To folks living south of the "Ice Belt," the thought of angling through a small hole in a frozen lake doesn't quite compute. You can almost hear their collective groan from a thousand miles away: Y'all are plum crazy!
But to the perpetually expanding legion of hardwater warriors, ice fishing is anything but but odd or nuts-it's the real deal. Just like other facets of fishing, the pursuit is replete with an amazing array of new lures, gear and high-tech devices. Even while growth in other segments of fishing has leveled off, ice fishing just keeps getting bigger.
Stroll the aisles at one of the upcoming perennially popular Ice Fishing & Winter Sports shows in St. Paul, Minnesota and Syracuse, New York, and it's easy to pick up on the vibe-these are super energized anglers who anticipate winter like deer hunters anxiously waiting on the fall rut.
Something else you'll notice at these events is true product innovation. Tony Roach and Tony Boshold, two of the sport's brightest stars - each who will be giving energy-juiced seminars at the respective venues - harbor compelling insights into applications for this new graduating class of ice fishing products.
"Tons of ice anglers view the St. Paul and Syracuse ice shows as the official kick-offs to the hardwater season," says Roach, a full-time guide from Central Minnesota, who will discuss his revolutionary "ice trolling" strategies during the St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show, December 3 - 5.
"Used to be that ice fishing was just something we did to make it through winter. Now, all that's changed. The gear is designed to specifically match the needs of hardcore ice fishermen, and it gets better and more specialized every year. Modern essentials like a Frabill ICESUIT, MarCum flasher and StrikeMaster Lazer Pro auger allow us to be just as effective at catching fish on the ice as we are in a boat."
Boshold, a member of the gold medal USA Ice Team, will detail his tournament-winning methods at the Syracuse Ice Fishing Show, December 10 - 12. "I love these shows because attendees are so hungry to learn," Boshold notes. "They want to hear about how I go about fishing a tournament; they want to know what lures and equipment I'm using.
And every piece of gear I use is hand-selected because it's the best performing stuff available."
Not coincidentally, most of the hottest new products introduced at this year's Ice Shows are ones designed and tested by Roach, Boshold, and renowned ice angler Brian "Bro" Brosdahl. The following is a snapshot of the sport's hottest new gear-the equipment everyone's buzzing about.
Northland Fishing Tackle recently unveiled LIVE-
FORAGE, a breakthrough series of baitfish-mimicking spoons and bladebaits that bring unparalleled realism to ice lures. Look for lifelike digitally imprinted yellow perch patterns, as well as "live" golden shiners, fathead minnows and baby sunfish. Also take a look at new BIONIC ICE LINE-a premium monofilament, designed expressly for extreme ice conditions - northlandtackle.com.
In the same vein as the iPhone and other handheld devices comes the new ShowDown Troller- the first hand-size sonar unit that fits in your pocket, while still offering all the high-end fish-finding features found in topflight ice electronics, all in an easy-to-read digital vertical LCD display. From Anchorage to Denver, this is the unit ice anglers are clamoring about - showdownfishfinder.com.
MarCum Technologies has brought HD-quality viewing to its new line of underwater cameras. The VS825SD and VS625SD feature large sunlight-viewable LCD monitors, industry-best high-resolution Sony optics, and switchable color/B&W displays. Systems also feature on-screen depth, direction, water temperature, and include a free Auto Camera Panner accessory - marcumtech.com.
Frabill has taken the shiver out of the sport, adding the techy ICESUIT to accompany its toasty-warm brother, SNOSUIT. Ergonomically designed and engineered to move with the natural motions of the ice angler, ICESUIT fits like a second skin, providing unmatched comfort, as well as protective padding, dryness and support in all the right places-elbows to knees, head to ankles. (See Frabill's complete outerwear series, including the FXE STORMSUIT that earned the ICAST award for best new fishing garment of the year, as well a compresnesive assempbly of rod-reel combos and a full line of inventive tip-up products, at frabill.com.)
Livebait is the ice angler's best friend, and StrikeMaster's new Bait Puck Plus is the slickest critter carrier to grace baitshop shelves since the Flow Troll minnow bucket. The crush-proof Bait Puck Plus not only protects and insulates your bait, it fits in your shirt pocket. While a clever moveable screen isolates baits from bedding-just give a little shake and the mesh separates the "meat" from the "potatoes," meaning you get a pinch of bait, not a clump of sawdust. Take a gander at this, plus StrikeMaster's full line of German-engineered power augers and new Strike Lite II 4-stroke auger - strikemaster.com.