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JawJacker Ice Fishing: Everything You Need to Know

Written by: Pete D
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Ice anglers look for every advantage they can get, but at the end of the day, what they’re really fishing for is fun.

Tip-ups have proven themselves effective for a very long time, but they’re not great for catch-and-release fishing, nor are they much help when you get a big fish on your line.

Enter the JawJacker, a simple device that uses your ice rod to create a perfect hookset, allowing you to fight your fish with a rod and reel.

If that sounds like a great idea to you, keep reading!

We'll cover everything you need to know about JawJacker fishing, including some of the best tips to ensure your success.

Related: Best Ice Fishing Tip Ups

What is a JawJacker?

jawjacker ice fishing

A JawJacker is a simple device that holds your rod butt securely while bending the tip. When a fish takes your bait, the jawjacker releases the tip, resulting in a shark hookset.

Essentially a rod-centric version of the tip-up, it’s a new ice fishing technique that’s picking up steam quickly. Icemen like it because it allows them to fight their fish with a reel rather than by hand, and that’s both more fun and a lot more effective with larger species like pike.

JawJackers have run afoul of legal restrictions in some states, so always be sure to check with your local department of natural resources to make sure they’re legal where you plan to fish. 

It’s also important to note that a deployed JawJacker counts as a rod, and many states have restrictions on the number that can be fished simultaneously.

JawJackers vs. Tip-Ups

jawjacker vs tip up

If you’re interested in JawJackers, this is undoubtedly the matchup you want to hear about.

The good news for JawJackers is that they appear to work better than tip-ups, offering secure hooksets and no false flags. Once you know what you’re doing with your drag and the JawJacker, a sprung rod tip means a fish is on.

And if you’ve ever tried to hand line a big fish you know how tough that can be. With a pike or muskie, big trout or walleye on the line, you can fight with a reel and a rod handle rather than a grip on nothing more than wet fishing line.

I’d use them in place of a tip-up every time if given the option.

JawJackers really are that good - no hype, no salesmanship.

Rods and Reels for JawJacker Fishing

You’ll want to use a good ice fishing rod with your JawJacker. 

We’ve reviewed both rods and combos, so be sure to check out these articles for more information:

Best Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Combo for 2022

Best Ice Fishing Rods: Short Rods that are Long on Performance

Best Inline and Spinning Ice Fishing Reels - Buying Guide and Reviews

An awesome ice rod like the 13 Fishing Wicked in medium light power is perfect for everything from panfish to walleye. For big wallies, and for pike, I’d step up to the 31-inch medium-heavy rod to ensure I have enough backbone for a big fish. 

13 FISHING - Wicked Ice Rod - 26' ML (Medium Light) - NW26ML

Amazon 

Another excellent choice for walleye and pike would be 13 Fishing’s Microtec Walleye in the “deadstick” model. Its medium or medium-heavy graphite blank has more than enough backbone for larger fish and hard fights, and the included reel won’t let you down.

13 FISHING - Microtec Walleye Ice Combo - 28' M (Medium) - Deadstick with Longer Full Grip For Rod Holders - MWC3-DS28M

Amazon 

And despite what some folks claim about graphite/carbon, there’s no problem with using a blank of this material with a JawJacker.

A constant bend in the rod isn’t going to hurt the blank at all.

Don’t take our word for it, JawJacker themselves sell a line of graphite rods for this style of ice fishing!

I’d recommend running a spinning reel on a JawJacker rig for the improved drag settings. In-line reels are great for jigging, but for deadstick fishing with a minnow, a quality reel like the Shimano Sienna or Pflueger President is going to be just perfect.

Sienna 2000 FG Sienna

Amazon 

Pflueger PRESSP25B President Spinning Fishing Reel

Amazon 

Be sure to match your reel size to your rod power, and you’ll be pulling fish through the ice in no time!

Line for JawJacker Fishing

Skip the braid and grab high-quality mono like Stren or Berkley Trilene Big Game.

Stren SHIQS10-15 High Impact Monofilament Fishing Line, Clear, 10 Pound, 1275 Yards

Amazon 

Berkley® Trilene® Big Game™, Clear, 15 Pound Test-900 Yard

Amazon 

First, braid absorbs more water, getting iced up easier than nylon monofilament. That’s a fact and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

Second, mono forms better, stronger knots, all other things being equal.

