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Selecting a Line For Ice Fishing

By Bob Jensen - December 1, 2002
In many ways, ice-fishing is very much like open-water fishing. Basically, the key is finding the fish, then putting a lure in front of them that they will eat. There are a lot of considerations that go into finding the fish then selecting a lure to use, but in the most basic sense, you need to find'em, then feed'em.

There are also some very distinct differences in ice-fishing and open-water fishing. When fishing through the ice, an angler is generally much closer to the fish as compared to open-water fishing. Remember, when ice-fishing, you're fishing straight up and down. Much of the time the fish is only a few feet away from you when they move in to look at the bait. Anything that makes the fish uneasy could cause it not to bite.

Smaller lures, especially when panfish are the target, will often be most productive. 1/32nd, 1/64th, even 1/80th ounce and smaller are common bait sizes for panfish. To present these baits effectively, a light line is needed. Many anglers use four pound test line with these tiny lures, and they experience some success. However, when the bite is really tough, the anglers who catch the most fish are using one and two pound test Micro Ice and Cold Weather line for panfish. The advantage to this really light line is that it allows us to present the tiny baits naturally, and it is nearly invisible to the fish.

When the fish, whether they be panfish or walleyes, move into deeper water, sometimes their wariness is reduced a little bit. When this happens, we can usually employ lines and lures that are a little heavier. For example, when the perch are in thirty feet of water and active, oftentimes an eighth ounce and three-eighths ounce jigging spoon will be equal, or almost equal in effectiveness. The advantage to the heavier spoon is that it will get to the bottom

"In deep water, a line with no-stretch or reduced stretch will be more effective. Since the line doesn't stretch, hooksets will be much more solid."
where the perch are faster.

In deep water, a line with no-stretch or reduced stretch will be more effective. Since the line doesn't stretch, hooksets will be much more solid. This reduced stretch factor is especially attractive when walleyes are the target, but can also be beneficial when you're after panfish. A line that has been seeing a lot of use by anglers chasing walleyes through the ice is 10/4 FireLine. This line has no stretch, and has ten-pound breaking strength but is the same diameter as four-pound test monofilament. It's strong, hard to see, and has virtually no stretch.

Selecting the proper line isn't the only factor that will determine success in your fishing. Sometimes the fish want a lure that is a particular color; every now and then they want the lure to be moved in a particular way, maybe fast, maybe slow. Sometimes they bite better at mid-day, other times the best bite is late in the afternoon. However, the line you choose to attach the lure to often does play a major role in how many fish you will catch.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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