Fishing & Boating News

Panfish-Seeking Missiles

The Tungsten Advantage for Summer and Autumn Slabs

by: Ted Pilgrim,

Heavy yet super compact, tungsten jigs offer the ultimate in deepwater finesse. New Fiskas Wolfgram Epoxy Jig colors pictured. 
Photo by Ted Pilgrim
(Aug 3, 2017 - )  
Fascinating factoid about panfish: Every year, spawning season a distant memory, a lot of folks manage to mostly, well, forget these fish exist. It seems in some ways, crappies, sunfish and perch are the groundhogs of the fishing world — they show themselves in spring, but folks sort of neglect them after that. Which is rather perplexing when you consider that for the balance of the calendar year — summer and fall, in particular — most of the biggest crappies, sunfish and perch simply take their game to deeper water. And it’s deep they remain, often from July through winter, feisty and catchable as ever.
Thankfully, many of the best deep locations frequented by panfish aren’t more than a short boat-ride removed from their springtime hangouts. Might be black crappies suspended off the end of a weed point or a creek channel in 15 to 25 feet of water; big ‘gills on an isolated rock-pile, surrounded by 30 to 40 foot depths; or yellow perch scattered 20-feet down atop a sweeping mud flat.
With a little general knowledge of your waterbody, supplemented by the vivid, often-obvious fish marks scrolling across a quality sonar monitor, you’re bound to discover schools of untouched panfish. The other half of the equation — how to catch them — becomes far less complicated for anglers familiar with tungsten, an anvil-heavy metal lure material with amazing applications for panfish.
The Custom Jigs & Spins Majmün has superb hooking power thanks to the high-quality Owner® hook, an unobstructed hook gap, and the jig’s slightly off-the-horizontal-axis orientation.
Given the preponderance of the tiny, yet heavy jigs for ice fishing, it’s surprising how few anglers tie on compact tungsten during summer and fall outings. A progressive jig material commonly associated with bass, anglers cherish tungsten for it compact, small size and fast-sinking properties. In the panfish world, loads of ice fishing jigs constructed from the dense, heavy metal perform equally well on open water, spring through fall.
Cast a tiny tungsten jig dressed with a small grub or minnow, and you’ll maintain perfect lure contact, even in 20 to 30 feet of water, and even on breezy days. Further, you’ll detect more bites—the ultimate goal. Physically, most one-quarter ounce tungsten jigheads are no larger than a BB, allowing subtle, precise presentations with tiny #8 to #14 hooks and 1- to 2-inch micro soft plastics.
The advantages of working a diminutive yet heavy tungsten jig, such as a Fiskas Wolfram Jig or Custom Jigs & Spins Majmun are almost mind-boggling, allowing you to drop quickly onto deep fish with the tiniest lure. It’s a perfect approach for working tightly grouped pods of panfish, either directly beneath the boat or hovering near a deeper structure, such as a vegetation edge. Tungsten also shines for working in, around and above deep brush and timber. Because the heavy metal plummets fast and stays vertical, snags are less likely to occur than with lead. Moreover, when working small pods of panfish, tungsten jigs excel because they allow you to stay in the strike zone, working small zones or microstructure with precision.
For working vertically, shorter 5 to 6 foot rods — rated light rather than ultralight — allow for supreme jig control and bite detection. A St. Croix Premier PS56LF is an exceptional tungsten jigging rod. Meanwhile, more and more anglers, such as North American Ice Fishing Champion Tony Boshold, also wield 3- to 4-foot inch ice rods. Boshold vertically jigs Fiskas jigs dressed with Little Atom Nuggie plastics, while brandishing a 48-inch St. Croix Legend ice rod. The super short stick offers supreme control and manipulation of the jig in vertical scenarios as well as unmatched bite detection. A fine, translucent fluorocarbon line like Seaguar AbrazX in 2, 3 or 4 pound test sinks fast and amplified tungsten’s advantages.

Boshold, a panfish specialist who’s won gold medals in national and international ice fishing competition, has adapted FISKAS tungsten jigs to his open water fishing, with exceptional results. Once panfish move to deeper water, Boshold says, they stay put all summer and even in to fall.
“We use St. Croix Legend ice rods over the side of the boat, vertically jigging FISKAS Wolfram jigs and Little Atom Nuggies down in 20 to 25 feet of water. No way you could be so precise with a similar size lead jig. You can work the jig in super subtle ways, and feel deep bites you’d never detect with lead.
“A flasher-sonar unit lets me sight fish anywhere in the water column, watching fish react to my lure on the sonar screen, just like I’m ice fishing. The tungsten jig’s super-hard exterior sends back a constant sharp sonar return, so the lure stays visible on the screen.
 “We do this all the time while drifting for deep Lake Michigan perch, or on Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin. You don’t need live bait or big clunky lures to get deep and stay deep. Just a 5- or 6-mm Fiskas Epoxy Jig and a Little Atom Nuggie or Jumbo Nuggie. You can dance and swim this thing like a tiny baitfish or drag and scuttle the jig-plastic along the bottom and convince big perch it’s a crayfish. It’s one of those deals where you can easily out fish lead by a 10 to 1 margin.”
“Amazes me more crappie anglers aren’t using tungsten for suspended crappies in southern impoundments, too, or for bull bluegills living on deep rock humps. For spider rigging on these southern reservoirs, tiny tungsten jigs will eventually be a primo deal.”
Boshold concludes by addressing the sentiments of the traditional crappie, bluegill and perch crowd: “A lot of anglers I talk to say they don’t fish tungsten jigs because it’s expensive. But the truth is, when you have this much control over your presentation and can really feel what you’re jig’s doing down there, you actually loose a lot fewer lures to snags. As lead bans and regulations over fishing materials evolve, tungsten will continue to emerge as the obvious choice.”
Variouls FISKAS Wolfgram Handpainted Jigs.