By the Ice Team

Dave Genz with a giant winter walleye

Many ice anglers of today understand that winter's fish live in water at its clearest. In such conditions, fish tend to locate and choose prey based on visual evidence. That might sound like mumbo-jumbo, but it means that what your bait looks like is more important under the ice than at any other time of year.

It also helps explain why plastics are coming on so strong in ice fishing.

Dave Genz, as he always does, has spent countless hours looking at plastics on his kitchen table, fishing with them under a wide variety of conditions, and watching what other people are doing with them. Known forever as a live bait believer, and known to his fishing friends as both practical and creative, it has been interesting to ask Genz his opinion on plastics and watch it evolve over the years.

Even when Dave holds a strong opinion, he is ever the mad scientist, constantly challenging his current beliefs against what else there might be. That's why he has experimented with plastics for years, doing his own tests to see how artificial teasers stack up against maggots and minnow heads, waxies and wigglers.

As we sit here right now, Dave Genz has decided where plastics fit in his personal fishing approach. These beliefs will be treated like everything else: as temporary findings until constant experimentation refines them. But, at least until it changes (and we'll report changes as they come), Dave's approach to plastics can help you, too.

Plastics in the Genz System

All other things being equal, Genz believes that plastics are at their best in clear, shallow water under daylight conditions. In other words, any time fish can see what they're looking at easily, plastics can shine.

Even under ideal conditions, it's extremely important to experiment with different styles of plastic, and colors- and most important of all is how you rig plastics and then present them.

"Just because we say that plastics work," says Dave, "doesn't mean they're no brainers. You still have to put them on right, and make fish believe they're real, and get fish to sample that bait by sucking it in."

Plastics are very effective on panfish species

Plastics are becoming increasingly popular in ice fishing, for good reason. In this article, Dave Genz describes his personal take on where plastics fit in his fishing. Here we see a jumbo perch taken on a Genz Bug and plastic, one of Dave's favorite combinations. The plastic is a Mini-Spade in the Munchies series by Lindy. When Genz wants a glowing plastic, he chooses one of the Techni-Glo tails.

Genz describes how much care he takes to slide plastic tails on straight when they are intended to trail off the end of an ice jig, for example. Crooked tails produce spinning baits, especially when you stop pounding or swimming a bait (to see whether that might trigger a fish that's nosing up to it). "Spinning is not a good thing," says Dave. "When you (stop or slow down the jigging motion), the bait should not spin around in circles."

As mentioned, how you present plastics is often the difference, especially when fish are not aggressive. In most clear, shallow, daylight situations, most fish react best to 'horizontal' presentations. First step is choosing a jig style designed to be fished horizontally, such as the Genz Bug, Fat Boy, Genz Worm or Flyer. Assuming you have the plastic rigged properly, and your knot snugged so that it helps the bait maintain a horizontal attitude, you then experiment with different 'speeds' to see what the fish want.

"Sometimes, they want it vibrating rapidly," says Genz, "and sometimes they want it swimming smoothly. You have to try different things and watch how fish react to them."

In clear water under daylight conditions, Genz typically chooses non-glowing plastics, such as Munchies. "The Munchies are scented, too," he says, "which seems to make a difference. For daytime fishing (where fish can see the bait well), I like the vibrant colors. They tend to be brighter than glowing colors. The reds and purples and whites seem to be the colors that I've had the most success with."

In deeper water- and at any depth during low light conditions or after dark- live bait often outproduces plastics.

"When they can't see as well," says Genz, "I still believe that flavor is an important factor. Live bait is still the best, for me, in deep water. That's also where a heavy pounding presentation is usually the best way to get fish to come in and inspect your bait. Then, the live bait seals the deal. But only if you keep fresh bait on there, so it has those juices coming out, enough scent to trigger the bite."

This is the point where Dave goes into detail, for the millionth time, about how it's not a contest to see how many fish you can catch "on the same worm," and after your waxie or maggot becomes an empty skin it's long past time to put a new one on.

Plastics have a place in deeper water, and under low light conditions. In those situations, Genz has proven to his satisfaction that glowing colors are a distinct advantage. This might seem obvious, but nothing in fishing is obvious until you prove it to yourself, which breeds confidence.

"In those situations," says Genz, "the Techni-Glo colors are important. Even during the daytime, when you're fishing in deeper water, you can have good success with glowing plastics, but you have to keep them charged up. If the sun is shining, hold the plastic up to the sun and it will charge the glow. But if it's not sunny, use a Tazer (an inexpensive 'flashlight' made for the purpose).

Note: Dave Genz, known as Mr. Ice Fishing, was the primary driver of the modern ice fishing revolution. For more, including details on his new instructional DVD on bluegill fishing, go to

Article provided by the Ice Team.