Tackle & Techniques – Ice Jigs

Tackle & Techniques – Ice Jigs

Feb 1, 2013

Bro Knows Bugs – Brosdahl on ice jigs

By Mike Pehanich

Only a handful of men in America can claim a widespread reputation as an ice fishing guru.

Brian Brosdahl is one of them.

I cornered “Bro” — a.k.a. the “Pan Man” for his uncanny ability to capture big panfish on waters he roams from Ontario to Arkansas – on Big Bass Lake north of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, for some intense schooling on the jig array that account for the lion’s share of his catch of bluegill, crappie and perch through the ice.

I caught Bro in fitting pose, holding up an eight-inch bluegill pinned with a green Mud Bug that Bro himself had helped design.

The Bro Bug is horizontally balanced and features bug eyes and extended torso.

Whether he’s eyeing the screen of his Aqua-Vu camera or sorting through the intestinal remains of a perch in transit to the frying pan, Brosdahl lets no detail pass without  a thought.

That penchant for detail helped to make him an innovator in ice jig design. It is also why I cornered him at his truck gate on Bass Lake to explain when and how he uses each jig design in his ice arsenal.

Bro’s jig line-up

Bro began with a Mud Bug in a brightly painted “fire tiger” pattern.

“Remember a lot of bodies of water clear up in winter, and your fish can see a long way,” he explained. These detailed finishes pay off under the ice. “Bluegill and crappie have binocular vision. They need it to find zooplankton, which is what they are eating so much of the time. They can see things we can’t.”

The visual acuity of his quarry influences three of his guidelines:

1)   Select jigs with quality paint jobs or finishes.

2)   Use fine line. (Bro frequently uses 1- to 3-pound test.)

3)   Light wire hooks. (They don’t distract from the body of the bait, and they penetrate easily.)

Here’s his basic jig line-up:

Mud Bug (Bro Bug Collection, Northland Tackle) – With its bulk and fat head, the Mud Bug may be Bro’s favorite bait delivery system for drawing panfish that are feeding on insects in relatively deep sediment.  “It’s a lure I helped design to pound the mud,” says Bro. “It imitates insect larva that hatch out of the mud.” Typically, he will stir up mud by banging the jig on the bottom. Then he lifts it just off bottom and waits for a hit, which is often quick in coming. Paired with a wax worm, it’s “lethal” for bull bluegill, slab crappie and jumbo perch.

The Northland Mud Bug lives up to its name. Bro drops it vertically to stir silt, like an insect emerging from the mud.

Gill Getter (Bro Bug Collection, Northland Tackle) – The 60-degree fine wire Mustad  Ultra Point hook and flat belly design cause the Gill Getter to “dart and swing like a fleeing insect,” according to Brosdahl. He tips it with a mousie or wax worm when fishing live bait, but finds it ideal with similarly shaped soft plastics. “It’s one of my favorites for deep water bluegill and big perch.

Original Bro Bug Head(Bro Bug Collection, Northland Tackle) – Bro designed this jig more than a decade ago, and he still favors it for its bulging eyes and “nice torso,” and, of course, its ability to lure panfish. “I also like that I can add a dropper line to it,” he says. The jigs feature bulging eyes and a barbless wire bait keeper.

Hexi Fly (Bro Bug Collection, Northland Fishing Tackle) – This wide-bodied jig was specifically designed to pick up double the sonar signal of similarly sized jigs. “It shows up well in deep water, and it scoots and darts as you work it,” says Bro. The  Lady Bug pattern is one of his favorites.

The Tungsten Fireball UV Jig from Northland Fishing Tackle is compact and heavy. Its three sizes range from 1/16 to 1/57 ounceTungsten Fireball UV Jig (Hard-Rock series, Northland Tackle) – Available in sizes ranging from 1/16- to 1/57-ounce and hook sizes down to #16, these tungsten jigs offer more weight and sensitivity in a smaller profile jig. The Super-Glo baits glow in the dark when charged with natural or artificial light. “These are mini Fireball jigs designed with a very sharp fly hook and a 60-degree turned eyelet,” explains Bro. “And they are offered in the same paint jobs as the Fireball jigs we use in summer… They fish heavy, and they catch a lot of fish.”Fire-Fly Jig (Northland Fishing Tackle) – These pulsating feathered jigs draw perch, bluegill, rock bass, crappie and other species with their subtle action, and Bro keeps them handy 12 months out of the year.Tinsel jigs like this Gypsi from Northland provide plenty of flash to attract panfish from a distance.

Gypsi Jig (Northland Fishing Tackle) – Small tinsel flies are four-season lures that Bro uses in open water as well as through the ice. “The crooked part of the tinsel causes light refraction, and that draws fish from a distance,” he says.

“Remember, bluegill, crappie and perch don’t need big meals in winter, especially with a lot of cold fronts coming through,” sums Brosdahl. “Micro insects,  zooplankton, bloodworms and other bugs make up a big part of their diet, and jigs and baits that resemble them catch lots of fish.


Note: Soft plastics can work as well as live bait in some instances and, at key times, even better when fish are hungry and active. Bro’s choice of plastics include the Slug Bug and Scud Bug from the “Bug-Eyed Bro Bug Collection (Northland Fishing Tackle) and several of the new Panfish Baits in the new Impulse line of scent-impregnated soft plastics from Northland.

See SWF’s coming feature on ice fishing and pre-rigged jig and plastic combinations.    


Northland’s Mooska is another compact tungsten jig that offers better feel and faster drop rate in a small profile jig. and active. Bro’s choice of plastics include the Slug Bug and Scud Bug from the “Bug-Eyed Bro Bug Collection (Northland Fishing Tackle) and several of the new Panfish Baits in the new Impulse line of scent-impregnated soft plastics from Northland. See SWF’s coming feature on ice fishing plastics and pre-rigged jig and plastic combinations.


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