Gear & Tackle to Kick Start the Ice Season
By: Alicia Thompson
Ice fishing is in full swing here in Wisconsin! I have been able to get out a handful of times, much earlier than the past few years due to cool weather conditions. Each outing has been with my boyfriend, Kurt, and our friends/family. We have had some excellent days with dozens of slab crappie, handful of jumbo perch, and many eater eyes. On the other hand, we have had a few days where the fish were extremely finicky and the success rate was extremely low. Either way, it is always enjoyable to get out on the ice!
On my social media pages, I am often asked what gear I use during the hard water season and what my favorite tackle is. This blog will share some of the gear I use and my current go-to lures.
One question I am frequently asked is, “What rods do you use for ice fishing?” This is a simple answer for me considering where I grew up. My rod brand of choice is St. Croix Rods. Growing up in the Park Falls area, my family has always used their rods, year-round. This is my first ice fishing season with my own St. Croix ice rods. In previous years, I have used my dad’s or Kurt’s ice rods. The two rods that I purchased this season include the UL Legend Black Ice rod and the Custom Croix Ice (CCI) – Perch/Eye Spoon Rod. Why these two rods? Simple. The UL (ultra-light) Legend Black with the spring indicator system allows anglers to see a bite or strike even before fish feel tension. This has allowed me to successfully set the hook almost every time a fish swipes at a jig. The fight is exciting and smooth. Tackle that works excellent with the UL power, and have been dynamite for slab crappie, are diamond-tip tungsten jigs (see tackle section at the bottom of the page) and tungsten fly jigs. The CCI – Perch/Eye Spoon rod works excellent for most of the tackle I currently own. The decision to purchase this rod was based off my tackle selection and advice that was given to me from an employee at the St. Croix Rods factory store. The employee suggested this rod due to the versatility of tackle that can be used and based off the areas that I tend to target walleye. Shop these ice rods and more at https://stcroixrods.com/collections/ice
Side note: If you’re considering purchasing a CCI rod I suggest reading Joel Nelson’s blog on which rod will work best for you. Here is the link for your convenience
The photo below is the flasher I use and was fortune enough to win during an ice fishing tournament a few years ago. This Vexilar is the FL-12 Series and works like a charm. The first flasher I ever used was an old Vexilar mode, which my dad taught me to use. Vexilar has stepped up their game since then – with three color display, high-quality graphics, tackle storage, built in interference rejection, and more! I am still learning some of the bells and whistles but am pleased with this unit. Check out the Vexilar lineup (new and refurbished) at http://vexilar.com/
Some might agree that the most common way to ice fish is with a tip-up. This is the first method I learned and is still one of my favorite ways to catch fish, especially walleye. I have used a variety of tip-up brands over the years and have always gone back to what I consider “my staple.” Pictured below is the Classic Hardwood Frabill tip-up, which is one of my favorite tip-ups to use. This specific tip-up has a smooth spool with a small handle piece for easy spool/pick up. Additionally, the wood finish holds up over the years and can take a beating. I also have found the Frabill brand tip-ups do not leak lubricant like other brands that I have tried. You can purchase Frabill tip-ups at Mills Fleet Farm, check them out for yourself! https://www.fleetfarm.com/search?Ntt=frabill+tip+ups
Now, onto portable ice shacks. Pictured below is the shack that Kurt purchased a few weeks ago. We have fished out of other pop-up shacks, which all do what they need to do – block wind and contain warmth. However, the feature that I love about the Eskimo brand shacks is the “IQ insulated fabric. According to https://www.geteskimo.com/ their IQ insulated fabric holds in heat 35% better than other brands. No matter the percentage, we have discovered that Eskimo holds heat extremely well compared to other pop-up shacks. In fact, the last time we used it, we had to turn the heater off and left the window cracked. On sunny days, these shacks hold heat extremely well and are an excellent escape from brutal conditions on those windy days.
A quick view of my go-to tackle this ice season –
Diamond-tip tungsten jigs with spikes (or) Berkley Power Bait Ice plastics
Chubby Darter – 3 cm
ACME Tackle – Hyper Rattle
Well, that is all for now. I’ll be posting additional tackle and fishing tactics as the season continues. Please drop a comment below and let me know what your favorite gear/tackle is during the hard water season. Until then, tight lines and en-JOY the outdoors!