. If last time we were on a different lake, off we’d go...always have a back-up plan.

Poppee holding up a fish. We miss Poppee!

Poppee’s plan was to always catch a fish!

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