Confession: I own more white pearl necklaces than my grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmothers combined. The difference is mine are all chintzy plastic ones and I am always on the lookout for more. I call it "pearl power" because you can’t fathom the ability of a shiny pearl bead to persuade a fish to open up its mouth and suck it in.
As a kid back in the late 1960s and 70s—the herring heydays on Lake Simcoe—it was common in the wintertime to walk out from Lefroy, onto Cook’s Bay and catch 100 fish a day. We carefully released the vast majority of those 12- to 14-inch herring, but most days we also kept a dozen or so for a fabulous Jamaican fish dish called Escovitch, that my buddy Bob Chang was famous for cooking.
And truth be told, we caught every one of those herring by jigging a small, compact shiny spoon onto which we had glued a single white pearl bead to the bottom of the treble hook. When we decided to get really sophisticated, we’d remove the treble from the O-ring, add a 6-inch monofilament dropper line and then tie the pearl-adorned hook onto the end. I have never seen another lure attract and trigger more fish to bite.
And remember, this was back on the good old days before sonar—the real BS days—when we were fishing blind. I simply can’t imagine how many herring some days were swimming below our holes, streaking in and out like fighter jets, competing with one another to eat our beads.
That lesson hasn’t been lost all these years later when I am ice fishing on a Sunset Country lake using a Diamond Willows Custom beaded lure or Freedom Tackle Minnow. These are only slightly more sophisticated baits than the ones we were using way back on Simcoe in the 70s, with a colourful bead adorning the hook.
That is a critical feature, too, because the appeal of these lures is a bright shiny metal surface that wiggles and wreathes and wobbles and reflects light when you jig it up and down to attract the fish, but then when you see them show up on your sonar screen, you can stop the frantic action, shiver the lure subtly and watch the fish devour the bead.
Understand what I am saying? The metal part of the lure is really nothing more than the delivery agent for the bead. In fact, I have watched on my underwater camera as speckled trout, rainbow trout, yellow perch, crappies, herring, whitefish and even walleyes have rushed in quickly under the ice and inspected the lure, only to lower their gaze and focus squarely on the bead, before they opened their mouths and ate it. They were so mesmerized by the pearl that they missed seeing the three sharp hooks that surrounded it.
It was the same again, just the other day, when I greeted the new ice fishing season by walking along the shore of one of the thousands of small trout lakes that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources stocks every year with speckled trout, rainbow trout, and splake. Because they’re relatively small and shallow, they tend to be among the first to freeze solidly and that was the case when I punched through five inches of crystal clear black ice. Because it was the perfect amount — not too thick and not too thin — I was able to widen my holes enough to watch my gold-coloured (W20) Williams Wabler spoon as I jigged it nine feet down near the bottom.
But I also had cheated by dressing each of the three hook points with a bright red Pautzke Balls of Fire salmon egg. Within twenty minutes, I noticed a shadow cover the spoon—like a fast eclipsing moon—so I stopped jigging and shook the spoon ever so slightly so that only the hook and eggs rocked back and forth. Then I watched the gorgeous 15-inch speckled trout open its mouth and wolf down dinner.
And that is the way it continued for the rest of the day—as it will for the rest of the winter—when you put your trust in the power of beads.