Ice Fishing with Lures, a Comprehensive Guide

Ice Fishing with lures

This post will thoroughly cover  ice fishing with lures. While many anglers enjoy ice fishing with live bait, more and more are using lures to catch fish. Artificial lures do have a couple of advantages over live bait. Also, many anglers combine both live bait and lures. This is really the best of both worlds!

ice fishing with lures

The main advantage the anglers ice fishing with lures have over those fishing with live bait is convenience. Bait needs to be purchased and kept alive. Artificial lures sit in the tackle box, ready to fish at any time. While some live baits are pretty easy to keep alive, minnows and other baits require more time and effort.

There are many effective and productive ice fishing lures. However, there are some that stand above the rest. The following list of the top 10 ice fishing lures will cover every situation than an anglers ice fishing with lures will face.

crappie fishing

The top 10 ice fishing lures are;

  • VMC Neon Moon Eye Jig

  • Rapala Jigging Rap

  • Clam jig

  • Marmooska jig

  • Chubby Darter

  • Bro Bug jig

  • Sweedish Pimple spoon

  • Kastmaster spoon

  • Clam Leech flutter spoon

  • Rat-L-Trap

Anglers who would like to read more about ice fishing can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “A Complete Guide to Ice Fishing” by clicking on the title link.

Lures can also trigger strikes when fish are not feeding. The flash and vibration of a lure may excite a fish that is otherwise reluctant to take a live bait. Anglers do need to be subtle with the action they impart to a lure, as fish do slow down in the cold water. Jigs are the top ice fishing lure, with spoons and plugs being second and third.

ice fish finder

Click to shop Amazon for an ice fishing fish finder

Ice fishing tackle when using lures

The same rods and reels that anglers use when ice fishing with live bait work fine when presenting lures. Anglers chasing panfish will do best keeping the line as light as possible. 2 lb test is often used. As the quarry increases in size, so should the line size. However, the water is very clear and anglers should go with the lightest line possible.

ice fishing

Anglers can shop Amazon for  ice fishing rod and reel combos

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Anglers can read an article on ice fishing tackle and gear to get more information.

ice fishing tackle and gear

Lure selection

Ice fishing lures come in several types along with many colors and sizes. Lures designed to catch panfish are tiny! Larger lures are aimed at walleye, northern pike, and other larger game fish. Jigs are by far the most popular lure used by anglers ice fishing. Jig heads are often used plain to present live baits. Spoons are another very popular lure. Plugs are the final lure type used by anglers ice fishing with lures.

ice fishing jigs

Ice fishing jigs

Quality ice fishing jig heads are very light, brightly colored, with a very sharp hook. Jigs come in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and colors. However, they all basically work the same. The jig head consists of a hook with a heavier head molded in near the eye. Tungsten is often used as it is very dense. The head is often brightly colored. The weight of the head determines how fast it will sink and move in the water. It also gives the lure the action for which it gets its name. A grub body is added to the jig to complete the lure.

ice fishing for bluegill and panfish

Many anglers use a bare jig head in conjunction with live bait. This can be done when seeking bluegill using wax worms on a light jig head. Small pieces of nightcrawler can be used as well. A minnow can be used for crappie and other game fish.

Most anglers ice fishing with lures buy the jig heads and grub bodies separately. Every angler has his or her favorite bait. Some have body shapes that do not resemble anything found in the wild. Yet, they undulate seductively and catch fish! Color combinations are endless, as are jig head and body choices. There are many quality jig manufacturers. Some of the best are small companies found in local shops. Several popular options are listed below.

ice fishing for rainbow trout

VMC Neon Moon Eye jigs

VMC Neon Moon Eye jig heads are excellent ice fishing lures. They are manufactured with a very thin shank. Moon Eye jigs also have a bait holder tab. These two factors combine to help both live and artificial baits stay on the hook. Live bait will also remain lively for a longer period of time.

Fishing Lido Key is a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

The VMC Neon Moon Eye jig has a couple other advantages over some other jigs as well. It has a slender design which cuts through the water. This makes it a great choice when fishing in current. The glowing head helps game fish find the bait, this is especially helpful in low light conditions when fish bite best!

Clam jigs

Clam manufactures several very productive ice fishing jigs. Their lures are made of Tungsten, which is very dense. They sink quickly despite having a small profile. The Clam XL and XXL are good examples of this. These Clam jigs hang at a 45 degree angle with larger than average hooks. The larger hooks result in better hook up ratios when using larger soft plastics or live baits. They are available in a wide range of sizes and colors.

The Clam Drop Kick was designed by Dave Genz. It has a unique and tantalizing action that pan fish in particular can not resist. It also has a flat top, making it easier to see on a fish finder. The Drop Kick has a large hook with a 90 degree eye. This results in most fish being hooked and landed.

Marmooska jigs

The Marmooska jig is a great all round jig, especially for pan fish. It has an offset designed head that gives anglers great control while also producing a great fish-catching action. The Marmooska jig pivots, which increases hook-ups and landed fish. The hook is very light wire. It is available in multiple sizes and colors.

Bro Bug jigs

The Bro Bug jig is another extremely effective pan fish and bluegill jig. It has a long shank and a barbless wire bait collar. This makes it an excellent choice when presenting live bait like wax worms. It is available in tiny sizes, starting at 1/72 of an ounce! They can make a difference when the bite is tough. The Bro Bug was designed to mimic larvae that hatches on the bottom, something bluegill and other species feed on under the ice.

