Tag Archives: Maki Plastics

Rigging Plastics

We have had several requests on how to rig plastics for both hard and soft water conditions. I took some time today to quantify my plastics stock and snap some photos of presentations possibilities. Just because this is how we do it doesn’t mean it is right. There are times when fish will eat a bare hook and others when the presentation has to be tweaked just right or else they won’t even touch it. The best strategy is never to settle in a groove. By constantly adjusting color, angle, and size you can keep the fish guessing and possibly find a better option.

One of my biggest problems with jigs is the length of the hook shank. The shorter the shank is the easier the plastic will fall(or rip) off. I began fishing plastics on Diamond Jigs and Gill pills. Both are made by Custom Jigs and Spins. These hooks offer long hook shanks and come in various sizes and colors. I prefer using size 10 and 12 but have both 8 and 14 in my boxes. I like smaller presentations for hardwater because in general the search image for a fish is locked in on small bites. During the spring, summer, and fall months a slightly larger bait is nice because the baits are a bit larger.

I begin the majority of my days on the water using a presentation that allows my plastic to be as straight as possible.

To set up your bait straight, you run the hook through the tip of the bait and then thread it through the center of the body. I like to go a length equal to the length of the straight hook shank. It may take a few tries but I like to snug the plastic right up to the base of the jig. Many micro ice fishing plastics are thin and require hooks with a slim shank.

The bait style below provides the fisherman with several options on how to fish it. Because the body on the plastic is so small it important to hook it right through the middle to prevent it from being easily ripped off.

When the fish bite is very light, I like to rig this bait with the middle tail facing upward. The tail is just long enough to fold over under the water pressure when jigged. Drives the fish nuts!

As with any other bait, it can also be rigged horizontally and is normally equally effective.

A good option for rigging plastics is on sickle hooks. Some companies are starting to sell jigs equipped with these hooks. You can find some on Sportsmans Direct. Because of the multiple angles on these hooks, you are able to adjust how your plastic is set. At times, you can entice more fish to bite by setting the plastic in a slightly more vertical mode than plain horizontal. Another benefit to these hooks is they are less likely to be spit as you are reeling the fish in because of the angle. It wedges in better because of its sharper bend.

Another good option for fishing plastics through the ice is on a dropper chain below a Hali or some other kind of flasher. If you don’t like using a chain, you could tie up your own mono leader. The plastic below is the equivalent to a “senko” but for perch.

Many times during the summer months I find that bass get accustomed to a weedless rigged straight worm. So what do I do under these conditions? Well I rig it “whacky” of course. This method means simply to hook the bait directly through the center. When in action, the bait flaps and creates quite a disturbance.

It is still possible, even with a larger bait, to rig it horizontally. The bite will determine which strategy I use for the day. When running a larger bait below the Hali, I will often tie on my own hook in larger size for a better hook up percentage.

Sometimes I fish baits that are much larger than what I can match up with any hook size I have. In these cases I will still rig the bait in a horizontal position but I will hook more towards the center than through the head like I normally would. This method comes in handy when the fish are biting the tail of a bait as it puts the hook closer to their mouth. Below, is a good example of the options on rigging a larger bait.

This is a plain horizontal rigging. Works well when the fish are committed to biting. I have had luck using this bait during the summer months for trout in streams as it resembles a stonefly.

By hooking the bait more towards the center, you bulk up the head of the bait and put the hook closer to the fish. This has been a very effective method in deep water situations such as the glory hole.

Probably my most productive bait this winter was anything vertical by Caty Jigs. I used willows, tears, rodents, and rockers with great success. I went through phases where I like using maggots but the majority of the time I was running plastics.

I did find that the fish were more picky as to how the bait was positioned on the hook when rigged on a vertical jig. It needed to be perfectly horizontal or else the bite was slower and only the really aggressive fish bit.

Lately, through the open water, the two baits below have been the most productive options in my box. Rigged just how you see, they have caught just about every fish within the past two weeks. Quite possibly the best colors as well.

When I open up my tackle box for plastics, the majority of what I own is made by Maki Plastics. The selection below offer just about every option you could need for both hard and soft water. Although I have just about every bait pictured below, I find myself using mainly a few. As a starter kit, I would suggest purchasing: Maki, Jamei, Spiini, Guppi, Spiiki, and Mini Draggi.

