Ice Jigging Pan Fish Techniques

By Dale Helgeson - January 1, 2007

It is definitely getting to be that time again. The snow is starting to fall temperatures are dropping and ice is forming on the lakes.

First ice is a very exciting time to fish every year. The anticipation to fill your bucket full of fish is exciting but there are several techniques that will increase your chances for success.

The first thing is you can't be set on just one jigging technique. There are several techniques to try.

One of my favorites is a 6-12 inch raise with a slow drop. I will make a quick 6-12 inch raise of my rod tip sometime only 3-6 inches works as well but then slowly lower the rod tip. You should lower it as slow as possible. If you think you are going to slow then you need to slow down even more because it is probably too fast. You will have to pay special attention to the line and rod tip. If you see your line go slack or rod tip raise up set the hook. You can incorporate several other things with this technique. Sometime during the drop I will actually stop it every 2-3 inches and try to make the jig wiggle in place and then lower it some more and wiggle it again.

The wiggle technique can be used in upon itself too. With the bait usually 3-6 inches off the bottom I will just wiggle it to simulate the flutter of a water bug.

Another technique is the rip method. You actually take the jig and rip it up 3-12 inches and let it fall back down quickly. On perch in deep water you can actually lift it 2-3 feet and have it be very effective. This works well for calling fish into the area to take a look but you may have to incorporate a slower method once the fish arrive unless they are very aggressive.

Another good attracter technique is to pound your bait on the bottom and raise it just off the bottom when they come to look for the food. Never be afraid to change up your jigging technique or try a new one as well as incorporate more than one into a series of jigs. Try to remember you are imitating an injured minnow or a water bug.

Electronics will greatly increase your catches. Some people are very reluctant to spend the money for electronics. But you won't see many people who have them give them up. It makes it easier to see where your bait is in relation to the fish and it will also show you which techniques are triggering fish into some type of response. There are several types of electronics out there and all have advantages and disadvantages but I think the Vexilar FL-18 has proven to be one of the best on the market. It has great separation for distinguishing the bait from the fish and the multiple colors is easy to use and decipher it also has a second range for zooming in on the bottom of the water column..

Now that we have some ideas for jigging, what types of baits do we use? I have several different kinds and colors in my tackle box but there are a few that see more use than others. My favorites are all the different styles by Jammin jigs. My favorites are the Bobber Fry, Glitter Grubs, 1/32 Bug Jigs, and #10 Runt Rockers. I have had great success with all of these for all pan fish. Tip them with wax worms, Eurolarve, mousies, or any other type of larva. One thing you should always carry is plastic, sometimes plastic will out fish live bait under the right circumstances. Stick to slender plastics in the winter that will flutter in the water to trigger a response form the fish. My favorite colors are chartreuse, purple, pink, white, black, green, and red.

Being mobile is important in the winter as well. If you have a portable ice shack you know how nice it is to be able to stay with a school of moving fish. My favorite portable ice shacks are Otter. Team Otter has produced some of the most durable and comfortable ice shacks on the market and it provides mobility, comfort, warmth, and makes it much easier to see your line especially on sunny days when the light is reflecting. It also prevents the wind from moving you line or blowing it across the hole and allows you stay out longer.

Along with being mobile you need to use a good auger. My favorite hand auger is the StrikeMaster Laser auger. They cut fast and have an adjustable handle to make cutting holes more comfortable. The hand augers are great for shallow water with smaller amounts of ice but the Lazer 224 is definitely the way to go in deep ice conditions. As it is rated the fastest cutting stock auger that StrikeMaster builds.

Make sure to carry a spud bar early in the year though to check ice thickness as you travel across the ice.

Always remember to respect the ice and think safety first. Try some of these techniques and equipment and you will see an increase in your catches.

Don't forget to fish hard and long but don't forget to throw some back for next time.

Author Dale Helgeson
Dale Helgeson
Dale Helgeson is owner and operator of The Outdoor Experience Guide Service focusing on lakes in southeastern Wisconsin. Dale is a professional fisherman fishings the MWC walleye fishing circuits as well as writing articles for Lake-Link and Southeast Wisconsin Outdoor Guide among others. Dale is sponsored by these fine sponsors: Geneva Cabinet Company, Action Marine, DR Plastics, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Black Mountain Socks, RAM Mounts, Frabill, Pflueger Rods and Reels, Dave’s Kaboom Lures, Lake-Link.com, Kick’n Walleye Scents, Minn Kota, Strikemaster Augers, Mapping Specialists, Vexilar, Guest Pro Chargers, PowerPro Lines, KINeSYS Sunscreen, NPAA 872. His Pro Staffs include: Daiichi Hooks, XTools, FinTech Tackle Company, Off Shore Tackle, Navionics, Jammin Jigs/Bad Dog Lures