There are several factors involved in having a successful ice fishing trip. At the very top of this list is one of the best ice fishing bait available on the market.
While it is a fundamental part of any kit, finding the right bait isn’t as easy as you would imagine.
This is because there are a number of things to take into consideration including the type of fish that you are going after.
To make this easier, here is a guide and some recommendations on what you need:
The Best Ice Fishing Baits We Reviewed
- Berkley PowerBait Power Honey Worm
- Zoom Fluke Bait
- Keitech Fat Swing Impact Swimbait
- Dr. Fish Softbait Wiggle Shad
- Trigger X Mustache Worms
- Northland Tackle 4-Inch Impulse Smelt Minnow
Artificial Soft Bait – An Introduction
In this instance, the bait that I am referring to is soft, artificial bait.
The reason it is important to stress upon is that there is often some confusion regarding the difference between artificial bait and lures. Now, it is true that some anglers use these terms interchangeably. However, here, I would like to stress that some variation exists.
With lures, it is the colors and the movement of the object that draws fish to it. Now, many of artificial soft baits do look quite appealing to fish. Despite this, the main draw with artificial bait is the texture and scent. Both of these are quite similar to that of live bait. This makes the bait particularly attractive to certain types of fish.
The Advantage of Using Artificial Bait for Ice Fishing
So, now that you understand what makes soft bait special, let’s take a look at why it is so beneficial to anglers who like to go ice fishing:
Perhaps the most significant reason to turn to artificial bait is because it withstands the cold a great deal better than natural bait. Fish, worms, and various other types of live (or dead) creatures have a tendency to freeze shortly after being submerged in the water. Sometimes, this can happen before you even get to your fishing spot. As you can imagine, this impedes the natural movement of the bait quite a bit and ensures that you will not be catching anything that day.
The other thing that you can’t deny is that it is also a lot more convenient to have artificial bait on hand, particularly when the weather gets icy. Instead of having to dig up worms or go to a bait shop, you can just purchase your own supply online. In addition to being expedient, artificial bait is perfectly sanitary and mess-free.
Then there is the fact that artificial bait, despite being made from soft plastic, is quite durable. It has the kind of longevity that can’t be afforded by live or dead bait. Due to the construction of the artificial bait, you can use it over and over again, only having to top up the scent each time. This can help you to save some money in the long run as well.
Also read: Best swim bait rods
How to Choose the Right Artificial Soft Bait
The next thing that you will have to focus on is how you are going to settle on the right artificial soft bait.
In order to be able to do this, there are a few elements that you will need to understand first:
The Construction of the Bait
Most artificial baits are made from plastic, typically PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or silicone. What differs, though, is how they are made. PVC baits are combined with either an oil or a water-based resin.
When mixed with an oil-based resin, the oil acts a sort of barrier against water. So, whatever scent that is contained inside the bait remains there until a fish takes a bite. Then, the scent is released, tricking the fish into thinking that it is real bait, causing it to attack the bait again and again. This type of bait works best in clear waters.
The other type of bait is mixed with water-based resin so there is no obstruction when the bait is placed in the water. The scent is immediately released and spreads out, alerting fish to nearby ‘prey’. It is this feature that makes water-based resin quite effective in murky water with very little visibility.
The Level of Realism
Depending on the type of bait that you are using, you can’t rely on scent alone.
This is because when it comes to ice fishing, the water is generally quite clear. So, the fish often have a clear view of their prey, making them more difficult to fool.
Colors are often the first step into tricking the fish. In clear water, you may want to stick with natural or neutral colors such as brown, grey, white, or black. If the water is murky, you are going to need something more obvious and here is where luminous or bright colors will be handy. To mimic the glint of sunlight off of scales, look for bait that has glitter or metallic-like pieces.
It isn’t just about the look of the bait, however; the soft plastic has to move in a certain way as well.
If the bait moves in a believable and enticing manner, fish will be encouraged to strike. Some of the movements that you should consider are gliding, quivering, and darting actions. While the design and the texture of the bait are important here, it is also about figuring out the right technique while you are fishing.
Mimicking Natural Prey
Usually, it is a good idea to narrow down the kind of fish that you are looking for in a particular fishing spot.
