Replacing Jigging Rap Belly Hooks



So last night I am going through the gear from last Saturday’s trip out on Erie, and started looking through the various sizes of my Rapala Jigging Raps. Not only find out that there was some gold in the old Plano cases, at least one Crawdad color pattern in each size, and a couple of hard to find Rainbow’s, but that the sizes of my belly hooks varied greatly within the same, depending on when I bought them over years. The newer ones have bigger hooks, so I will be replacing them soon. If you want to check through your Raps too, you can go to the Rapala website, and see what hook sizes match up with each size you have, just click on the series you want to check: Rapala Jigging Raps



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Good Video for Tweaking Rapala’s Jigging Rap

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Sometimes, Old School Just Works Better!!!


Sometimes you just need to step back and put it all in perspective, for me, last weekend in Indiana was a wake up call.  Sometimes you just need to go old school, find the bottom, lift up your rod tip and rock your jig.  The hard part is remembering that you still have that in your bag of tricks.  There are so many lessons left out on the ice, best thing to do is practice them, and it doesn’t hurt to have a log from each experience.

I try to read up on them before a season begins, but it seems like I have 50 cent log books scattered everywhere around the house, the shop, boxes and tucked away in travel bags.  Think my next small project will be to build a small bookshelf and try to keep things a little more organized.  Once the information is there, it will be a little easier to review these small details that be the difference between catching and fishing!

Copyright, 2015

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Packing for an Ice Fishing Trip

With the second of back to back tourneys this weekend in Indiana, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about what would be a good list of gear to take on an ice fishing trip.

1463545_10153175766077494_1256248244393462606_nNot that you need to go in any specific order, but first up for the list will be getting your rods in order.  Depending on what you will be fishing for, take a decent selection to match up with your quarry.  Meaning, if you are going walleye fishing, for an example, if you are fishing in a shack, shorter rods would fit the bill. Going to be fishing outside, staying really mobile, take your outdoor longer rods.   Make sure your line is in good working order, meaning no kinks..etc.  Pack them in something will stand up to the travel.


Check your electronics!  Most of this area would be covered by making sure your batteries are in good shape.  Whether it be your camera or flasher, Vexilar suggests that your battery should read at least 12.5 volts on the meter.  Not that your unit wont function on less, but if the battery is not coming up to that 12.5 v mark, then it is probably defective, or weak.  You do not want to plan a trip and have an issue, often you will be in areas where finding a replacement will be near impossible, so plan ahead.


Taking a machine to make travel easier.  Get all  your maintenance done before the trip.  Oil, antifreeze, batteries…etc, anything to do with making your ride more dependable, get it done before you go!  There will always be issues that arise that are beyond your control, but they happen less frequently with proper maintenance ahead of time.  It is also a good idea to have a can of fresh gas to take with you, and either battery charger, or take a jump starter with you, as well.

When it comes to clothes, always dress appropriately, and it doesn’t hurt to look at long range forecasts before you start packing.  Good wool socks with liners are important, as well as a base layer that will wick away any moisture build up.  Most ice fishing suits are water proof, and wind proof too, so have on a warm secondary layer, and you should be packed for success.

Copyright, 2015

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Sonic Ice Hopper Sport for Sale (SOLD)



I am selling my Sonic Ice Hopper Sport for $20.00.  Can meet in the Monroe area, Bolles or Sterling. Or, will be taking it with me to sell at this weekend’s NAIFC tournament on Croton Dam Pond, in Newaygo.  Fits any Vexilar or Marcum units, up to a LX-5, and mounts to a five or six gallon bucket. Can email or message me on Facebook.




Copyright, 2015

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Navionics to the Rescue

IMG_20150130_095957988The tourney season is about to start for me, and a couple of weeks back I realized that my map chip/SD card didn’t have the lakes I would be fishing on this year. One in Michigan, and one in Indiana, so I started doing some research on which route I should go.  I consulted two respected anglers in the walleye world, called Navionics and asked some more questions,  took everyone’s pro’s and cons into consideration and made my choice.

Navionics + sounded like the best choice to make.  I can pick the lakes I want, and update for a whole year. If I want more lakes after that, I can continue to update it for another year by paying 50% off the MSRP price.  I should be able to sit down and pick my lakes in that first year, but I liked the idea of being able to go beyond what is basically a one year subscription.

