Ben Beattie Outdoors

Ben Beattie Outdoors

When it comes to wintertime lake trout fishing what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Probably something along the lines of jigging with a spoon or a tube jig. And for good reason too, that’s a proven technique and two great baits for icing lakers.

Until recently I’d never seen, or even really heard of guys using tip-ups with quick strike rigs and dead bait for lake trout.


Last winter, armed with a bag full of 6- to- 10 inch frozen suckers, my fishing buddies and I proved the effectiveness of this method for catching lake trout through the ice.

It’s the exact same set-up you’d use for dead-baiting pike under a tip-up. A sliding sinker on the mainline with a quick strike rig on the business end. Simple. We tied our own rigs with fluorocarbon, treble hooks and a small spinner blade, but several premade options are available on the market.


On the lakes I fish in northwestern Ontario the best depths for winter lakers ranges from 30- to- 50 feet. Not deep at all by lake trout standards. I’ve also found a general trend towards bigger fish coming from shallower depths. A fact that plays well into the dead bait program.

I still fish typical lake trout structure like reefs, humps and prominent points that are adjacent to deeper water, but I rarely fish deeper than 50-feet. I’ll send my dead bait rig to bottom and jig tubes or spoons in nearby holes. It’s surprising how many lake trout – and big lake trout too – take the dead bait.


Typically, when a laker takes your dead bait it will make an initial run with the bait in its mouth. The tip-up flag will fly and line will peel off the spool. Once it stops, pick up any slack like, feel for weight, then set the hook. More often than not the trout will be hooked in the mouth and can be released if desired.

Lake trout are top level predators that are more than willing to chase down jigged baits, however, they are also opportunistic and won’t pass up the chance at an easy meal. This winter try adding the dead bait approach to your winter laker program – you’ll be glad you did.

Ben Beattie is an outdoor writer and fishing guide based in Sioux Lookout, ON. For more information visit