Sometimes the difference between catching a limit through the ice and going home skunked is almost nothing. Simple things like changing bait, using a different color or moving a few feet can make the difference.
Once while fishing for crappies I saw layers of suspended fish on my locator. Several were within striking distance of my minnow-tipped jig, but none bit. I tried letting my bait sit motionless, jigging rapidly, changing minnows -- nothing worked.
In a final attempt I dug to the bottom of my tackle box and came upon a dirty piece of a red plastic worm. I tore off a tiny piece and threaded it on the hook with the minnow. It seemed like a good idea; it added color but didn't make the bait too bulky.
When the jig settled amidst the school of crappies nothing happened for a few minutes. I began to think nothing would budge these fish, but then my bobber began to settle down the ice hole. I let it drop a few feet and gently set the hook. The slab-sided crappie turned sideways and went deeper. I gently worked it to the surface and lifted it onto the ice -- a nice fish, about 10 inches long with beautifully speckled sides.
That tiny bit of color made the difference. Over the next hour the crappies didn't bite like crazy, but they bit consistently every few minutes. I caught fish as long as I added a tiny bit of red plastic to the bait.
Seemingly insignificant changes can make a big difference, especially when ice fishing. Obvious changes in lures, depth, action, or technique might yield nothing, but a subtle change in jigging speed or hook color will make fish bite. This tells us that it often doesn't take much to trigger a bite. If the change isn't what the fish want we get nothing. Done right, however, the smallest change can work wonders.
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