Jigs – An Addiction

For the type of fishing that we generally do, a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors of jigs are a necessity. Panfish tend to be very picky with even the slightest abnormality in a presentation. In many cases, you can catch at least a few fish on any jig but I am confident that everyday there is one specific bait that will drive the fish crazy somewhere on your selected body of water.

Fish develop a search image for whatever food source is their primary diet at the time being. If you can piece together a bait that resembles their desired prey you will be successful. There is more to catching fish than just using right bait though… You need to give the bait the correct action, speed, and put it at the right depth. Once you figure this out, stick with it and stay mobile. There are always fish that are active and some will not bite regardless of what you do. By continuously moving, you are able to catch the active fish in each hole and not waste much time beyond that. Panfish usually are on the move so make sure you keep track of holes that have produced and be sure to return to check for fish again as these holes will likely be replenished.

As you will see below I have more jigs than I will ever use in one day. I’m not ashamed to admit these are just the ones that I have in my pocket for every trip. I have boxes of extras for when I break off and need to refill my pocket boxes. It’s a bad feeling when you are on a good bite and you lose your last jig that the fish are pounding on.

I have four main boxes of jigs and they are sorted for different applications and locations. The jig boxes that I use are made by Rose Creek. They hold even the heaviest jigs very well. The categories the jigs are sorted by are lead horizontals, Lindy, non-lead verticals, and tungsten. New Hampshire put a ban on the use of lead jigs under 1″ or 1 ounce starting this year so I can’t even bring it on the ice. Its definitely not worth getting a ticket just because I want to fish with a lead jig when there are many just as good options to use!

So onto the boxes…  The first one here is my tungsten box. Tungsten has the largest size to weight ratio of all metals. It is good for situations when you want to downsize your presentation and still be able to fish deep water, fast. It is also very useful in thick weeds because you can punch through them to get to the fish. Jigs in this box come from several distributors. On the left side of the box, the top three rows are from Sportsmens Direct. The next three rows are a new option this season. They are “hard rock” jigs by Northland Tackle. The remainder of that side are Fiskas. The right side of the box is filled with jigs from Bentley Fishing USA.

This is my non-lead vertical box. I have been using these jigs more and more lately and am finding that I get a better hookup percentage! The entire left side of this of this box are  Caty jigs. The right side of the box is mostly random jigs and proven flies that I have picked up at bait shops through the years.

This is my Lindy box. Unfortunately, all these jigs are lead and I cannot use them on the river. I used them quite a bit last year with great success! It is stocked with only three styles of jigs but they are good ones! These fish very heavy and show up on the flasher very well even in deeper water! On the left side at the top you see the Genz Bug, below that is the Fatboy, and on the right side is the Worm.

This is my final box. All these jigs are made of lead so they don’t get too much action anymore. All the jigs on the left side excepts for the last row are made by Custom Jigs & Spins. These are a very good option for beginners because they are cheap and have a big selection of colors and sizes. The top three rows are gill pills. They have a flat bottom and when jigged have a very good flutter action. The next four rows are diamond jigs. They fish very precise and work better than tungsten at times because they sink a bit slower because they weigh less. The last row on the left side is composed of Northland gill getters. The right side of the box the top row is he CJ&S mini mert. The next two rows are primarily Northland forage minnow fry. The remainder of the right side is made up for “shad dart” style jigs from CMT Tackle.

These have been my go to jigs this season. From top to bottom and left to right they are: CMT super glow butt silver/orange size 12, Bentley black  size 4, Custom Jigs & Spins diamond jig pink size 12, Bentley chartreuse size 3, Fiskas gold/glow bead 4mm, Custom Jigs & Spins gill pill red glow size 12, Caty jig teardrop orange/chartreuse size 8, Caty jig willow pink/glow size 6, Custom Jigs & Spins demon gold size 6, and finally a tiny no name glow jig I picked up at Classic Outfitters.

I hope this helps you be more confident with your future jig purchases. There are a lot of choices out there and its hard to know where to start. I am still learning every day and am always trying to find better options. Stay tuned for future posts on the topic of jigs. There will be one in the soon by Bobby taking you through the steps of jig making and how anyone can do it!

