Ice Fishing for Panfish – The Right Ice Rods

February 4, 2009 by  

By Jason Mitchell

Waterfowlers in ND are very disappointed with 2004 duck numbers, especially with another liberal season.

Waterfowlers in ND are very disappointed with 2004 duck numbers, especially with another liberal season.

More ice anglers are discovering that the tip of the rod we are using has as much influence on our presentation as the actual motion we put on the rod while fishing. A rod with a fast tip for example will give the lure a distinct flash and pound that is more abrupt, perhaps more noticeable. By quivering or bouncing the tip of a fast action rod, the jig or lure literally bounces in place which can be the ticket some days, especially with aggressive fish. This bouncing might also work better for pulling in fish from further distances. A light action noodle rod or light spring bobber however will give the lure or jig a much different action even though the movements on the rod might be the same. The action often becomes more fluid, softer and subtle which again might work better the next day or on the next lake. Many anglers make the mistake of getting comfortable with just one style of fishing because they taste some success but the biggest mistake we make is thinking that this one style or way to present a lure is better. We can become much more effective ice anglers by recognizing the strengths, limitations and advantages of each rod type and how it affects our presentation.

While fishing, we typically encounter the aggressive fish first. The easy fish get caught right away and we than have to choose whether to move or change our presentation to catch the less aggressive fish that are still floating around in the same vicinity. There are also situations where there are no aggressive fish and the factors could range from fishing pressure and weather to visibility. Each lake is different, each day is different and in the end, each fish is different. The attitude of the fish can also change throughout the day. Early morning for example might present an opportunity to pick off aggressive fish while the presentation that worked so well in the morning looses effectiveness as the sun climbs higher in the sky. Panfish anglers across the Midwest are realizing the importance of rigging a handful of different rods with varying presentations so that these changes can be countered from day to day, lake to lake.

High Modulus Graphite Ice Rods

The aggressive side of the spectrum generally incorporates a fast action graphite rod. A quality graphite that allows a sense of feel is often important in this situation because the bite is generally distinct, usually a thump or perhaps the lure or line just stops to signal a fish. The fast action rod generally allows the angler to react quicker with a hook set. There is no mushiness on the tip of the rod to delay contact with the fish. These are all advantages when fishing aggressive presentations for aggressive fish that come up to the lure or jig and chomp. Aggressive lures might include panfish size spoons or lead and tungsten jigs that hang horizontal in the water. Gulp! Maggots work great for aggressive fish because they stay on the hook and let you get back down in the water fast. More important than the actual lure or jig however, often is the cadence you give the lure. The stroke doesn’t necessarily have to be big or fast but rather just a pound or dabble that keeps the lure bouncing and quivering, in turn keeping the lure from spinning.

Spring Bobber Systems

An ice fishing rod Jason designed for panfish, equipped with a spring bobber.

An ice fishing rod Jason designed for panfish, equipped with a spring bobber.

Many of the same lures and jigs can be fished dramatically different by incorporating a spring bobber system. Both tungsten and lead horizontal jigs that fish heavy can be fished in a fluid and subtle bob that can trigger less aggressive fish. Scaled down finesse jigs that fall slowly due to shape and or plastic tails and skirts along with ice flies can also be fished effectively in this manner. Spring bobbers excel whenever the mood of the fish dictates a more subtle and delicate presentation. Spring bobbers can also shine when the fish move up or backwards after hitting the jig or lure. Aggressive fish often have the tendency to coast forward with the bait in mouth while less aggressive fish often back pedal. Spring bobbers seem to work better for signaling this back pedaling that often occurs as fish less aggressive fish sample and spit. Spring bobbers can also be of an advantage whenever anglers are fishing in elements where gloves are necessary or sense of feel is limited. Often, we can react more quickly by using our eyes than sense of touch when out on the ice.

Noodle Ice Rods

Noodle rods can also be applied to many of the situations and presentations where spring bobber systems shine. The traditional disadvantage of noodle rods is the lack of back bone for setting the hook. What noodle rods do better than any other type of rod however is tackling one of the toughest types of bites we encounter on the ice. There are times where the fish want the lure or jig hanging almost motionless. Hanging any presentation motionless without the lure spinning takes careful monitoring of line and patience. Using fresh line and stretching the line with your fingers to unwind built up line twist is crucial. My favorite monofilament for most panfish applications is two pound Berkley Sensation. Line twist can also be countered on this dead stick presentation by using extremely small crappie minnows as the struggle of the minnow will counter some of the spin. A rod with a noodle tip can also offer another advantage and that is the fish can hang on to the jig or lure longer before feeling any kind of tension.

 All of these types of presentations are important tools. Each tool has a place depending on the fish and day. Don’t make the mistake believing that there is an end all approach. Strive to be flexible and have fun learning how to use the different presentations and learn to fish from other good anglers who fish differently than yourself. Remember as well that when the fish are biting well, they make us look good. A wide variety of presentations matched with contrasting fishing styles and equipment often all work when the fish are biting well. When the bite changes or becomes more difficult, adding versatility to our own fishing styles allows us to make the adaptations often needed to catch fish. We believe we have designed on of the most extensive lineup of application specific ice rods on the market (Jason Mitchell Elite Series Ice Rods). By using specific, high-quality rods that are specialized for different presentations, anglers can master versatility much more effectively. One final note, fishing is and should be a great source of enjoyment. For many, learning more about fishing and learning more about the fish we are pursuing can add to the enjoyment while spending time outdoors with family and good friends in a remarkable environment. Have fun learning as much as you can about fishing and enjoy the process of becoming versatile.


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