Don’t be afraid to tip your baits with a maggot! Sometimes the fish want a combo of both.

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Searching For Ice Out Crappies

So the end of the ice season has come for most of us, and for many areas in the country the search for pre spawn and spawning crappies has already come and gone.  Here in the northeast, ice out on our lakes and ponds usually happens towards the end of March to mid April.  With ice out, surface temps rise and the crappie start thinking about the next life cycle; the spawn.  Crappie typically spawn in shallow sheltered water.  Small cuts or setbacks off the main lakes are great places to look.  These spots may not be fishable in the summer though.  They have enough fishable water in the spring due to run off and rising water levels on the lake.  At this point, the water levels flood shoreline brush making ideal spots for giant crappies to lay up in and spawn.  I have caught fish in as little as 6″ of water.  Ideal depths to look for are flats in the 4′-6′ range.  Shelter and cover are key components to be mindful of.  Crappie are lazy, they will look for the warmest water closest to their deep winter basin’s and weed flats.  Brush and other structure also create great habitat for spawning and are sheltered from the wind and spring time chop on the lake.

Pay very close attention to the surface temp.  Crappies will start searching for spawning locations when the water starts to consistently hold in the low to mid 40’s, however they won’t actually start to spawn until it reaches the 60’s but it’s not unusual to see them spawning in the upper 50’s.  One degree in temperature change  can make all the difference in the world. Creeks and culverts flowing into the main lake are also great areas to be aware of.  The afternoon bite is typically better since the daytime air temps have warmed the water up.  Run-off water is warmer than the main lake temp creating another hot spot for ice out crappies.  We use our Navionics to find cut backs and flowages on the lake when in search mode.  Once we find them, we cast small jigs tipped with minnow under a bobber or a small micro plastics by Maki Plastics.  Cast to the brush and pop the bobber back in.

My spring time Crappie Fishing setup consists of a 7′-9′ noodle rod.  I like the 7′ Eagle Claw and the 9′ Ultra Lite  Rod made by Riversider.  For shallow water I like to use the fixed Thill bobber made by Lindy.  Under that I am usually running tungsten jigs from Bentley.

Good luck out there searching, the fishing is going to get good real soon!

Cut Back Spring Crappies from Lake Champlain

Searched out River Crappie

3-14-12 – The Glory Hole Still Has It!

We got on the road this morning at 5:30am headed to the glory hole on the Connecticut River. We went out there hoping that the ice would be safe enough for us to get on. We figured the ice off shore over deep water would be fine. When we got there it didn’t look good but we looked around. We found a few planks from past trips and were on. A few turns of the the hand auger and we were pushing 18″ of good ice! Because the shores were bad we packed light so we could walk through the woods to get on. We had buckets, flashers, rods, and a power auger.

We punched holes and started catching fish. It didn’t take long to get into the crappie but they didn’t have much size. Past trips had similar results. The slab crappie turn on randomly throughout the day even though there are frequently big reds cruising around. After a few fish were caught Mark hooked into a decent pike. Maybe 25″ but a good fight at that. It broke the line as it came out of the hole so we got lucky!

As we fished down the line of holes it was apparent that the fish were else where. We kept working the deep channel and the edges where the depth rose up into the teens. This seemed to be a good depth for the morning bite. Mark pulled quite a few quality fish out of the shallows. The one below was his first true jumbo of the day. It was pushing 13″. In the most recent of trips we haven’t caught fish like this but we didn’t spent much time looking around I guess because they were there in full force today!

Shortly after the sun was up, I had my meal worth of fish in the bucket. That’s all I wanted to take and I released them for the rest of the day for the most part.

As the day passed by, we caught numerous fish; upwards of the 200 mark with a few limits worth in the 11-13″ range if we were keeping them. I was releasing some dandy fish that I would have been happy to have had my bucket for a meal if I didn’t have a enough for the summer in the freezer already. Probably one of the more memorable moments of this season happened today. I had an issue today with a mink stealing fish right out of my bucket. I got a short video of his first trip out starting with it hidden right in the bucket! Click here to check it out (sorry for the sideways view). I figured a little animal like that would feast on a 13″ crappie for a day, right? Nope, I was wrong. I left my bucket where it was and he crept back out and stole another! What a jerk. I then realized I should hang onto what I had left and the mink spent quite a bit of time on the ice looking for fish that were possible left behind. Too bad we were on the ball today!