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2-15-12 – Champlain Before Work

I had to fish today before I went to work in order to stay sane! I was out on Lake Champlain punching holes at 6am but the bite started slow. I got some company around 6:30 and we worked together some what punching holes and searching attempting to stay on fish. The weather today was pretty nice. It started sunny and bright and not overly cold. By the time I was leaving, it started to rain so it was a perfect time to be going to work!

There were plenty of fish in this bay today but they were not super active. They were being very picky on what they ate and how they ate it. The big pumpkinseed are still there but seem to be a bit more spread out. I was able to pull a few decent crappies today. It was nice to see them coming out of the weeds… Their colors are so much better that way! There were lots of perch cruising around but only a few jumbos.

The best part of fishing at this hole is the seagulls. They are not timid at all. If you put a fish on the ice to go grab your bucket there’s a good chance they will steal it! Quite a few times today, I would be sitting on my bucket only to turn around and see a seagull creeping in seeing what he could grab without me noticing. Breaks up the day a bit when the fishing is slow!

I’m glad I fished earlier because as I sit here at work I’m itching to fishing! Is it the weekend yet?

Here is the best bait I was able to find today. With a red spike the fish held on longer. When I used a white spike I got bites but missed far more of the fish because they weren’t holding on as well.

2-13-12 – Lakers And Perch

I guess I have been slacking on keeping up with this blog thing. Fishing is getting in the way…Sorry!

I went up to fish for lake trout and perch on an inland pond in the north east kingdom on Monday with a buddy that I met through work this summer. We had made plans to stay all day but knew the day revolved around the availability of smelt for bait. Fortunately, over the last few years I have developed a relationship with a guy on the lake. The last two years, we have had our shanties next to each other so we have spent a fair amount of time together. This year, he put his shanty where I usually fish because I don’t have access to a shanty and it was a good way to mark it. Plus, he gets to catch loads of lake trout and slab perch! His wife is quite the smelt fisherwoman. She can catch them by the bucket full while no one else is getting a bite. I got a call the night before that gave me directions to his stocked bait cache.

We were on the ice at 5am and were quickly setting up. It didn’t take long for the flags to start popping. My buddy doesn’t care for perch so I tried to have him set up in the traditional trout areas while I was in the perching grounds. One problem with our set up was that we didn’t pinwheel out our tipups from the location that we normally do. Therefore, most of his flags were in the perch holes and mine were either dead or in lake trout holes.

The morning run in the dark was decent. Not many fish but a fair number of flags that the fish had dropped the baits or were missed while setting the hook. The best fish from the morning was a laker around four pounds. It came from six feet of water. The first perch that came through a hole was 14.5″ and 1.4 pounds shortly after sunrise. It was the smallest perch of the day but still a dandy!

Pretty much the whole day was spent in my buddies hardside. The temperature wasn’t terribly cold but the wind was whipping. Boy, did the propane heater feel good! Usually when I fish, I don’t eat much if at all. On this trip, we planned ahead. We had bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches for breakfast around 10 and venison steaks around 2. I think I should start eating like that more often on the ice!

As usual, mid day was slow. We didn’t have any real runs other than one flag that tripped whenever the wind was blowing. That occurred pretty often! With all the dead time we decided to move some flags around that hadn’t produced anything all morning. The direction was deeper. Usually, fishing trout on this lake we run our traps in water less than 30 feet with the bait a leader length below the ice. We began staggering our baits and found that the bottom was just as productive if not more.

The evening started slow. As soon as the sun started setting the flags started to pick up. Some were dropped baits, some were fish, and some were missed opportunities. We thought we were going to be leaving earlier than we did so the remainder of live bait we had we but back in the shack and locked it up. We kept a few dead smelt out just in case.  Good thing we did because the fish were into it! We went round and round on what we called “the track” checking flags with lights. Several more lake trout and two more jumbo perch over 15″ were iced before we packed it up at 7.

