Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Open-water vertical jigging with an ice-fishing rod

You’ll no longer see me using long rods for vertical jigging. I’ve discovered the shorter the rod, the better the control, the better the feel, and the better the presentation.

Via this method, vertical jigging from my boats and kayaks has been very productive for me. This is razor-edged precision fishing. You can use the sonar on the kayak to get over a productive spot, and using a short rod you can watch your lure drop into the fish and watch the fish swim up to the lure.

Sound like ice fishing? It is – just with open water. In the boat, you can feel every nuance of the bottom and detect a bite immediately with that shorter rod.

Dave Genz has taken this style of fishing to the next level with his “holey boat,” but it works from any watercraft.

Like Genz, I use ice-fishing rods. The shorter the better when fishing out of a kayak. When fishing from a boat, just a bit longer can work better depending upon the rail of the boat, but even with a wide rail around the edge, an ice-fishing rod is the best option.

All my vertical-jigging ice-fishing rods I use in open water are the spinning type spooled with superline, like Fireline, PowerPro and Nano-Fil. The line has no stretch so the sensitivity is tremendous and a superline achieves a good hook set with the shorter rod.

I use, on average, a 24-inch fluorocarbon leader because I am convinced the invisible fluorocarbon line absolutely results in more strikes. I used to tie the lines together with a uni-knot but now I use a tiny barrel-swivel on the superline because I change lures a lot and am constantly replacing the leader when it gets shorter than 12 inches. I find it easier to just tie a Palomar knot on a swivel. I see less line twist as well with the swivel, which can be a real problem when vertical jigging a lot.

Generally, I use 4-, 6- or 8-pound-test fluorocarbon leaders depending on which species I’m targeting. But when it’s big pike on the agenda, I’ll use bigger reels with heavier – 20-pound test – fluorocarbon and keep a light drag so that those toothy pike can’t cut the line. Do I use a heavier rod? No. Medium-light action ice rods work great for big northern pike.

Drop-shotting is a great vertical presentation, and I use it some. Eighty percent of the time I’ll just have a standard jig tied on with a Gulp body on it. Gulp is a scented, biodegradable, soft-bodied lure that does get a fish to commit. I’m a huge fan of a Gulp leech on a 1/4-ounce jig for both largemouth and smallmouth bass. For panfish, a 1/16-ounce jig with a 1- or 2-inch grub (twister-tail) body is perfect.

If the bite is on and the fish are aggressive, I’ll use jigging Rapalas and sonar-style baits. These lures are also great attractors when you’re searching on a generally productive spot but you haven’t pinpointed the fish.

As you can see, I don’t put my ice fishing rods away when the lakes open. I turn them into open-water vertical jigging rods and keep them working year-round.

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