Matthew’s Bait & Tackle Tourney Report

Two days after the 1st Annual Matthew’s Bait & Tackle ice fishing tournament and I have already made my list out of things to try differently for next year’s event.  If you don’t learn and adapt, you get left in the dust, or ice chips…you get the idea.

The tourney was a lot of fun, and with having 17 entries for a first time event, it went very well.  Fishing was tough, but I think most people caught fish.  It was just getting those quality kicker type fish that pushed people ahead in several categories.

Perhaps the best part of the tournament was at the weigh-in.  At $25 for the entry fee, this really was a fun tourney, and back at the bait shop all the anglers mulled around talked about their day’s experience on the ice. Trials and tribulations, what worked,  and even what plans didn’t pan out.  If you listened, even the most experienced ice angler could pick up a few useful bits of information.

As far as anyone could tell, even though we could fish either at Sterling State Park or Bolles Harbor, it looked like all the teams fished Bolles.  The bite at Sterling just hasn’t panned out like it did last year.  Most agreed if the crappie bite had been on like in 2014, Bolles would have been deserted.

There was some cool things that happened during the tourney.  One angler picked up a 12-14 inch steelhead, I heard both sizes, so not quite sure.  Also, it was said that was the 2nd one to be caught down there this year.  Also, one angler saw a walleye in the harbor when he dropped down his camera.  Either kind of fish would have been a blast to catch on light panfish line.

it sounds like next year will be a go for the 2nd Annual Tourney, the bait shop was humming, so pretty sure the owners were happy folks about the turnout.  Next year can only get better, and am looking forward to getting in again.  The fishing is fun, you learn a lot, getting together and talking fishing with everyone, even better.

Copyright, 2015

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What was Your First Shanty?


What was your first ice fishing shanty?  My first one was a Clam 5600, cabin style, living the life of luxury.  Fully enclosed, thick floor to keep the feet warm, those were the days.  Then I learned how to really fish on the ice, and went mobile!  My next shack was the Fish Trap Pro, sit n flip was the style.  Easy set up, and get to fishing quick.

During set-up

During set-up

Moral to the story, think about what you really want to get out of ice fishing.  Consider the style of fishing you are going to do, are you going to go with comfort like today’s new hub style shelters from Clam, or are you going to the run and gun type?  I have replaced my original Pro finally, with this year’s new Kenai Pro Fish Trap from Clam.  High seat, lots of hook set room, no poles to extend, it’s truly the mobile anglers’ dream on ice.


Run n gun on the big water, making a day of it on the ice, then think big or stay home!  There are a lot of choices for fishing big water, where you will be using a machine to drag your shanty with a machine, my choice was the Voyager TCX.  Thermal cap top, holds in the heat, lets face it, when you are out all day, comfort is a bit of a consideration.  Roomy two-man if you have a bud going with you, or if you are flying solo….love the Voyager!

Copyright, 2015


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Monroe Ice Fishing


You can probably tell from the mix of fish where I was at with the neighbor on Monday, yep Bolles Harbor.  Biggest fish of the day was a crappie almost 11 inches, but lost an even bigger one on the first bite.  One of those deals where I almost threw my hand in the water to keep him from sliding back down the hole, but it was going to be a long day, and didn’t want to start it out with a wet hand.

Moved around a little bit, scouting some spots where I might be able to find a few fish for this weekend’s tourney at Matthew’s Bait Shop. Last year’s gill spot was dry, so spend most of the day slugging it out, and weeding through a bunch of small gills to get this nice mix of fish.


Caught all the decent fish on tungsten jigs, small ones, #3mm with #16 hooks, tipped with spikes.  Over the years I have come to the conclusion when it comes to icing panfish, spikes are the most reliable bait out there.  There are times when they just don’t want a waxworm.  That is why I go out to Knutson’s (Brooklyn, MI) every year and buy a 1000 at a time.  I don’t mess with colored ones, they just don’t last as long as the natural white ones do.  Leave them in the fridge or garage, if the wife won’t let you store them in the house, after all, they are maggots!

In my book the best way to prepare any type of panfish, not just perch, is to scale them.  I bought a Tumble Drumm scaler from Cabela’s a few years ago, if fact that was my second one, having two is really nice when it comes scaling perch caught off the boat.  One is usually enough to run during the winter though.


Having the scales off also makes the rest of the process that much easier to get the fillets ready for their water bath and going in the freezer.  You can vacuum seal if you want to spend the extra money for buying the unit and all the bags you will need, or just fill up a quart bag with fillets, add water, get all the air out and zip them closed.


Copyright, 2015


Posted in Fishing Reports, Ice Fishing, Panfish Fishing | Leave a comment

Ice Jigs: Size truly Matters

When people joke around and say it’s not the size of the jig, but the wiggle that counts, aren’t quite giving you the whole picture.  The size of your panfish jigs you use can be the difference between having a really good day on the ice, or one in which you struggle to get a couple of good fish.  Size really does matter, and bigger is rarely ever better.