It was good to get out fishing for trout but it isn’t quite as much fun as jigging… I think I have two more trips for lakers in my planner. One 2 weekends from now on a different lake. We will start fishing for lake trout but switch over in search for cusk for the evening.  The other at the start of march with a bunch of guys who want to see the perch and hopefully a few lakers mixed in!

There was a good perch run after dark!

This is what the perch usually are puking up as they are pulled in. I asked my buddy to check the stomach contents while he was cleaning his fish for a more detailed analysis. He reported that they all had crayfish, smelt, and some had other unidentified (partially decomposed) minnows.

One of the lakers

Here’s the best part of the day!

Check out this video!

http://s1207.photobucket.com/albums/bb470/dylan8351/?action=view&current=P1030411.mp4

2-14-12 – A Slow Day On Champlain

Headed south on Lake Champlain first thing this morning. I had never been to the area before but was planning to meet up with some buddies. I used Navionics on my phone to put myself on a 6-7′ depth contour and started to get set up for the day. After punching a bunch of holes and going around with my Aqua Vu camera I only saw two fish… Great start right? Right… Luckily, I got company shortly after! We fished through the bay and found nothing promising so we packed it up and headed a few bays north.

When we got to the next bay, we quickly started catching fish. Unfortunately, the majority of the fish we caught were very small. We did find a few slab perch and I managed to catch the smallest bluegill I have ever hooked! I couldn’t take a picture of it because it was so small… Just kidding. I didn’t want to take the time because I had more fish on the screen! Just a few drops later I caught the smallest pumpkinseed I have ever caught! Needless to say, we didn’t stick around there too long. Once again, we packed up but this time drove a little over an hour north.

The third and final stop of the day proved to be the most productive. We fished it until it was almost dark then left because the bite quickly slowed. At this spot, we caught some really nice pumpkinseed. Fishing shallower water we caught bluegill. On my very last drop of the night I caught an 8″ crappie.

Overall, it was a good day. I fished two spots that I had never been to before. I will be heading back to where I finished out the night to make an attempt at sight fishing crappies at daybreak! Stay tuned!

2-12-12 – Three Stops On The River

We decided that it was time to fish the southern part of the Connecticut River yesterday. Our plan was to scout out a few spots that had decent reports from throughout the season.  The first setback we fished was a big one!  It was a little overwhelming to look out across it and only one tank of gas and temperature hovering around zero with a wind chill.  Without hesitation, we set out for the biggest inside turn we could find that wasn’t crowded but help several hard-sides.

The plan was for one of us to cut holes while the other followed behind with the Aqua Vu camera.  This is a great way to learn new water fast.  Well, we cut and cut and looked and looked and all we were seeing was sand with no weeds what so ever.This has been the case on the river this year since Irene sucked most of the weeds of the setbacks.  Twenty holes and nothing, time for a big move, 20 more holes and nothing.  I talked to a local who gave us a tip and we headed that way.

I cut some holes – first drop Dylan drops a crappie in the hole, good sign!  We fished the rest of the holes and caught a bunch of dink perch.  I started to cut a line where I thought there was a channel.  My experience was that panfish will use these channels in these setbacks as travel corridors and also ambush points.  Finally, we got into some big bluegill and Dylan manages to pull two crappie.  After a friendly check by the warden, we headed north.

The next setback was much smaller.  We went past the first group of tip ups and around a point.  Cut a hole, maybe an inch and a half of white ice! Yikes! Bye Bye. Next stop was a familiar one.

When we got to our last spot, cut our holes for the day, and watched a kid fish out of square holes he was cutting with a chainsaw!  Oh boy!  We got into some nice big river perch and managed to pull a lot of small crappie.  Probably 30 crappie caught in 4 hours.  All in all, we had a productive day.  Hot jig was a chartreuse and orange Caty jig teardrop.  We learned where to try again and where not to.  Enjoy!