Here are the fish that Mark took home for supper tonight. Looks like a good meal to me!

Mark at the end of the day with a nice pair of crappie. Both of us were fishing tungsten jigs today because of the deep water and the fish were deeper than usual. We normally get them between 6-8′ down but today was closer to 11-13′ with the bigger ones slightly higher. Maki Plastics increased the size of the fish greatly today. We were able to weed out a few but not all of the chips that are abundant in the glory hole.

The ice was melting pretty good today. This was just after a short time!

3-12-12 – Day Two On Champlain

I fished Lake Champlain on Monday from 7am until 4:30. The weather was picture perfect as long as you don’t mind the ice melting! There was little to no wind and it was sunny. I ended up fishing the afternoon in just a long sleeve shirt. Most of the other guys on the ice with me took their fishing suits off it was so nice!

The fishing was quick at times and slow at others. The bite at first light was apparently better than any other time throughout the day and wouldn’t you know it, I missed it! The fish didn’t move far all the day. We spent most of our time spread out over small area but at times we reached out when the fish were not active looking for where they went. At these times, I would walk around with my Aqua Vu Micro underwater camera and search. I found that the fish didn’t go anywhere… They were either suspended just below the ice or sitting right close to the bottom and not moving.

I wouldn’t say we struggled to catch fish but it certainly was not the best day on Lake Champlain. I was able to pull some nice crappie that were pretty spaced out throughout the day but little chips were frequent in most holes and everywhere on the camera. It seemed like they were more lethargic than normal whenever I would see a decent sized fish.

The best color today was anything heavily colored in green. I tried both horizontal and vertical with similar success but stuck it out with the vertical. I find myself getting better hook ups when I am fishing fast. I switched out many times throughout the day from maggots to plastics and both worked. I had good luck using the Mini Draggi by Maki Plastics in white or two spikes!

3-3-12 – The Weather Made The Day

So as you have seen in earlier posts, I had a pretty decent day at the VT Sportsman last tourney held at Dillenbech Bay on Lake Champlain in Alburg,VT last Saturday.  There was certainly a lot of luck that lead to me to my final weight but some other things conveniently fell into place.

To begin, the weather was the worst I have ever fished in.  The temps weren’t bad but the wind was a steady 25mph at the get go and was gusting up to 55mph.  Like most of these tournaments, I was going to have to spend a lot of my time inside my Clam Shack.  I pre-fished the day before and found that the fish were not in the locations that they normally were in this bay.  They had been the week before but the recent snowfall cover on the ice had pushed them elsewhere.  It was up to Dylan and I to find that new location.  I had a feeling that the school had pushed out into deeper water.  We set out a little after six and walked right by the crowd which was right where we always fished and out to deeper water.

As soon as I picked my auger up out of my sled the wind literally tossed my shack up side down and dumped all of it’s contents, the wind was blowing!  That’s a 50lb shack empty.  We cut holes and fished.  The first hour was slow, I managed to catch a few bluegill to put in the bucket but no crappie.  I decided that I was going to work south towards a rather larger inside turn that I saw on my Navionics. I cut a line of holes and at the end I caught a 10″ crappie.  I punched more holes and brought Dylan and our buddy Mark over.  At this point I was fishing out in the wind.

In order to detect bites better I had switched jigs and tied on a HT Tungsten glow and chartreuse tipped with maggots.  This added weight helped to keep my line tight in the hole and allowed me to feel the bites even with the wind gusting up to 55pmh.  This was the first move that the weather caused me to make that would prove successful.

Enough was enough, a fellow fishermen said he had been getting fish sight fishing, dead sticking minnows. So into my shack I went to see what was going on.  Truth be told, the Crappie were coming in right under the ice, anywhere between 6″-2.5 feet down.  The minnows however seemed to scare them.  I cut more holes and sight fished but had no hook ups. Finally, at about 10am the wind died and it started raining, more reason to stay in your shack right? Nope, not me, I got out of my shack with a feeling that this pressure change was going to turn the fish on.  I grabbed my rod with my Tungsten jig and thought about plastics. Maki Plastics makes great baits.  I’ve used a lot of his smaller profile baits this year but never really tried any of his bigger stuff.  I open my bag and dug through what I had.  I heard a voice in my head, the Voice of Jamie Vladyka, ” white is the Champlain color man”.   I pulled out a white bait that was probably 2-3″ long, looked like a worm with a devil tail, the Spiiki.

