Coralville, IA – Leave it to Chekai Matan, Custom Jigs & Spins’ Croatian lure designer, to name this gem of a panfish jig. Unfortunately, Chekai was unavailable to comment at the time of this press release.
“Chekai’s doing the exotic species thing in Thailand,” says his American cousin, Walt Matan, marketing director for Custom Jigs & Spins. “He bought a little karaoke bar and guides British tourists on nearby waters. Mekong catfish, snakehead, stuff like that. In-Fisherman writer Steve Ryan has not been a good influence on my cousin. But Chekai usually comes back to the ‘States right around first ice to test his new baits and stock up on walnut brandy and kolač od šunke (ham cake).”
According to Walt, the Croatian word JaJe (pronounced “yah-yee”) translates to “egg” or “egg on” in English — and the name refers to the jig’s round tungsten head. But that alone isn’t anything unique to ice fishing jigs. “Look closer,” says Walt, “and you’ll see the JaJe merges the old with the new.”
Fact is, hackle jigs have been around since man started fishing. And savvy anglers learned decades ago that diminutive fly fishing nymphs do double-duty on winter panfish. Chances are you might have a few Hare’s Ear nymphs, beadheads, and Copper Johns in your ice box. While these flies all do well to imitate the small insects and larvae panfish love, none were designed ice fishing. They’re intended to be fished on a cast or drift, not presented vertically. It can take a lot of knot tweaking to get a fly fishing nymph to orient horizontally when fished through the ice.
Custom Jigs & Spins new JaJe changes all that. Call it a tungsten fly with attitude. The hackle is resilient and tied in to stay secure, even after dozens and dozens of fish catches. And its compact yet heavy, brightly-colored tungsten head keeps the super-sharp Japanese hook riding at a 30-degree angle for instant hook sets on big panfish. It’s available in three sizes (14, 12, 10) and four fish-catching glow patterns with UV finish, including Chartreuse/Glow, Orange/Glow, Pink/Glow, and Purple/Glow. Even better, at $2.95 each, you can build an impressive arsenal without breaking the bank.
The Best Way to Fish the JaJe?
As veteran ice angler Cory Schmidt points out in the video above, sometimes the best way to work the Custom Jigs and Spins JaJe is by not working it at all. Doesn’t take much to get the hackles flittering in the water. Wind against a spring bobber or line, water currents, and just trying to keep a rod still all impart some movement to the JaJe’s myriad hackle strands.
Keep in mind that panfish are keyed into movements on a microscopic scale. They’re constantly judging profile and the slightest movement of tiny appendages, cilia, and antennae on the zooplankton and micro-invertebrates they eat. Fact is, frantic jigging movements turn off a lot of tentative panfish.
“Sometimes not working it at all – or with really tiny movements – is best. Let the hackles do their thing. That’s what get bites 9 out of 10 times,” says Schmidt. “I like to add a Wedgee microplastic, too, which also gets quivering without much movement. The combo’s pretty deadly. Actually, coffee shakes right away in the morning get the hackles flaring perfectly.”
And when fish are negative—like during post-frontal conditions—consider adding a single larvae—to introduce scent, often enough to turn sniffers into biters.
For bait longevity, Custom Jigs & Spins recommends using a Cold Snap tungsten toothpick(available at customjigs.com) for easy hook removal from monster panfish maws. Using this tool also minimizes fish harm, especially for releasing those big bull ‘gills so critical to keeping large bluegill fisheries healthy and sustainable.