The Hottest Gear on Ice

Better technology and updated products are putting more fun into ice-fishing this winter.(December 2006)

In the not too distant past, many ice-anglers felt restricted by the fact they were limited to an 8-inch hole in the frozen surface. That is no longer the case.

With state-of-the-art augers blazing holes through the ice and portable shelters allowing rapid packing and moving of gear, it's not uncommon for someone to drill 100 holes in a day and move 10 times before they find the fish they seek. At the same time, other new gear and technology has made it easier to move your equipment, find fish and catch them through the ice.

Let's look at what's new for this ice-fishing season, and how it can help you be more successful.

ICE-FISHING LURES

There haven't been many changes in the lure lines since last year, but there are new additions to the existing lines.

Northland Tackle, which distributes one of the largest lines of ice-fishing tackle, has added a new color to its best-selling baits. "We added the Super-Glo Goldfish color to the Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon line, which has been the best-selling lure for ice-fishing," said John Crane from Northland Tackle. "It's a plated gold baitfish front and the back is a super-glow red. Another new addition is the Buck-Shot Dropper Spoon. People used to pull the treble hooks off the Rattle Spoons and Fire-Eye Minnows to create the droppers, but now they have one all ready to go with a colored or Super-Glo hook."

Rapala has found a way to take its popular Shad Rap and bring it to ice-anglers with the Jigging Shad Rap. This lure incorporates all the positive benefits of the Jigging Rap into a larger shad-body shape. The Jigging Shad Rap has a more pronounced action, with a slow circle-down motion as it drops. By raising the lure in a sharp "snapping" motion, you can cause the bait to circle faster. A quick "vibrating" motion will also attract fish.

Genz's Fish Trap X

Lindy-Little Joe/Legendary Tackle has a popular line of ice-fishing lures, which is to be expected, since Dave Genz -- the man who originated the concept of mobile ice-angling -- designs them. Genz said ice-anglers are going to find that this season it is going to be all about the Munchies. Lindy's Munchies Tiny Tails come in four shapes with life-like detail. There is the Micro-Mino, the Split Tail, the PinTail and the Mini Spade. "I'm using plastics instead of bait a lot more these days because I've had this combination produce fish better than live bait at times," Genz said. "On one outing, I had perch spitting up mayfly larvae, and when you would lay one of the mayflies on your hand next to a Genz Bug that was tipped with a Munchie, they looked similar. The fish would hit these because we were matching the hatch, and the fish were feeding on these burrowing insects."

Another lure that gets fished without the benefit of live bait is the popular Chubby Darter by Salmo. This extremely popular lure is coming out this year in all new colors. According to Tom Zenanko, an avid ice-angler and Salmo product specialist, "On one trip I took, it was obvious that the Chubby Darter was as good or better than live bait. At the end of four days of fishing on every single day, the biggest walleye came on a Chubby Darter."

SHELTERS

It would seem that everyone is getting into the shelter business these days. The competition is obviously good for anglers because there are some outstanding improvements in portable units.

Clam Corporation, the leader in portable shelters, has taken Dave Genz's Fish Trap to new levels with the introduction of the Fish Trap X series. "We've beefed up the tubing size to 1 1/4 inches and are using plastic tubes so they don't bind when you're extending them," Genz said. He noted that this year the flip-over style of shelter he invented will be available in a four-person model.

Pak Shack

Frabill has also redesigned its entire line of shelters. "We have a whole new line of shelters this year," said Kellie Boone, product specialist for Frabill. "The new ones are called Glide Trax. They have a new base design, almost like a pontoon-style where you have two runners that are the only things coming into contact with the ice, which will make it much easier to pull the shelter over the ice and snow. Within the base, those runners that are on the bottom of the base can be used as storage areas from the inside. They have lids with a handle where you can store rods and other stuff to keep it away from the elements."

Snow Bear

Nature Vision, the company that brought you the Aqua-Vu sonar unit, has entered the shelter business for this season. "We're coming into the ice shelter market this year with the Pak Shack," said Corey Schmidt, their product specialist. "It's basically a folding camping chair with an accordion-style flip-over tent over the top. It sets up in seconds and folds up into a backpack. Throw it over your shoulder and walk onto those lakes that you can't drive on. It's a very comfortable chair and there are not a lot of comfortable chairs out there when it comes to portable ice shelters."

Eskimo has also taken comfort into consideration with its new addition to the shelter line this year. The new Eskimo ProFish series features a comfortable padded bench seat with independently folding seatbacks so you can access gear without the other angler having to stand. Plus, each seat bottom also independently folds forward to expose gear directly under your seat.

