It’s no secret that tungsten jigs have certainly found a place in the ice fishing world. Tungsten, which is denser and harder than lead, allows for smaller jig profiles than their lead counterparts weighing the same.
Many panfish have smaller mouths and prefer smaller baits, which is one reason to use tungsten. Also, the smaller profile of tungsten makes these jigs less intrusive, and at times, more apt to get bit, particularly in clear water conditions or other times when the bite is tough.
Tungsten has become so popular that I heard a veteran ice angler recently proclaim that “lead is dead” when it comes to winter panfish.
But hold up a second, what about the venerable jigging spoon? Spoons, lures featuring treble hooks, are often made from lead or other heavy metals and are usually larger in profile and fished more aggressively than lead. Spoons have accounted for lots of winter fish catches, crappies and other fish species too.
Recently, I spent an evening on the ice with veteran lure designer John Crane of Clam Pro Tackle. Our target species was crappies, and I expected John would be armed with a full arsenal of miniscule tungsten jigs!
Crane did have a selection of tungsten, but I was somewhat surprised when he suggested we attempt to catch our fish using jigging spoons.
“Let’s try some spoons and see if we can’t avoid catching some of those smaller-sized fish and try to get those bigger fish,” was John’s reasoning.
So, we tied on a variety of spoons and tipped them with various baits including waxworms, plastics, and also minnow heads. As Crane predicted, the spoons did produce several fish that night including some in the 12-inch size range. At night’s end, I questioned John in greater detail regarding his reasons for selecting spoons as our lures.
“It’s kind of like summer fishing for bass in a tournament when the bite is tough and everybody downsizes and starts fishing finesse baits,” Crane began. “Then, at the weigh in, we find out the winners power-fished with larger lures and caught bigger fish.”
“Bigger baits might not catch as many crappies, but we’re targeting bigger fish and often a larger lure like a spoon creates more of a reaction bite,” Crane went on. “They’re not necessarily eating because they’re hungry, but rather reacting to the spoon.”
We ended up catching fish on several spoons with one of the most productive being the new Jointed Pinhead Mino. This sleek spoon gets down quickly in the water column, but it’s two slabs separated at the joint allow for even more fish-attracting movement. Crane says the jointed design also makes this a very versatile bait, as well.
“The spoon creates lots of commotion in the water when aggressively jigged for calling in fish and getting aggressive bites,” he commented. “But it they won’t hit it fished aggressively, we can slow down and use very subtle motions to just rock the baited treble hook attached to the bottom slab. Often, even the finicky ones can’t resist that.”
As I thought back on the night, Crane was absolutely right. Monitoring our Vexilar sonars, we saw several crappies come in fast and hit. Others, however, would come in fast, but then slow and seem to stare intently at the lure. Slowly raising the spoon and imparting that “rock” to the treble is what was most productive in triggering the finicky fish to bite.
We ended up having a fun night and I regained an appreciation for jigging spoons as crappie baits.
Mike Frisch is co-host of Fishing of the Midwest TV. View the website: www.fishingthemidwest.com to see more from Fishing the Midwest, including how to enter to win a Vexilar winter sonar unit!