All About Tungsten Ice Fishing Jigs
Jigs made from tungsten started to gain popularity a decade ago and now are everywhere. Some anglers still have questions about the advantages, disadvantages, and reasons to use tungsten ice fishing jigs. We hope this article will answer all of these questions.
What is Tungsten & How it is Different from Lead?
Tungsten, also called wolfram, is a metal. Tungsten, unlike lead, is non-toxic. Tungsten has a density of about 1.7 times higher than the density of lead. This means a tungsten jig will be 40% heavier than a lead jig of the same size. Almost twice heavier! Let's see why this matters.
Because tungsten is much heavier - the jig made out of tungsten can be much smaller than a lead jig of the same weight. In other words, you can have the same weight as a lead jig but in a smaller profile without compromising your presentation and without losing the feedback from the jig.
Why being able to use a smaller profile is important? In winter, especially in extreme cold, fish is not as active as in warmer weather. They spend more time investigating your offerings and their strikes are less aggressive. Fish may not strike a larger lure without thoroughly examining it first. In cold water, oftentimes fish react only to small profiles, so small to the point, it is hard to feel them on the line. Much of the time, smaller jigs will lead to more catching, and the extra weight of tungsten jigs will make a big difference in the sensitivity of your setup.
Alternatively, you can use a tungsten jig of the same size as your lead jig, but with greatly increased sensitivity.
It is important to keep the line taut between the rod-tip and the jig, so all vibrations can be transmitted along the line without loss. Like a tin can telephone. Therefore, a heavier jig and lighter line result in a more sensitive setup. But sometimes you can not have both.
When it gets cold, the fishing line gets stiff and can coil. A jig in a smaller profile may not have enough weight to fully straighten the line and maintain its tension. The coiled line, like a spring, will dampen vibrations and greatly reduce the feedback from the jig. With tungsten, you can scale down the jig without sacrificing the weight or going to ultralight lines. The weight of the heavier tungsten jig will keep the line taut. This is more apparent in greater depth, and when you are fishing 15 feet deep or more - the difference is astounding.
Because of their density, tungsten jigs register a stronger signal on sonar units and you don't need to turn the gain up to detect your jig. If you don't have a sonar, you may not need a depth finder weight even with a tiny tungsten jig - the weight of the jig may provide enough sensitivity for finding the bottom and "feeling" its structure better. Heavier tungsten jigs create more water movement and the vibrations in the water and pounding on the bottom will draw in nearby fish. Better contact with your jig can help mimic the activity of small larvae wiggling around in the silt.
Tungsten jigs will have a much faster sink rate because of the heavier weight. Tungsten jigs will punch through slushy holes and get through the water column better. And getting to the fish faster while still keeping a small profile can be the difference between holding a school or not. Again, this becomes more apparent if you are fishing 15 feet or deeper - the result can be catching a couple of fish out of the roaming school or catching a dozen.
Take a look at the tungsten ice fishing jigs in the Rare Monster store.
Unlike lead, tungsten is not toxic and is a great alternative to steel, tin, brass, and other metals for lead-free waters. Lead is highly toxic and the lead tackle that is lost by anglers causes poisoning in wildlife, especially in birds.
Use of lead tackle under a certain size is illegal in several states. In the future, other states may prohibit the use of lead tackle as well. For some anglers, the main reason to use lead alternatives like tungsten is the toxicity and illegality of lead in their states. Read this article to find out whether it is illegal to use lead tackle in your state.
Disadvantages of Tungsten Jigs
There are two main disadvantages - the cost and a smaller selection of profiles. Let's review each in detail.
Why tungsten jigs are more expensive than lead jigs? Simply because of the raw material cost and the complexity of work involved in producing the finished product. Lead is an inexpensive material. Lead is also very malleable and it melts at 621.5°F (327.5°C) which makes it easy to cast or stamp into any profile.
Tungsten is a rare and expensive metal. The melting point of tungsten is 6,192°F (3,422°C), so the traditional casting methods will not work. Only the manufacturers that specialize in tungsten products can work with this metal. Tungsten is brittle and difficult to work with, which limits the number of profiles that can be made from this material.
Adapting to a tough bite sometimes requires finding a jig shape that works. The complexity of the manufacturing process limits the choice of tungsten jigs to just a few shapes. Lead jigs come in a wide range of profiles.
When to Use Tungsten and When to Use Lead?
We already discussed the advantages of tungsten, let's take a look at the advantages of lead.
If you are fishing areas where you can get hung up and lose your jigs - the lead is the obvious choice. Losing tungsten jigs will be much more painful because of their price.
There are times when fish are striking on the fall. A slower sink rate may work better and that may be the time to switch to lead jigs. Lead jigs will have a slower wobble on the fall that tungsten won't have. A slower wobbly fall is a good way to target fish suspended higher in the water column. The large variety of profiles will let you choose the action of your lure.
Tungsten versus Lead. What to Choose?
Both. Try it out yourself and see what you like better and you may realize that they are different from each other and there is a time and place for tungsten, and there is a time and place for lead.