Balanced jigging lures may be the least understood category of ice lures, yet they have remarkable traits. Panfish purists often ignore them, despite baits in this category that are less than 2 inches long with #12 to #18 hooks. Little is known about the lineage of balanced lures of Scandinavian origin, other than that Finnish lure craftsmen Lauri Rapala and his son Esko created what was likely the first balance lure for ice fishing in 1961, what we know today as the Jigging Rap.
Two years later, another Finland-based company, Nils Master, unveiled numerous balance-lure designs, most notably, the Jigger and later, the Jigging Shad. Kuusamo Finland followed in 1967, offering several more fascinating designs, such as the Sukeltaja, a tiny 1-inch, 1/3-ounce “Kirppu,” a so-called variation on the balance-lure theme, lacking the second opposing hook on the nose of the lure.
Across Finland, Sweden, Norway, and much of eastern Europe, the term “balanced” has been used to describe numerous horizontal-hanging lures for at least 50 years. Doug Stange first wrote about the Jigging Rap in In-Fisherman magazine around 1985. The beauty of a balance lure is threefold—random darting action, a perpetually balanced, horizontal baitfish posture, and the ability to hook fish no matter where they bite the lure.
A line tie at the top-center of its horizontal body provides a fulcrum on which the lure’s action turns. Most designs are balanced in the sense that they swim, dart, and glide in a horizontal posture, always returning to a lifelike stance at rest. A single hook is on both the nose and tail of most of these lures, while a treble hook hangs from the center of the belly on many versions, which can be tipped with a small minnow, minnow head, larvae, or softbait. Creating its darting action on the upstroke and sideways or circular glide on the pause, the tail section of many balance lures has a plastic wing-like lip.
North American anglers, particularly panfish specialists, have long enjoyed a limited offering of balance lures, as most of the principle Scandinavian tackle companies didn’t distribute product in North America. Today, there’s a broader selection, with choices from Rapala, Nils Master, Acme, Lucky John, and Fiskas. Akara Fishing is another company, operated by Vladislov Loginov and his sister Natasha, who moved from Riga, Latvia, to Carl Junction, Missouri, several years ago to join the North American scene. I’m a fan of their products, including their balance lures, several of which put big crappies and perch on the ice.