After his Grandpa passed away, Chris Granrud found all of his old ice fishing baits stored in Band-Aid tins. Granrud is an Ice Team Pro Staff angler and a professional guide at Rainydaze Guide Service on Rainy Lake out of International Falls.
“I found old baits in those tins and they still catch fish, too,” Chris told me. Talking with Chris got me thinking—some ice fishing baits have withstood the test of time. Here are four that have been catching fish for decades and still available in almost every bait store across the ice belt: the Jigging Rap, the Fat Boy jig, the Swedish Pimple, and the bucktail jig.
The Jigging Rap
Rapala’s Jigging Rap revolutionized the ice fishing world with its circular pattern when jigged. Perhaps the greatest compliment is imitation, and if that is the case, the Jigging Rap is at the top of the class. Knock-offs or designs based on the Jigging Rap’s action abound, but when it comes to productivity through hard water, this bait does the heavy lifting.
“The Jigging Rap is by far one of my favorites for ice fishing,” said Tom Neustrom, Ice Force Pro Staff and year-round fishing guide out of Grand Rapids, Minnesota with Minnesota Fishing Connections. According to Neustrom, the Jigging Rap is the number-one selling bait for Rapala. For big panfish, he uses 3s and 5s, and likes 7s and 9s for walleyes in the natural colors and also the UV paints. “The key is to lift and drop, keeping a tight line on the way down,” advised Neustrom. “I suggest about a foot-and-a-half to two feet for a lift; then let it sit still so it swims in a circle. When it stops, jiggle it nervously and if a fish is nearby, you’ll get a hit either when it is in that circular pattern or as it slows to a rest.” Neustrom’s favorite ice fishing baits are also the rage for open water these days, too. Even bass anglers are targeting deep-water spotted or smallmouth bass with the Jigging Rap.
The Fat Boy jig
Dave Genz is never ice fishing without his Vexilar electronics. Ever. Ask him what his favorite fish to catch is and he will tell you, “Red lines.” It doesn’t matter whether it’s crappie, bluegills, perch, pike, or walleye—if it gets in his target zone and makes a red line on the Vexilar, Dave Genz wants to catch it. Years ago, the Godfather of Ice Fishing developed the Fat Boy jig with a horizontal presentation. Genz likes small jigs that fish heavy for big gills. The key is a weight that gets down quickly into the strike zone. Today Genz’s more modern take on this jig is the Clam Pro Tackle tungsten jigs. Tungsten is 30 percent heavier than lead, so it gets the job done even better, but the frenzy to use a heavy jig all started with the Fat Boy—the jig, not the Godfather.
The Swedish Pimple
The Swedish Pimple has been widely used through the ice a long, long time. Tip the treble hook of this jigging spoon with a minnow or grub and bring home crappies, perch, walleye, and trout, with bigger sizes suitable for pike. Most popular is nickel finish, white pearl, or gold—and the prism colors are hot, too. Many serious ice anglers will have every size and every color of the Swedish Pimple in a special “Pimple Power” tackle box.
Jason Mitchell put it at the top of his list of legendary baits.
“I don’t think the Swedish Pimple is advertised, but their products are in every tackle store,” said Mitchell. “Every bait shop across the ice belt has carried them forever.” A crushed ice pattern is a more recent twist on this tried-and-true bait.
Maybe 100 or more years ago a fishing tackle company launched “bucktail” baits and it was “their” brand, but today dozens of brands identify the use of deer hair as “bucktail” and, as a group, they deserve mention as a legendary ice fishing bait. Heck, a bucktail jig and fishing line was included in World War II pilots’ survival kits as the tool to fish for food if stranded. Certainly, the effectiveness of a bucktail jig (or hair jig) requires a hat tip for decades of productivity.
Whether buying new or digging through Grandpa’s old gear, get out on the ice this winter with one of these legendary ice fishing baits and bring home some fillets for dinner.
K.J. Houtman is the author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for eight- to 12-year-olds with adventures based around fishing, camping, and hunting. Her work is available at Amazon and local bookstores. Find out more at fishonkidsbooks.com.