Ice fishing quandary: the jigging spoon paradox
What an incredible kickoff to the 2018-19 ice fishing season. Here we are, just a couple days into December, and we’ve already enjoyed weeks of excellent hard-water fishing. Too often, we don’t enjoy reliable ice until mid- to even late December, so it’s been very gratifying to enjoy a good, old-fashioned, cold early winter that has produced quality ice.
Quite often, my go-to lure in winter is the semi-aggressive ice jigging spoon. These devices work during early, mid-, and late ice – not just for early season. Without question, spoon design during the hard-water period must match the mood of neutral to upside-of-negative fish.
A straight design will creates flash for the more “upside of neutral” behavior. Bent provides flash and vibration for pure neutral gamefish. In a more finicky walleye scenario, start with thin, lightweight and bent.
Several people at my recent ice seminars asked about drop speed of these important lures. Drop speed is very important, and a tough bite absolutely demands slow flutter drop.
In my experience, anglers tend to over-jig, and I find that many times, subtle jigging provides the best results (attractor), then hold – that’s the trigger. Start jigging a foot from the bottom, not 6 inches. Always lower your spoon on semi-slack line, and if the lure stops, set the hook.
I hold my rod horizontal to provide subtle action by ticking the rod tip or just squeezing the handle. Don’t always expect a thump – again, if something feels odd or not quite right, set that hook. If, after you’ve set the hook and you feel no fish, so what? That’s better than missing a fish.
As for rods, I’m generally running a 24- to 28-inch rod with a fast-taper tip. I demand more power in the center of the rod to maximize hook-set and control fish. You’ll see me using fluorocarbon with 8-pound test line.
Anglers should realize that their position is important, too. Always stand up and center your rod over the hole to set the hook – position the rod closer to the ice.
And remember, in any fishing situation, there is nothing wrong with setting the hook more than once.
As for live bait, tip one tine of your spoon’s treble hook with a minnow head. You also can tip a whole minnow parallel to the dorsal fin. Experiment with whole minnow and use a head on a second tine for added scent.
Finally, change your bait frequently – every five to 10 minutes. And good luck this ice season.