Early ice can be some of the best fishing of the hard water season! Everyone is beyond excited for the coming winter, fish are still up shallow and putting on the feed bag before they slide out deep as ol’ man winter moves along.
With the all new Dandy Pannie Kit from Freedom Baitz, James and I (Pro Staff Team Manager, Robert) put together what we think is a hard-to-beat ice kit to help bring more success to your fish bucket.
Shop the Dandy Pannie Kit
Best Pairings: Freedom Baitz + Widow Maker Lures
Early ice panfish chasing is quite simple in all reality as the bluegills and crappies are typically in shallow weeds, still cruising around together. The best part? They’ll eat the same jig and plastic! Personally, there’s no ‘big fish’ presentation during this time of year; a true ‘slab’ will munch a Widow Maker Lures 3mm tungsten jig with a Freedom Baitz Apache or a 5mm tungsten jig with a Freedom Baitz Hellcat tied on.
BAITZ SHOWN: The Tomahawk in Red (Left) and White (Right)
Depending on your style of fishing; a run & gun type of angler that likes to cover as much water as possible might tie on a bigger presentation such as a 4mm Disco ball or Dropper jig from Widow Maker Lures paired with a Hellcat, Sidewinder, or Tomahawk from Freedom Baitz to trigger the more aggressive fish in a faster time so the angler can keep moving along the weed bed. If there’s plenty of time on the game clock, down size your presentation to a 3mm Disco Ball or Dropper and a smaller plastic such as the Apache or Harpoon! You’ll catch more fish all around, even the tiny ones! All jokes aside, far and few is there a ‘perfect’ match-the-hatch jig & plastic presentation for early ice fishing.. just keep trying anything and everything until you see a noticeable difference!
Gear & Setup
Now let’s talk how to use the Dandy Pannie Kit and what gear to use with it!
Tie your desired knot, James and I prefer a palomar knot, to where your tungsten jig is laying as horizontal as possible. Carefully thread your chosen Freedom Baitz up the shank of the jig to where the plastic is also as horizontal as possible. When you drop the bait down the water column, gently ‘bob’ your rod tip up and down creating the slightest movement of the plastic. You’ll be able to see how the fish are reacting to your jigging cadence on your electronics. Of course, change up your style to what the fish want!
Personally, we prefer a spring bobber styled rod while fishing tungsten & plastics to be able to see the softest, touchiest of bites. The spring bobber really helps you see what the fish are doing when they go to bite your bait whether if they’re slack lining it on an up bite, flaring their gills just enough to inhale your bait, or straight up slamming it! A spring bobber panfish rod with #2 or #3lb line on a schooley reel is our ideal choice and feel that it’s the best combo for how we fish.
We’d love to see your success using the Dandy Pannie Kit! Always feel free to share your days on the ice with us and best of luck this ice season!
- Robert Doubek, Pro Staff Team Manager