Spy Games on Ice: Picking the Right Jig

Chances are, your winter jig boxes are overflowing with jigs of all different sizes, profiles and colors—probably lots of tungsten and some lead. Sure, it’s great to have a tool for every job, but so many choices can make picking the right bait a difficult, time-consuming task.

The best jig to begin any hardwater panfish trip? “Whatever you already have tied on your rod,” says Custom Jigs & Spins’ marketing director, Walt Matan.

Matan’s mainstay is a black Custom Jigs & Spins Ratso—a lead horizontal jig and Original Finesse Plastic combo that catches panfish across the Ice Belt. “I always have at least one rod with a black Ratso tied on. A lot of times, it’s the first and last bait I need to use for ice panfish on any given day.”

Photo: Traditions Media

But Matan admits there are situations that call for constant experimentation. Tweaks in jig size, profile, orientation (horizontal vs vertical vs “verti-zontal”) and color may be the only way to grind out a few fish during difficult, post-frontal conditions or when fishing pressured waters. A peek inside Matan’s jig boxes reveals a Crayola assortment of colors, from natural, bug-matching baits to bright chartreuse, orange, pink and UV/glow options.

New Custom Jigs & Spins Glazba

“Color’s a funny subject,” says Matan. “You get arguments about its importance, but experience proves time and again that it can matter a lot, especially with crappies. Bluegills, on the other hand, seem a bit more focused on profile and size than color.”

So, what’s the best way to cycle through jigs on any given day? Sure, you can randomly tie on different jigs and watch your flasher. Brainerd, Minnesota’s “Panfish” Phil Laube has a better way.

“Once I know I’m on panfish, I drop my Aqua-Vu underwater camera and watch fish respond. I usually have a half-dozen rods with me, each rigged with different baits. Large profile vs small, tungsten vs lead, horizontal vs vertical, natural patterns vs bright glow and UV, etc. Then I watch how crappies and bluegills approach the baits on the camera in real-time. Beats watching pixels or blips on a fish-finder,” says the diehard ice fishing enthusiast.

Aqua-Vu camera

In choosing the right jig, Laube says a lot of factors come into play, like depth, water clarity, and the food fish are keyed into on any given day and location. “I try color and size extremes. For example, I might start with natural black, dark purple, and gold, then move to the other side of the spectrum with chartreuse, orange, and pink. With crappies, bigger baits work better when they’re feeding on minnows and the smaller 3mm to 4mm jigs when they’re vacuuming tiny critters,” says Laube.

“The Custom Jigs & Spins Chekai is my go-to – typically rigged with an Original Finesse Plastic or Wedgee. Close second is a Majmun, rigged with the same. If panfish are really finicky, I work through tiny, slower-falling lead jigs like the Diamond Jig, Gill Pill or tiny #12 Demon threaded with one larvae or waxy on 2-pound line. No matter the situation, the Aqua-Vu camera definitely speeds up the whole process of dialing in the right bait for the situation.”

10 new Chekai patterns for 2018. Photo: Traditions Media

For 2018, Custom Jigs & Spins has added 10 new glow and non-glow colors to the hugely popular Chekai Tungsten Ice Jig series in all four sizes (5mm, 4.5mm, 4mm, 3mm). New colors include Wonder Glow, Gold Glow Tip, Orange Puffer, Circus Clown, Pink Clown, Pink Eye, Rainbow Tiger, Lemonade, Fireball, Aqua and Junebug. These new additions bring the total count of Chekai color options to 22 unique, fish-catching patterns! MSRP $2.50.

10 new Chekai patterns introduced for 2018

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