This bait was poison to the crappies for the rest of the day.  By now the cat was out of the bag and fellow fishermen were quickly moving in to our location.  It was hard to hide scooping a 12″ crappie that was too big to lift out of the hole, oh well that’s tournament fishing for ya.

The weather caused me to do two things that proved to be key today, one tie on a heavy jig, and two, rain and pressure change forced me OUT of my shack and the fished turned on.  I ended the day with a 4.73 bag of 6 fish and the big fish of the day weighing in at 1.58lbs.  A good day for sure!

Working With Plastics

Over the past two years, I have worked micro plastics into my arsenal pretty heavily. The majority of the time that I am on the ice I am running a plastic of some kind. Sometimes it is tipped with a maggot for an attractive meat scent but I would rather not do this because it takes away from the action. As with anything fishing related, what works one day may not work the next. A common mistake I make and see others doing is getting confidence in one specific set up and not changing it when the bite slows. Don’t let this happen to you!

There are several things to consider when choosing what plastic to use. Micro plastics represent their name well because they tend to have a small profile in the water but certain baits, because of their shapes, can move a lot of water. The more movement on your bait the better chance that you will trigger a fishes sensory organs. If I know that there are large fish where I am fishing but lots of aggressive smaller fish, I will use a larger bait to help weed out some smaller ones. In general, I like to go as small as possible to make it look as realistic as I can as most of the meals that panfish feed on during the winter months are tiny.

The first thing to consider is what bait to put on. They come in all shapes and sizes. Personally, I find myself using baits that have two or more tails more frequently than a straight tail. I like that they have more surface area moving. The exception to this is when I am fishing in an area that is predominately composed of pumpinseeds.  Being that their mouths are so small, I select baits that are compact. This way they can inhale it easily enough to get the hook in their mouth. When fishing for fish that can handle a larger bait, I like to scale up my presentation as much as possible. The more moving parts the better. From past experiences sight fishing, I have seen a lot of fish hit my jigs from the side or even the head. When there are tentacles pulsating off the side it attracts the fish and entices them to bite more readily rather than just blowing on it.

The next thing to consider is color. I like to contrast my colors of jig and plastic but I will point you in a different direction for the bulk of the info. There is an article on page 44 in ODU Magazine that was written by Scott Brauer, the founder of Maki Plastics, on color selection throughout winter. Its a good read that will get you started by a man who knows his stuff (also, read the rest of the magazine and sign up for their release notifications!). I have pictured some of his products below.

The final thing to think about is how to rig the plastic. If I am fishing high in the water column for suspended crappie, I like to have the bait dangling so that they feed up into it. When I am fishing more towards the bottom, I like to try to have the bait point up towards the ice in hopes that the fish are searching the bottom for a snail or a bloodworm. You can also rig them “whacky” (bass term for hooking it through the middle) which will give the bait a very good flapping action.

You can give these rigs quite a few different actions. Experiment with the bait in the hole before you drop it down to make sure that the action looks good and see how it reacts when you jig it different ways. You can can pound it, twitch it, try to hold it still, deadstick it, or raise and drop it. All methods have their own place and time. Don’t be afraid to mix them all up until you find a technique that works for the day. The last few days on the water were windy. I basically tried to hold the bait still and let the wind do the movement as it blew across my line. I detected my bites by watching for movement in the line.

When the fishing is on its a drag to have to rebait. Plastics make it possible to pull more fish out of a moving school than would be possible with live bait. Most times I just adjust how my plastic is set on the hook and toss it back down. On several occasions this winter I have caught over 40 crappies on one plastic before I had to retire it. The best day was 57! I will say that they don’t stand up so well if you are catching bass or pike. They tend to rip them up pretty easily.

Now a bit about options for tackle. In my box I keep several styles that are produced by two companies. The first company I will mention is J and S Custom Jigs. They have two styles baits that I have had a great deal of success with. The first is the “Gojo.” This bait fits my fishing style because it has multiple moving parts and the quivering action is dynamite! The thing I like about this bait is the plastic balls on the ends of the legs seem to float when put in the water. It slows the fall rate greatly. Usually fishing that bait, I find that the fish take the balls off pretty quickly as that is what they grab for first. It doesn’t change the quality of it fishes though! My favorite color in the Gojo is the clear blue glitter.

