Coralville, IA – We’ve all seen it happen—a crappie bite starts and word gets out. Like bums on bologna sandwiches, the ice turns into a free-for-all. Common sense would tell us to find fresh ice or try another lake, but depending on where you live or ice conditions, that’s not always easy. And it might be your favorite lake or home waters—so then what do you do?
Brainerd, Minnesota’s “Panfish” Phil Laube is no stranger to conditions like these, living in the northern epicenter of all things ice fishing. There, ice fishing’s a pastime second only to breathing.
“Sure, most of the time I’ll fish areas away from the crowd—or try a different lake—but especially during early and late ice, fishable areas are limited. Naturally, those spots get a lot of pressure. But I’ve found you can still extract some quality panfish from ‘community hole’ type spots,” says Laube.
His secret? Going finesse when surrounded by legions of power players.
“Over the past four or five years I’ve downsized presentations when it seems like community hole anglers are fishing bigger jigs or dunking crappie minnows. It’s just like open-water bass fishing, sometimes going smaller is the key to catch pressured fish. Another thing: crappies can switch from a minnow feed to micro-invertebrates in a heartbeat. That’s sometimes the case, more than the fishing pressure itself.”
As the video demonstrates, Laube relies on two key baits, a gold 3mm or 4mm Custom Jigs & Spins Chekai Tungsten Ice Jig and a size 14, 12, or 10 lead Custom Jigs & Spins Diamond Jig in orange tiger. He fishes both on light to medium-light power St. Croix Legend and Frabill ice rods paired with a Frabill Straight Line reel and 2-pound monofilament or 3-pound Seaguar AbrazX Ice fluorocarbon.
“I always start with a gold Chekai tungsten to hole-hop—and a lot of times that’s all it takes. If fish are still tentative, I’ll grab my rod with the lead Diamond Jig, which has a slower rate of fall to keep really skittish fish in the transducer cone. I stick to one larvae or a Wedgee plastic and keep jigging minimal. Small rod lifts usually gets crappies to bite.”
Although Laube champions gold and orange jigs for murky and tannin-stained waters, he carries a wide selection of colors for versatility on all waters.
“With 22 colors—and a lot of glow/UV options—there’s a jig for every situation. Orange Puffer looks like a champ for ‘gills and same deal with the new pink patterns for crappies. And all in the small sizes I like! Honestly, they all look good!”
For 2018, Custom Jigs & Spins has added 10 new glow and non-glow colors to the hugely popular Chekai Tungsten Ice Jig series in all four sizes (5mm, 4.5mm, 4mm, 3mm). New colors include Wonder Glow, Gold Glow Tip, Orange Puffer, Circus Clown, Pink Clown, Pink Eye, Rainbow Tiger, Lemonade, Fireball, and Junebug. These new additions bring the total count of Chekai color options to 22 unique, fish-catching patterns! MSRP $2.50.