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).
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.