Called up my local Cabela’s, asked for the marine department, and a very nice young associated looked up on the computer and said they had one in their system.  Having worked a little bit in the retail outdoor world, I asked him to find and verify that indeed that “one” was in stock and call me back.  He did, it was, and I went to Dundee and picked it up.

I can now continue to use my Lowrance HDS-5m Chartplotter on either my quad or snowmobile and get open water quality, on a much bigger screen than any handheld device can offer.  To me that is huge, it is nearly impossible to read a small screen without continuously stopping to get a read on where you are at, much less read your waypoints!  It is a big advantage when traveling on unknown lakes, being able to read contours, waypoints, structure…etc.

The video’s available on Bass Pro’s website were a nice feature before making my purchase, just didn’t want to make the drive, when Cabela’s is literally in my backyard.

Copyright, 2015

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Matthew’s Bait & Tackle Tourney Report

Two days after the 1st Annual Matthew’s Bait & Tackle ice fishing tournament and I have already made my list out of things to try differently for next year’s event.  If you don’t learn and adapt, you get left in the dust, or ice chips…you get the idea.

The tourney was a lot of fun, and with having 17 entries for a first time event, it went very well.  Fishing was tough, but I think most people caught fish.  It was just getting those quality kicker type fish that pushed people ahead in several categories.

Perhaps the best part of the tournament was at the weigh-in.  At $25 for the entry fee, this really was a fun tourney, and back at the bait shop all the anglers mulled around talked about their day’s experience on the ice. Trials and tribulations, what worked,  and even what plans didn’t pan out.  If you listened, even the most experienced ice angler could pick up a few useful bits of information.

As far as anyone could tell, even though we could fish either at Sterling State Park or Bolles Harbor, it looked like all the teams fished Bolles.  The bite at Sterling just hasn’t panned out like it did last year.  Most agreed if the crappie bite had been on like in 2014, Bolles would have been deserted.

There was some cool things that happened during the tourney.  One angler picked up a 12-14 inch steelhead, I heard both sizes, so not quite sure.  Also, it was said that was the 2nd one to be caught down there this year.  Also, one angler saw a walleye in the harbor when he dropped down his camera.  Either kind of fish would have been a blast to catch on light panfish line.

it sounds like next year will be a go for the 2nd Annual Tourney, the bait shop was humming, so pretty sure the owners were happy folks about the turnout.  Next year can only get better, and am looking forward to getting in again.  The fishing is fun, you learn a lot, getting together and talking fishing with everyone, even better.

Copyright, 2015

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What was Your First Shanty?


What was your first ice fishing shanty?  My first one was a Clam 5600, cabin style, living the life of luxury.  Fully enclosed, thick floor to keep the feet warm, those were the days.  Then I learned how to really fish on the ice, and went mobile!  My next shack was the Fish Trap Pro, sit n flip was the style.  Easy set up, and get to fishing quick.

During set-up

During set-up

Moral to the story, think about what you really want to get out of ice fishing.  Consider the style of fishing you are going to do, are you going to go with comfort like today’s new hub style shelters from Clam, or are you going to the run and gun type?  I have replaced my original Pro finally, with this year’s new Kenai Pro Fish Trap from Clam.  High seat, lots of hook set room, no poles to extend, it’s truly the mobile anglers’ dream on ice.


Run n gun on the big water, making a day of it on the ice, then think big or stay home!  There are a lot of choices for fishing big water, where you will be using a machine to drag your shanty with a machine, my choice was the Voyager TCX.  Thermal cap top, holds in the heat, lets face it, when you are out all day, comfort is a bit of a consideration.  Roomy two-man if you have a bud going with you, or if you are flying solo….love the Voyager!

Copyright, 2015


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Monroe Ice Fishing


You can probably tell from the mix of fish where I was at with the neighbor on Monday, yep Bolles Harbor.  Biggest fish of the day was a crappie almost 11 inches, but lost an even bigger one on the first bite.  One of those deals where I almost threw my hand in the water to keep him from sliding back down the hole, but it was going to be a long day, and didn’t want to start it out with a wet hand.

Moved around a little bit, scouting some spots where I might be able to find a few fish for this weekend’s tourney at Matthew’s Bait Shop. Last year’s gill spot was dry, so spend most of the day slugging it out, and weeding through a bunch of small gills to get this nice mix of fish.


