Avid ice anglers are among the most gear crazed sportsmen out there. We should know since we are among them. While we probably don’t need most of the gear we drag out onto the ice, it’s still fun to try new tools that help us catch more fish.
Among the most worthwhile piece of gear any ice angler should try is a JawJacker. Never heard of it? A JawJacker is basically an automatic hook setter and they are a must-have piece of gear. Whether you already own one or are planning to get one, knowing how to use it to the fullest is key.
Fortunately for you, we put together this guide to help you become a JawJacker pro. We cover everything from how to set one up, best rods to use with it, which species to target and even a trouble shooting section to solve the biggest problems you might encounter.
This is truly the only JawJacker ice fishing guide you’ll ever need. So bookmark this page, share it with others and let’s get started!
What is a JawJacker
Let’s spend a quick moment going over what a JawJacker is so we are all on the same page.
A JawJacker is among the most popular brand of automatic hook setting devices. Just to be clear, it is not the same as a tip-up. Unlike a tip-up, which has line wound around a spool and triggers a flag when fish take your bait, JawJackers require a separate ice fishing rod and reel to work.
It works by using the bend in your ice fishing rod as a way to set the hook. The line drapes over a super sensitive trigger which releases the bent rod when a fish bites. The rod springs up and drives the hook into the fish’s mouth.
JawJackers aren’t the only game in town though (but they are the best in our opinion). Other automatic hook setters exist with the Automatic Fisherman being another popular choice. Plus, there are several other less popular hook setter options as well.
Why use a JawJacker: Pros and Cons
So what do you need an automatic hook setter like the JawJacker for anyway? Why not just use a tip-up or a deadstick? Well, here’s why.
JawJackers are more versatile than a tip-up and are like a deadstick on steroids. Basically, you combine the benefits of both in one tidy little package. It’s probably better to illustrate this in terms of pros and cons, so take a look.
- Sets the hook for you: Deadsticking is a well loved technique but it has one major flaw. If you miss the bite, you miss the hook up. JawJackers set the hook for you on even the most sensitive bites, letting you focus on other things (like a nap).
- Cover more area: Focusing your efforts with one rod in a single spot really limits your ability to zero in on fish. With a JawJacker, you can soak multiple baits in entirely different spots, increasing your chances of finding fish.
- Test multiple baits at the same time: It’s tough to predict what fish want on any given day. Jigging a spoon might be the hot ticket for walleye in the morning but a suspended minnow is all they’ll touch in the afternoon. With a JawJacker, you can test out other baits on a second rod.
- Fast setup: JawJackers are designed with ice anglers in mind and fast setup is an important feature that the company nailed. You can quickly unpack it, load the rod, set the trigger and you’re ready to go.
- Super portable: The JawJacker collapses down into a nice tidy package. You can easily fit half a dozen of them in a 5 gallon bucket.
- Inconsistent hook ups for beginners: When the primary benefit of a JawJacker is to set the hook, it’s kind of a bummer to have it fail half the time. The good news is, a poor hook up ratio is mostly user error. We’ll cover this more in the trouble shooting section.
- Hard to use with live minnows: Because of how the trigger mechanism works, using live minnows as bait proves problematic. Anglers end up with false triggers just from the movement of the minnow. There are ways to remedy this and we’ll cover it in the how-to section below.
- Freeze ups: Freeze ups are the Achilles heel of any automatic hook setter or tip-up. And JawJackers are not immune. The trigger can freeze, as can your ice hole which effectively locks your line in place. Check out the freeze up section to learn how to alleviate the problem.
- Expensive: Like all the best fishing toys, JawJackers are a bit pricey. As of this writing, they are $60. Other hook setters, like the Automatic Fisherman, are around $40.
- Requires an extra rod and reel: Once you get a JawJacker, you need to invest in a second ice fishing rod and reel. Tip-ups are much cheaper all-in-one units, so for some, the ability to automatically set the hook is not worth the expense. However, if you already have a second rod for dead sticking then you are all set.
Best rods to pair up with a JawJacker
If you want to get the most from your JawJacker then you’ll need to pair it up with the right ice fishing rod. The JawJacker base is highly adjustable so it fits rods up to 36 inches (depending on flexibility).
However, not just any old ice fishing rod is going to work well with a JawJacker. The material, length, power and action all play integral roles in your hook up success. You’ll want to heed the following advice to get best the results with any automatic hook setter.
Most ice fishing rods are made of two major types of material: graphite or fiberglass (check out this article which compares the two types in depth). Graphite rods have a faster action and a stiffer backbone. That means they often have a little more hook setting power than a fiberglass rod.
