This summer, a winter walleye bait might be your best bet for bass. So say Bassmaster pros Brandon Palaniuk and Jacob Wheeler. Each has amassed big bags of open-water bass with a bait built for ice-fishing, the Rapala Jigging Rap.
“It’s a little trick up my sleeve that I’ve kept secret for a long time,” says Palaniuk, who revealed the tactic after notching a top-10 finish with it last summer on New York’s Lake Cayuga. “I always like doing something different. You can separate yourself from everyone else if you can find quality fish doing something that not every else is doing.”
Wheeler agrees. A Jigging Rap was instrumental to his top-15 finish this February in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell. “At times, the fish wouldn’t eat a drop-shot or jigging spoon,” he recalls. “That was when the Jigging Rap was key to me getting them to bite.”
Featuring a balanced, weighted minnow profile, Jigging Raps swim in tantalizing circles on the fall, inimitably simulating the erratic characteristics of a wounded baitfish. When fished through the ice as they were designed for, they work best with a vertical pump-and-swim action. A successful open-water presentation, however, requires aggressive rod snaps throughout a horizontal retrieve.
“Snap your rod and it will dart a foot or two off to the right and then continue falling fast,” Palaniuk instructs. “Snap it again and it might dart two feet back over to the left, or forwards, or backwards. For fish that are in a negative, inactive mood, that erratic action triggers a feeding response.”
For Wheeler on Hartwell, the key was dropping a Jigging Rap to the bottom as fast as possible near the edges of flooded timber in 35 to 40 feet, giving it at least three vertical snaps and then letting it fall back down on the pause. “When you stop it, it doesn’t just sit there still,” Wheeler explains. “It still moves a little bit. And that’s why those fish would come up and eat it.”
The Jigging Rap’s unmistakable minnow profile features single reversed hooks on its nose and rear — so regardless of how a fish attacks, it’s running into a hook. A center treble hook — hung from a belly eyelet — further increases your hook-up ratio. They are available in five sizes and 20 colors. Palaniuk and Wheeler’s success both came on a No. 7 size in the Glow color pattern — white with a chartreuse head.