Ice fishing is a sport of camaraderie. Whether it's two guys like me and Poppee sitting in a tent, a dozen anglers huddled on buckets or a winter village set up on the ice. Take a look at "Grumpy Old Men" for gosh sakes; you can't get more fun on the ice then that!
While all of this merry-making is great fun, if you get a little more serious and team up with a few pals... you will all be rewarded with a lot more panfish than usual.
The Search Begins
The search is one of the most exciting parts of your time on the ice, so don't skimp on spots. If I'm only fishing for three hours, I might spend an hour just searching for the best spot. Because as you well know it's easy to catch 20 or 30 panfish in no time, from a good area.
There are always a few guys that are hole-drilling machines. So let them have at it! But instead of just drilling holes haphazardly, find a weedy bay and start drilling a few holes shallow and then work your way deeper. Have someone use a flasher to check each hole and once you spot a fish, drill more holes in that same vicinity.
A good hole will show fish right away. A bad hole might be too full of weeds to fish, but if you move over a few steps you can find the edge, which is the hot spot.
Kick the bad holes full of ice and have someone else in your group scoop out the clean holes. Drill a few more holes around the good ones so that all of your buddies can get set up on the hot spots.
The Three and Four Hole Set-Up
If two guys are fishing is a tent, you can drill two holes about two-feet apart and set a flasher or an underwater camera in between. The flasher will pick up each anglers jig and you can see when fish move in. If the water is clear, you can also use the underwater camera in this setup and set the camera so that you can see each anglers jig, providing that you fish at the same depth level.
If you've got two flashers you can drill two holes right next to each angler that way you aren't tangling the fish in the transducer cable when you reel them in.
Use Different Jigs
If everyone puts on an orange Ratfinkee, because that's what they hit on last year, that my friend, defeats the purpose of the team. Use an assortment of colors, styles and sizes of different jigs and if one particular jig begins to produce, yell to your buddies to put the same one on!
Our favorite panfish jigs include Custom Jigs & Spins Demons, Ratfinkees, Ratsos, Shrimpos, Diamond Jigs and 'Gill Pills. We always carry an assortment of these jigs for us and our pals along with some Finesse Plastic Wedgees, live waxworms, spikes and small minnows. We use the minnows on a Deadstick rod in a second hole once we get set up good and start catching fish with regularity.
All of these panfish jigs have different actions and profiles that panfish find hard to resist. The Demon has a beetle shaped body and a vertical presentation. It has a flutter/fall action that is really nice. You can add a Wedgee to it along with a waxworm for even a slow fall. Top colors include green/chartreuse, chartreuse/orange and black/pink. You can use a Demon jig and hook the minnow thru the dorsal fin on your Deadstick rod.
The Ratfinkee has a totally different look to it than the Demon. The Ratfinkee is a small horizontal jig with a ball head and a tough plastic body. It hops around when jigged and jiggled. Top colors include pink/white, black, purple and red. The Ratfinkee is great when tipped with spikes or a waxworm and you can use it on your Deadstick rod with the minnow hooked through the lips.
Shrimpos and Ratso are unique lures made by Custom Jigs & Spins. They have soft Finesse Plastic tails that wiggle and entice panfish to strike. They are markedly different though since the Ratso rides horizontally and the Shrimpo rides vertically. You can use these panfish jigs as is, without live bait or you can add spikes or waxworms. These are really effective lures that you need! Top colors include black, red, pink/white and purple.
The Diamond Jig is another top panfish jigs. I like the tiny size 16 when the going gets tough. What makes the Diamond Jig so effective is the fact that it is small, compact and the hooks ride at a 45-degree angle; which makes for easy hooking power. Don't overload the Diamond Jig with bait, just a few spikes or a waxworm is all you need. Top colors include clown, red, copper and froggie.
Then there is the 'Gill Pill. The 'Gill Pill is designed like the Diamond Jig with the 45 degree hook position, but it has wider, flatter, heavier head that gives the 'Gill Pill more of a fluttering action on the drop. 'Gill Pills also come in tiny size 16, but you might want to try the larger sizes also, especially if the fish are active. Top colors include green/orange, clown, fire tiger and gold.
Ice fishing is great fun and it's always more fun when you are catching fish! On a warm winter's day, there is nothing more rewarding that a bunch of guys huddled together catching panfish. Team up the right way for more panfish this winter.