Ice-fishing Friday: The 6 all-time best ice lures (and how to fish ’em)

The Six

Canada’s top ice-fishing lures, and how they can help you catch more winter walleye, trout, whitefish, pike, panfish and burbot

#1 RAPALA JIGGING RAP

If I were forced to use only one lure for all species of fish all winter long, I would choose the Jigging Rap without hesitation. It’s as close to perfection as we have in an ice-fishing lure. I use the smallest size to catch crappies, perch and bluegills, while the mid-range model excels at attracting and triggering walleye, sauger and whitefish. As for the biggest Jigging Rap, it’s deadly on lake trout, northern pike and trophy-sized walleye.

What makes the lure so efficient and effective is its compact size and heavy weight, allowing you to present it in so many different ways. I start a jigging session by lifting it up aggressively one or two times and letting it fall freely under controlled slack line (See “Seal the deal”). I then pause for up to a minute while the lure swims in ever-diminishing circles as the energy of the jigging strokes subsides. If I don’t call in and spot a fish on my sonar screen, I’ll repeat the process until one appears.

Once a fish starts circling the jig, I change up and shake it ever so gently using only my wrist. I don’t want the lure to swim, but rather rock gently from side to side. If the fish inches closer but doesn’t strike, I impart even tinier shakes to make the lure quiver (think of the trembling hand of someone who has had far too many cups of coffee for breakfast).

The largest Jigging Raps are the ticket for giant walleye

Most days, I don’t tip a Jigging Rap. When the bite gets extremely tough, however, I add a salted emerald shiner. To do that, I remove the treblehook and add a Fastach clip to the hanger. Then I nip off the shiner’s head and run the shank of the hook through the mouth and out the middle of the severed body. Finally, I attach the hook to the clip. I started doing this a decade ago, and it’s the deadliest triggering tactic I have ever seen.

I use the same initial jigging cadence for lake trout and whitefish when I find them herding schools of pelagic ciscoes, smelt and emerald shiners. When a fish suddenly appears on the screen, however, I stop jigging and lift my rod up to pull the lure away from the menacing predator. That makes it look like a baitfish fleeing for its life.

Two years ago, my grandson Liam and I were on a scorching yellow perch bite using #3 Jigging Raps when suddenly the fish disappeared. Liam hollered that he had a big red mark screaming across his screen. I told him to reel his lure up to the fish and jig it quickly. And that’s when he hooked the biggest lake trout I’ve ever seen come through a hole in the ice.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE RAPALA JIGGING RAP

  • Rapala Flat Jig
  • Acme Hype-Glide
  • Lunkerhunt Straight Up
  • Freedom Tackle Turnback Shad
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