Every year I discover a few "must-have" products that make it possible to fish faster and smarter — for example, lithium battery-based electric augers. Although skeptical at first, I'm now on my third season with a Milwaukee M18 FUEL drill coupled with 6- and 8-inch K-Drill and Nils bits. The combo is lightweight, always starts, and the drill doesn't get put away when the ice melts. It's a smart investment. I still own a 10-inch gas auger, but it's been relegated to a couple lake trout and big pike outings a year.
Similarly, portable, pocket-size underwater cameras have turned us into quick-draw gunslingers. Coupled with a good flasher or graph and GPS mapping, I can find green vegetation or the right bottom transition faster than ever before — not to mention read light bites in real-time Technicolor, study fish behavior, and verify the species of those marks on my sonar/GPS combo.
Other products make it easier to keep track of gear, like modifying portable fish houses with trays and new seating options with built-in storage. Same for tackle management — new boxes and bags make it easier to keep track of the ever-growing collection of softbaits and jigs.
Whether you're a weekend angler or tournament pro, organization can play a big part in successful fishing. Whatever system you employ, part of the fun is getting our ice gear out of storage and making sure everything works, while adding new tweaks for improved on-ice efficiency. Of course, the best time to remedy problems or work in new products is well before first ice (like right now). Portable shacks need to be assembled and modified, augers tuned, reels lubed, new line spooled, hooks sharpened€¦you know the drill.
Here's a selection of new products and a few that have fallen under the radar over the past couple of years, yet deserve a serious look as we gear up for the ice season.
1) Aqua-Vu Micro 5 DVR-DT: Savvy ice sticks have learned that slight changes in water temperature can be important in finding fish. To that end, Aqua-Vu has an improved version of their popular Aqua-Vu Micro 5 DVR underwater camera with camera depth and water temperature data displayed on its 5-inch LCD monitor. Features one-million-pixel color camera, 100-foot cable, 3X zoom, video out, IR lighting system with on/off, sunshield and screen protector, DVR with 8-GB internal SD card, and rechargeable lithium-ion battery with charge indicator and USB charger. aquavu.com
2) Aqua-Vu Micro Manager: An ingenious solution for managing underwater camera cable, the Aqua-Vu Micro Manager Reel eliminates the inconvenience of excess camera cable. Retrieves unused cable into the compact spool unit and effortlessly feeds extra cable. Its machined reel is easy to operate, even with gloves and mittens. aquavu.com
3) Beam Bender: The principle behind the Beam Bender is to tilt and extend the transducer cone angle to view fish off to the side of the hole or track the direction fish schools move. Rather than having to attach your transducer to a dowel and manually aim off the side of a hole, the Beam Bender allows easy configuration of the transducer at various side-looking angles. Place your cable into one of the three grooves and lower it into the water. It also has a Beam Bender "Arrow" that attaches to your transducer cable to indicate where the transducer is pointed. At 15 bucks, it's definitely worth a try. beambender.com
4) Tactical Lighting: Designed for use by police and military, Brite Strike Technologies' All Purpose Adhesive Light Strips (APALS) are submersible and designed to withstand extreme temperature. They provide 200 hours of runtime, visibility to one mile, fast strobe, slow strobe, steady on, and off modes and feature a heavy-duty 3M adhesive back for quick and inexpensive lighting solutions in portable fish houses, tackle boxes, on ice vehicles, fishfinder combos, and more. brite-strike.com
5) Battery Bag w/Charger & Bracket: This product allows you to strap a 7-, 8-, or 9-Ah 12-V ice fishing battery for transport. Comes with DC charger. Bracket installs easily into a portable fish house or on a permanent fish house wall to juice lights, fishfinders, and more. clamoutdoors.com
6) Collapsible Fish Hauler: Easy to pack and completely sealed, this is a great accessory for transporting livebait or your catch. Includes a shoulder strap and accessory pocket for an aerator or release tools. All-welded EVA construction, waterproof, and with a self-sealing port for an aerator hose. clamoutdoors.com
7) Deluxe Lithium Rechargeable Aerator: Clam's new Deluxe Lithium Aerator features rechargeable lithium battery, dual outputs to aerate two different containers, 6 feet of air hose, two check valves, air stones, and wall charger with USB connection. clamoutdoors.com
8) Auger Conversion Kit: Clam's 8-inch Drill Auger Conversion Kit turns most 18-V 1/2-inch chuck cordless drills into the power section of an ice auger. Features a drill plate, 8-inch auger bit, and gear box. Auger drill plate has an anodized aluminum frame/handle/plate, rubber-dipped handles and trigger for easy handing, upright bracket to accommodate various drill types, and all hardware. A ball bearing absorbs the load from the auger so the drill is only used to spin the auger and not to support the auger torque, extending the life of your drill. Includes 3-blade auger bit system with tempered stainless blades and steel flighting. Includes handle for use as hand auger, too. Twelve- and 20-inch extensions available. Conversion Kit Gear Box doubles torque with 2:1 gear ratio, features metal gears, light, durable composite housing. Weight without drill: 13.5 pounds. clamoutdoors.com
