Panfish action is heating up across the ice belt and you can cash in now with a short lesson on the art of tightlining.
To the uninitiated, tightlining is a form of sightfishing, but instead of actually seeing the fish, you are watching the line down in the ice hole attempting to discern subtle changes in the load on the line. Even though Mike Boedeker, Team USA co-captain, was hot in the medal hunt last month at the World Ice Fishing Championships in Wisconsin, he took the time to teach us the essence of his flavor of tightlining. He was probably the only fisherman in the field not using a spring bobber as a bite-detection aid.
Like other tightliners, Boedeker uses colored line, so he can see it better. Yellow, orange, red, doesn’t matter. What matters is line diameter relative to jig weight.
“What I want is a line that’s fairly buoyant,” he says, “and I don’t want my jig to overpower my line–I don’t want the line hanging taut. I want the jig to go down, but when I jiggle it, I want to see the line making sweeping movements, say 8 to 10 inches, maybe a foot down under the ice. I want my jig light enough to where, when I move the line above the hole, I can still see it moving, doing something, as far down as I can see it, which is normally about a foot.
“I watch the line as deep in the hole as I possibly can, watching for anything that the line does. With tightlining, you’re constantly moving your rod tip. Sometimes you get the perfect wind and the wind quivers your line. Keep moving it up and down slowly, and let the wind work it. You don’t want the wind to blow it away. Always be aware of what you, or an external force like the wind, is doing to your line.”
If the line slacks more, moves off to the side of the hole, twitches, jumps or otherwise tightens up, it’s time to set the hook.