Best Ice Jig Colors


A lot of ice anglers feel that color doesn’t make any difference to the fish. “Fancy colors catch fancy fisherman”, they say. Well, I’m no fancy pants… but after more than 30 years of ice fishing, I show up with more than 100 jigs every time I step on the ice. Different sizes, styles and colors are all piled in a few dozen boxes. Sometimes picking the right choice is overwhelming. After making a size and shape selection, I choose the color.

Color selection is based on part hunch and part principle. The hunch is, “Ooh, I like this shiny one!” The principle is bright colors in stained water, natural colors in clear water.

Black is my top color on clean, clear bodies of water. On clear-water lakes, a more natural presentation is best. Bright, offensive colors look out of place—especially when the fish are finicky. The only exception to this rule that I have found is at night. Crappies, walleyes and catfish get aggressive at night in clear water. This is when I’ll charge up a glow jig and drop it down the hole.

Catching fish with a rat!

The Custom Jigs & Spins Ratso is a great jig for all panfish species, size ten is great for bluegills, the size eight for crappies and the size six for white bass, walleyes and perch. The more aggressive the fish, the larger the size they like and vice versa.

When it comes to the Ratso, my top color has been black. When it was first designed, I fished with a size ten black Ratso for two years, never taking it off the pole. I caught tens of thousands of bluegills and other panfish on this one tiny jig. When I wore it out, I tied another one on. I mostly fished clearer bodies of water in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin at the time. Sometimes I used bait. Other times, I let the black Finesse Plastic tail do the work.

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I use spike (maggots) as bait for bluegills. Spikes come in white, red, blue and yellow. I like those red spikes best. They give me confidence, especially tipped on that black Ratso. I’m not saying that a black Ratso with two red spikes is the best jig ever made for bluegill, but it has worked wonders for me. It should not be overlooked.

Firetiger focus

My next most favorite color is firetiger. Firetiger has many variations, depending on who is painting it. Firetiger is a mix of green, chartreuse, white and orange. It’s this multi-color finish that seems to attract the fish.

Firetiger has worked equally well for me in most any water clarity. It is definitely a go-to color. A firetiger ‘Gill Pill, Chekai, Majmun or Glazba is killer for panfish—especially tipped with an orange or chartreuse Wedgee plastic. A Firetiger Slender Spoon or RPM is a walleye and crappie destroyer. I’ve caught some jumbo crappies on Lake of the Woods on firetiger RPM size threes. I couldn’t get it down the hole fast enough! When the action slowed, I used a 5mm firetiger Chekai to tempt those tentative fish.

In fact, that’s a technique I use all the time. I’ll have two to three rods rigged and ready with the same colored lures in different sizes or the same color in different styles of lures. I think color is the most important feature of an ice lure.

Next up is red glow. When the red glow Gill Pill came out, I had a ton of success on it. So much so that I took that black Ratso off my favorite bluegill pole and put on that red glow Gill Pill with a pink glow Wedgee. Red glow has now become a staple color on many jigs and spoons.

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Glow is the way to go

When the water is stained or at night, I’ll keep the red glow lure charged all the time. When I’m fishing clear water, I don’t charge it and it still works like a magnet. Red glow is a top color on Red Lake Minnesota and Lake of the Woods. When I’m using a locator, a red glow or green glow jig shows up larger than a non-glow jig. This aids in separating between lure and fish when viewing.

My new favorite color is wonderglow. Different companies have different versions of wonderglow. Basically, the idea is to have a bag of Wonder Bread transferred to a jig. This color was successfully introduced more than 20 years ago by Reef Runner Tackle on their walleye crankbaits for Lake Erie fishermen. Walleye seem to be more in tune with color than any other fish. Or, maybe walleye fishermen are more crazy about wanting every color imagined on their lures!

Custom Jigs & Spins came out with wonderglow on the original RPM minnow lure, since it was a top color for walleyes. But what we found out was that it also works on tungsten jigs like the Chekai. Now it’s a new color on the Slender Spoon lineup.

I had a ton of success with the wonderglow Slender Spoons, testing them out last year. The tiny 1/16-ounce size was dynamite for crappies and bluegills and then I two-timed ‘em with the wonderglow Chekai. I also used 5/16, 1/4 and 1/8-ounce sizes for walleyes and white bass on the Winnebago Chain as well as the Petenwell and Castle Rock Flowages.

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In my mind, choosing the right color results in a lot more fish caught on any given trip. When three of four of us guys are fishing together and one starts catching a few, the first question is what color do you have on? If I don’t have the color in my box, you can bet I’m stealing one out of his box!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>