Ice fishing doesn’t necessarily start only when the lake has frozen over. In fact, wait until then to start stocking up and you might encounter more than a few empty shelves at your local fishing retailer.

If you’re seeking crappie through the ice this winter, you’ll want to grab your bait and tackle ahead of time, before the last-minute shoppers pick the aisles clean. Of course, you don’t want to purchase just any old setup. Here are three tips on how to pick the right tackle when you’re ice fishing for crappie this winter.

Lighter is Better

Being panfish, crappie are relatively small fish, so it’s wise to go with lighter tackle. There are a variety of quality light-action ice fishing rods out there, but models made by St. Croix, Frabill, Fenwick or the Dave Genz series by Clam are solid options that won’t break the bank. The companies also make rod and reel combos equipped with reliable reels if you’re in need of a full top-to-bottom outfitting. When you’re drilling holes over deeper water or water with a lot of submerged timber, you’ll want to make sure your line can handle the job. Consider using one of the superlines, like Berkely’s Fireline Micro Ice, to prevent snags and breaks. Bonus Tip: If the crappie are a little shy, try tying on a fluorocarbon leader, which will be less visible than your braid.

Jigs Are the Way to Go

Crappie fishing through the ice is primarily a jigging game and the best crappie jigs are those that can move horizontally and imitate minnows. I suggest picking up jigs like Lindy’s Techni-Glo Genz Worm or Northland’s Fire Eye Minnow. Keep a good variety of sizes on-hand, too, from size 2 to size 8. Don’t jig aggressively for crappie, though; just wiggle your bait lightly in front of the fish and tap your index finger on the rod blank to provide a little vibration to the jig.

Live Performance

Just because you’re using jigging minnows and ice jigs, don’t think that you can’t use live bait, too. Add a couple wax worms or maggots to your artificial lure to give it some extra appeal. You can even get away with scented maggot imitators, such as a 1-inch white Power Grub. One trick I learned from a friend is to cover the shank of the hook with a Power Worm and then tail hook a couple of wax worms for a very tempting presentation. Bonus Tip: I’ve also had great luck with minnows, especially when I add just a minnow head to my presentation.

Photo credit: Youtube