Yet, that does mean they are the best choice for a JawJacker. For one, graphite rods are a lot less flexible so a deep bend is hard to get. It’s also not recommended to leave graphite rods with a bend long term. I’m not sure this is the end of the world but graphite is more brittle and a prolonged bend in cold weather does lead to a few broken tips if you are not careful.
Fiberglass, on the other hand, takes to a deep bend very well. That translates to a long, sweeping hook set and good shock absorbing action that prevents a hook from tearing out.
Our vote – Use fiberglass rods
Rod length plays a huge role in the effectiveness of your JawJacker. Too short and you’ll never get a solid hook set. Too long and it just won’t fit without running the risk of snapping your rod in half.
The ideal length ice rod for a JawJacker is between 28 and 34 inches.
There is lots of wiggle room depending on the rod power and action but you get the idea. The manufacturer says 36 inch rods with enough flexibility will work but I find a 32 or 34 inch fiber glass rod to be ideal. However, lots of anglers have success with even longer noodle rods up to 39 inches.
Our vote – Use 28-34 inch rods
Action and Power
Getting a good hook set on any fish with a JawJacker depends on the action and power of the rod.
Fast action rods spring up quickly when triggered which helps bury the hook in a fish’s mouth before they feel pressure and spit it. Slower action rods work but miss more hook ups with quick striking fish like trout. Fiberglass rods, which are preferred for automatic hook setters, are mostly moderate actions whereas graphite is generally a faster action.
The power rating refers to the backbone of a rod. The more deeply towards the handle a rod bends, the lower the power. Light to medium-light rods with moderate to fast actions are within the sweet spot for using with a JawJacker. Too much power (think heavy or medium-heavy) and you won’t get enough bend in the rod for a deep hook set.
Our vote – Use rods with a medium light or light power with a moderate or fast action
Best rods summed up
For the sweet and simple answer of the best type of rods to use with the JawJacker, here it is.
Use a flexible fiberglass rod around 34 inches with a medium light power and a moderate action.
It will serve you well and result in better hook sets for a variety of species. Obviously, larger species like walleye, bass, lake trout or pike are going to need heavier rods that may be harder to use with a JawJacker.
There are lots of rods that fit the bill but Frostbite Fishing makes some excellent noodle rods that pair extremely well with the JawJacker. Check out the Twilight Dipstick or Drench. They are on the longer side (39 in) but they’re great all around rods.
Not sure about Frostbite’s rods. Read my full review here.
What species to target
JawJackers are fish catching machines but a common question we get asked is whether or not they work for catching all the popular species of fish.
Theoretically, you could catch any fish with a JawJacker setup but you’ll have more consistent results with certain species compared to others. You’ll find that JawJackers work great for trout, panfish and walleye in most situations.
Your success depends on the presentation, the rod you use and the behavior of the fish on any given day. You especially need to match up the right rod with the size of fish you plan to catch.
You can reliably catch the following fish with a JawJacker:
- Rainbow trout
- Brook trout
- Tiger trout
- Lake trout
Are JawJackers legal in every state
According to the manufacturer, JawJackers are legal in all Canadian Provinces and in every state except Minnesota.
It was once thought that Pennsylvania did not allow the use of JawJackers but this was the result of a poorly interpreted law. Current interpretations confirm that it is indeed legal in Pennsylvania.
You should still consult your state’s regulations in case rules change over time. Plus, the exact number of additional lines permitted varies from state to state. In some states, they are considered tip-ups while in other states it’s a second line. It’s therefore best to be familiar with your stat’s rules and definitions before buying a bucket full of JawJackers.
How to use a JawJacker correctly
Setting up a JawJacker is a cinch and the included instructions are sufficient to get you started. If you tossed those instructions or want a few hard won tips not mentioned on the box, follow our step by step guide to set yours up right.
Fold out the leg supports and traction spikes. Extend the arm out and put the pin in the desired length. Hole number 4 corresponds well to a 28-30 inch rod depending on flexibility.
Select the center hole for the angle on the rod holder. Insert your rod and test out your bend. The rod should have a deep bend all the way into the base. The tip should also angle back slightly. All this depends on the flexibility of your chosen rod. Adjust arm extension and rod holder angle accordingly.
Secure included rod tip loop onto the side support of the end eyelet. No side support on the eye? Use a loop of mono or braid instead. Place it around the rod tip at the base of the end eyelet.
