Hard-hitting and powerful fighters, Lake Trout are perhaps the most thrilling species to target through the ice. These apex predators are active during the winter, and when you find them the action can be intense. But they require a different approach to lure selection than other popular game fish.
Lake Trout favor the deep, clear waters of the northern United States and Canada. Your lure selection will need to not only mimic the forage in these waters but work well at depths a bit deeper than those of other popular game fish. This guide will help you learn exactly what lures to use ice fishing for lake trout.
What Types of Ice Lures Catch Lake Trout?
Lake trout thrive in the rocky natural lakes in the northern US and Canadian shield regions. Lakers in these bodies of water love to eat Cisco, Kokanee, Lake Herring, and Whitefish, but will also target other fish like Perch, Rainbow trout, and suckers when available. Here are the categories of lures that work best for Lake Trout.
- White or Pearl Tube Jigs – The simple soft plastic tube is the undisputed king of lake trout lures. A tube is simply a long, hollow-bodied bait with tentacles on the end. The shape and tentacles are perfect for swimming and jigging to mimic the Cisco and other bait that lake trout love so much.
- Swimbaits – Soft plastic swimbaits work well for the same reasons as tube jigs. They swim and jig extremely well at all depths and mimic their prey closely. Their paddle tails kick out a little more action than the tube.
- Bucktail Jigs – The bucktail is a big jig with white hair and feather skirt. The hair pulsates and quivers like a live baitfish. Bucktail jigs can be tipped with live bait for a natural presentation.
- Lipless Crankbaits – Lipless rattle baits are known for open water fishing, but it turns out they are great for ice fishing too. These flat sided hard baits have a tight wobble and loud rattle, perfect for vertical fishing on the ice.
- Spoons – Spoons have been around for hundreds of years. Their curved shape creates an erratic fluttering action that mimics a dying baitfish. They are made of metal and have shiny finishes to create flashing and flickering of light in the dark water.
- Airplane Jigs – These jigs feature a minnow-shaped body with plastic “wings” on the tail. The wings create an erratic action that looks like a panicked baitfish. They were originally designed for open water jigging and trolling but are deadly on lake trout.
1. White or Pearl Tube Jigs
Do not overlook the simple tube jig, as it is known as the single best ice fishing lure for lake trout. Any brand of soft plastic tubes for lake trout will work, as long as they are white or pearl and 4-½ to 7” long.
We like the or Strike King 4.5 Tubes in white or pearl. Rig the tubes with either plain lead tube jig stuffed inside the hollow body, or thread them onto a minnow shaped jig head for added realism. You can color the head or tails with chartreuse or orange markers or put scent inside the tube body for added attraction.
2. White or Pearl Swimbaits & Shad
Soft plastic swimbaits (like a Strike King Rage Swimmer) and jerkbaits (like a Zoom Super Fluke) are similar lures to the tube jig, but with tails that give them a swimming action in the water. Rig the swimbait or jerkbait on a lead minnow jighead and use a lift and fall presentation. On the fall the swimbait paddle tail will kick side to side like a fish. The jerkbait will glide side to side in an unpredictable way.
3. White Bucktail Jigs
Bucktail hair jigs, the VMC Hair Jig are another lake trout lure that has been around for as long as people have fished through the ice. Any 3/8 to 1/2oz bucktail will work great for lake trout. Hair jigs works so well because their skirts are made from real animal hair and feathers. When the bucktail is jigged the hair tends to pulsate and flare out to entice bites from predator fish.
The Rippin Rap is another top ice fishing lure for lake trout, as well as big walleye, and northern pike. The reason this lure works so well are its baitfish shape and the tight wobble and rattle that put out vibration and noise. They get the attention of nearby fish and trigger bites.
The most commons mistake ice fishermen make with a lipless bait is overworking them. Big jerking motions are hurting your chances. Just use a cadence with short 9-10″ strokes, followed by a couple twitches. That is enough to wobble and rattle in the water column to get the attention of nearby fish. Here is a great video that explains how to fish these baits to perfection.
The Red Eye Shad is another lipless crankbait that has successfully crossed over into ice fishing. The Red Eye Shad made its name in the bass fishing world for the ability to fall straight down without falling over and fouling up your line. It is the seductive falling shimmy that makes this lure a great choice for targeting lake trout.
The Snap Rap is an updated version of the all-time classic Jigging Rap. It features a wider gap on the hooks, modern color choices, and a tighter erratic falling action that mimics a panicking baitfish. Go with the two largest sizes for lake trout.
Like the Rippin Rap, you do not want to overwork the Snap Rap. Slow down and use shorter lifts, hops, drops, and shakes to get the right action. It takes some practice, but just keep the bait moving and use more wrist than arm.
The Syclops is a versatile spoon for lake trout jigging. The gold or hot chartreuse colors in the 5/8-ounce size are fantastic choices for ice fishing. The spoon features one treble hook that has a red sleeve over the long shank.
An old trick on this spoon (or any others truthfully), is to remove the treble and thread a shiner or minnow over the shank until the head is resting between two of the barbs. This adds the scent and realism of live bait while maintaining the action of the spoon.
The Williams Whitefish is a legendary spoon that was born in Canada, where it’s still made today. It features are fish-shaped body with a distinct keel bend down the center that creates fluttering action but keeps it from spinning and twisting your line.
The Whitefish comes in 4 sizes, ranging from 3-¼” to 6” long, and ½ ounce to 1-½ ounce, respectively. The Whitefish spoon can be worked at any speed without the loss of action or fouling up your line. Alternate between lifting strokes and slowly drops to get the backward and side to side motion.
9. Bay De Noc Laker Taker
Bay De Noc is well known for their spoon jigs like the Swedish Pimple, but they have many more spoons to offer. The Laker Taker is a heavy 4” brass spoon, and well known for being a productive lake trout lure. It is made from 0.62” thick brass, weighs ¾ ounce, and comes in flashy finishes like nickel, gold dip, and white pearl. The Lake Taker has a slower flutter and is a good bait when the bait gets a bit tougher.
Mooselook is another Canadian tackle company with strong ice fishing roots. The Wobbler was designed and created in 1938, on Lake Mooselookmeguntik, naturally. It features a unique fishlike shape with a fanned tail and curved body providing the fluttering action.
The Wobbler comes in over a dozen flashy colors, in both smooth and hammered finishes. The best sizes for lake trout are the Large (380) 3-7/8” and the Medium (140) 3-1/8” spoons. At 3/8 and ¼ ounce, these Wobbler is not a heavy lure by any means but can be worked effectively at most depths.
Last updated 2020-06-03 at 10:16 / Affiliate Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API