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Increasing Your Hook Ups With Panfish Jigs

Let's face it, there are some days that you just seem to miss almost every bite you get. Even the most savage of bites that nearly tear the rod out of your hand, the kind that are almost always an automatic catch just seem to never get hooked. Your hook is sharp, your spring bobber is set perfectly, the moon and stars are aligned...yet you just can't seem to stay hitched up to half the fish that bite. What's going on?

You tie on multiple different jigs in hopes that one will work better than the last. For me, there is nothing more frustrating than missing bites from fish that you know are keepers when you are struggling to round out a meals worth to take home. You already iced a few and are at commit level, but need a few more to make it worth your while. Here is a trick I learned a few years back that has dramatically reduced the number of days I encounter this problem.

We seem to forget that we are vertical jigging just like we do for walleyes. When jigging for walleyes, it seems the wider the hook gap the better the hooking percentage. A wide hook gap gives the hook greater leverage to bury into the fish which in turn requires less movement to actually "set" the hook. Wider gap = more hooked fish. Look at bass hooks. A 5/0 EWG (Extra Wide Gap) worm hook is now the standard for most any kind of Texas Rigged soft plastics. The wide gap just does a way better job of hooking fish than a standard gap. That said, why wouldn't we use this information for our ice arsenal?

For our example jig I will be using a Skandia Tungsten Escanaba Moon Jig - an all time favorite of mine. You'll notice that the hook is just like any other hook, in that the barb section is parallel to the shank of the hook, providing a uniform gap.

Un-modified jig. Notice the hook point is parallel to the hook shank

All we need to do is widen the gap between 5 and 10 degrees. Too wide and you will loose fish as you bring them up, and too small...well, you already know how that goes. Remember 5 to 10 degrees is the magical sweet spot. With a pair of needle nose pliers or hemostats gently grip the barb section of the hook (being careful not to smash down the barb) and bend it open. Now you are ready for business.

Bent out and ready to rock

Although this may seem like such a minuscule modification I assure you it can make a huge difference. In the event that you find yourself loosing fish after they are hooked, odds are your gap is too wide, so simply close it up a little bit. Hopefully this trick will help you hook more of those seemingly unhookable fish.

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