Ice Jig Madness: Frozen Water Lures Making Open Water Impact
Over the pat couple of months anglers across the Midwest have made a discovery. A lure that was a “secret” among a handful of vertical bass anglers has taken bass and walleye fishing by storm. Ice jigs like the Rapala Jigging Rap and Northland Puppet Minnow are flying off store shelves as fast as manufacturers can produce them.
Unlike a jigging spoon or tail spinner Ice Jigs swim in a figure eight pattern when jigged, this subtle action is something deep fish and deep anglers are having a hard time resisting.
What is it!
Ice jigs are a group of lures originally designed to be used through the ice (really Einstein?). Until the introduction of Ice Jigs most ice fishing was done with jigging spoons and jigs, while effective their action was limited to hopping up and down, dead sticking or being shook in place. Ice jigs came to the table with a little more action, when lifted and dropped they would swim in a figure eight, something that is a little more life like and subtle that a hop.
In the late 70’s a few savvy vertical fisherman in the Ozarks discovered these baits for fishing deep suspended fish in the winter. They noticed when fish would “turn off” a spoon or a drop shot rigged worm they would hit an ice jig, quietly the bait became a regional favorite within a small group of anglers.
Ice jigs are manufactured by a limited number of companies:
- Jigging Rap is the original available from 1 1/4″ – 3 1/2″ 1/8 Oz. – 7/8 oz. sizes and around 20 colors, it is also the most widely used by bass anglers in the 5/8 oz. size.
- Jigging Shad Rap has more of a shad shape available from 1″ – 2″ – 1/8 oz. – 5/8 oz. in 14 colors, a smaller profile with a more subtle action, the smallest size is great for crappie.
- Snap Rap this newer version is designed to be fish aggressively 2 1/2″ & 3 1/8″ in 5/16 oz. & 7/8 oz. and only eight colors, great darting action and glides further from center when dropped.
- Puppet Minnow similar to the Rapala Jigging Rap available from 1.5″ – 3.5″ in 1/8 oz. – 1 oz. and eight colors
- Simply called an Ice Jig small design and only weighs 6.5 grams is built around an interior swivel to prevent line twist. Very popular in Australia but not many here in the states.
- Volkien Ice Jig European company, odd body shape, not seen much in U.S.
- Sakura Dart Japanese bait very similar to the Rapala Jigging Shad Rap, not seen in the US much but popular with ice fisherman in Canada.
How do I fish it?
Ice jigs are a vertical fishing bait, unlike jigging spoons and drop shot rigs ice jigs are not very effective when cast. Quality electronics are key to finding bait and fish in order to use an ice jig, look for schools of bait in open water on the main lake and in larger creek arms. Game fish will be close by the bait, if bait is suspend fish will likely hold below the bait if on the bottom fish can be above or in the school of bait.
The overall depth of the lake and creek arms will help to determine where the fish will be; if fishing a deep highland reservoir fish can be as deep as 100′. Pay little attention to the overall depth, the concern is how deep are the fish.
Once fish are located drop the ice jig to the fish watching it fall on your depth finder until it is a foot or so above the fish, stop the bait and start lifting and dropping the bait about 1′ – 2′. As the bait falls follow it with your rod tip, do not let the bait fall on a slack line. Watch the reaction of the fish as the bait is raised and lowered, if the fish follows the bait their is a good chance it will bite, if it holds steady try shaking the bait in place right in front of it to draw a strike. If the fish swims down toward the bottom follow it down with the bait, there are likely other fish toward the bottom that might strike the lure.
Tips and Notes:
- Multiple fish are always better than fishing for single fish. Competition between multiple fish will draw more strikes.
- Don’t be afraid to chase fish in the water column, if you are working a fish and another shows up reel up or drop down to them.
- Fish higher in the water column will be more active.
- Stay clear of heavy cover; with a hook on either end and a treble in the middle ice baits love to get hung up.
- Use Fluorocarbon; low stretch line is a must to feel light bites, we prefer 12# XPS KVD Fluorocarbon.
When and Where to Fish It
Ice jigs are primarily a winter bait even in open water, when fish school up in the the deeper portions of a lake that’s when they truly shine. While there have been a few caught on them in the summer, their subtle action doesn’t lend it’s self well to summer fishing.
The best locations are close to deep water; the old creek channel in a creek arm, main channel swing banks in river arms, points that extend to the main river channel and the end of docks over deep water. Any area where bait and fish group up in open water are prime locations for an ice jig.
Equipment: 6’6″ – 7′ medium heavy casting rod with a fast tip (Johnny Morris Carbonlite) high speed reel (Johnny Morris Carbonlite A) and 12# XPS fluorocarbon line.
From a small group of deep anglers in the Ozarks to anglers on competitive walleye tours the secret is out about Ice Jigs. They have quickly become a lure every winter angler should have in their tackle box.