One of the most sought after species in North America through the ice, panfish provide the arctic angler an opportunity to pursue their quarry in a variety of environments ranging from quaint farm ponds to massive bodies of water in excess of 100,000 acres; as such, fishermen looking to consistently catch slab crappies and bull ‘gills from the ice belt need to be versed in an array of skills and familiar with a variety of techniques. While each year seemingly produces yet another “hot” lure, bite, or technique, there is no denying that one of the most productive new innovations in recent memory for panfish anglers is the tungsten jig.

Tungsten is a lead-free, non-toxic element that is approximately 30% heavier than an equivalent sized piece of lead and 70% denser. What this means for the avid ice angler is a jig that offers superior feel and enhanced bite detection as well as being the ultimate tool for combating wind, water and current resistance. Tungsten jigs such as the Drop series of lures from Clam are absolute go-to presentations for cold fronts, high pressure weather systems and when fishing noisy, pressured situations. The added bonus with fishing tungsten due to its increased density, is the ability to tune-out schools of juvenile perch and bluegill with your MarCum flasher all the while still seeing your jig.

There are several keys and tips to using tungsten jigs successfully for winter panfish, beginning with maintaining a 45 degree angle with the flat-eye hook to achieve optimum top-of-the-mouth hooking. Lures such as the Drop series come stock with the proper hook angle and can be maintained by using a Clam pro tackle jig cleaner to clean the eyelet – other tools such as eyebusters can cause paint chipping, distort the eye angle and even cut the eyelet right off.

When unhooking fish a tool such as the Clam pro tackle hook remover will back-out hooks without causing paint chipping or bending the hook, unlike other tools such as needle-nosed pliers. The repeated bending of such fine hooks ruins the temper and ultimately results in breaking of the thin diameter hook.

Tungsten jigs operate best on braided line such as Sufix 832 Advanced Ice Braid paired with a 2# or 4# Sufix 100% Fluorocarbon Invisiline Leader for optimum stealth and sensitivity. When used with a Frabill Straight Line reel to eliminate line twist and thus elicit more strikes, this combination can be downright deadly for trophy bluegills, crappies and yellow perch no matter the body of water.

During shallow water first-ice situations, tungsten jigs excel at allowing anglers to get their lures into the strike zone without unnecessarily spooking fish. Using a quiet quick hand auger such as a StrikeMaster Lazer, there is no need to scoop the hole clean and cause undue commotion; rather, tungsten jigs allow fishermen to “slush punch” thus avoiding spooking shallow fish. In addition to “slush punching,” tungsten jigs excel at plummeting through thick vegetation, brush and timber as well as past smaller aggressive fish and down to where the largest specimens are lurking.

As with other jig presentations, anglers have a variety of tipping options when it comes to fishing the tungsten on the hardwater. Spikes, waxies and eurolarvae all have their place as live bait options while plastic trailers such as the Trigger X Spike Worm, Wax Tail, Mustache Worm, and Larvae each fill their own niche.

A final key to consistently catching fish on tungsten jigs is to keeping the lure tuned to hang at a 45 degree angle thus imitating prey in a feeding position, and ultimately drawing the greatest interest from predatory panfish. There are two knots imperative to maximizing the potency of tungsten jigs; the first, the palomar knot, offers the best control when using subtle movements and different cadences, especially while incorporating Trigger X plastic trailers. The second, the double surgeons knot, keeps the jig in a natural 45 degree angle and suspends the lure with minimal spinning when using more fluid jigging movements.

While there truly is no magic on-ice lure for panfish, tungsten jigs most certainly have a place in the repertoire of every angler. Before you head out on your next ice fishing adventure be sure and pack a few in your favorite Plano tackle box - there’s no better time than the present. I’ll see you on the water…

Tight lines,