The “IceMite” series is a bait also made by J and S. These baits work wonders on pumkinseed and aggressive crappie. One huge benefit to this bait is the multiple sizes of identical shapes. When I start catching smaller fish I move up to the next size. Usually my catch rate decreases but my quality rate is increased dramatically. These baits come in 20 different colors so it isn’t usually much of a hassle to match the hatch! My favorite color for all three of these plastics is pink.

The other company that makes a quality plastic is Maki Plastics. These baits are great when the fish have a very specific search image (or really any day). The baits are very detailed and were created to replicate actual larvae pulled from the water or stomach contents. You can fish them as they are or modify the baits by pinching off a section of the body to fish just the parts that you want. The bait below is the “Maki” and is what started it all. It is killer for all species of fish but the perch absolutely love it. I fish it on vertical and horizontal jigs alike. My go to colors are white, hot pink, and black.

Probably my most used bait by Maki is the “jamei.” This bait was designed by James Vladyka of Fish Hounds Outdoors to entice the tight lipped panfish on the Connecticut River when the water is low. I have had this bait working hard for me since I got my first package! The action is great and its super compact. The tails drive the fish nuts!

I’ve had very good luck using the “Spiini” in deep water crappie situations when the fish are suspending. At the glory hole, there are lots of smaller fish around that will eat anything you drop before a big one has a chance to move in… This bait helps a bit to weed out some of the smaller ones. White and red have worked great this season so far.

By no means do I claim to be an expert on how to select plastics for a given day but the more I use them the more I learn. I know to be patient with my presentation but that I can waste a lot of time if I don’t get proactive and search for fish and give them what they want. I have used my camera numerous times to see how a fish reacts to my jig and its a great technique. No matter how many times I fish I always get something out of it! Don’t forget to put these baits in your pocket when they are no longer fishable… Lets try to be stewards of the ice!

2-17-12 And 2-18-12 – Lake Champlain

2-17-12

The last two days I fished on Lake Champlain. The weather was amazing and it was great to be out there. I may have even gotten a tan! The bite was slower than it had been but I still did quite well. There were some quality pumpkinseed and plenty of hungry perch below me. I managed to ice two decent crappie and lost a real nice one due to equipment malfunctions!

Yesterday, I fished from 12 until 5. I was using the same set up presented in my 2-15 post. As a reminder, that was a chartreuse/orange tungsten jig tipped with a pink or red polli by Maki Plastic and a maggot. The fish were hitting it just as well as anything else that I could find so I went with it. I like tungsten because it sinks so quick… It gets me back in the action fast. The biggest issue I find with it is that it is hard to fish smoothly. The best way to counteract this is to use a spring bobber as it slows the jigging action enough to have it entice the fish. I ended up catching a bunch of pumpkinseed, a few bigger bluegill, and a loner 9″ crappie.

2-18-12

Today, I got on the ice shortly before 6am. The fishing was slow until it was light out but it was a nice calm morning with no wind. Once the fish started biting it was good for quite a while. Whenever it did slow, I would use my Aqua Vu camera to find a hole where there were fish and try to catch them. Mid day, we had holes spread out quite a ways. Whenever the fish would disappear it seemed like you would find more on the far end. I put on some miles today!

As for the big crappie that I lost today it was a disappointment! I was sight fishing in 9 feet of water. I checked my Vexilar and saw a fish coming in so I quickly looked back down into the hole. As soon as I found my jig, I watched it disappear so I started to raise my rod. I saw a flash from a fish mouth so I set the hook. I felt the weight of the fish and it rolled sideways so I had a clear view of the whole thing. It was the biggest crappie I’ve ever seen! As I raised it to about the 3 foot mark I felt the tension release and the fish swam away. Upon inspection of my jig I realized the hook had straightened out. I guess that’s what keeps me excited to get out every day!

Headed out tomorrow morning bright and early to the glory hole to see how things are going. Its been a while since I’ve been there. Not sure what the plan is for the afternoon but I’ll be on the water somewhere!