Big panfish love jigging minnows like Rapala’s Jigging Shad Rap, and when panfish are on the prowl during the early ice period, the large profile and gliding action of minnows are great at enticing strikes.
Small tubes can attract all species of panfish in winter, due to their slow, spiraling descent. Great color options include brown, black, and olive, which do a great job of imitating crayfish, nymphs, and other invertebrates on the panfish menu. You can also go with white, pearl, and bone to mimic freshwater shrimp and minnows.
Northland’s Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon and Lindy’s Rattl’n Flyer are two great spoon options. To fish spoons, use a snap motion and bang them on the bottom to attract fish. Then, shake and pause it to trigger a bite. Many ice anglers also tip their spoons with minnow meat or even a scented softbait, which adds more attraction to a spoon.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an experienced ice angler without a solid collection of small ice jigs on hand. Northland’s Hexi Fly, Eagle Claw’s Tear Drop Glow Jig, or the Ice-N-Jigs Kit from JB Lures are solid choices. The jigs are typically tipped with live bait, such as maggots or wax worms, or a scented softbait to add a little something extra. When quivered, an ice jig is one of the most reliable, effective presentations, even when the action is slow. Smart anglers carry a mix of vertical, horizontal, and 45-degree-angle profile jigs.
Look to these tried-and-true favorites for success through the ice this winter. They’re all popular with seasoned ice anglers and with good reason: they catch fish. If you want a freezer filled with perch, crappie, or bluegill, then keep them on hand!