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Early Season Ice Techniques
By Mark Martin
At first glance, ice fishing seems the most basic of sports‹spud, bucket,
archaic tip-up or two and you¹re ready to go. Sure, the simple
setup will work, but with refined tackle, smartly designed lures and a
little technology on your side, the odds tilt way into your favor. In addition
to the improved odds, you've also got increased comfort and convenience.
The trick is to couple the right gear with the right technique. Once
outfitted with the accessories, you have to put a lure in the fish's
face with the proper bait and a suitable amount of wiggle‹too much wiggle
and you'll send perch and walleyes packing. I've seen it happen on an underwater
camera. Don't let it happen to you by listening to what I've learned through
decades on the ice. It's just that the sport is a whole lot more comfortable
and evolved now than it was back then.
All the Accessories
Nowadays you can burn through the ice in nothing flat, feel fish touch
a lure down deep, and show them a lure that glows all day or night long.
I don¹t know about you, but I sure welcome the advancements.
When gearing up for ice fishing, consider the following products to
life easier, more comfortable, even safer:
Lazer Mag Ultra
|Burn holes through the ice? You bet. There's nothing quicker than the
augers from Strike Master. An excellent unit s the Lazer Mag Ultra, with
its two-horsepower, two-cycle engine. In the line of hand augers, you could
also check out the hand units that have stainless-steel blades that stay
sharp for seasons, not weeks, of drilling. Also from Strike Master are
heaters for ice shanties that kick off the BTUs, ice picks that help one
climb out of the drink if you crack the surface, and jaw spreaders that
pry open a pike's toothy maw. Extra sensitivity is the deal with Berkley's
new FireLine Micro Ice and a set of nice little ice rods. While I've always
liked regular FireLine for deep-water jigging, Micro is more supple and
manageable in the deep freeze. Meanwhile, Berkley has worked with iceman
Dave Genz to create Signature Ice
Rods that offer even flex and improved sensitivity. Plus, the guides
are the right size to prevent against undue freezing. The rods come in
a range of actions from light to medium heavy
The eight-inch-long 3455-00, for instance, can be rigged with dividers
for up to 12 compartments. It's perfect for keeping a whole assortment
of jigs under control. More on lures in a moments
|While you¹re at it, look into the new spinning reels from Mitchell.
The smooth, durable Mitchell 300X, with its five ball bearings, is about
right for jigging for walleyes. It's a great bone, too, for the rest of
the year. Since storage is something of an issue when ice fishing‹heck,
in open water my boat is one big tackle box‹it pays to keep compact with
some small tackle boxes you can put in a pocket. My favorites are the Stow
Aways from Plano. You not only can see through the clear plastic boxes
to know what's in there, but you also can store all kinds of stuff in them
and in your coat.
Perch, Walleye and Gentle Jigging
Even though I'm a professional walleye fisherman, I have a fondness
in winter for the eyeball's smaller cousin, the perch. The action can be
fast, and the eating is always excellent.
The most helpful piece of equipment I've used in the last few years
is my Vista Cam. I¹ve learned more about fish behavior with the underwater
camera in a couple of seasons than I did in many a moon. With perch, I've
noticed that they like cover of some kind and changes in bottom composition.
That's where I spot most of them. Look for scattered weeds, rock piles
and where sand and marl meet. It's funny how perch move like deer, scooting
from piece of cover to piece of cover‹say, from a rock to a weed or a stick,
stopping at each item. Which, of course, is why you want to be in the proper
Beyond that, I've watched perch on the camera long enough to know what
jigging retrieve they like best. Most productive for me is to wiggle the
jig and then let it lie on bottom or a fraction of an inch above it. That's
when they suck it in best. But, contrary to conventional wisdom, perch
often suspend four to six feet off bottom. You might find they hit a jig
on the way down‹that's a good signal. You will, however, leave nothing
to guess with a Vista Cam. With it, you can prospect for levitated perch
as the lens drops to the bottom.
Some excellent perch jigs are made by ,
and they can be made even
more productive by baiting up right. I like subtle jigs like the Creep
whose Super-Glo colors never stop glowing and buglike eyes rattle.
excellent one is the Ghost Grub. New for 2002 are tiny Forage Minnow
with single or treble hooks and holographic finishes.
For some reason, perch can't seem to tolerate the hook point showing.
|Also of note are holographic Forage Minnow Small Fry Jigs, with jig
bodies that look more like horizontal spoons. And don¹t miss out on
even more Super-Glo colors that are rechargeable with a new Glo-
Buster LureLight it looks like a pocket flashlight put on your keychain
and squeeze when you¹re hoping to get your key in the door‹that zaps
glow jigs for long spells of illumination. Where it's legal, I like to
use a perch eye for bait and cover the point of the hook with a waxworm.
Walleyes, on the other hand, don't mind hook points but they, too,
are triggered more by a gentle wiggle than an aggressive rip. When I'm
or spoons like Blue Fox's Tinglers (an excellent lure that comes in 3/16
ounce, 3/8 ounce and seven colors), I've seen on the Vista Cam that walleyes
might rush in after you give the bait a big rip. Do it again, though, and
they take off. Try a gentle rhythm within three to four inches of bottom
Then I go from hole to hole over deeper water up to 40 feet, looking
for walleyes that are hanging in the basin adjacent to structure.
||When I'm prospecting for walleyes, I have a twin-pronged locational
strategy. While I set up on classic structures such as the tips of
the edges of weeds and the tops of rock bars, I search for more subtle
things as well. I¹m always on the lookout for changes in bottom
maybe hard to soft bottom or a patch of clams surrounded by mud. And I
get out beyond the structure above the lake¹s basin with the Strike
Master and turn the surface to Swiss cheese.
Between my equipment and my gentle-jigging motions I've learned so much
about via my Vista Cam, I¹ve taken my ice fishing into the 22nd
can, too, if you combine the ability to punch holes with a Strike Master
to see fish with a Vista Cam with what you learn while watching it.
know about you, but I'll take what we have today over a spud and primitive
tip-ups. Times are changing, and they¹re just way too productive
to go back
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