Caught all the decent fish on tungsten jigs, small ones, #3mm with #16 hooks, tipped with spikes.  Over the years I have come to the conclusion when it comes to icing panfish, spikes are the most reliable bait out there.  There are times when they just don’t want a waxworm.  That is why I go out to Knutson’s (Brooklyn, MI) every year and buy a 1000 at a time.  I don’t mess with colored ones, they just don’t last as long as the natural white ones do.  Leave them in the fridge or garage, if the wife won’t let you store them in the house, after all, they are maggots!

In my book the best way to prepare any type of panfish, not just perch, is to scale them.  I bought a Tumble Drumm scaler from Cabela’s a few years ago, if fact that was my second one, having two is really nice when it comes scaling perch caught off the boat.  One is usually enough to run during the winter though.


Having the scales off also makes the rest of the process that much easier to get the fillets ready for their water bath and going in the freezer.  You can vacuum seal if you want to spend the extra money for buying the unit and all the bags you will need, or just fill up a quart bag with fillets, add water, get all the air out and zip them closed.


Copyright, 2015


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Ice Jigs: Size truly Matters

When people joke around and say it’s not the size of the jig, but the wiggle that counts, aren’t quite giving you the whole picture.  The size of your panfish jigs you use can be the difference between having a really good day on the ice, or one in which you struggle to get a couple of good fish.  Size really does matter, and bigger is rarely ever better.


If someone was going to ask me what the best all around sized jig to use for bluegill and crappie through the ice, I would say the one “go to” size would be a 4 mm or #14 hook  horizontal tungsten jig.  It is the one time that the tweener size might actually be the most versitile size to use in a variety of situations.

I like rigging a 4 mm up when hitting a new lake with a piece of soft plastic.  Call it my search rig, if I mark and the fish take the bait, it’s all good. If I mark fish on my Vexilar FLX-28, but they aren’t interested in that particular combination, then my next option is drop down another 4 mm, or perhaps downsize to a 3 mm.  In either case, I would rig with live bait, most often being a spike (maggot).

Why drop down in size you might be asking at this point?  There are several reasons for doing so, three come to mind right away.  Pressure is one, fishing pressure that is.  The particular lake might be getting hammered by other fisherman, so if you drop down a smaller presentation it can look a little more desirable to the target below. Another type of pressure is of the barometric kind, and the fish can go into a neutral or negative feeding mode with either a sudden rise or drop in air temperatures.  These quick changes have a direct effect on panfish feeding habits.  Really finicky fish are another reason for downsizing, sometimes you can’t direct a good reason for their feeding habits, but when you see them on the screen, and they just aren’t interested in your presentation, then down sizing can be your only option to salvage your day.  Favorite sizes for the “go small” approach are either a 2.5 or 3 mm, or size #18 and #16 sized hooks.  One helpful hint when going this route, on the smaller jigs, often the hook gap is too tight with the shank of the hook. You can actually feel the hook pull out of the fish’s mouth when this happens.  Your solution is to take a pair of forceps, and gently widen the gap.  This will increase your hook up rates considerably.

Can you ever go big and have a good day on the ice?  Yes, to be sure, having a bigger jig on your line can be just as effective in situations as going small in other instances.  I like a 5 mm jig (size #12 hook) when the fish are feeding aggressively,  the key is to get it back down in the hole and to where the fish are at as fast as possible.  Another time to break out the 5’s is when you are fishing over deep water.  Not only do you want a good sink rate, but you need the weight to transfer the jigging action created by your ice rod down through the water column to your jig.

Is that it, three, maybe four sizes?  Not entirely, there are times where I will put on a 6 mm jig, which has in most cases has a size #10 hook.  It can be effective in deep water also, but I also like dropping this bigger size down in locations where there is a current going through the area.  Without a doubt, jigging through the ice is most effective when keeping your presentation as vertical as possible.  There are times when this is only possible by dropping down the biggest jig in your arsenal.

Key point, all the jigs talked about in this piece are of the tungsten variety, and in most cases they are horizontal jigs.  Can you use lead or vertical hanging jigs, yes you can, and in some cases they can be just as effective.  It has been my experience though, nothing fishes like tungsten, and I have far greater success with baits that hang level versus straight up and down.

Copyright, 2015

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