A Little Plastic Goes a Long Way
By Walt & Poppee Matan

Plastic presentations are a mystery to some anglers and a way of life to others. No matter what your skill level is in ice fishing, adding plastic to your arsenal will pay dividends in your bucket.

Plastic by itself or plastic in conjunction with live bait are the methods to try. The simplest way to start is to purchase a lure with plastic already on it. Custom Jigs & Spins Ratsos and Shimpos started the plastic revolution over a decade ago and are still our go-to jigs for crappie and bluegill.

Sitting in the package, these lures look very similar, but pull them out and the action is radically different. The Ratso rides perfectly horizontal, while the Shrimpo rides vertical. The Ratso is for more aggressive fish while the Shrimpo evokes a more subtle presentation. For the Ratso to work properly, you need to tie your ice line tight to the jig eye so that the lure rides horizontally. With the Shrimpo, make sure that the plastic is slid on the hook so that the tail rides out horizontally. The Shrimpo rides vertical with a horizontal tail which crappie really love!

The best way to fish these jigs is with a repetitive hopping motion. Keep your rod tip in constant motion and pause once in a while to check for a strike. The plastic on these jigs is not limited to only these jigs. Original Finesse Plastic can be put on any lure in your arsenal. It comes in three sizes—10, 8 and 6. The body is segmented so that you can break it off into smaller sections and easily attach it to your favorite ice jig.

But our favorite type of plastic is the Wedgee. Wedgees come in only one size, but you can break them into smaller pieces or put two or three on a larger jig. Wedgees work equally well for panfish and gamefish like walleye. The Wedgee’s triangular shape and thin tail provide constant action.

The Nuclear Ant has four Finesse Plastic legs. Many anglers add a big wax worm, but we like to slide on a Wedgee and a few spikes. This seems to give it a lot of action and adds the dimension of scent.

Finally the Finesse Plastic Noodel and Micro-Noodels round off Custom Jigs & Spins plastic offerings. These "do-nothing" chunks can be hooked like a Shrimpo, Texas-rigged for weed fishing or "wacky style". That’s right; wacky rigging works great for ice fishing too.

The only way to truly learn how the fish react to these different presentations is to see the action up close and personal. There are three ways to see the fish while ice fishing. The first is with a tent. With a dark tent in clear, shallow water you can watch the fish as they move in and attack your jig. If you have several rods rigged and ready with different jigs and plastic presentations, you can quickly switch one and grab the right one according to how aggressive the fish is.

If the water is relatively clear but too deep to see, then you need an underwater camera. With a camera properly set up you can watch your jig in action and quickly find out what you are doing right or wrong to get the fish to bite. Finally, the addition of a locator allows you to instantly find fish, as well as "see" how they react.

Frabill makes a terrific line-up of dark house tents—our favorite is the flip-over style Recon two-man. It has fishing seats, storage and darkness.

MarCum’s VS825SD underwater camera has a full-size, eight-inch LCD color screen that is waterproof. It’s the only camera you’ll ever need.

Humminbird’s Ice 55/385ci combo lets you find the fish two ways: with GPS mapping (with the addition of the LakeMaster chip) and one terrific flasher.

Finally, to give your jigs the right action, pick up a Frabill 26-inch Ice Hunter Quick Tip combo, designed by us. This rod works great for in-house use and has the right action for panfish-sized ice jigs. We like to add a Frabill Spring Bobber for ultra light bite detection.

One final technique is deep-water panfishing. With Custom Jigs & Spins new Tungsten Heavy Metal ice jigs—the Chekai and the Majmun—adding plastic seems to work better than live bait for larger sized fish. These jigs are designed by cousin Chekai from Lepoglava Croatia, so they’ve got to be good! Adding the plastic keeps those pesky potato chips off your line and the big bulls move right on in.

Walt Matan and his father, Poppee (and now cousin Chekai) are the chief lure designers for Custom Jigs & Spins. For more information on ice fishing and to see Custom Jigs & Spins full line-up of tackle including the new Tungsten Heavy Metal series ice jigs, log on to www.customjigs.com or call 1-800-831-5535 for a FREE "Tips & Tricks" catalog.

You can also log on to www.frabill.com and check out Walt and Poppee’s Ice Hunter Series 26- and 40-inch Quick Tip Panfish rod and reel combos, as well as their new favorite tents! Log on to www.marcumtech.com and www.humminbird.com for more info on electronics.