Tackle & Techniques – Finesse on Ice

Tackle & Techniques – Finesse on Ice

Dec 23, 2012

Finesse Your Way to Early Ice Panfish

By Mike Pehanich

In “Find Your Ice Fishing Spots Now!” and “Tools and Tips for Finding First Ice Hot Spots,” Northwoods angling expert Scott Glorvigen revealed tips on fish location and mapping advice for early ice fishing. Here he reveals choices in baits and presentation.

The late fall/winter transition from open water to ice turns the whole world of fishing upside down.

Think about it…

The most rigid plane has gone from the lake bottom to the surface.

The warmest water has gone from the surface to the bottom.

The water column has shrunk.

Panfish can get picky in the cold, especially bull bluegill! Treat them to a taste of finesse plastics.

The endless acreage of open water you had during weeks ago has shrunk to the six- to eight-inch diameter hole at your feet…

You get the picture!

Begin with finesse

When ice hits your lake this season, try turning your approach to fishing upside down, too.

Most modern anglers have taken their lead from bass pros. Fishing aggressively and covering lots of water helps us find active fish during the open water season. If the fish aren’t cooperating, we may throttle down to slower presentations and even finesse techniques. But, for many of us, finesse is our last resort!

But for success on hard water this winter, take a lesson from Nature.

“Slow down,” advises Scott Glorvigen, walleye pro and Northwoods ice fishing expert. “Be more precise in your movements. Study your electronics. Look for subtle signs of baitfish or zooplankton or for signs of fish coming in.”

The “slowdown” approach applies to presentation as well. Instead of combing a lot of water for aggressive fish, “finesse” the water column with tiny jigs and light line – down to one- and two-pound test.

The Glo White Jiggin' Mayfly from Northland Fishing Tackle's Impulse collection is a perfect panfish finesse offering.

“Finesse enables you to unlock the code,” says Glorvigen. “It’s your best ticket to ‘some fish’ vs. ‘no fish.’ From that starting point, you can adjust as to whether the fish are more aggressive or even less aggressive or whether they want a bigger bait, a crappie minnow…whatever it is they prefer. But I always start out as a Negative Nelly, figuring the fish won’t bite unless I finesse.”

His first choice is the Impulse Mayfly from Northland Fishing Tackle’s Impulse Panfish Collection. He fishes it on a Gill Getter jig from the “Bro’s Bug” jig series, also from Northland.

“There’s a couple reasons for this combination,” he explains. “First, you have opportunity for a little more water displacement with the wider jig body of the Gill Getter. That displacement attracts fish from farther out and provides a bigger visual offering.”

With the Gill Getter’s 60-degree hook eye, the presentation is fundamentally horizontal with a slightly angular drop at the tail.

His Number One plastic trailer is a Glo White mayfly body.  The key to the bait is its subtle action.

“The tentacles and tails of the mayfly continue working even when you stop jigging,” he notes. “With that soft plastic, those arms continue to entice. Even when you are deadsticking the bait, they move with current or your ‘coffee shakes.’”

His backups to the mayfly are the Impulse Waxy, an imitation wax worm, and Bro’s Slug Bug. He fishes both on Northland Bro Bug or Mud Bug jigheads.

“The Slug Bug has a ‘waxy’ body but has a tiny rattail that quivers when you deadstick it,” adds Scott.


Like father, like son! Finesse is a starting point when ice fishing for panfish for Adam Glorvigen, son of Scott.

Northland sells the Slug Bug as an integrated bug-eyed jig with buggy-tail soft plastic that resembles a mousie (alias “rat tail maggot”). You can also buy Slug Bug Buggy Tails separately.

“It’s mostly a matter of downsizing if they won’t hit the mayfly,” Glorvigen relates. “If they smoke the mayfly, I might try increasing the size of my bait.”

If fish are active, he charges up with more aggressive presentations with baits like the Northland Forage Minnow Spoon or Forage Minnow Jig.

“With them, I can work the bait more aggressively in the water column,” he continues. “I’m trying to create more flash and awareness to bring fish from the area in toward my bait. It’s not like jumping from spot to spot, chasing lake trout or walleye. (Panfish) don’t make giant movements during the course of the day. It’s just a matter of adding more flash. ‘Aggressive’ in the world of ice fishing is making fish more aware of my presentation.

If he has done his homework and is confident that he is over prime habitat, he concentrates on working holes in that area thoroughly rather than running around the lake.

“I may go to a jigging spoon or a (Northland) Puppet Minnow (1.5-inch) or 1/8-ounce Rapala Jiggin’ Rap – the smallest sizes of each — and work those baits more aggressively,” he adds. “But it’s not fishing more aggressively like you would in open water — burning down a weedline with your electric motor on high.”

Change your thought process when you fish “aggressive” for panfish on ice, Scott advises. It’s part of that “upside down” thinking that comes with hard water!

Scott and Marty Glorvigen host Wired2Fish TV on NBC Sports. They are also founders and co-owners of Gemini Sports Apparel and the Wired2Fish website.

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