Shallow Water Ice Fishing
Ice anglers are finally coming around to the idea of fishing shallow during winter months. Especially during early and late ice, skinny depths of eight feet and less can hold large numbers of actively feeding panfish, walleyes and other species cruising weed-mottled flats.
But shaking up the shallows—and putting fish on the ice—can’t be done sitting in one spot. Because you have less water column to make fish aware of your bait, it’s critical that you cover a lot of real estates to find active biters.
Here’s the good news: You don’t need to lug a bunch of gear around after you find an area with fish. But you do need one key component—a long rod.
What I’m talking about is a brand new stick with a funny name. Yet it’s the kind of funny implied by a gangster nickname like Louie ‘Ha Ha,’ because when used correctly, it’s mercenary stuff.
Enter Frabill’s Jiggler system.
I call it a ‘system’ because it’s the newest way for ice anglers to take full advantage of “long-rodding,” a technique once limited to the playbooks of European tournament anglers and a handful of in-the-know stateside sticks.
Much like you’d approach a trout stream—crouched to prevent fish from noticing your movements—shallow water ice fishing requires stealth. Especially in situations of little or no snow cover, sitting back from the hole with the Jiggler prevents beefy shallow-water pans and ‘eyes from vacating the area. And even when there is snow, shallow water fish can sense movement and variations in light from above. Orienting yourself 48- to 54-inches back from the hole definitely puts the odds in your favor.
The Jiggler is available in two sizes. The 48-incher is panfish weaponry, while the 54-inch is perfect for shallow water walleyes and jumbo perch when matched with 6-pound Bionic Braid and a mono or fluoro leader. With that, you can horse fish up and out of the hole as fast as you can catch ‘em.
Because the Jiggler is designed for outside use, a hollow, line-through blank protects against the adverse effects of ice and wind, which means you can get your bait back in the hole easier and faster, despite frigid conditions. And say goodbye to line twist, already proven to turn off tight-lipped quarry.
The Jiggler also has built-in reel, but it’s there simply to hold your line. The line flows straight off the reel and through the blank—and since you have 8 feet or less of line out, it’s simply a matter of plucking fish out of the hole—much like fishing with a cane pole as a kid.
Once you’ve found fish with your digital GPS mapping, there’s no need to carry a flasher or graph from hole to hole. Due to the limited depth, the strike zone is actually quite small. If a fish is going to bite, he’s going to bite right now. And when you do catch a fish, it’s easy to eyeball what depth it was caught at and stay in the same strike window from hole to hole. It becomes a hole-hopping and numbers game. Put that bait in as many living rooms as possible!
So instead of eyeballing electronics, it’s time to focus on your spring bobber, which is conveniently built right into the Jiggler’s tip.
That brings us to the long rod’s amazing hookset efficiency. All of a sudden, you’re a lot quicker with the rod—with both the line running directly through the hollow blank and the addition of a stethoscope-sensitive spring bobber. There are no loops, curls or slack in the line, so your response time becomes lightning quick. When you see that spring bobber move, the added leverage of the rod length puts physics in your favor and hooksets become instant and dead-on.
And because you’re using one set length of line—say, 4-, 6- or 8-feet—when you set the hook, it’s just a matter if sliding them up and out of the hole. Handling fish and taking them off becomes a breeze. There’s no need to readjust depth. Simply drop your jig and rod back down to the horizontal position and focus on the spring bobber. Catch fish. Repeat.
A Perfect Match
Although the Jiggler system works with all kinds of jigs—horizontal, vertical, tungsten, lead—and waxies, spikes, you-name-it—you can really push the system over the edge by combining it with the best in today’s microplastics like Northland’s Impulse Baits to fish faster and more effectively than ever before. Not only is there zero time spent readjusting depth, there’s zero time wasted re-baiting!
We certainly have no problem going completely artificial in open water, why should it be any different on the ice? And should it come as any surprise that the more time you spend with your line in the water, the more fish you catch?