PORTAGE — Is tungsten the new gold?
For ice fishermen, it just might be.
Tungsten ice fishing jigs have become all the rage as the metal is 1.7 times as dense as lead, meaning that you can use a tungsten jig that is only slightly larger than half the size of a lead jig and maintain the weight needed to get it down in the water column.
Denny Hettig, for one, is sold on it.
Fairly well-known for his worm harnesses — Bo’s Bluegill Busters — Hettig has added a line of tiny ice fishing jigs to his bait company’s portfolio. He invited me to join him recently for a day on the ice on a Kalamazoo County lake to extol the virtues of the heavy metal.
And it didn’t take long for Hettig to make his first point. He caught a seven-inch bluegill that had the tiny jig halfway down his gullet.
“The problem with these things is that they’re so small, when they get it, they get all of it,” he said.
I noticed a little bit of that over the course of our day, as we sacked up a fair number of ‘gills, crappie and sunfish. Often (but not always) the fish had the bait pretty far into its mouth.
Hettig’s ice jig is built on a short, size 14, fine wire hook. He likes open up the bite “about a millimeter,” he said, to get a better hooking rate, but I didn’t notice I was missing an inordinate number of bites. What I did notice is that I was catching lots of small fish; I released the first eight I caught and among them were some ‘gills that would have made ideal pike baits. I mean small. I expect I might not have had so many tiny takers with a bigger jig (big baits catch big fish), but both Hettig and I caught plenty of keepers as well.