December 09, 2021
By Pete Robbins
His fellow anglers on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas may think Clark Reehm has gone a little batty when they see him casting an ice jig. Maybe too much time on tour in places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Buffalo have flash-frozen his brain. The lake doesn’t ice up and its plentiful shallow grass holds plenty of big largemouths, so why is he offshore jigging and ripping little baits?
The answer is simple. Reehm loves to “Video Game” fish and that little Rapala ice lure is one of his three top tools. For years he employed a War Eagle jigging spoon for most of his vertical presentations, and he still uses it extensively, but recently he’s supplemented it with two other tools – not just the ice presentation, but a tailspinner, too. They produce for him in the heat of summer and depths of winter, just about any time the fish are not congregating on the bank to spawn.
“When I first started playing with the ice jig there was a learning curve,” he said. “It gets hung up a lot, so you need to bring a plug knocker. But it has two big advantages over the jigging spoon. First, it covers a broader area. When you look at it with that big fin on it, you’d think it would glide on the fall, but the magic is when you pop the rod. You can fish it aggressively, and when the fin picks up water it launches it to the side. I couldn’t even tell you how far it goes, but I know it’s out of the cone of my Lowrance unit.
“The second advantage is that you can be more efficient when the fish are eating aggressively. Even a 7/8 ounce spoon flutters as it goes down. When you see a fish on the screen you’re yelling ‘Go, go, go, go’ as it descends, and the ice bait actually has a faster fall so you can intercept fish that you see on your graph.”
He also likes a tailspinner, and his current favorite is the Lunkerhunt Hatch Spin, at least partially because it has a willowleaf blade unlike the Colorado that adorns most of the competition.
“It has a different fall that either the spoon or the ice jig,” he explained. “And with both of those lures your basic presentation is a lift or pop. With the tailspinner you can worm it along the bottom or drag it like a football jig. The bass on Rayburn are notorious for eating the weight on a Carolina rig and I think that’s whey they eat this so well.”
Despite his affinity for all three lures, it remains a mystery why the fish will prefer one over the other on any given day. When Reehm has two guide clients in the boat, all three anglers will start off with a different lure. Sometimes they’ll produce equally and sometimes one will be the clear winner – in which case the other two anglers will scramble to switch up.
One place he doesn’t get complicated is with color. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. He uses white, nickel, gold and chrome, and he often paints his nickel jigging spoons white on both sides to get “the best of both worlds.” The important thing is to keep making fresh drops. “It’s better to keep dropping your bait over and over again than to soak it in one place for five to six minutes.”
Reehm fishes all three lures on the same tackle, starting with a Dobyns 704c (7-foot, 4 power) baitcasting rod. He’s tried lighter models, but all three lures are nearly an ounce – combined with their drag when he pulls, hops or snaps them, that additional backbone is critical. He pairs it with a high-speed reel. This is often mixed bag fishing.
Among the largemouths, he’ll also find smaller spotted bass, white bass, yellow bass and crappies, but the largemouths have a tendency to skyrocket after the hook is set. With an ounce of lead and a treble hook connected to them, if you can’t quickly get them under control, you may end up losing more than you land. He spools his reel with fluorocarbon, 15-pound test at a minimum, and occasionally as high as 20 when he’s fishing around heavy cover or exceptionally large fish. The ice jigging bait has produced Rayburn bass nearing 10 pounds for the veteran pro, so be prepared for the big bite even when all prior fish were relatively small.
Finally, keep on the lookout for more options. Reehm is not sponsored by any of the lure companies mentioned in this article, and he’s thrilled with their performance, but he’s always on the lookout for a better tool.
“I’m constantly buying new stuff,” he said. “I guess I’ll have to wait until we go back to someplace like Sturgeon Bay. Here in Louisiana and Texas, we don’t see many options.”