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Hairjig Options for Cold-Water Panfish

Hey gang, I know that it's warm in the south and starting to freeze -up in the north, but I just thought I'd pass along some tactics that have worked for me the past many years once the water temperatures drop below 50 F down even to as low as 38 F in 'open-water' scenarios in the Mid-Atlantic.

I utilize hairjigs that I tie in several options and sizes. This is not a blog designed to advertise my product, but rather to help winter time panfishermen use what I believe to be a deadly tactic.

Hairjigs are tied with various materials, but I like marabou, craft hair, bucktail and polar hair. I use flashabou and crystal flash for scale accent. For sizes, I like 1/32 and 1/16 oz for crappies and 1/80, 1/64 and 1/32 oz for bluegills. For colors. I like pink, chartreuse, white and lime green in various combos for crappie. Bluegills seem to like more of a plain brown, black or beige or tan pattern. There are many other options and this site is loaded with talented tyers who I am sure will be glad to share their favorite patterns.

I fish hairjigs in the cold with three basic applications...
1- Casting and retrieving with no bobber. Using quality, limp 4 lb mono, cast your jig out to a brushpile, fallen log, bulkhead or in a spillway pool and keep a tight line as the lure descends slowly. You can punctuate the retrieve with slow hops, a gentle 'Lift/Drop' retrieve or a straight , steady retrieve. Always keep in touch with the lure, allowing no slack in your line. Imparting some type of action almost always gets more strikes than the straight retrieve. With ultra light spinning gear and longer rods, this is best done with 1/32 and 1/16 oz lures.
2- Cast and retrieve them below a fixed, attached bobber and allow the wind to 'drift' them over and around likely structure. Best for 1/80 and 1/64 th oz jigs. Small 'pops' or twitches with the rod-tip sometimes works. Bait tipping is crucial on smaller jigs-worms, waxies, maggots, etc will do.
3- Fish em below slip bobbers like the Thill Wagglers or other sensitive, in-line slip floats. You'll need to find out the depth and utilize a rubber bobber stop or the yarn style stops to establish the depth. The stop will invariably move with continued casting, so you'll have to check it after several casts and re-set as needed.

Strikes can be slow and lethargic, with fish often just 'trailin off' with a float. Strikes on a tight-line (no bobber) will be slight 'taps', ticks, or jumps in the line. High visibility lines can aid in strike detection.

Set the hook! I always tip the jig with bait as it really adds in the cold. In small lakes and ponds, you may find tremendous concentrations of fish in very small areas...please do not overharvest!
Hope this helps you in your winter trips this season!

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Comment by Jim Gronaw on January 1, 2010 at 12:02pm
I have never used a snap swivel for jig fishing and I always tie directly to the jig with either an improved clinch or a Palomar knot. When fishing vertically, I try to position the tied knot on the top of the eye or push it back slightly towards the hook point to maintain a horizontal presentation of the jig. I don't think a loop knot would serve well in jig fishing for panfish, but I have never tried it either.
Comment by Richard Hutchinson on January 1, 2010 at 11:49am
May seem like a strange question, but do you feel like it's important how you attach your jig to the line ie: with a snap swivel, tied tight to the line, tied on with a loop like a Rapala etc.?
Comment by Jim Gronaw on December 20, 2009 at 6:14pm
Hey John...in the box are jigs tied with a combo of marabou and craft hair, along with flashabou accent or mylar for scale detail. I seldom use bucktail for any jig smaller than an eigth of an oz. However, many of my smallmouth bass jigs for the Potomac and Susquehanna Rivers, tied on 1/8 1nd 1/4/ oz jigheads are bucktail tied, as the hollow characteristics of bucktail hair tend to cause the jig to fall slower and hang a little longer in pockets and eddys during cold weather conditions. I sometimes thread a plastic trailer, like a Zoom Fat Albert or a PowerBait Grub on one of those smallmouth jigs to add a little more 'bulk' to the lure as to imitate a lethargic winter crayfish trying to aukwardly seek cover along the river bottom.

I might try to use the 'tips' of the bucktail to tie some panfish jigs for cold conditions. My favorite material for panfish jigs is crafthair.
Comment by John Sheehan on December 20, 2009 at 8:42am
Hey Jim-
Do you see any advantage of Marabou over bucktail? I dont see any feather jigs in your box there too!I've done well with both btail and Marabou but have out of habit with no particular reason gone with Bucktail in cold water and Marabou with warmer water.Feather jigs I've gone to in spring and fall but dont use them as much but have done pretty good thru the ice with subtle feather jigs.
Comment by Jim Gronaw on December 2, 2009 at 3:41pm
Thanks, Greg. The rod in the photo is an older 6'6" Diawa spinning rod with good sensitivity and yet backbone in case I run into a 5 lb bass. I do use Euro-style panfish rods of 11 ' by B&M Poles and Cabela's Crappie Systems rod for casting jigs and bobbers a good distance from the shore as many of our local lakes are closed to boating during the winter.

Hey John..I never have used blue jay feathers, but it sounds like a good idea. Thanks!
Comment by Greg McWilliams on December 2, 2009 at 8:19am
Great blog Jim. Is your rod a fly rod with spinning reel taped to it? That would take the dilema of having to use a spinning rod, over using a fly rod. Thanks for the info.
Comment by John Sheehan on December 2, 2009 at 7:44am
That away Jim You're on the Crappie! Nice ones too!Thanks for the blog.I agree on black being a supurb BGill color in cold waters.My brother and I tie small profile 32nd oz black rabbit fur jigs for gills.

Gotta ask you if you ever tie Bluejay feathers into a jig.I have started doing this recently but havent tried them out cause the white bucktails are so effective where I'm fishing.Blue Jay feathers should work great I would think1The colors of white Blue and black bars seem very fishlike.The problem is finding feathers.Unless there is a hawk kill in the yard.Maybe molting periods.My wife says birds usually molt twice a year...spring and again in fall.

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