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Fishing | October 24, 2023
January 25, 2023
If you’re looking for tips on choosing the best ice fishing lures, this article is for you. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to own an assortment of different baits like ice jigs. A diverse collection of lures gives you more options for fine-tuning tactics based on fish activity, forage base and other factors — and this, in turn, helps you catch more fish.
In this article, you’ll learn about popular ice fishing lures for catching walleye, yellow perch, crappie, northern pike, brook trout and other fish species.
Lures can be divided into four main categories:
Arguably the best walleye ice fishing lure of all time, the Rapala Jigging Rap is a gliding jig. Rapala’s Jigging Shad Rap and Jigging Shadow Rap are other examples. All of these lures have a horizontal, baitfish profile and natural swimming action. Along with walleye, gliding jigs also catch yellow perch, crappie, northern pike, whitefish and trout.
As far as jigging is concerned, lifting a gliding jig one to two feet produces a tantalizing swim to attract fish. Equally effective is imparting a short, hard rod snap, which makes a lure dart up and off to the side with an evasive action.
What goes up must come down, of course, and the manner in which a gliding jig falls is part of its appeal. When allowed to fall on semi-slack line, its slow, circular action mimics a wounded, vulnerable baitfish. Once a gliding jig pulls the line tight, it then swims in from the side and comes to rest directly under the ice hole. This is often when fish become unglued and strike.
Lipless crankbaits are some of the hottest lures on ice. When vertically jigged a rattling, lipless crankbait shimmies upwards, sending out heaps of vibrations, before fluttering downwards. Certain models fall with an enticing side-to-side action.
The visual and sonic display of a rattling, lipless crankbait, such as Rapala’s Rippin’ Rap and Ultra Light Rippin’ Rap, helps cover water and attract fish from far away. These same qualities are also why these hard-baits have a reputation for appealing to aggressive fish and triggering reaction strikes.
The above said, the reality is inactive fish can sometimes be deterred by noisy lures and aggressive jigging moves. In certain instances, jigging with short hops and light shakes may be enough to still make fish bite.
Other times using a non-rattling lipless crankbait, like a Rapala Slab Rap, is the better approach. This lure has a more subtle presentation and a slimmer baitfish profile than the taller Rippin’ Rap. With a weight-forward design, the Slab Rap can be lightly jigged to produce a rocking action excellent at triggering negative fish.
For many anglers, jigging spoons are the best brook trout ice fishing lures. The flashy flutter and tumbling action of spoons also makes them irresistible to walleye, perch, crappie, burbot, pike and whitefish, to name just a few species.
Many different types of spoons are available. Three of the most popular styles for ice fishing are straight, slab and high-action spoons.
Lures within this category sink quickly and have the most conservative action among jigging spoons. You’ll want some noisy models, like VMC’s Rattle Ice Fishing Spoon, as well as non-rattling ones, like the VMC Bull Spoon.
Jigged and snapped aggressively, straight spoons appeal to active fish. Gentle hops and shakes gives these lures a compelling action capable of getting strikes from hesitant onlookers.
A tapered design and bevelled edges are distinguishing features of slab spoons. This distinct shape is what gives the VMC Flash Champ and other slab spoons their hallmark flashy flutter and erratic, tumbling action.
Slab spoons can be jigged using cadences ranging from aggressive to subtle, and will catch all kinds of fish. As examples, jigging a glow version of a Flash Champ is irresistible for walleye at twilight, while dancing a silver version will tempt brook trout cruising a wood-strewn shoreline.
This final grouping of spoons has curved bodies designed to grab water. A lift-fall jigging sequence with a high-action spoon results in a flashy, flamboyant, fluttering visual.
The VMC Tingler Spoon is one example. This particular spoon leans to the side as it falls, causing it to slide downwards off to the side, helping cover more water beneath the ice. A great choice for walleye and panfish.
Another high-action spoon is the VMC Rocker. On slack line it falls slowly with a swaying action great for attracting fish. Its triggering mechanism is a glow resin Octopus hook dangling on a dropper chain. The Rocker Spoon is a must-have for whitefish, yellow perch and other panfish.
Spoons catch fish “as is” straight out of their package, but a common practice is tipping a lure’s hook with either a minnow or a scented soft-bait for extra appeal. The same can be said for gliding jigs.
A jig is simply a weighted hook, but when combined with live-bait or a soft-plastic bait the outcome is a potent ice fishing lure. The VMC Moon Eye Jig Head is a reliable choice for ice fishing and comes in a range of weights for everything from panfish to large predators.
Certain jigs are available pre-rigged with plastics. The 1/16-ounce VMC Nymph and Wingding are two examples great for panfish. The 1/4-ounce Storm Searchbait Shad 360GT is an option for northern pike and lake trout.
It’s also worth having some jigs dressed with feathers or other materials, which deliver amazingly natural actions underwater. For instance, the VMC Tungsten Bullfly Jig is a dynamite bait for finesse panfish tactics.The Blue Fox Lil’ Foxee Jigging Minnow is a good ice fishing jig for catching whitefish, yellow perch and other bottom-oriented species. Featuring a center line tie and nose-heavy design, tapping this lure on the bottom replicates a baitfish actively feeding.
Gliding jigs, lipless crankbaits, spoons and jigs are some of the best ice fishing lures you can own. Be sure to get a couple baits from each lure category in different sizes and colours, and you’ll be well prepared and on your way to catching plenty of fish this winter. For your next season, here are some tips to enhance your ice fishing adventures.