Watching Grumpy Old Men leads to an impression that ice fishing is only for grumpy old men! I had never ventured onto a frozen pond, so this off-season; I thought I’d give it a try. I called FLW Kellogg’s pro Dave Lefebre about a crankbait story and he invited me to come up to Lake Erie to ice fish. He’s really into it! When you fish with a bass pro, they have every new product on the market, and Dave had everything!
Ice fishing is taking the fishing world by storm. As long as the ice is thick enough…for me, the thicker the better...up to 5 inches or so. Anglers suffering from cabin fever, or just boredom, will take to the ice with sled in tow. When I arrived at Erie International Airport, Dave had a pair of STABILicer ice cleats to strap onto my boots to allow for solid traction to drag the sled onto the ice.
Today’s sleds are super lightweight pop up cabins. With built in comfortable seats, insulated thermal shelters are easy to deploy. OTTER has perfected the all-in-one approach! A sled, seating, structure, and shell are supported with an aluminum frame. The seats are on swivels and are padded! They even come with windows and vents! Turn on a portable heater and off come the hats and gloves!
The sled carries the shelter and all of the gear! Now that you are on the ice and have located a spot, made easier with a hand held Lowrance GPS, it’s time to drill the holes! Forget a smelly pull start gasoline auger, Strike Master has a rechargeable electric auger that made snow cones out of thick ice! If you need to drill a lot of holes, this silent corkscrew will last several days on a charge!
The coolest thing on ice was the MarCum fish finding flashers with built-in rechargeable power! The detail was amazing! A self-contained unit allowed anglers to see what’s below the ice! Even the smallest baits showed up brightly on the unit! The transducer could be dropped into a hole and still provided room to fish! The separation of fish from bottom was easily seen! We actually watched fish come off the bottom to eat our tiny lures.
After 3 days of fishing, our pro ice guide Dave revealed a fish eye view of our spots! MarCum also has an underwater viewing system where you can see your lure, the fish...and the environment you are fishing! We saw different species and learned how to entice them into biting. Trout, for example wanted a moving lure, while blue gill could only be tempted with a nearly stationary bait! Watching the bites showed just how light a bite can be! Seeing but not feeling, we hooked many fish just watching the bait enter a fish mouth! This taught us how to feel bites better and sooner!
Even the rods and reels are more advanced over previous ice age equipment! Ice specialist, 13 Fishing has a range of spinning reels and even old school round reels. But what caught my eye was the TearDrop, a bait casting style reel! Available in either left or right hand retrieve, the reel hangs below the rod and is designed to reduce ice build up, sometimes a problem for spinning style reels. But the drag systems have other ice reels beat! Don’t expect corners to be cut with their rods either! Light, sensitive and powerful when they need to be, the gear is designed to land big ones with light stuff.
Light is the way to go when pan fishing for bluegill, crappie or yellow perch. How’s 1-pound test sound? Special additives keep Suffix ICE MAGIC line from getting stiff and hard to handle. By deterring water absorption, the line not only handles better, but it sinks getting down to the fish faster! But the combination of rod, reel and line enabled a few surprise catches! A few largemouth bass and trout were landed with this set up!
Of course the big attractions were the tiny lures. Mighty mites! Measuring smaller than the width of a dime and weighing in at less than 1/50th of an ounce, a combination of micro jigs with Trigger X soft plastics fooled fish for three days! We were so confident in these packages; we tried the entire Rapala Ice Force Tacklebox! Tiny jigging spoons, some with rattles, and jigging Raps that actually would dart with just a slight tap of the rod also caught fish!
Layered up and raring to go, our pre-dawn outings lasted well after dark. As fishing heated up, it was easy to stay warm with Hanz Extremity Wear, waterproof socks and gloves. A delicious hot meal prepared by Anne Lefebre and a good nights sleep reenergized us to get motivated to return to the ice. All-in-all fishing was a blast of cold air, followed by a rush of light line adrenaline!
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