When it comes to winter ice fishing, I like to keep it simple. I also like to catch fish. And yes, these two concepts are totally compatible.

One of the ways I keep my ice fishing simple is by focusing most of my ‘searching for panfish energy’ to one area. That area would be basins, or deep holes in a lake’s structure that will range from 20 to 40 feet in depth.

Although not every lake has a nice deep basin or two that will congregate crappies and some bluegills, many of them do. Any lake map will clearly show the location of these basins and will make it easy for anglers to find them.

Often times, I find that other anglers have done the location work for me. Many of the lakes I fish will have small clusters of houses set up in and around the deep basin. There is usually a well-traveled road right to these basin locations that makes navigation easy.

Once at the basin, I make an effort to look for fish on the upward slope of the basin first and not necessarily in the very deepest part of the hole. However, since the fish I am targeting will be suspended, they can be over the very deepest depths, as well.

I do most of my looking by pouring water on the ice and shooting through with my Vexilar. Depending on the snow conditions, this isn’t always possible. However, when it works, it allows me to cover a lot of territory in a very short time. It also saves battery life on my auger and wear and tear on my body.

Recently, I have been incorporating a Garmin LiveScope to assist with my searching routine. This cuts the location time down significantly.

Once I do locate deep basin fish, which are usually crappies, I drill out a good sized area with my auger before I ever drop a line. I do this for a couple of reasons.

Many times, the fish that I locate will spook when I start working the auger. Multiple holes in the area usually allows me to find where they have wandered to.

Deep basin fish are real roamers and will move around even without being spooked by an auger. Having multiple holes allows me to have a better chance of finding them once they do move.

It is very rare to sit on a hole and catch one fish after another. They just wander too much. By staying in one place, odds are the suspended panfish will eventually return. However, I find I have much better success by trying to follow the fish as they roam about.

As always, my standard fishing rig for basin fish consists of two-pound-test line, a small tungsten jig (Clam’s Drop Kick is my favorite) with a plastic tail and one Euro larva on the hook for good measure. I am a big fan of spring bobbers, as well. In really deep water, increase the weight of your jig.

Although I fish a variety of structural elements in the winter, there is no doubt that my favorite is deep basins. I have more success in these deep-water haunts than anyplace else.

Jerry Carlson
Jerry Carlson
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