December 02, 2021
By Ross Robertson
I’m convinced that ice fisherman like to “tinker” more than just about any other fishing group. Some of this is a result of limited options on the market, and others seemingly are just because we like to trick out our gear. Here are four gear modifications to consider before you drill your first hole this winter.
1. Battery Switch
Today’s ATV, UTV and snowmobiles have as many add-on accessories as Swiss cheese has holes. The addition of items such as extra lights, charging outlets or GPS to name a few can make for an increased mess of wires, fuses, and problems down the road.
When we add many of these items, it’s easy to forget that these accessories have a power draw that can draw down your battery during not only the off season but also during their wintertime use. Simply adding a quality battery switch that allows you to completely shut off all the power to the machine will do wonders at reducing the chance of a dead battery.
While many machines have a panel to power accessories, I prefer to add a distribution panel to keep all of my items separate. When issues occur, this isolation makes it much easier to diagnosis problems. While this step is not completely necessary in all cases, if you add more than a couple addition items you often will find yourself with a full fuse panel and the need for an additional distribution panel.
Spend a few extra dollars and time when wiring any accessories and use tinned copper wire in order to prevent corrosion and heat shrink connectors to keep moisture out. My compartment is not rigged as neatly as I’d like because I have found leaving wires longer than they need to be is very helpful if an issue arises or repair is needed.
2. Attach Your Gear
A lot of gear is broken while ice fishing and I have found if it doesn’t have a specific place or method to be secured, you’ll likely be replacing it before you know it. In some cases, it can be as easy as getting a case to store exactly what you are using. A good example of this would be the Vault by Lakewood Products. This case is designed to store and protect Jigging Raps, and similar style baits.
In other circumstances, it’s as simple as getting some stainless-steel hardware so that you can bungee down buckets or other cases. These inexpensive little brackets can be bolted screwed or riveted in very tight areas and allow you a much better way to secure your gear. I use them with a combination of wire and carabiner to secure large items like my Lakewood Greenback rod and lure storage case. This makes it very easy to use while fishing but also remove it for travel or in the off season.
3. Floor Anchor
This is one that you might not have thought of, and I can’t even take credit for it. One of my fishing buddies had a machine break down and it was then he realized there isn’t a good way to winch your machine up into an enclosed trailer. Aside from the trailer frame there isn’t anywhere that you can anchor to and not create catastrophic damage to your trailer. For many, this may seem like a major project, but it can be done by simply making a plate that will sit on the trailer floor inside and have a way to attach a eye so a clevis can be added.
An off-road vehicle supply store sells these with models that can be bolted or welded on easily. Next, either make a hat-style backing plate if you are handy or simply purchase grade 8 bolts that are long enough to pass through the floor and below the trailer frame. Another plate or pieces of angle iron can be used to secure it below. Over drill the hole on the lower plate or angle iron to make lining up and installing the bottom piece much easier.
Another added benefit of this anchor point, or winch spot, is if using the trailer in the off-season, moving items becomes much easier!
4. Light It Up
Just about everyone adds lights to a trailer. Almost all trailers seem to only come with one tiny little dome light no matter the size. Personally, I have added enough extra lights inside my enclosed trailer to read a book from any location. The addition of a large light bracket on the outside of the trailer makes it very nice when prepping in the morning or wrapping things up after dark. While more light is almost always a good thing, in an ice fishing trailer the issue is almost always power.
Trailer power is typically run through your vehicle and the truck needs to be running for the lights to function. In order to get around this, all you need to do is add a small battery like the ones used for your ice electronics with a momentary on/off/on switch.
Don’t be overwhelmed by this as it’s a very simple modification. On the back of the switch there are three terminals. Attach the trailers positive to one. The other is attached via a short jumper you will need to make from the battery you added. The third and final is called the load wire and basically the long lead that connects the power from all the lights. The switch will be labeled or have a diagram to indicate which one is the load, but it’s usually the center prong.
A small bracket like the one I used from Clam is meant for ice shanties but works very well for securing the battery within the trailer. The 10-amp-hour Dakota Lithium is enough power to run the LED trailer lights for an extended period of time.
I’ve certainly done more than just four modifications to my ice gear over the years, but these four specifically have gotten me out of a pinch more than once.
Capt. Ross Robertson