Like other types of outdoor activities, fishing isn’t always an exact science. There is no one perfect way to put fish on the ice. Nor is there one flawless technique that will guarantee success. However, there are some basic rules that will help with consistency if they are followed.

One of the rules I like to recommend is the need to be ready for an opportunity when it presents itself. I am referring to taking advantage of a bite when it occurs. There are few second chances when targeting finicky fish.

This starts with being prepared and ready when a lure is first dropped down a promising hole. The aggressive fish are going to react when they see food floating down upon them. If you are fumbling with gloves or not paying attention when that nice fish hits, the opportunity with that biter is usually lost. As they say, you only get one first drop.

Jerry Carlson

To help alleviate a mistake on the first drop, I make sure I get the bail closed in plenty of time to finesse my jig down to the fish. They can move upwards quickly when they decide it is time to eat and the timing of the whole process can be critical.

Once a fish is landed, I try to get back down the hole as soon as possible. Winter panfish are real roamers and will often move off quickly. Many times I have caught all of my fish for the day in a ten or fifteen minute window.

I am also a believer in having my rods and reels in perfect form. Again, I refer to being prepared. I check my knots and tie jigs on at home, not on the ice. If I break off and the bite is on, I grab another rig and get back to the business at hand.

I also go to the lake with a variety of jig set-ups. Although I always start with a jig that has plastic, there are times when something else will work better.

Most of my rods are set up with spring bobbers. However, I always have at least two rods along that are ready for tightline jigging. There are days when this more aggressive approach is far more productive that a spring bobber.

On one of the winter lakes I fish, the bluegills have a history of being extremely finicky. For this reason, I often find myself using one-pound-test line and a tiny tungsten Drop jig tipped with a couple of Euro larvae. These gills just don’t like a big profiled bait.

On a typical panfish outing, I usually take eight different rigs along. It is not unusual to use half of these rigs during a day on the ice.

So when it comes to playing by the rules when on the ice, I think of two words. The first is preparation and the second is efficiency. Efficient anglers are the ones that make the most of their opportunities. However, efficiency doesn’t happen by itself. It comes with thoughtful and practiced preparation.