If someone was going to ask me what the best all around sized jig to use for bluegill and crappie through the ice, I would say the one “go to” size would be a 4 mm or #14 hook  horizontal tungsten jig.  It is the one time that the tweener size might actually be the most versitile size to use in a variety of situations.

I like rigging a 4 mm up when hitting a new lake with a piece of soft plastic.  Call it my search rig, if I mark and the fish take the bait, it’s all good. If I mark fish on my Vexilar FLX-28, but they aren’t interested in that particular combination, then my next option is drop down another 4 mm, or perhaps downsize to a 3 mm.  In either case, I would rig with live bait, most often being a spike (maggot).

Why drop down in size you might be asking at this point?  There are several reasons for doing so, three come to mind right away.  Pressure is one, fishing pressure that is.  The particular lake might be getting hammered by other fisherman, so if you drop down a smaller presentation it can look a little more desirable to the target below. Another type of pressure is of the barometric kind, and the fish can go into a neutral or negative feeding mode with either a sudden rise or drop in air temperatures.  These quick changes have a direct effect on panfish feeding habits.  Really finicky fish are another reason for downsizing, sometimes you can’t direct a good reason for their feeding habits, but when you see them on the screen, and they just aren’t interested in your presentation, then down sizing can be your only option to salvage your day.  Favorite sizes for the “go small” approach are either a 2.5 or 3 mm, or size #18 and #16 sized hooks.  One helpful hint when going this route, on the smaller jigs, often the hook gap is too tight with the shank of the hook. You can actually feel the hook pull out of the fish’s mouth when this happens.  Your solution is to take a pair of forceps, and gently widen the gap.  This will increase your hook up rates considerably.

Can you ever go big and have a good day on the ice?  Yes, to be sure, having a bigger jig on your line can be just as effective in situations as going small in other instances.  I like a 5 mm jig (size #12 hook) when the fish are feeding aggressively,  the key is to get it back down in the hole and to where the fish are at as fast as possible.  Another time to break out the 5’s is when you are fishing over deep water.  Not only do you want a good sink rate, but you need the weight to transfer the jigging action created by your ice rod down through the water column to your jig.

Is that it, three, maybe four sizes?  Not entirely, there are times where I will put on a 6 mm jig, which has in most cases has a size #10 hook.  It can be effective in deep water also, but I also like dropping this bigger size down in locations where there is a current going through the area.  Without a doubt, jigging through the ice is most effective when keeping your presentation as vertical as possible.  There are times when this is only possible by dropping down the biggest jig in your arsenal.

Key point, all the jigs talked about in this piece are of the tungsten variety, and in most cases they are horizontal jigs.  Can you use lead or vertical hanging jigs, yes you can, and in some cases they can be just as effective.  It has been my experience though, nothing fishes like tungsten, and I have far greater success with baits that hang level versus straight up and down.

Copyright, 2015

Posted in Bait, Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Panfish Fishing | Leave a comment

Ice Fishing 101 Seminar @ Bass Pro in Auburn Hills, MI

This Saturday I will be back at the BPS at Great Lakes Crossing/Auburn Hills giving a intro into ice fishing seminar.  All the equipment  you will need to get started in the sport of ice fishing.  Will talk rods and reels, augers and shanties, plus breakdown some of the lures you will want to have to make sure you put more fish on the ice!  Seminar is at 1:00 pm, had two great crowds last weekend, so looking forward to seeing some new faces tomorrow.

Copyright, 2015

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What is Trending on Wednesday: Jiffy’s Wall-It Auger Mount

Got on the website this morning, and the top trending search was Jiffy’s new Wall-It auger mount.  What is the Wall-It?  It is the perfect way to store your auger in between trips on the ice, and in the off-season also!


This newly updated product for 2014-2015 season keeps the auger in an upright position when not in use.  This is perfect for the newer 4-stroke models like the 4G and Pro4. This prevents oil leaking out, and making your auger smoke when you start it.  It also works just to get it off the floor, and managing all your ice fishing gear!

Extremely easy to mount on a 16 inch stud, the Wall-It comes with all the hardware you will need.  The instructions are very straight forward and easy to follow.  This also makes the perfect gift for the person in your life who has everything related to ice fishing!

Copyright, 2015

Posted in Ice Fishing, Ice Products | Leave a comment

CatchCounter Winter Conversion


BigMouth Catch Counter

BigMouth Catch Counter


Last night I fully intended to get quite a bit done out in the shop, finalizing my ice rod arsenal in anticipation of getting on the ice.  What I ended up doing was something else, getting my Big Mouth CatchCounter ready for ice fishing! You may remember this from perch fishing earlier in the fall, but the CatchCounter is ideal for keeping track of the number of panfish you bring home to clean.


What I did was this, took the original cooler mount that I picked up from the CatchCounter website and rigged it for ice fishing.  When you purchase one of the units, you have a choice of three options; one on the cooler like what I did, one on a bucket rig, or just buy the unit, and mount it on either a bucket or cooler yourself.  I decided it was time to get some double duty out of mine, and mount on a bucket lid for keeping track of the bluegill and crappie I am going to catch this winter!


