Ice fishing gear has gone high-tech
If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at ice fishing gear at a sporting goods store, prepare for sticker shock.
You can always find a few of those inexpensive ice rods that include line, bobber, and jig. You know, the kind with the line wrapped around a wire handle.
You can also walk out of a store with an inexpensive ice rod and reel, a handful of jigs, and a pot of bait that will get you out on the ice for around $20.
But today’s ice gear manufacturers offer high-tech options and anglers are taking advantage of them. Those who use the more sophisticated equipment swear they are much more effective at finding fish and getting them to bite.
• Rollers: For example, an ultra-lightweight reel – considered high tech in my day – has become ho-hum among ice lovers who see the “inline” style of reel as a new and better option.
“It seems like when someone uses one, it’s the only one they want for ice fishing,” said Darrin Schaap, whose Clear H2o Tackle in Edwardsburg serves as this season’s ice fishing specialty store. region.
The inline reel looks like a fly fishing reel. It nearly eliminates line snarl issues that are common with the delicate (2 pound) line that many anglers use now. Anyone who has fought tangled, twisted lines with frozen fingers while using a reel knows how frustrating it can be.
“The reels not only decrease any twist in the line, but they improve the life of the line because it doesn’t get abused by the twist,” Schaap said. “Many have long shanks between rod and reel to accommodate bulky gloved fingers.”
Costs? Well, you can get into a base model for around $30 or upgrade to the deluxe and spend upwards of $100 for more bells and whistles.
• Line: Anglers have become equally choosy about the line they use. Monofilament still sells, but specialty lines formulated specifically for ice tactics have become more popular. Many anglers use more expensive fluorocarbon or braided lines with small diameters in their fishing and pay twice or more than monofilament.
• Bars: Ice canes have also come a long way. While inexpensive rods are made from fiberglass, serious ice anglers turn to graphite or composite blends. There are ice rods made of the same materials as a $250 graphite bass rod and can be priced as high as $80 or more. Of course, you can still find good ice rods in the $20-$30 range.
“Premium rods are lighter than a feather and scary,” Schaap said. “They come in all sizes and actions, and some have a built-in spring bobber.”
• Bobbers: The cheap cork or sponge that works well when fish are aggressive, is no longer acceptable to ice fishing purists. Premium spring loaded bobber rigs will detect stings that go unnoticed on a traditional bobber rig.
“It’s the hottest trend because the springs are positioned perfectly on the rod and are marketed for different lure weights and sensitivities,” Schaap said. “For example, one may be built for tiny jigs or flies while another is built for heavier jigging baits.”
• Templates: Traditional lead-head teardrop jigs are still available, but smaller tungsten jigs are more popular due to their proportionately smaller size and appearance. A tungsten jig will be two-thirds the size of a lead jig of the same size.
“Most are designed to sit horizontally in the water for best action and the color schemes are very detailed,” Schaap said. “Even the iceflies have been dressed with tungsten beads to add weight.”
• Electronics: Modern electronics are unavoidable. Newer versions will show the fish that are directly under your ice hole and you can see your little bait on screen. You can watch the fish come up to take your bait.
Some of the more sophisticated fish finders have GPS to guide you directly to specific weed beds and the exact spot where you caught them last year. Or, you can get one that has a built-in underwater camera that lets you see your bait and the fish that approach it. These electronics will cost you anywhere from $300 for a basic unit to $2,000 for a unit with a larger screen and underwater viewing system.
• Huts: Lightweight portable ice huts will protect you from the elements, but the more expensive ones have thermal fabrics that insulate the unit and prevent frost from building up inside. They can be personalized,
also, with the addition of batteries, portable lights and consoles for storing bait and tackle. The stripped-down shanty that breaks down into a sleigh can cost around $200 or you can go luxury and spend up to $700 on a comfortable two-person condo.
• Augers: Auger technology has also improved, as newer models run on one-pound propane tanks that are more efficient than gas-powered augers.
If you want the poor man’s electric auger, adapters can be purchased for around $30 that convert a hand-turned auger and a brave cordless drill into an electric auger.
So is all of this necessary to catch sunfish through the ice? Of course not. Just ask the old guy surrounded by hungry sunfish as he sits in the open on a bucket and holds a cheap fiberglass rod.
But if you want to fish comfortably on a freezing day and increase your chances of catching finicky fish, you can find some pretty cool tricks to make you a better angler.
Louie Stout: stou[email protected]