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Roach's Winter Game Plan  at Cabela's

Roach's Winter Game Plan

Author: Gary Roach

Have one, and stick to it! I always say the best way to be successful on the ice, day-in and day-out, is to build a good game plan and stick with it.

When you follow a game plan, you'll almost always succeed. Photo by Tim Lesmeister ©
Here is my game plan on almost every lake I fish in the winter months.

You really should know the bottom on the lake you're fishing. If you are fishing on a strange body of water, take a good lake map and study it. You want to know where the deep holes are, the points and sunken islands, the reefs and river inlets and outlets. Drill a lot of holes before you even start fishing and explore with your sonar marking areas that might hold fish and who knows, you might get lucky and spot some fish right away.

Pick a few good spots on that map and prepare to work them hard. I tend to look for sharp dropping bottom areas near a likely feeding area. I know that fish will move along the bottom from deep water towards this feeding spot. When they hit the edge of the food shelf they turn and swim along it until they can turn and move up in search of a meal. If your bait is waiting for them there, it's a safe bet that you're going to get some attention.

Sometimes it takes lots of holes and a good sonar to find fish. I use a Strikemaster Lazer auger to cut at least 15 or so holes over a good area. Search the bottom with your sonar looking for the sharp drops and fish, and use these readings to find out where you are on the map. Mark each depth in the snow or ice next to the hole so that if you go back you'll know what's under you without having to check again.

It may take cutting more holes to discover that perfect location. Never stop looking until you do discover it.

Part of my game plan revolves around technique. I always take a bucket of minnows, some wax worms, and maybe some maggots. Using a little bigger lure, like a jigging Rapala or a Fire-Eye Minnow I start by dropping a minnow down to the fish. After working some of the patented Roach jigging routines on these fish if they don't bite they are probably too small. They want a bait they can easily fit in their mouth. Time to switch.

At this point try a Jig-A-Bit ice fly and a couple of waxies. Put the bait right above the fish and quiver it. If they don't bite this offering try a couple of maggots. If they still don't go, you are dealing with fish that are not ready then, but might be ready later. You can either hang on them or move. I move.

With a good ice auger and sonar you should be able to find some active fish. My game plan always calls for finding active fish.

Another part of my game plan calls for paying attention to where I find the active fish. If I've tried a few spots and the fish were negative, and then I hit a spot where they are active, when the bite slows down I go looking for spots similar to the one I was just fishing and duplicate the productive tactics there.

Don't forget, you have fish in other areas that weren't hungry. Maybe they are now. Get back to them and see if they are willing. If not, move.

One thing to consider about a game plan is that it is always subject to modification, but only after you have followed all the steps first. Sure, you can second guess yourself if you don't happen to get lucky, but I find that setting up a solid game plan, and following it, will almost always get better results than just going out to a lake with no plan.

Check out our complete line of ice fishing gear on

If you're fishing "hard" water in the upper midwest, Cabela's Owatonna, MN store carries an excellent array of ice fishing lures.

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