I love taking perfectly good lures and altering them to make them even better. I’ve had my share of dead-end lure experiments – trust me – but the one I’m sharing here is liquid dynamite for all major winter species.
This modification adds a completely new angle (literally) to one of the most productive ice fishing baits anglers use: spoons. Have you ever rigged a regular jigging spoon sideways? It offers huge upsides, in terms of lure action and enhancing the bait’s natural appearance in the water. Check this out:
The success I’ve had ‘deadsticking’ lures over many ice seasons really opened my eyes to how attractive a motionless, horizontal profile can be. When any baitfish is in its natural state, it’s horizontal. Jigging Rapalas, lipless crankbaits, blade baits (think Cicadas and Vibrados), and Meegs/Bad Boy-style lures all hang horizontally while at rest. So do soft plastics, like tube jigs and swimbaits.
To be fair, fish will charge up and hit a deadsticked spoon that’s resting perpendicular to the bottom, but this is where my experimental juices begin to flow. I discovered that I could not only maintain a spoon’s thumping, fish-calling flutter on the way down, but also massively enhance its action on the upstroke. And all the while, showing fish that sultry, horizontal baitfish profile at rest.
Properly rigging a spoon horizontally means starting with the right spoon. Heavy, compact baits, like Swedish Pimples or Buckshots are out. You must start with lighter, high-action spoons. Some of the better ones include: Little Cleos, Mepps Cyclops, or Lucky Strike Toronto Wobbers.
The gold standard baits, in my experience, are the Williams Ice Jig and the Whitefish. Right from the factory, the Ice Jig has that hole along the flank where the Limmerick (double) hook attaches to the spoon body. I saw that hole and thought, “why can’t I clip my line to that?”
The trick is finding the natural balance point for the spoon. I take a length of fishing line, and secure it to the spoon body using a small piece of tape. Remember to add your hooks of choice to either end of the spoon before balancing it. Once you’ve found the lure’s midpoint, mark the spot and drill a few small holes as close to the edge of the spoon as possible. Test each hole position in the water. You’ll know you’ve got it right when the spoon pounds like a jackhammer on the way up, flashes and wobbles on the way down, and rests perfectly horizontal to bottom.
Hooks and rigging up
With a hook on both ends, you’ll quickly come to love how easily and solidly a modified spoon nabs fish. The factory trebles that come with most spoons are satisfactory, in terms of sharpness and size. I stick with treble hooks when setting up spoons for pike and lake trout.
Double, or ‘Limmerick’ hooks are also fantastic. Having only two points, they’re great for catch and release. The factory double hooks on a Williams Ice Jig are also viciously sharp. Fish that swipe or bat at your spoon get hooked solidly! I use these a lot for whitefish and perch.
As double hooks don’t have a welded-eye loop, like trebles, simply wrap a portion of the hook shank in light wire. It’s now free to swing, but can’t ever come off the split ring. For attaching your line, use a small snap swivel right through the drilled hole. I’ll typically run a fluorocarbon leader for nearly all my jigging applications.
Horizontal spoon tactics
Start every fresh hole the same way: stirring, knocking and thumping the bottom. Making sound and kicking up debris is critical. With the profile of the spoon in line with the bottom, you’re now getting much more surface area to clang steel off rocks and waft up big clouds of sediment. Reel or lift the spoon up anywhere from a few inches to a few feet, and let it hang there. Experiment with the length of your pause. Generally, the higher I am from the bottom, the longer I’ll pause. Give your spoon a firm, upward pump, let it flutter all the way back down, and begin the procedure all over again.
Watch for fish to rush up for the motionless spoon. As soon as you spot one approaching, begin slowly reeling it away. That heavy wobble will engage, usually sealing the deal. Fish that won’t strike the bait closer to bottom regularly whack it up much higher.
For active hole-hopping, the horizontal spoon is one of my most consistent methods for locating fish. Of course, ice electronics really help anglers get dialed in, especially when targeting fish high in the water column. Experimentation with your spoon’s action is the biggest key. Watch how fish react on your screen. Some days they’ll paddle up to a motionless lure and eat it, no questions asked. Other days, you might need to play ‘keep away’ and get the fish charging upwards.
Tap into a spoon’s fish-catching potential by flipping things around, so to speak. This is a modification that will pay off for you in a hurry!