Then, figure out what its favorite natural prey is. With this information in hand, you should go looking for an artificial bait that is similar in both size as well as silhouette. This increases the urge to strike in predator fish.
If this is your first-time ice fishing with artificial bait, here is a video that shows how to use it:
The Top Ice Fishing Bait
I have reviewed some of the best ice fishing bait available:
Berkley PowerBait Power Honey Worm
- Formulated for all panfish species
- Emulates insect larvae on which many fish Feed
- Great for ice fishing and open water Bobber fishing
- PowerBait power honey worm
- Formulated for trout and panfish
If you are on the hunt for panfish, then you are going to want some of the PowerBait honey worm handy.
Many of the smaller fish prey on worms and this bait bears an incredible resemblance to the honey worm. It isn’t just the look of the bait that gets the fish biting though, it is also the smell and the taste. These artificial worms are chock full of a formula that has been perfected over at Berkley.
Now, I don’t know exactly what is in it, but I did notice that the fish are a lot more eager to swim up to my hook when this bait is at the end of it. In fact, you don’t just get more bites, you will also find that the fish hold on for longer as well. This greatly increases your chance of actually walking away with a good catch. The only real downside is that for some of the larger fish, these worms are perfectly bite-sized. So, there is a chance that your catch might actually end up swallowing the bait whole. So, you may find yourself running low on your supply rather quickly, depending on how often you go fishing.
- Looks very realistic
- Excellent scent and taste
- Well-suited for ice fishing
- Can get swallowed
Zoom Fluke Bait
- Works Great on Alabama/Umbrella rigs
- Can be fished weightless or on a Jig head
- All Zoom Baits are Salt Impregnated to make fish hold on for that extra time to get you more hook...
- Country of Origin:United States
What makes this Zoom Fluke bait stand out from the competition is its versatility.
You can either choose to go fishing weightless or with a jig – it works great both ways. The other advantage that I discovered with this bait is that it is practically impossible to ignore. First off, you have a variety of colors to choose from. So, you get to select one that is ideal for the water conditions that you will be fishing in. The bait is also loaded up with glitter so that it glints, making it look even more realistic.
What really attracts the fish though, is the lifelike swimming motion of the bait. You don’t even need to be an expert at how to move the bait around. At the same time, it displaces just enough water to catch the attention of nearby fish. To make this bait all the more alluring, it is actually filled with a scent to draw the fish in closer. I noticed that once the fish do get a bite, they have a tendency to hang on a little longer than with most other baits. This is probably due to the salt that the bait is stuffed with. The only thing that is of concern is the durability. The bait really is soft, so a fish with a vicious bite may be able to do some serious damage.
- Can be used with or without jig
- Wide variety of colors
- Great swimming action
- Not very durable
Keitech Fat Swing Impact Swimbait
- Two-tone color injection process uses several different types of salted plastics to achieve perfect...
- Maintain a perfect swimming motion at any retrieve speed
- Tapered designed Ringed body makes the bait extremely weedless when Texas rigged
- The center Rigging line provides the perfect position to ensure the bait is rigged correctly
From the very first glance, it is easy to see that the design of this bait is quite unlike the others.
For one thing, the specialized grooves sets it apart from most other artificial soft bait. Well, this is precisely what gives the bait such an edge. When underwater, the bait looks a bit more distorted, tricking the fish into thinking that it is live bait. The other upshot is that the bait is able to mimic the actions of a fish swimming quite accurately. In fact, this is true regardless of the speed with which you are jiggling the rod. Due to this, even novices will find it quite easy to land a catch with this bait.
To make things even simpler, the bait is scented, meaning that it will attract fish even if the water is rather cloudy. Speaking of which, this bait is available in different colors – each perfect for either clear or murky waters. They also come in five different sizes, ideal for whatever fish you are going after. Unfortunately, its lifelike swimming abilities are also its biggest disadvantage. The suppleness of the bait makes it quite weak and easily damaged by fish.
- Looks realistic
- Excellent swimming action
- Available in different sizes and colors
- Can be easily damaged
Dr. Fish Softbait Wiggle Shad
- Ultra realistic details including scale patterns, gill plates, 3D eyes and flash foil inserted in...
