It wasn't until March of last winter that I received the green light from my oncologist. After an extended recuperation period from my cancer treatment and bone marrow transplant, she said she would allow me to do some limited ice fishing.

She went on to explain that the word “limited” meant just that. With my compromised immune system, bacterial and fungal issues associated with fishing could potentially have deadly consequences. Although I could go fishing, I could not touch fish, bait or water.

However, where there is a will, there is a way! After a little shopping, I found a set of very flexible neoprene gloves that would do the trick. The next step was to purchase a variety of Maki Plastic to use as bait and I was set.

A few days later, I picked up long time fishing crony, Charlie Simkins, and we headed to a lake neither of us had fished for several years. With our gear loaded on the four wheeler, we turned on the GPS and motored to a location that held fish the last time we were on this lake.

Once at the desired spot, we squirted water on the old holes that littered the area and took readings through the ice with our Vexilars. It wasn’t long before we located suspended fish.

With Simkins helping me run the auger, we drilled out a dozen holes and readied to fish. After threading on plastic to my tungsten jig, I sent my lure down the hole.

Over the years, I have used plastic frequently for my winter panfish. However, this was the first time I was limited to plastic only. Unless my fishing buddy was going to thread on Euro larvae, I was stuck with something artificial.

I learned quickly. Color mattered more than I thought it would. During the next few weeks, I discovered that red was quite effective on the lakes I fished. I also had good success with purple and white.

As far as the shape and profile of the plastic, I found that color was more of a factor than the profile. The Spiki and Jamei were probably my favorites, however.

There were times when the plastic definitely out fished the maggots. When this happened, Simkins would switch over from his maggot presentation. There were other outings when the maggots were hard to beat. Occasionally, Simkins would thread on a couple of maggots to help me out. I also utilized Gulp on tougher days.

Other than that, I made few changes to my presentation. Berkley Micro Ice two-pound-test line in the new red color got the job done like it always has. Both spring bobbers and tightline jigging worked well.

I have new respect for plastic after my late ice excursions last winter. It does catch bluegill and crappie through the ice very efficiently. I hope to expand on my plastic education this year.