All ice fishermen have their favorite lures, but one type of bait that should be in every ice fisherman’s tackle is “Swimmer Jigs”. The unique thing about Swimmer Jigs is…well, they swim. Shaped like a minnow in a myriad of colors from many manufacturers, these jigs “swim” when jigged, much like a pendulum on a clock. The clear plastic tail fins offer the resistance when suddenly pulled upwards that causes the jig to swim. The fisherman controls the speed and distance of the swimming motion by how aggressively he or she works their rod. At rest, Swimmer Jigs have a horizontal profile.
Swimmer Jigs are very versatile with light petite offerings for shallow water and larger heavier baits for deep water. Swimmer Baits will catch a full range of fish from fussy panfish to toothy game fish. Swimmer Jigs reduce the need for live bait. Live minnows certainly catch fish, but transporting minnows, keeping them lively, and constantly having cold, wet fingers from baiting the hook were aggravations fishermen tolerated. Add to that increasing regulations to have Certified Minnows to prevent diseased or nuisance species from spreading, and it’s not hard to make a case for using Swimmer Jigs instead of live minnows. I have made many productive ice fishing trips to Canada using nothing but Swimmer Jigs. The money you can save on bait in a season will more than pay for a good selection of Swimmer Jigs.
Start with a handful of small and large Swimmer Jigs in both attractor and imitator colors. Following is a rundown on what some leading manufacturer’s offer.
The Rapala Jigging Rap is the gold standard of Swimming Jigs. Single hooks fore and aft with a center treble hook make these lures deadly! Sizes range from 1-1/4 inch (1/8 oz.) to 3-1/2 inch (7/8 oz.) and are available in 26 colors. Everyone has their favorite colors, mine are Silver Fluorescent Chartreuse and Gold Fluorescent Red. The Bluegill, Perch and Rainbow Trout are good imitator patterns. Match the forage in your waters. Rapala also offers the larger profile Jigging Shad Rap. These are available in 14 colors and sizes from 1-inch (1/8 oz.) to 2-inch (5/16 oz.). If shad are in the ecosystem you fish, you will want to try the Jigging Shad Rap.
A newer offering from Rapala is the Rapala Flat Jig. This Swimmer is designed for deep water. The flat body design and heavy size to weight ratio drops quickly. The Flat Jig is available in 10 colors and two sizes – 1-1/2 inch (9/16 oz.) and 2-1/2 inch (1-3/16 oz.).
The Moonshine Shiver Minnow features a single tail hook and sharp treble belly hooks with a unique profile and comes in 43 tantalizing colors. The size range for most colors is 1-1/8 inch (1/8 oz.) to 3-1/8 inch (1 oz.). What stands out most about the Shiver Minnow is the UV finish – the colors and patterns are amazing! Be sure to add the Goby pattern to your assortment – the Purple Goby, Pink Goby, and Metallic Gold Goby.
Northland Fishing Tackle
Northland’s Puppet Minnow Darter Jigs are made with an interesting foil finish and larger eyes – and I’ve had good results with lures with prominent eyes. The Minnow Darter Jigs are available in 8 colors and 4 sizes.
Custom Jigs & Spins
Here’s a new wrinkle on a Swimming Jig – build in a tail rattle! The Rotating Power Minnow (RPM) by Custom Jigs and Spins will attract fish with both sight and sound. The RPM has a unique eyelet swivel to minimize line twist. Treble hooks are on the rear and belly of the bait. The belly hooks feature an eye attractor. The wide-glide tail fins will give you an extra range of motion. Give the “Keylime Tiger” color a try.
If you are after walleye, The Tilly by Phantom Lures was made with you in mind. Ranging in size from 2-1/2 inches (1/4 oz.) to 3-1/2 inches (3/4 oz.) you can choose from 24 enticing color patterns. In addition to the color, shape, and action, The Tilly has a strong BB rattle to call in the ‘eyes. Try the Aurora Glow and Baby Gobee patterns.
Tips and Tricks
I always have my rod in hand with a Swimming Jig. Vary the action from frantic “escape” jigging to little twitches with occasional “rests”. Pay attention to the motion the fish react to, then repeat that action. If there are no bites, come up in the water column 3 to 5 feet and jig vigorously to attract fish, then drop back down to your previous depth. If you are using sonar, drop the jig and work it just above where you are marking fish. I like to have a second rod rigged with a different color. If the bite slows on the first color a feeding frenzy may ensue by dropping a different color.
Don’t put your Swimming Jigs away when the snow melts! They are very productive for vertical jigging in open water with all the same benefits ice fishermen enjoy. And that is getting bang for your buck!