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Fishing articles by John Kolinski on Walleyes Inc. Your one stop internet fishing source
Winning the Cold War
By John Kolinski
Editor's note: John Kolinski is the 2002 Professional Walleye Trail Angler of the Year, the 2003 Illinois River RCL winner and a 17-time championship qualifier. He is the only angler to fish the PWT and B.A.S.S. at the same time. His articles can be read in numerous Midwestern outdoor publications and at several web sites. Kolinski is sponsored by Triton Boats, Mercury Motors, Humminbird Electronics, Yo-Zuri fishing line, Normark/Storm Lures, MinnKota, Uncle Josh, Tempress Rod Holders, Off-Shore Planer Boards and Optima Batteries

Today's ice anglers have it made. They're comfortable, educated and efficient. As a result, a sport that once appealed to only the hardiest and adventuresome anglers is now embraced by many.
The reason is simple -- technology. Manufacturers have invested in hard-water product development that is giving anglers an edge in the cold war.
To appreciate how far we've come requires a heavy-footed trudge through the snow of memory lane.

Remember when ...

Getting dressed for a day on the ice was like padding up for a football game? Thermal underwear, two pairs of socks, blue jeans, long-sleeved T-shirt, flannel shirt, turtle-neck sweater and a sweatshirt might have provided the core layer of warmth. And when it was time to hit the ice, we'd add insulated coveralls, a heavy coat, monstrous mittens and a pair of boots that weighed about 10 pounds apiece.
Halfway into the hike to begin the search for fish, with a sled full of gear in tow, we'd be sweating like Roger Clemens at a congressional hearing and stopping to shed clothes and catch our breath.
Now we've got long underwear made of merino wool and other fabrics that actually regulates body temperature in changing conditions and varying levels of exertion. We've got better socks, better gloves and boots so lightweight you could run in them.

Remember when ...

Simply getting to a general fishing area was like conquering an obstacle course? If we had any kind of shanty, it was probably homemade with heavy materials like plywood, two-by-fours and canvas. We'd set buckets of gear, bags of tackle and small coolers on top of the shack, and stop to collect it when it fell off during the drag through heavy snow or across bumpy terrain. If we didn't have a shack, we'd waddle across the ice trying to carry everything we'd need for the day.
Now we've got lightweight, flip-over style tents made of heat-retaining fabric that is attached to deep-sided, rugged, polyethylene sleds that not only store all our gear but protect it from the elements and providing comfortable seating. We've also got cabin-style, condo units that can accommodate multiple anglers comfortably and fold up to fit in the back of a pick-up.

Remember when ...

Finding our secret fishing spots was like playing pin the tail on the donkey? We'd triangulate the white house with the town water tower and the big pine tree to get close to a particular hump, then drill holes and check depths using a big sinker to find the spot on the spot. If we got caught in a white-out or stayed after dark, getting back to shore safely was always an issue.
Global positioning systems changed that. Now we can store waypoints from these spots during the open-water season and return to the exact spot when things freeze over. Some units come with detailed maps of individual lakes that can identify boat ramps and access points, help us understand why an old spot has been good or guide us to new spots. And when it comes to getting off the ice, it's as simple as following your GPS trail or entering the coordinates for an exit point.

Remember when ..

We used to drill holes with a hand-auger or maybe even punch through the ice with a pick or a spud bar? We changed locations less frequently then because it was exhausting to cut holes through 30 inches of ice. We'd try a couple of spots and if they didn't produce, that's just the way it was.
Power augers have given us more mobility, and they keep getting better, too. Some of the early power augers were heavy, hard-starting and hard-working. These days they are lightweight with better carburation systems for easy starting and they're equipped with high-tech blades that cut faster with less horsepower. It's nothing to drill 50 holes in a morning.
Remember when ...
We never knew for sure if there were any fish beneath us? Before modern sonar units, it was a
matter of either sight-fishing in shallow water or drilling holes and fishing them in deeper water. If we didn't get bit, we'd move. The only way we'd find suspended fish was by sight or by dead-sticking a second pole higher in the water column.
Now we've got sonar units and underwater cameras that let us know exactly what's going on underneath us and can even help us gauge the aggressiveness of the fish by their behavior. I use a Humminbird Ice 55 unit with a six-color fiber-optic flasher, a center LCD temperature display and a wealth of zoom and range features. It's bright, clear, easy to read in all light conditions and extremely detailed. I don't know what more I could want, but the product development folks will probably come up with something.

Remember when ...

Staying warm was an ongoing challenge that often distracted us from our fishing? Back in the day, a homemade candle in a coffee can or a pan of charcoal was our source of heat, and we'd have to open the tent for ventilation. The early propane heaters were bulky and potentially dangerous. They'd burn a hole in your coveralls if you brushed against them or melt your fishing line if you got it too close.
Now we've got compact heating systems that operate for hours on small propane canisters. They don't take up much room, so they don't get in the way, and they don't emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Remember when ...

Our ice rods were a combination of stiff fiberglass sticks with European-style spools as reels? Or when we'd use an old push-button spincast reel on an ice rod? Basically, we had one rod that we used for every situation and every species of fish, and we spooled our reels with monofilament that had too much memory and water resistance and often became brittle. It took forever to get a tiny ice jig down to the target depth range and if it had too much coil, a lot of strikes went undetected.
Now we've got small, lightweight spinning reels and graphic composite rods specifically designed for ice fishing and even for various species. I've got medium-action rods for panfish and heavier-action models I use when jigging or spooning for walleyes. We've got stronger lines in smaller diameters engineered for cold-water use, like the 2- and 4-pound Yo-Zuri Hybrid Ultra Soft that's been outstanding for my needs. Hard lines give us an advantage in deep water because of the increased sensitivity they provide.

Remember when ...

Light in an ice tent or on the ice was typically provided by a flashlight and a gas lantern with a glass cover and fragile silk mantels? While they provide great light and even a little heat, it was too easy to break the glass or the mantels in transit or while in use.
Now we have an amazing array of options. Rope lighting can be attached to the framework of most tents and hooked into a small, six-volt battery. Headlamps allow us hands-free direction of concentrated light. There are even small lighting systems that clip onto the bill of a hat. All three of these options allow anglers to focus the light where they want it instead of having it temporarily blinding you every time you look at it.
Remember when ...
Bobbers were either solid corks in which we cut a slit for our line or store-bought plastic floats that always seemed like they were either too big or too small for the job at hand?
Now we've got thin, balsa floats that are both visual in their appearance and easy for all sizes of fish to move without dropping the bait and evacuating the area.

Remember when ...

Shopping for tackle meant perusing a small display at the local bait and tackle shop? Plastics were either non-existent or limited, at best, and most of the lures we could find were so light they couldn't be fished through a slushy hole and couldn't be returned promptly to the proper depth after a missed hookset or after catching a fish.
Now we've got entire sections of tackle shops dedicated to ice lures of all shapes, sizes and colors. There are hundreds of options in plastics made to resemble waxworms, spikes and mousies or just to add subtle action. Some are so lifelike in their appearance and scent that anglers prefer them over trying to keep live bait fresh.
Jig styles have advanced in both design and composite. Now, with different shapes and different alloys, they give us the same small profiles we desire, but they fish much heavier.
Technology can't make us better anglers, but it can make us more efficient anglers.
Now that we've won the cold war, I can't wait to see what they come up with next


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