October 01, 2022
More gadgets don’t necessarily guarantee you’ll catch more fish, but some of the more recent advancements in technology most likely means you’ll be more comfortable, and your rods doubled over more this winter.
Here are few categories to consider upgrading your equipment in for this upcoming season.
Cameras—An underwater camera like an Aqua-Vu is the only thing that truly lets you know what’s going on below the ice. As ice fishing electronics have morphed from basic flasher units all the way to live sonar, we have learned through this process that we didn’t always interpret what we saw properly. An underwater camera is great for realizing what the bottom looks like, seeing what the forage is and even seeing the actual size of the fish you’re after. The latter is particularly important when fishing for panfish and perch.
Another very overlooked purpose for an underwater camera is to use it as a personal learning device. When a new lure comes out or when attempting to learn how to master a given type of lure, such as a puppet minnow or jigging rap, a camera is an amazing tool. We’ve had a buddy out fish us with the same lure from a few feet away when we seem to be “doing the same thing.” In most cases a slight pause or the difference in slack line and how it affects a bait’s action can’t be seen by the naked eye, but it’s like a neon sign when you see the lure—front and center—on an under-water camera.
The advancements in underwater cameras has resulted in smaller units, lighter and with much more definition than in years past. Aqua-Vu has a new four-headed camera that keeps walleyes or other fish that wander flats from sneaking up on you. Like our phones, cameras have had significant advancements and can help you catch more fish in many different ways.
Electronics—In case you’ve been living under a rock, there is a new technology called live sonar. Units such as Humminbird’s Mega Live actually allows you to see the fish moving in a three-dimensional manner. Down mode is one of the transducer settings and it allows you to see the fish in a much larger window than you would on a traditional flasher. The three-dimensional angle allows you to see which way the fish is coming from, or if they are heading towards or away from you—and not just the depth they are located at. The definition is enough that a fish following your lure can often be seen well enough to make out its tale.
Forward-facing mode allows us to see a large V-shaped portion of the water column in front of you nearly from top to bottom. Crappie and walleye anglers that are hole hopping use this setting to scan a given area and then simply move on if fish aren’t present, or to help them stay on schools of moving fish. It’s hard to argue how effective this technology is, especially after you see it in action.
Batteries—The cold is hard on joints, your cell phone and really anything with a battery. The advancements in lithium technology have allowed us to carry batteries that are smaller, lighter and last much longer. Electronics like the aforementioned Humminbird Mega Live use more power than a traditional flasher unit, and the use of a lithium battery such as Dakotas Lithium’s 10-, 18- or 23-amp hour models allow you to get better run time in a package that is lightweight.
The same could be said for lights or high-definition cameras that so many anglers now use to document their day on the lake. While those items can be important and tough to keep running, I think it’s fair to say an auger is the elephant in the room. If your auger doesn’t work, everything else doesn’t matter until it does. Lithium advancements now allow you to fish without worry of running out of power even when hole hopping—battery-powered ice augers are truly a gamechanger. Other auger advancements by StrikeMaster such as synthetic flites and gearing that make the added torque much easier on your wrists when drilling repeatedly or in rough ice.
Rods—A buddy of mine always says the rod doesn’t catch the fish, but that isn’t necessarily true anymore. Custom ice-rod builders have forced many of the big players in rod technology such as G. Loomis into making top-shelf, technique-specific rods that are readily available at most tackle shops. The taper, weight, sensitivity and specific actions now available absolutely allow you to fish lures differently than ever before. In the relatively new G. Loomis line-up, they offer fast-action rods with a blank that is identical to open-water rods, meaning they have a hollow core. This allows for an overall lighter blank and with feel that is unheard of. This is particularly important for walleyes, perch or when larger lures are used. The smaller power rods that are more meant for panfish feature a variety of specific extra fast actions to fit almost any circumstance. These rods are made from solid carbon blanks and are sanded down to get these specific and unique actions.
I think it’s still fair to say you can’t buy your way into success with fishing because you still need to know how and when to implement these technologies, but it sure does make it a whole lot easier and provide you the opportunities to be much more consistent.
Capt. Ross Robertson