Next, center the JawJacker over your ice fishing hole with the legs spread for support. Now determine the depth you want to place your bait and strip out enough line to reach the desired depth. Use your preferred bait but if you don’t have one, check out my top baits for ice fishing.
Place your rod in the rod holder and bend the rod tip down towards the trigger. Position yourself to the side of your rod and not directly over it or you may get smacked in the face. Hook the loop over the trigger tang while holding firm the release mechanism. Slowly release the rod tip to engage the pressure plate. Once the trigger is stable, let go of the release and route your line over it.
You may want to test the sensitivity and adjust the wing nut as needed. If you are using live minnows as bait, tighten the wing nut enough that the minnow movement won’t flip the trigger. Finding the right balance is a little bit of trial and error.
Add a strike bell to your rod if you plan to keep the JawJacker a distance away from you. A bell is especially handy if you are inside a pop-up and your JawJacker is outside.
When a fish strikes, try to be quick. Before getting your fish up to the hole, move the JawJacker away from the hole so the thrashing fish doesn’t splash it. Otherwise, you’ll constantly be dealing with freeze up.
How to keep a JawJacker from freezing up
A frozen JawJacker can get really frustrating in a hurry. They most often freeze up on the trigger system or at the hole. It also doesn’t have to be much below freezing for it to happen. Either way, it is a major pain and leads to a lot of missed fish. But alas, there are ways to help prevent a frozen JawJacker.
Keep water off the trigger – Splashing fish or slushy conditions can get things wet in a hurry. Keep the trigger dry by moving the JawJacker away from the hole when landing a fish and using a towel to wipe water off the trigger system if it does get wet. I have heard of some anglers spraying cooking oil, silicone spray or mineral oil on the trigger to repel water. We tried it with good success but it does make a mess so use with caution.
Prevent your ice hole from freezing – Since JawJacker are a “set it and forget it” kind of thing, it’s possible to have your hole freeze and lock your line in place. Check your hole frequently and clear out ice as it forms. For some spiffy ways to keep an ice fishing hole from freezing, follow the link to see our helpful tips.
Use it in a pop-up – If you don’t need to space your rods far apart, just set up the JawJacker in your pop-up. With a heater, minimal ice will form and eliminate the problem.
Like any piece of gear, JawJackers don’t work flawlessly 100 percent of the time. You will at some point run into problems with it. Some issues are inherent to the design of it and others are user error or caused by other gear affecting your success. But before you throw it in the trash, you should know that most issues are fixable. Browse our trouble shooting guide to find out what you can do to fix almost every problem.
|JawJacker Issue||Likely Cause||Solution|
|Fish strike not releasing trigger||Trigger set too tight, frozen trigger||Ensure trigger is not frozen, warm with heater or breath and dry with rag. |
Ensure wing nut is not overtightened. Test trigger sensitivity before setting bait.
|Fish not staying hooked||Dull hooks, not enough power in the rod, not enough bend in the rod, barbless hooks, trigger too light||Use only sharp, quality hooks. |
Use a stiffer rod with more bend. Raise up rod holder to increase bend.
Try braided mainline to improve hook set.
If barbless hooks are required, it is normal to loose some fish on the JawJacker setup.
Tighten trigger slightly to ensure light bumps don’t set the hook.
|Rod tip loop interfering with line||Incorrect placement or included rod tip loops not compatible with rod||Ensure that loop is attached to side bar of the end eyelet.|
If you don’t have a side bar on the rod tip eye, use a loop of mono or braid on the tip instead.
|JawJacker won’t stay set||Trigger sensitivity too light||Adjust wing nut to increase force required to trip the trigger.|
|Rod is not bent enough on JawJacker||JawJacker arm and rod holder not adjusted properly||Experiment with the sliding arm and the rod holder angle to get a sufficiently deep bend in the rod. Use caution to avoid rod breaks.|
|JawJacker freezing up||Water is splashing the trigger mechanism||Always pull JawJacker to the side when fighting a fish.|
Protect it from the elements or use in a shelter.
Dry trigger mechanism with a towel between sets.
|Missing rail and rod holder pins||You lost it||Use a nail, screw or even a stick as a temporary pin.|
Want to buy one for yourself?
Whether you are planning to buy your first JawJacker or your third, they are truly a worth while purchase that is sure to boost your catch rate on the ice. $60 may seem steep but they last years and increase the fun factor of ice fishing exponentially.
JawJackers are sold at BassPro Shops, Scheels and on Amazon. They sell out often so check fast if you want one to try this season.