…ice jigs that is, and there are many different ways of doing so!
Not only do we have the usual assortment of live baits: Minnows, red worms, wax worms, spikes, mousees, mealworms, hellgrammites, poppers and golden rod gall grubs to choose from, but also scented imitations like HT’s Ice Scentz, and a plethora of wild plastic creatures and strips in a wide panorama of sizes and colors.
Each can be positioned on a hook in a variety of innovative ways, and there are times when one will consistently out-produce others–meaning it not only pays to experiment with various types of tippers, but also the way they’re hooked.
Without question, there’s enough material on this subject to fill an entire book, but to keep things less complex, let’s stick with live grubs and some basic tipping variations.
The most frequent and popular way to hook a grub is to lightly nip the hook point through its nose and let the grub stretch and wiggle freely. Makes sense, too, given that most naturally found larvae would appear in a similar manner within their environment.
Whether on a plain hook or lightweight micro jig, the key here is to incorporate thin, small-barbed, razor sharpened light-wire hooks. These inflict minimal damage to grubs, won’t negatively affect your bait’s tantalizing, natural movements or the slow fall of your presentation, plus help maximize hooking percentages by providing nearly ideal hook setting efficiency, even when using light-tipped micro rods.
MAKE IT A DOUBLE
Sometimes, using standard tipping methods, but mixing things up by adding a second grub, provides a little something extra to help trigger more strikes. The slightly larger profile and seductive motion is often more than interested fish can resist.
I’ve also found making that second grub a different size or color may be helpful, and often, two different types of grubs will garner results a single maggot just can’t match.
MAKE IT A TRIPLE
There are moments when adding not only a second, but a third grub rigged using standard tipping practices will get results. This creates a tempting mouthful and opens new possibilities to experiment with…simply try blending grub types, sizes or colors, searching for a combination fish prefer.
TRY A NEW MIX
At times, packing the hook with multiple grubs to create a writhing, wriggling mass of bulk proportion can be productive as well.
I typically accomplish this with a number of smaller spikes, poppers, gall grubs or a mix thereof, but depending on the species you’re targeting and size of your jig, larger maggots like mousees or meal worms can be good, too. To create an even larger profile, try a dropper hook—or where legal, stacked drop-shot rig. These additional hooks can be enticingly baited using any combination of standard or medusa style tipping methods.
This multi-layered approach is highly efficient, because offering different baits and tipping styles simultaneously tends to attract a larger number of fish, plus you can more easily note preferences and identify patterns. Should one hooking strategy out-produce others, simply change-up your presentation accordingly!
At times, success depends on having your hook hidden within the bait.
This can be a common, well-recognized occurrence with fish in particular environments, or an inherent trait shown by certain species. There are also times when fish that normally don’t care suddenly won’t bite unless your hook is well covered–in some instances, I’ve even found the entire hook, including the point, must be completely concealed. Any sign of metal, and they won’t bite, period.
In such cases, simply using a light-wire, Aberdeen style hook and threading a grub or maggot into a “U-shape” until the hook is out of sight may be the trick to consistently catching fish, but there are other variations that can be effective.
For example, try threading a small maggot along the shaft, then positioning a standard tipped grub at the bend before threading a third grub over the point above. This way, the hook is fully concealed, and you still have the benefit of the wriggling grub sticking outward.
On a recent outing with a veteran guide, casual conversation led to the effectiveness he was experiencing using ice fishing’s version of the open water “Wacky Worm.”
As the name implies, he was taking a plump waxworm and hooking it directly through the middle, wacky worm style, swearing up and down it was not only the most productive, but in fact the only way he could consistently trigger strikes that day. (I imagine a mealworm or other such larger grub or worm would have produced similar results).
This is an excellent example of someone thinking outside the box—one of those unique twists that can make the difference between catching and not catching; a good day versus a bad one. And that’s my hope, really—to have provided a few fresh thoughts that may bring increased success next time you dig into your container, remove a grub and are about to bait up.
So go ahead, start tipping a few–jigs that is–but don’t just go through the motions and practice the same old routine. Give a little creative thought to the process, experiment with some of these options and your own unique variations.
You’ll soon discover the slightest nuances can a make big difference!