Inside The WildSide - Seasonal Solutions

Swim Your Way To Midwinter Ice Fishing Success
By Chip Leer

Chip Leer Crappie

Whether you’re chasing walleyes, perch, crappies, or pike, a properly presented swimming jig can help you catch more fish as the hardwater season progresses into the midwinter doldrums.

Thanks to their ability to swim horizontally, such lures—also called swim jigs or swimbaits—allow you to reach out and trigger more fish than strictly vertical presentations. This makes them perfect for extending the action of peak feeding periods around sunrise and sunset, as well as searching for scattered groups of aggressive fish during the day.

Swim jig options include classic choices like the Northland Fishing Tackle Puppet Minnow and Rapala Jigging Rap, but one of my all-around favorites is Northland’s Forage Minnow Dart.

Northland Forage Minnow Dar with IMPULSE Stone Fly

This unique jig is one of the only, if not THE only one, designed for use with plastic or live-bait.  The jig features a top-mounted line tie, single tail hook and centrally located belly treble. Because of the jig’s balance, it swims horizontally when jigged and rocks subtly before coming to rest, which is a great trigger. 

What’s unique to the Forage Minnow Dart is that you can make it swim however you like by changing how you tip it.  Most often I tip with a minnow either vertically, however if I need more glide I adjust the minnow to lay on its side.  Then if I need more profile, different color or extra glide I will use a flat-sided, scented plastic such as an Impulse Water-Flea.  Remember, the more surface area of the plastic the further the bait will glide.  This is why I love this swim bait, I can adjust action & glide to match the fish’s mood.

Crappie caught on Northland Forage Minnow Dart with minnow

To fish a swim jig, start with a couple of 12- to 18-inch jig strokes to get the bait swimming outside the hole and attract the attention of nearby fish. Let the jig settle between strokes.

Some fish charge in and hit right away, but others need more coaxing. To turn these lookers into biters, play a game of cat-and-mouse with smaller jig lifts, nods and bobs, or encourage the fish to chase by slowly raising the lure away from it.

Keep in mind a Forage Minnow Dart acts differently depending on the tipping. When fishing a big plastic, I let the jig free-fall on a slack line. With a minnow, it performs better on a semi-taut leash.

Free Falling With Slack Line

While some anglers consider midwinter the time for finesse, I always keep a swim jig tied on at least one rod—and you should, too. These free-swimming, versatile lures catch fish all winter long, even during the dreaded doldrums of February.

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The Cabela’s National Walleye Tour offers premier, tour-level competition for walleye anglers across the North. Each event is coordinated and executed by industry professionals with decades of experience in the tournament fishing business.

The tournament circuit, featuring a Pro-Am style format, kicks off in May and includes three regular season events, plus a year-end Championship. The Cabela’s National Walleye Tour registration is now open. Visit to sign up and learn more details on the circuit, including official rules, tournament structure, payout and incentives.

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Based in Walker, Minnesota, noted fishing authority and outdoor communicator Chip Leer operates Fishing the WildSide, an outdoor sports marketing and communications company. For more information look to