Taking the unit off the cooler was simple, loosen up a pair of wingnuts, making sure I caught the washers as they fell off and then saving the bolts and hardware for next spring. I quickly learned that the bucket lid is not as thick as the cooler lid, so I dug up some 1.25 inch threaded bolts, couple of washers and nuts to use with the new lid.  I traced the outside of shute section of the CatchCounter onto the lid with a permanent marker.  Taking a cordless drill, I worked around the new circle, careful to stay inside the lines. If I had gone outside, my new hole would have been too big.  Then taking a small saw, I cut away my insert, and then filed around the edges.


One last big of engineering went into the project.  The wire bucket handle was too short to go over the top portion of the unit.  I popped out the handle, picked up an appropriately sized drill bit and punched a hole through where the handle had been, then inserted a measured length of poly blue rope through each side. Tied a knot on the inside, at both ends, and there you have it…the perfect handle to carry my newly mounted, bucket rigged, Big Mouth CatchCounter.


Now ….bring on the ice, and the crappie, and those tasty bluegills!

Copyright, 2015

Posted in Ice Fishing | Leave a comment

Matthew’s Bait & Tackle Ice Tourney January 24th


Looks like the weather is going to be cooperating and finally one of our local bait shops is stepping up and hosting a real live tournament.  Matthew’s Bait & Tackle will be holding its first annual ice fishing tourney with four different ways to win some prize money.  Big bluegill, big perch, big crappie and total weight for your ten biggest fish are the categories in which you can claim a prize, not a bad deal at all.

As the flyer states, fishing areas include both Bolles Harbor and Sterling State Park.  Leave from the bait shop at 7 am and get to fishing when you hit the ice.  Cost is only $25 bucks a person, or if you want to fish as a team, it is still only $50.  Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get back to the shop by 2pm for the weigh-in. You might want to even time yourself a couple of times to make sure you get back by the deadline!

See you there!

Copyright, 2014

Posted in Community News, Ice Fishing, Tournament News | Leave a comment

Fishing Michigan Hits the Ice Team Annual’s Digital Magazine..

The newest release of Ice Team’s Digital Magazine has hit the presses or is it airwaves, or sounding a bit more impressive, the world wide web?  Lets go with that, sounds better.  Regardless my article on Michigan’s Backwater Perch Season is now out there for the world to read, and with the cold snap descending upon us, just in time for Michigan ice anglers to read up before hitting the ice. IMG_2782 Click on this link to read the entire magazine, and find the article on Page 14 of the Annual:  Michigan’s Backwater Perch Season   There is quite a big of good information in this edition, from upsizing baits to catch crappie and perch, to tips on walleye and catching tight lipped panfish! Copyright, 2014

Posted in Articles, Ice Fishing, Perch Fishing | Leave a comment

New Raps from Big Eye Custom Lures

I know, I should be totally focused on ice fishing this time of the year, but the USPS brought the goods yesterday afternoon. Fresh from Green Bay, my new Rapala’s arrived from Big Eye Custom Lures!  Deep Husky Jerks from the website, and six Rap Deep Taildancers in the TDD-11 size.

Big Eye Custom Lures, DHJ-12

Big Eye Custom Lures, Rapala  DHJ-12’s

These Deep Taildancers might be the best secret going on Erie.  The factory colors from Rapala are really sweet, and cannot wait to add this Confetti type pattern to the mix.  I came up with the idea from one of Big Eye’s harness blade patterns.  I had six different colors, on six different lures, and call it a pet peeve or a disease I hate going to the lake with one of anything, so I had Don (the owner of Big Eye) do his thing. One of the original colors had a red bill, again, just one of them had it, so I got them all painted red!

Big Eye Custom Lures, TDD-11's

Big Eye Custom Lures, Rapala TDD-11’s

And for being a really good guy this year, some pretty sweet willow blades, and a couple extra Colorado blades for good measure came in the package!

Big Eye Custom Lures

Big Eye Custom Lures


Here is a different view of the cranks, the colors really pop.  That Lime Attack pattern, first pic, second one down, was really effective this fall, and should be a really nice spring bait, as well! Plus, it has a watermelon twist and watermelon works anywhere you go.

Big Eye Custom Lures DHJ-12's

Big Eye Custom Lures DHJ-12’s

Big Eye Custom Lures, DHJ-12's

Big Eye Custom Lures, DHJ-12’s


The thought process is to pick up a few more willows this spring.  Will get them tied up in a variety of presentations, single blade, a unique two blade rig, and even a tandem spin harness.  Have had good success with doing tandems with the Colorado’s, so why not give it a shot, should look killer! I am sure Don, the owner of Big Eye will have some new gear to take a look at also, but for now…I should be pretty much set!  But…I know better, something new will come out, it will look killer and all previous plans will have to be rethought out, all over again.

Look up “Fishing Michigan” on Facebook, and give the page a like for more hints, video links and fishing throughout Michigan and the Midwest.

Copyright, 2014



Posted in Ice Fishing | Leave a comment