Vexilar FL-20

The ultimate shelter for ice-anglers that's new this season is the SnoBear. The SnoBear is not a snowmobile, it's not a car and it's not a boat, yet it demonstrates characteristics of all three. The SnoBear is a recreational

vehicle designed for ice-fishing that can travel across a lake at 24 mph. It drives as simply as a car complete with automatic transmission, power steering and disc brakes. When you reach your fishing spot, a flip of a switch lowers the unit 14 inches down to the ice. The RV-type furnace and insulated cabin provide all the comforts of home. And when you're ready to sleep, just drop the bunks down and spend the night. But since safety is everyone's concern, the SnoBear was designed to allow the vehicle to float. If it could be compared with anything, the SnoBear is a boat on the ice.

ELECTRONICS

Flasher or graph? This is the year you'll have to choose.

Lowrance Ice Machine

Vexilar is the king of the sonars when it comes to ice-angling, and it has two new models. "The most obvious feature of our new FL-12 and FL-20 models is that they are all flat-screen displays," said Tom Zenanko, Vexilar product specialist. "We've finally broken away from the stovepipe cover and are using all flat screens with super-bright LEDs on these new units. It's the largest wheel display we've ever built, and because of the flat screen, you get the benefit of your peripheral vision. A couple guys can share a unit very nicely. You can sit side by side in an ice shack or boat and see the screen very easily. It used to be one person could see it and the other couldn't. Now anyone can see it from anywhere out front."

Aque-Vu VPG

Lowrance has added another model to its ice lineup. "We're going to have an LMS-334C Ice Machine," said Lowrance's Mike Schnettler. "The beauty of this is that it will allow you not only sonar but also GPS with mapping cartography. You can use the map chip and go right to a spot."

Corey Schmidt from Nature Vision said they also have a new sonar this year for ice-anglers. "We're premiering the Aqua-Vu VPG, which is the next phase in ice-fishing sonar units. It's actually a vertical-pixel graph that utilizes high-speed crystals as opposed to flasher technology. This unit comes with an ice mode that actually heats the crystals, because one of the drawbacks to crystal units on the ice is that the unit would slow down. This heating element keeps the crystals moving at high speed, so when we tested this unit down to 40-below zero, it performed well."

AUGERS

The biggest change in augers recently has been the advent of the four-stroke models by Strikemaster. "We've made the four-stroke lightweight, and anglers love it in that they don't have to mix oil with the gas," said Ray Peterson, president of Strikemaster. "This year, we're adding an auxiliary handle to help carry the unit, and with the storage bracket, you can hang it up easily on the wall. This handle adds balance, and you can set the unit on this handle and not have a problem."

Eskimo Shark Z71

Eskimo is introducing the Shark Z71, which they tout as the most powerful ice auger you can buy. A 3.7-horsepower Viper engine powers the Shark Z71, which is the result of over three years of research and development. The Shark Z71 also features a new oversized pull-start handle, an ergonomically designed fingertip throttle control for easier operation on cold days, a see-through gas tank so there isn't any guessing, and dual quantum blades."

The Genz StiX

RODS & REELS

Nature Vision has added an additional high-end line of rod/reel combos as part of the Genz Series. Since Dave Genz designed these rods for Nature Vision, the name is obvious: The Genz Stix. "We have the platinum series this year," said Genz, "five new rods and reels that will be platinum in color. There are actions for all species, and we increased the spool size on the reels to accommodate heavier pound test line so you won't get that coil effect. It's the same smooth drag system with a larger spool diameter." The silver and gold series hasn't changed.

Frabill's new addition to this year's rod collection is called Ultra Ice. Using a patent-pending design, Frabill achieves superior sensitivity in Ultra Ice Rods with Vibration Transfer Technology. Three vibration discs wrapped around the blank of the rod transfer the feel of the slightest nibbles. The vibration is magnified in the angler's hand through an ultra-lightweight graphite handle.

When it comes to reels for ice-fishing, it's hard to beat the new Shakespeare Synergy Titanium Microspin. This closed-faced spinning reel has a polished stainless steel front cone and rear cover, a titanium line guide, a stainless steel line pickup pin, a strong but lightweight metal handle with soft rubber knobs, and a durable elastomer pinch ring for reduced line wear.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Clam Corp.: Clamcorp.com, (763) 231-4120.

Eskimo: Ardisam.com, 1-800-345-6007.

Frabill: FraBill.com, 1-800-558-1005.

Lindy-Little Joe/Legendary Tackle: LindyLittleJoe.com,(218) 829-1714.

Lowrance: Lowrance.com, 1-800-324-1356.

Nature Vision: NatureVisionInc.com, (218) 825-0733.

Northland Tackle: NorthlandTackle.com, 1-800-SUN-FISH.

Rapala: Rappala.com.

Salmo: SalmoFishing.com. (952) 224-3649.

Shakespeare: Shakespeare-Fishing.com, 1-800-334-9105.

SnoBear: Snow-Bear.com, (701) 281-8942.

Strikemaster: Strikemaster.com, (763) 263-8999.
Vexilar: Vexilar.com, (952) 884-5291

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