Column: Fishing with Frisch by Mike Frisch

New lures hit the fishing scene every year. Some of these lures are hits, others are so-so fish producers, and still others disappear rather quickly. A few years ago, tungsten lures came upon the ice fishing scene and have changed the way most ice anglers fish, especially when panfish are the target. Tungsten is lighter than lead, so a similarly-weighted tungsten jig will be smaller in profile than its lead counterpart. This offers several advantages to the ice fisherman.

Tungsten jigs are tiny

Many panfish species have relatively small mouths and they are used to eating microscopic insects and other organisms.  For that reason, small baits often get bit best, especially in winter when cold water can make fish somewhat finicky. The small profile of many tungsten baits often results in more bites from winter panfish.

Tungsten crashes

through obstacles

One problem anglers who fish small, lightweight lead jigs often encounter is that these jigs tend to hang on any slush that is floating in the ice hole making it cumbersome to get the bait down to the level of the fish.

Another related problem is that they also tend to hang up on any weeds that are present, and because winter panfish often relate to weed cover, this can be a big problem in trying to catch fish.

Tungsten, being denser than lead, is advantageous in solving both these problems as its heavier weight crashes through any ice or weeds that it encounters allowing the angler to get his or her bait quickly and easily to the fish.

Tungsten fishes “heavy”

A similar problem with the light weight of small lead jigs is that also don’t sink very quickly in the water column and they are hard to “feel” on the fishing line. A similarly-profiled tungsten jig, being heavier in weight, allows it to plummet quicker in the water column and can be “felt” better by the angler when it reaches the desired fishing depth.

This is important when fishing in mid- to deeper-waters and, is also advantageous when a school of biting fish appears. In this case, tungsten allows an angler to return his or her bait to aggressive fish after catching one before those fish disappear. Being able to better “feel” the jig allows the angler better bite detection which usually results in more successful hooksets.

My favorite tungsten jig over the years has been the Mooska Jig which has a super-sharp hook and comes in UV glitter colors with glow-in-the-dark eyes that seem to do a great job of attracting and triggering bites from panfish. This jig tipped with waxworms has been a dynamite producer of winter bluegills for me the past several winters.

When pursuing crappies, the new tungsten Mitee Mouse Jig has a mouse body and a hook that works well when tipping with soft plastics. This is important as my best crappie catches in recent winters have been when tipping my jigs with Impulse soft plastics.

Regardless what your favorite panfish species is, adding tungsten to your arsenal for the reasons just discussed will probably add to your winter catch. As always, good luck on the ice and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure.

Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit or follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook for more “fishy” stuff.

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