There’s no argument,
the vertical jigging spoon is ice fishing’s dominant
lure. Fish have surrendered to hammered metal and forged
lead since, well…since folks decided that ice could
no longer separate them from quarry. I’m talking eons.
In contemporary times, spoons are linked to the pursuit of
walleyes, lake trout, and perch, although, when given a chance,
flashing hardware will swindle crappies, whitefish and tullibee
(ciscoes), bass, northern pike and bluegills too. And yes,
I said bluegills.
Despite the spoon’s universal appeal, though, going to
war with an arsenal of metal only is foolhardy. There are situations,
for instance, where swimming jigs outperform spoons, as well
as times when a plain hook and agitating minnow is the preferred
But having said that, times are few when I’m not pumping
a spoon. Honestly, I’m sort of passionate about ‘em.
I’d much rather rifle through a montage of spoons – testing
different shapes and sizes – than resort to an alternate
And over years, while assessing various types of spoons, I’ve
established that certain styles of spoons excel in certain
situations. And while size and weight would seem to be the
chief characteristics of a spoon, I’ve found that “action” is
equally as influential.
On the ice, my attitude is to open with vigor and calm down
as conditions warrant. Regardless of species, that initial
drop is executed with a high profile jigging spoon – something
that sends a message, attracts fish, and challenges aggressors.
The lure must make a spectacle of itself, generating vibrations
and kicking out all sorts of color and sparkles. Scenic Tackle’s
Go Devil, JB Lure’s and Rattlin' Varmint, go beyond the call of duty to entice fish. The
Go Devil sports eye-popping colors; Rattlin Varmint an internal
rattle chamber, Slender Spoon an incredible action and flashy
Now, despite the dazzle and fuss, all three lures run pretty
much straight up and down. That’s typical of lead lures.
They rise and fall like a yo-yo, but can be jigged powerfully,
jerked toward the sky and pounded on the bottom. But in turn,
elongated lead spoons can be jigged timidly too, catering to
fussy fish. They’re that versatile.
When fish are clearly “on,” I dorsal hook
a whole minnow and employ exaggerated jigging motions,
raising the rod tip 6 inches to a foot while monitoring
how fish react on the flasher. Oftentimes, active fish
are furthest from the bottom too, walleyes included,
so it’s important to study the screen.
If fish aren’t receptive, though, or seem to be nibbling
not biting, I downsize my dressing, switching from a whole
minnow to a head. That change is accompanied by a subtler approach
too. Jerks are replaced by quivers – rod tip motions
of only an inch or two. And I incorporate more pauses as well.
It’s not uncommon for me to hold a lure motionless for
30 seconds when there’s a curious but passive fish on
the screen. Nibblers are known to hit idle baits.
That’s the lead gig – the opening volley – but
not necessarily the final act. After that, my inclination is
to dump lead in favor of thinly stamped metal. Wide profile,
flapping spoons occasionally convert sniffers into feeders.
They also cover more water, winging away from the hole and
drawing fish from great distances.
A great example of a stamped metal spoon is the Scenic Tackle
Angel Eye. The slender minnow-shaped spoon features a unique
arched tail that generates a floating and fluttering action
on the drop. It’s been hotter than pistols. And the new
Angle Eye Jr. delivers the same gyrations to crappies and perch.
Speaking of wintertime crappies, far too often their appetites
and capabilities are underestimated. Fact is, crappies are
pigs. They’re constantly eating. And last time I checked,
native minnows weren’t much if any daintier than a small
Spoons do a tremendous job of attracting traveling crappies
to a fixed location. And normally, the larger and angrier fish
arrive first. They won’t be bashful about bashing a spoon
either, particularly something luminescent, like a glow red
Angel Eye Jr.
Normally, though, I support jigging with a setline. I’ll
fix up a small shiner or crappie minnow beneath a bobber and
position it in a neighboring hole. It’s quite typical
to lure crappies in with a jigging spoon only to have them
wallop the setline.
At some point, though, if nothing’s happening, the minnow’s
performance warrants reconsideration. Meat failed and it’s
time to reach for the tin of grubs, maggots or wax worms. For
perch, crappies, bluegills, and even walleyes have been known
to swing at larvae when minnows are completely shirked.
The spoon is king. Say it, “The spoon is king.” Feel
better? I do. Whatever trials and experimentations you engage
in this winter, make sure spoons are knitted into the tapestry.
Dust off the old ones and procure a few new ones. Fish ‘em
with confidence and don’t be afraid to change up with
By winter’s end, you’ll have built an ice fishing
system around spoons too.
Editor’s note: The Angel Eye and Angel Eye Jr. by Scenic
Tackle are available at select sporting goods stores and bait
shops across the Ice Fishing Belt. For more information, call