Tools Of The Trade

Tools Of The Trade
(The Modern Pan-Fishermen)

The first jig rod I ever caught a fish on was hand-made, nothing more than a crafted piece of wood. Today, 15 years later my rods are custom built from the finest graphite blanks and designed to catch specific fish and detect the lightest of bites. Ice fishing has gone through a major revolution in recent years. By all means, what you’ve got will work, but if you are willing to adapt to these new methods and tools then you will see more success on the ice.
The modern age of ice fishing has created the finesse ice fishermen. It has become common practice to put down the large wooden jigs sticks with 10lb test and pick up a lighter graphite jig stick spooled with 2-4lb test, have boxes full of jigs, and carrying a Vexilar from hole to hole. All of these things are an essential tool for me while chasing panfish in the lakes and rivers of the Northeast.
I have three rods that I use. The first is a True Blue made by Clam, the second is a custom built “Meatstick” by Jason Mitchell, and the last (which I use the most) is a Riversider. Each rod has it’s own productive qualities that help me detect bites in different situations. All of these rods are in my rod case because they are durable and they get the job done. These rods are also very affordable for the average “weekend warrior”, they are all pretty much under forty dollars.
More important than the rod, is the jig. I mostly fish for bluegill, perch and crappie, having a variety of jigs is a huge advantage for me in catching fish. Believe it or not, I have found that smaller is usually better. There are two types of ice jigs on the market today, vertical and horizontal. Vertical jigs are soldered jigs and are for most fishermen their “go to jigs”. My favorite vertical jig is an orange and chartreuse teardrop Caty jig tipped with 3-4 spikes. These jigs are small, but the teardrop shaped blade gives it a deadly downward flutter, often times triggering the fish to bite. This action allows the fishermen to fish the entire water column, targeting the most active and aggressive fish. The second type of ice jig is a horizontal jig. These are somewhat new to the market and these jigs consist of molded metals in all shapes and sizes, and now metals, including tungsten which is heavier than lead. These jigs offer the fish a different presentation. Unlike the vertical jig, these jigs swim. They have a sudden side to side up and down movement that mimics small bait fish or a small insect. Teamed with a micro plastic, this bait can be very productive. My go to horizontal jigs are Custom Jigs and Spins Diamond Jigs, and their Gill Pill. One of these jigs tipped with a micro plastic, say by Maki Plactics, will surely put more fish on the ice.
Out with the old and in with the new, well only if you want to. The old techniques will always work to a certain extent, but I encourage you to finesse more fish on the ice this season and try some of the tactics of the Modern Ice-Fishermen.

This Article can be found in The New Hampshire Vermont Outdoor Gazette

2-8-12 – End Of The Week

I wrapped up my week of fishing today on the Connecticut River. I got there for sunrise and stayed for about 4.5 hours. The temperature was in the single digits so it was nice to punch a bunch of holes to warm up! I started off fishing for perch but was unable to locate a decent number of keeper size fish alone. I caught and released five that were 9″+. I gave up on the perch and headed shallow for the bluegill and pumpkinseed.

After punching a bunch of holes in the new area, I grabbed my Vexilar and started fishing. I caught a decent pumpkinseed in the first hole then nothing till the far end of my series. At that end, I found better numbers of fish and they were all bluegill! I had a group of three holes that I fished for about 30 minutes. In this time, I pulled a dozen bluegill that were 9.5″ or better along with some smaller fish! After I caught all the gills that were willing to bite, I kept moving . When I got into the channel, I started marking a lot of fish that were suspended. My first bite was an “up bite”. I figured it was a crappie… Wrong! I pulled it up and it was a shiner. A big one at that. Any pike fisherman would be more than happy to have bait like it in their bucket! I caught 6 shiners that were all around the same size before I got sick of it and moved on.

All my fish today were caught on maggots. I wasn’t catching pumpkinseed so I wasn’t getting my bait ripped off that often. The fish were holding tight to the bottom but were willing to charge up level to the top of the weeds. When they did bite they hit it hard so hook ups were no issue. Great day to be on the water… The sun was shining and there was no wind at all. I got a nice winter time tan to top it all off!

I did some math this afternoon and found out that I fished more than I work. I guess that’s a good thing! I fished for 50 hours and spent 15+ hours in the car traveling. Overall, I was on the road for around 660 miles.