Ice fishing spoons

Ice fishing spoons have been around for a long time. They continue to be effective to this day. Spoons come in a variety of sizes. While tiny spoons do catch pan fish, most anglers use spoons when chasing larger game fish species. Spoons flutter as they slowly sink, producing flash and vibration.

walleye fishing

Spoons will catch fish throughout the water column. Most bites occur as the bait falls, seemingly helpless. Fish will take the bait right on the bottom as well, particularly walleye. Spoons are easy to see on a fish finder. Anglers should work the bait just above any fish marked on the machine. Silver and gold are the most popular finishes, though painted spoons are popular as well.

Click to read this article on the best ice fishing spoons

Spoons can be used with live bait as well. In most cases, anglers ice fishing with lures will use a small piece of nightcrawler, wax worm, or meal worm to sweeten up the hook a but. One underutilized technique is to use a small strip of cut bait on a spoon. This can be extremely effective for pike and other large game fish. Dead minnows can be used as well. Some top spoons are listed below.

Sweedish Pimple spoon

The Sweedish Pimple is a classic ice fishing spoon. It is particularly known to be effective on walleye and trout. For many anglers ice fishing with lures, the conversation starts, and ends, with this spoon. The design is time-proven and has not changed much. However, it is now offered in many different sizes and finishes. They are even available with rattles.

Kastmaster spoon

The Kastmaster by Acme is another old school ice fishing spoon that has fooled countless fish over the years. Silver, gold, and prism tape spoons are the most productive, though many other colors are available as well. 1/12 ounce to 3/8 ounce Kastmaster spoons will catch just about every species available to anglers ice fishing with lures.

Clam Leech Flutter Spoon

The Clam Leech Flutter Spoon is a heavy, fast sinking bait with a lot of action. It gets it’s name as it resembles a leech. It is an excellent spoon when fish are aggressive and works well both plain and tipped. Walleye and yellow perch in particular fall prey to this lure. It is available in a dozen different finishes.

Ice fishing plugs

Anglers also use plugs when ice fishing. While plugs in open water are generally not used in a vertical presentation, specially designed ice fishing plugs will produce fish. These lures have the line tie in the center and when jigged up fall in a circular, swimming manner. They do imitate a wounded bait fish.

ice fishing for walleye

Ice fishing plugs come in a wide range of sizes. The smallest versions will catch panfish. However, most anglers use plugs when trying to catch larger game fish species. Some of the best ice fishing plugs are listed below.

Rapala Jigging Rap

The conversation about ice fishing plugs starts with the Rapala Jigging Rap. It is a long time favorite that has been producing fish for many decades. The center tie and rear lip result in an erratic, circular swimming action when jigged. Smaller #2 and #3 sized Jigging Raps will fool perch. Anglers seeking larger game will do better using the #7 size Rapala Jigging Rap.

Chubby Darter

The Chubby Darter is another ice-fishing legend. Anglers will find it to be an effective vertical ice fishing lure. The Darter has a slow sink rate in the water. The unique shape of the lure results in a tantalizing swimming action that draws strikes. The Chubby Darter is a favorite among ice anglers, being effective for catching walleye, perch, bass, crappie, and pike. The Chubby Darter is available in 1 3/8- and 1 ¾-inch models and 6 patterns.


The Bill Lewis Rattletrap is an often overlooked ice fishing lure. Well known to open water anglers, the smaller versions such as the Tiny Trap can be very effective under the ice. They are an aggressive lure and work best when fish are active and willing to chase a bait.

Tips for ice fishing with lures

If there is one mistake anglers ice fishing with lures make it is to be too aggressive in the presentation. Fish metabolism slows greatly in the frigid water. They will be spooked off of a drastically gyrating lure! Subtle, gentle movements produce the best results. There are times that no action works best. This is referred to as “dead sticking” and is a tactic used by veteran ice anglers. It often works best with a piece of bait on the lure.

walleye fishing

Anglers should use the lightest line possible. Many will go as low as 2 lb test when chasing pan fish in gin clear water. Serious ice fishing anglers opt for flourocarbon line. It is expensive, but sinks and in virtually invisible in the water. Flourocarbon line also stretches less than monofilament, resulting in better hook ups and more fish landed.

Anglers should adjust the size of the lure to the fish being sought. While larger fish can be taken on tiny lures, the larger sized lures will fool larger game fish. Conversely, bluegill and panfish anglers will do best with the tiniest of lures.

Using lures with live bait when ice fishing

Many anglers combine live bait and artificial lures. This can be an extremely effective presentation! It is best to go conservative when adding live bait to artificial lures. All that is really needed is just a little taste. Too large a pice will hamper the action of the lure. Anglers fishing with live bait on a bare jig head can be more generous. A live minnow and jig is a proven combination on a wide variety of species. Most anglers targeting panfish will add a grub of some sort to sweeten the hook.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing with lures will help anglers catch more fish on artificial baits through the ice!

Jim Klopfer

Capt Jim Klopfer has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. He grew up in Maryland, fishing the Chesapeake Bay waters. Capt Jim has been creating an writing articles about fishing for decades, contributing to many regional and national publications. He also lives part time in the North Carolina mountains where he fishes for trout and other species. Capt Jim Klopfer is a wel rounded angler with 50 years fishing experience, and he loves to share what he has learned with other anglers!

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