Third, mono helps to cushion your hookset, avoiding tear-outs that can be a problem with 

JawJackers. We’ll talk more about that below.

How to Set Up a JawJacker

Setting up a JawJacker is simple.

Just loop the trigger around the side of your rod tip’s guide. Then, slide the rod into the holder., bend the rod tip down to the JawJacker, slide the trigger onto the release mechanism, and tighten it down to the proper tension.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but video really clarifies this process:

Three Important JawJacker Tips 

Keep your JawJacker dry and cold

A wet JawJacker is going to freeze, and once the mechanism gets enough ice on it, it’ll stop working.

But that’s pretty easy to avoid.

The first thing you need to do to avoid getting your JawJacker wet is to move it out of the way once a fish in on your line. 

Go ahead and slide that JawJacker well away from the hole; you don’t want a splashing, fighting fish to come up through the ice and wet its mechanism.

The second thing to look out for is more insidious. If your JawJacker rides in the interior of your vehicle, or if it's been in an ice sled in a heated garage, it’ll be much warmer than the air temp. 

As snow falls on it, it’ll melt, refreezing as your JawJacker cools. 

The solution is to keep your JawJacker cold or remove all the ice build-up before you start using it.

Don’t set your JawJacker too tight

Remember, you control the pressure required to trigger the JawJacker, so don’t really clamp the mechanism down!

adjusting jawjacker pressure

You want to adjust that pressure so that the minnow doesn’t trigger it by swimming, but so that even a light strike results in a release.

Cushion your hooksets

The only real complaint I’ve heard from other icemen is that JawJackers can rip free from the mouths of fish like crappie and perch.

There are easy ways to prevent this.

With crappie, be sure to use the right hook. A thin-wire Aberdeen in #1, #2, or even #4 will help prevent tear-outs on aptly-named papermouths.

The other things to look out for are using a good monofilament that provides some stretch to cushion your hookset, switching to a fiberglass rod for a little less oomph on the set, and turning your drag down a bit to provide some extra shock absorption.

These three adjustments can really reduce the shock of the hookset, keeping your hook where it needs to be.

Rethink how you rig minnows

Proper rigging techniques for minnows will go a long way to improving your hook up ratio, no question about it.

Keep in mind that because of the spiny fins on minnows, predators overwhelmingly try to take them head first, folding their spines down as they swallow them.

That should tell you a lot about where to place a hook for maximum effectiveness.

Let’s review the best ways to rig minnows, exploring their pros and cons:

Tail hooking - In this rigging technique, you run your hook through the meat forward of the tail, about ¼ inch from the fins. In one sense, this is a great way to rig a minnow, as it keeps it alive and swimming for quite a while.

The bad news is that it places the hook rearward, and unless a fish totally engulfs your minnow, it’ll trigger the JawJacker too soon.

I’d avoid tail hooking unless you're fishing with a rod in your hand.

Dorsal hooking - Here, you pass your hook through the meat high on the minnow’s back, just below its dorsal fin. Proper hook placement means that its organs are spared, and the minnow should remain alive for a long while. 

Hook placement is pretty good for triggering a JawJacker, especially on smaller minnows. But with the big boys, unless a walleye or pike really hits the minnow for all it’s worth, you may miss the hookset.

Lip hooking - If you pass your hook under the minnow’s chin and through both lips, you’re lip hooking. While the minnow will swim like mad at first, it’ll have a hard time breathing as you’ve nailed its mouth shut, stopping it from opening to allow oxygenated water to pass over its gills.

That will shorten the minnow’s life appreciably.

But when a fish does hit it, the hookup percentage is very, very high because the hook is placed just right.

Snout hooking - Essentially a modified lip hook, you pass your hook down through the front of the head, forward of the eyes and brain, and out through its mouth.

If you spare the organs by doing this properly, the minnow can swim and breathe normally, and the hook is placed perfectly to catch fish.

This is probably the best way to hook a minnow for JawJacker fishing.

Final Thoughts

JawJacker fishing is really catching on, and it’s easy to see why. Nothing’s more fun than fighting a fish with a rod in your hand, and for catch-and-release fishing, the Jawjacker just can’t be beat.

We hope you've learned something today from this article, and as always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have.

Please leave a comment below, and we’ll be in touch!

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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