- Extremely lifelike swimming action. Features a hard-pounding paddle tail to create enticing kicks...
- Work great for drop shotting. Also ideal for weightless, weedless rig. Even the easiest rig will...
- It is the perfect meal size for bass and other general freshwater species and rock fish.
- Pack of 6;Length: 2.76"/70mm; Color: Watermelon;Material: High Quality Silicone.
When you go hunting for bigger fish like trout or bass, you need a bait that is realistic enough to trick these species.
This is why I found that this bait was particularly helpful in these endeavors. The great thing about this is that despite being a soft bait, it has an authentic, 3D shape. This is complete with natural coloring, as well as holographic flash inserts, and even eyes.
Although it may not look like it, this bait is actually quite supple. This is what lends it its natural and alluring swimming pattern underwater. It has a wiggle paddle tale that moves around and displaces the water just right. In case all of this doesn’t do the trick, the silicone-based bait is salted and contains an attractant scent as well. If you are planning on fishing in murky water, this bait is available in luminous and brighter shades, in addition to the more toned-down versions as well. Now, when you are going after bigger fish, some collateral damage is to be expected. More often than not, this softer bait is what ends up being chomped off. So, there is a limit to how long you can use each one.
- Very realistic looking
- Holographic eyes and flash inserts
- Supple swimming motion
- Lacks longevity
Trigger X Mustache Worms
- Comes in a 12-Pack
- Provided by TriggerX
- Lure specially made for ice fishing
This is a bait that definitely needs to be rigged wacky style for best effects.
Once you have mastered it, though, you will certainly see the products of your labor. What really sets this bait apart is its motion once you begin to jiggle it up and down. Then, it can look like anything from plankton to a tiny fish. Both sides of the ‘mustache’ move up and down independent of each other which is why this bait looks quite so authentic.
The other benefit associated with this bait is that it can be used all year long – regardless of the weather conditions. So, in addition to being perfect for ice fishing, it is also great for when dealing with dark water. The luminous colors briefly glow, attracting fish that you would otherwise be unable to. It is also quite easy to rig and doesn’t require much expertise, so its great for beginners. There isn’t all that much to complain about with this bait as it performs really well. Of course, if you are hunting larger fish, you may find that it isn’t as efficient there.
- Great swimming motion
- Easy to rig
- Can glow in dark
- Not great for larger fish
Northland Tackle 4-Inch Impulse Smelt Minnow
- Package Weight: 0.022 lb
- Product Type: Fishing Hook
- Package Quantity: 1
- No Batteries Required
If you are looking for a bait that is as close to the real deal as possible, then the Northland Tackle version does an admirable job.
This is a really well-designed bait – the company has set out to make it look like smaller baitfish, and this is exactly the result that you get. What really stands out about it is its flipping whale tale which does a good job of looking like a frenzied baitfish. Because of the way that it moves, larger fish, in particular, are more likely to strike.
Now, there is no shortage of the kind of soft bait that has attractant scent applied to them. This formula, however, is especially enticing. This is because it is made from microplankton, adding more than a touch of realism to the smell, even underwater. The color of the fish is also low-key enough that in icy, clear waters, the fish will not be able to spot that it is a fake. Of course, this comes with a downside as this bait isn’t available in other colors. So, if you are trying to fish in murky waters, you will find that you are out of luck.
- Incredible attractant scent
- Good movement
- Looks just like baitfish
- Difficult to use in murky water
When it comes down to it, the Berkley PowerBait Power Honey Worm beats out the competition by a mile.
First off, it withstands the conditions of ice fishing incredibly well and you don’t have to worry about it freezing up and not being able to move around properly.
The larvae are also really authentic- looking, which is why it is perfect for the clear waters that you encounter when a layer of ice forms over your fishing spot. This means that the panfish and trout will still continue to bite. Although it may not be the most durable bait, there is no denying that its looks, smell, and movement are definitely a big draw to fish all around.
This concludes this review of ice fishing bait that can really take any fishing trip up a notch.
This page was last updated on 2022-08-29. Affiliate links and Product Images are from Amazon PAAPI