9) Fish-Well: Finally, a product to help keep fish fresh longer. Designed to fit down an ice fishing hole, lower the Fish-Well until it floats and insert your catch. Also works well for keeping minnows kicking. Basically a livewell for ice fishing. clamoutdoors.com
10) Seat Back Storage: Clam's Seat Back Storage helps keep gear organized in a portable shelter. Easy to slip on and off most seats, the 600DD polyester cover has three zippered pockets to keep tackle off the floor of your tub. — clamoutdoors.com
11) Softbait Wallet: Clam's Soft Plastics Wallet is ideal for packing light on early- or late-ice. The size of your wallet, yet big enough to hold a selection of soft plastics. clamooutdoors.com
12) Storage Seat Trunk: Frabill introduces the Padded Trunk and Boat Seat on Trunk, lightweight, mobile trunks with massive storage capability and cushioned seating for inside a shelter or in the open. Durable latches with a gasketed seal keep contents dry and secure, while molded lashing points allow for fast and easy tie-down on snow machines and ATVs or inside shelters or sleds. frabill.com
13) Ice Cleats: Lighter and tougher, Kahtoola's MICROspikes deliver even better traction on ice than previous models. Comprised of stainless-steel spikes and welded chains, MICROspikes also have an integrated toe bale and reinforced eyelets, allowing a smaller elastomer harness. kahtoola.com
14) Compact UW Camera: MarCum offers two small UW cameras loaded with features like on-screen display for water temperature, depth, and battery status. Both feature a 5-inch wide-screen flat-panel color LCD, 16:9 aspect ratio, darkwater LED, infrared lighting, 50-foot cable, and display adjustments. RECON 5+ unit has built-in DVR. marcumtech.com
15) More Torque: Good news for anglers who've made the switch from gas and propane to lithium-battery based auger systems like AWC Distributing's K-Drill or various Nils blades. Milwaukee Tool's new M18 FUEL 1/2-inch drill's brushless motor has been redesigned for 30 percent more torque. New REDLITHIUM XC5.0 Lithium batteries offer longer run-time and lifespan, and HIGH DEMAND 9.0 battery may be the best on-ice battery yet. milwaukeetool.com
16) K-Drill: AWC Distributing's K-Drill Electric is designed for use with the high-torque/RPM brushless motor 1/2-inch Milwaukee M18 FUEL cordless drill. It's fast, always starts, and weighs under 10 pounds. Available in 6-inch and 8-inch models, the K-Drill also features high-carbon-steel chipper blades, composite flutes that reduce the mess of ice shavings, and an integrated float system to prevent sinking down the hole. Cutting speed is approximately 1 inch per second, and each battery cuts over 20 holes through 24 inches of ice. Combo pack comes with drill, auger, charger, two batteries, and case. An optional inverter makes rapid on-ice charging simple. icefishingtoday.com
17) Nils Ice Auger: Available via NILS USA, the Arctic Trekker auger is available in 4.5-, 6-, or 8-inch diameters, performing as a hand auger or the business end to any cordless drill with 700 pounds of torque. Designed as a portable auger, the Arctic Trekker is comprised of 14- and 28-inch sections and blade. Augers can be extended with additional sections without tools. Also converts into a gas/propane power auger with power auger converter (sold separately). nilsmaster.com
18) Floating Aerator: Rapala's Floating Aerator activates upon contact with water, features 18 hours of continuous run-time on three C batteries (not included), 36 hours on 15-minute interval setting, and air stone. Aerates 1.5 liters (0.4 gallons) per minute, and fits most bait storage containers. rapala.com
19) Jig & Utility Boxes: Rapala's new 4-sided storage boxes (2 sizes) offer heavy-duty organization with a waterproof seal, high-compression hook clips, and slotted compression foam for protection or extra jig storage. Utility version features easy-open, clear lid compartments. rapala.com
20) Sonic Ice Hopper Pro System: Designed by former competitive angler John Bacarella, this bucket-within-a-bucket portable fishing system integrates a 1/8-inch anodized aluminum bracket for mounting Vexilar, Humminbird, MarCum, or Lowrance electronics, dry battery storage, ergonomic handle, and keeps your catch out of sight. sportsmansdirect.com
21) Book Worm: Designed as a solution for keeping softbaits organized, the Sportsman's Direct Book Worm measures 6.25" x 8.5" closed and has clear plastic pages of 3- x 4-inch and 2- x 3-inch resealable bags. Add patches of foam and you can also easily organize and carry large numbers of tungsten jigs, too. sportsmansdirect.com
22) Leader Keeper: Stay organized by tying numerous rattle reel rigs and keep them ready for switching when fish moods change or a pike cuts you off. The Sportsman's Direct Foam Leader Keeper (5.5" x 2.5" x 3/8") has slits and grooves on its ends to hold lots of pre-tied leaders. sportsmansdirect.com
23) Strikemaster Lithium Lazer: Updated circuitry makes for even quieter and more dependable performance. Electric motor powered by a 50-V Lithium ION battery. Strikemaster claims 56 8-inch holes drilled through 24 inches of ice on a charge with 25:1 transmission. Choose stainless-steel Lazer blades (8- or 10-inch) or the new Boron steel chipper blade (8.25- or 10.25-inch). Weighs from 24 to 27 lbs. strikemaster.com
24) Blade Guard: Strikemaster LSC-8 Snap Cap Blade Guard fits 8-inch augers, keeping blades sharp. strikemaster.com
25) Rapala Folding Pack Shovel: Rapala's Folding Pack Shovel measures 26 inches, yet folds into a 13-inch storage pouch. Ideal for digging out an ATV, sled, or truck — and banking fish houses or hubs. rapala.com
*Jim Edlund, Becker, Minnesota, is an avid multispecies angler, hardwater junkie, and freelance writer who contributes to many In-Fisherman publications.