by Bob Jensen

I was going through one of my ice-fishing lure containers the other day and said to myself "I'll be putting this stuff away before too long." It seems I talk to myself more and more lately. Anyway, too much of the time we get locked into ideas that some lures are made for ice-fishing, some techniques are for bass, and some weather conditions might be best for northern pike. While those ideas have merit, there are times when we need to be more open-minded. Make this fishing season the one where you do things a little differently.

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This smallmouth was a sucker for a live-bait rig. Not always the best way to catch smallmouth, but in this situation, it was the only way we could get them to bite​

Take those ice-fishing lures for instance. If a walleye or crappie or perch will eat them through the ice, why wouldn't they eat them in open water? Well, they will! The Puppet Minnow was designed for ice-fishing, and it does a great job through the ice for several species of fish but mostly walleye and perch. However, for several years now we've been using Puppet Minnows for walleyes in open water. I most like to use them in open water when the walleyes are deeper. I fish it straight up and down mostly because it was designed to be fished straight up and down below an ice hole. We just hover over the school of fish and lift and drop the Puppet Minnow with either an Impulse Minnow Head or a real minnow head attached.

I've heard of some folks trolling larger Puppet Minnows with good success. Again, these are the folks that think differently than others, and these are the folks who catch a lot of fish sometimes.

Consider smallmouth bass: Most of the time we use artificial baits for smallmouth, and most of the time the artificial baits work well. However, when the smallmouth get finicky, try borrowing a technique from the walleye world. Tie on a live-bait rig and tip it with either a leech or a nightcrawler. Put that rig down in a smallmouth neighborhood and you're going to get bit. In the fall, go with a redtail chub instead of the leech or crawler. When a smallmouth gets near that chub, you'll know about it. The chub gets very nervous and wiggles so much you can feel him wiggling. Smallmouth bass will respond very favorably to this walleye presentation.

What about color? Too much of the time we develop favorite colors of jigs or crankbaits or whatever, and it's understandable why and how we develop those feelings. But when your favorite color isn't working, try something else. Maybe you'll want to try something close to your favorite color pattern, or maybe you want to go way out there. It doesn't matter … just try something different when you're not catching them doing what you're doing.

The best time to try something different is when the fish are biting. If they're eating what you're using, use something else for awhile. You never know, you just might find yourself with a new favorite technique or a new favorite color. When you do that, you're expanding your fishing horizons and you'll be a more successful angler more often, and that's a good thing.

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