Gear Up for Hard Water Lake Trout

Gear Up for Hard Water Lake Trout

Gear Up for Hard Water Lake Trout

by January 28, 2014

It’s that time of year. The lakes in the northern hemisphere are frozen…the Lake Trout are on the feed. This is the time to target these majestic fish.

Imagine fighting a 15 to 20+ pound monster Trout in 100+ feet of water. Now imagine doing it with a 32” ice rod with the chance of landing the fish of a lifetime every weekend. That’s the reality Bass Magnet Lures “Ice Team” members Matt Mitchell, Michael McNaught and Matthew Heayn experience on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of how these ice-obsessed anglers get it done.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned, it’s the importance of proper equipment. One wrong choice or an overlooked, minor detail and you could be left behind the pack.

Gearing up with Matt Mitchell
If anyone understands the steep learning curve associated with winter Lake Trout fishing, it’s Matt Mitchell. Matt is what we in the fishing industry call a “gear head”. By spending countless hours on the ice, Matt has learned that being outfitted with the proper equipment is paramount to hooking up with those monster Lake Trout.

matt mitchell laker head on

Matt Mitchell (photo: Matthew Heayn)

32” med-heavy Rapala R-Type “Ice Combo” spooled with 8-lb test Power pro paired up with a 6-lb Drennen leader. His go to bait is a Bass Magnet Lures 3.5” Shift’r Shad (Pearl White) rigged onto a 1/2-oz Freedom Tackle Corp. “Hydra” jig head. His favorite colors include “Pearl White”, “Herring” and “Super Smelt”. Matt also favors Bass Magnet Lures “Ice Tubes” in “White Silver”, “Simcoe Pearl” and “Emerald Shiner”. These tubes are a super soft, subtle plastic formula which makes them more flexible in colder waters. His electronics include a Lowrance X67c “Ice Machine” and a Lowrance HDS iFinder GPS, all of which are housed in a one man Clam Jason Mitchell “Elite series” thermal hut. The hut design is the key here. This hut is a flip down style that greatly improves an angler’s ability to move to the next potential hot spot at the drop of a dime.

Matt also stresses the importance of safety. Survival (flotation) suit, razor sharp “spud bar”, ice pics, throw rope, compass (when GPS fails in a storm or fog), knowledge of current ice conditions/ability to read conditions are all an absolute must. This hardcore ice angler takes the time to learn about this sport fish’s habitat, spawning cycles and forage base to further understand seasonal movements and behavior. Matt believes that “run and gun” tactics rule the day. “Run and gun drilling is the “name of the game” for finding active schools of fish. I move around and cover the entire water column until the fish show a common depth”.

matt Mitchell Laker

Matt Mitchell (photo: Matthew Heayn)

Michael McNaught’s Ice Arsenal
Michael McNaught is a Trout fishing fanatic! And much like Matt Mitchell, he’s a true tackle junkie. Chasing schools of
cruising Lakers is not as simple as drilling some holes and waiting for the bite to turn on. First off, Michael stressed the importance of fold down/portable ice huts. These light weight shelters allow an angler to comfortably fish in extreme cold and protect modern day sonar/GPS units, expensive rod/reel combos and camera gear.

His mainstay, go-to bait is the hot new Bass Magnet Lures “Tinsel Tube”. “When it comes down to it, “Tinsel Tubes” have become my go-to Lake Trout bait. This bait has put big Lakers on the right side of the ice when no other bait gets a sniff”. He continues to explain, “its flashy body along with its tinsel tail strands drive fish crazy! These baits produce unbelievable days that make 3:00am-8:00pm days worth the pain!”


Michael McNaught Laker

Michael McNaught (photo: Matthew Heayn)

Michael’s hard water checklist is as follows: 28” Med-heavy HT ice rod, matched with an Accucast spinning reel spooled with 10-lb Power Pro braid paired with a 4-9ft, 8-10lb fluorocarbon leader. His standard rig is a 1/4-oz Bass Magnet Lures “stamped” tube jig head, inserted into the game changing “Tinsel Tube”. Colors include Purple Pearl, White Pearl and Chartreuse Pearl and are available in a standard 4” length. These baits have the profile of a tube bait, combined with the look of a mylar fly, with a clear plastic head that reflects/refracts light giving them a unique baitfish appearance, mimicking a staple in Trout forage.

Now, does size matter? Sure it does. I remember a conversation I had with Michael McNaught and Canadian fishing legend, Gord Pyzer, about tube jig sizes pertaining to Lake Trouting in the winter. Michael’s suggestion was to target monster fish with monster baits.

Matthew Heayn: Big Baits equal Big Fish
Matt Heayn is probably one of the most intense ice fishers I have ever met. He is constantly tinkering with new ways to catch more and bigger fish. After an evening making large bass baits at the Bass Magnet Lures shop, Matt could not get the big bait theory out of his mind. Matthew decided to field test the Bass Magnet Lures “Tubezilla” through the ice. This bait is usually designated for flippin’ the heavy cover for monster Largemouth, but on this day it would be used to tempt huge Lake Trout. Ridiculous right? Nope. “The bigger bait seemed to draw more interest than smaller presentations, especially with the bigger more aggressive fish”.


Matthew Heayn

Matthew Heayn (photo: Michael McNaught)


Matthew’s set up includes a 28” medium heavy Rapala “R-Type” spinning combo, spooled with 15-lb Sufix “Ghost” ice braid, matched with 4 to 9-ft of 8-lb fluorocarbon leader material. His rig of choice is the 5” White pearl “Tubzilla” rigged on a 7/8-oz “Tubezilla” jig head insert, backed by a stinger hook (very effective on short strikes, which are common). “The weight allows it to fall quickly which is useful in dropping the bait back down to fish, tempting them into re-committing to this presentation.” Matthew suggests a sonar/flasher unit to get the best of both worlds. “I like the sonar for viewing the history of how the fish reacts to my presentation” Matthew explains. In this case he recommends a Lowrance Elite 4 unit. Also, he favors a hand auger for travelling several km’s per day as it is lightweight. All his handy work is done in a Rapala “Cruzer M1” fold down style, portable ice hut.

There you have it, ice fishing for Lake Trout. It’s that time of the year… are you ready for a 20 pounder?

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