From: Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson
Whether you call it “late season,” “late ice” or “last ice,” this period of the winter fishing season is one to which many diehard ice anglers look forward.
But what is “late ice?” That depends much upon where in the Ice Belt you’re fishing. Northland Pro and veteran iceman Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson puts it simply. “It’s the last three weeks that the ice is still good enough to venture out. Where I do most of my fishing in Sunset Country, Ontario, it’s usually the last two weeks of March and into April.”
Several factors contribute to the late season’s prime-time status. “Warmer weather makes fishing more comfortable,” says Gussy. “But the main reason is that a lot of the snow cover is gone. More light gets through the ice and crappies become more active. Plus, it makes it much easier for anglers to get around. You can drill more holes when you don’t have to wade through two feet of snow.”
The focus remains in the crappie’s deep-water winter sanctuary, but rather than trying to dredge them from the bottom, the fish are generally more active, and the angler’s presentation a bit more frantic. Gussy’s go-to spoon is one that few anglers fish.
“A few friends and I have done real well on late crappies with the Eye-Dropper Spoon over the last couple of years, and we haven’t seen any other anglers using it,” he says. “The profile and flutter are very different from any other spoon. I’m not sure if it looks like a young crappie to the fish, or what. I just know that it works.”
Because the fish are deep—20 feet or more—Gussy opts for the 1/8-ounce Eye-Dropper tied onto 6-pound Bionic® Ice Flurosilk. The heavier line makes it easier to land the occasional walleye or lake trout that takes the spoon.
With active crappies, the attraction is visual, but Gussy still tips the spoon with a couple of Impulse® Bro’s Slug Bugs to enhance the scent profile. If the fish are more lethargic due to weather or fishing pressure, he recommends going to a back-up presentation.
“Up here there’s not much fishing pressure to deal with, but crappies will still get moody. So, for a more subtle presentation, I keep one rod rigged with a 1/32-ounce Mud Bug jig rigged with an Impulse® Stone Fly body in the Bloodworm Red pattern.”
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