No doubt about it, tungsten lures are here to stay. They didn’t reach the shores of North American anglers until the early 2,000’s, and they were kept hush-hush by the hardcores upon arrival. Today, a little over a decade later, tungsten is commonplace among ice anglers far and wide. Almost every mainstream tackle manufacturer sells tungsten jigs, and they can be purchased in just about every tackle retailer here in the northland.
When you look at what tungsten is capable of, it’s easy to see why it has grown in popularity so quickly. The key characteristic we’re considering here is density. Tungsten is almost exactly 1.74 times denser than lead. This makes tungsten lures MUCH heavier than it’s lead counterparts. It also provides several benefits to ice anglers:
First, the most obvious is the ability to use smaller jigs. Often times, when the bite slows down, downsizing your presentation can help convert more “lookers” into “biters”. In these conditions, tungsten is truly in a league of it’s own. Tiny micro tungsten jigs can be fished through the water column with ease, where a similar sized lead jig would be extremely inefficient.
Another area where tungsten shines is in deepwater environments. Dropping small lead baits down to the bottom of a deep basin takes a long, long time. Ultimately, this is going to cost you fish. Denser tungsten lures will get down quicker, allowing for more time down in the “danger zone”.
No matter where you are in the water column the added density of tungsten will serve you well. More weight means more feel and sensitivity throughout your line. It was relatively unheard of for panfish anglers to use 4-pound test fluorocarbon or monofilament line until tungsten came along. The obvious benefit of heavier line is it’s strength and durability; you’re simply going land more fish. The big problem anglers ran into when they used lead was it wasn’t heavy enough to keep their line straight. Tungsten’s weight makes heavier lines much more fishable, which helps anglers feel more bites and land more fish.
The added weight isn’t the only thing that makes tungsten special.
Anglers who are fishing in weeds or out in deep water will find it much easier to see their lures on their fish finders. Tungsten material sends back a stronger sonar signal than lead, due to it’s increased density. This benefit doesn’t get as much attention, but it’s is a real game changer for ice anglers. It allows you to turn down the gain on your sonar unit, and still clearly see your jig bouncing up and down on your display.
Dave Genz also theorizes that the pulse of the sonar signal bouncing off the tungsten lures can actually attract active fish to your hole. He believes the click-click-click sound coming off your transducer will draw fish in the same way a rattle would on a spoon. Interestingly, some bass and musky anglers will actually turn their sonar units off when they know fish are in the area. No one can know for certain, but if it makes you more confident out on the water, it’s a good thing. In fishing, confidence is key.
Is it fair to say tungsten is ALWAYS better than lead? Probably not. Well-known ice fishing expert Brian Brosdahl actually prefers lead jigs in some situations. Lead is better for horizontal movement and has a slower rate of fall, which can translate to more bites depending on the mood of the fish. Experiment with both offerings the next time you’re out on the ice, and you might be surprised by the results!