Published on March 29th, 2020 | by The Iceman0
Ice fishing for trout with PowerBait
Berkley’s Powerbait is great when ice fishing for trout, and it’s easy to use as I will explain below. Simply put, Powerbait is one of the best baits for catching stocked trout through the ice. So if your goal is to catch as many fish as you can in as short a time as possible, Powerbait trout bait is difficult to beat.
I am not talking about all the various Berkley Powerbait soft plastics here. Those can definitely work for trout, and a whole bunch of other species too. But in this post I am focusing on the PowerBait paste bait for trout that made the company known to millions of anglers. In my neck of the woods when you say “powerbait” people just assume you’re talking about Berkley trout bait in a jar.
What is PowerBait?
Berkley’s Powerbait is a thick paste made from their own special recipe. They came up with this stuff after a lot of study. It doesn’t look like much, but it certainly causes hatchery raised trout to respond. It probably smells something like the fish feed they ate growing up. Powerbait doesn’t seem to work nearly as well with trout born in the wild. But a lot of ice fishing for trout is done in places where the fish are stocked, so this might not matter as much. If I was fishing for wild trout, I’d use a lure like the Slender Spoon. But if the fish are stocked and I want to catch a few to eat, I use Powerbait.
One of my favorite types of Powerbait to use when ice fishing is Yellow Cheese Powerbait. It actually doesn’t smell like cheese at all to my nose, but that doesn’t matter. The fish simply love it. I have limited out on this stuff more times than I can count. I have also done really well on regular Yellow Powerbait and Chartreuse Powerbait over the years. I have never caught fish on some of the more “modern” varieties like “hatchery pellet” or “mayfly purple.” So I don’t even bother carrying those anymore.
Ice fishing with PowerBait
My favorite way to catch trout through the ice with Powerbait is to use my regular ice fishing rods. In a lot of places I fish, the stocked trout are so aggressive that I don’t need more than one or two rods to catch a limit in no time. I usually set them on cheap wire rod holders. Then I just watch the tip. When it goes down I set the hook and start reeling. It is it that easy!
What about rigging? Well, I spool my reel with 4 pound test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Ice Fishing Line. It’s nearly invisible under water, and that seems to help. Next I tie on a size 12 Mustad Classic Reversed Point Salmon Egg Hook with a Trilene knot. I like the Mustad hooks because they’re sharp and easy to see. Plus they have little baitholder barbs on the shaft that help hold the soft paste on the hook. Once my hook is tied on, I pinch a few micro split shot on the line about a foot up from the hook. I want just enough weight to make the bait slowly fall through the wall column; a lot of times you’ll catch fish while the bait is still falling. Finally, I put a ball of Powerbait on the hook. I want enough to cover the whole hook, but not a huge glob. Small bite sized chunks catch more fish. Then I just drop the bait down in the hole and let is settle somewhere between the ice and the bottom.
You can fish PowerBait on a tip up too. If you want to go that route, just read my guide to rigging a tip up. Basically you put a slip sinker on your main line, then tie on a swivel. At the other end of the swivel you tie on a few feet of clear four pound test line, then either a small size 12 treble hook or salmon egg hook like these 038AH-10 from Eagle Claw. Next, you put just enough bait on to cover the hook. None of the hook should be visible at all. Finally, you drop the bait down in the hole. I usually drop it to the bottom then pull it up a couple of feet. But if you’re fishing with tip ups you can set them at different depths and see what works best.
I don’t recommend using treble hooks if you plan on releasing fish. In fact, I don’t really recommend using Powerbait for catch and release fishing at all. Because the fish usually inhale the stuff and you can get a lot of deep hooked fish that just won’t survive. If you want to release trout on Powerbait, fish with a single hook on a rod that you hold in your hand. That way you can feel the bite instantly and set the hook before the fish swallows the bait. Then you can unhook the fish without taking it out of the water. It will have a much better chance at survival that way.