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                Adding to the Ice Revolution, Part 2

                                    by Mark Strand

Dave_hold_gill

                                                     Focus on Styles of Fishing

 

When it comes to modern ice fishing, there is a direct connection between tools and techniques. The tools make the techniques possible. And yet, when it comes to talking about the tools, we often lose the direct connection to the techniques.

That all ends here. When you talk ice fishing tools with Dave Genz, the discussion always starts and ends with what the tools get used for. Approach it this way and your equipment selection is simplified. This time, we focus on styles of fishing. When you know what kind of angler you are, you can do a better job of gathering up the right tools.

"So, rather than just talking about new products and their features," begins Genz, "let's talk about how you're going to use whatever you use."

He begins thinking out loud, talking about how some ice anglers - himself included - head onto the ice with a game plan that includes remaining mobile. That is, the primary strategy is to drill lots of holes and fish them quickly, looking for active biters. Other anglers - and it can be a function of the type of ice shelter they use - tend to drill fewer holes, and focus mainly on catching whatever fish are under them. As time passes, it's often the same fish (that have already seen your initial offering) that you're trying to catch.

"It's those two different styles of fishing," says Genz, "and both are effective. Which one do you want to be? If you're fishing out of a hub-style house or a wheeled fish house or a permanent shack, you aren't going to move as much. Maybe not at all. So you need lots of rods, all rigged with something different, to try to catch the fish that are camped under your house."

He talks about top competitors in ice tournaments, and how they want to be mobile and move to many holes, looking for biters, but the crowd on the spots makes it hard to fish that way. "Tournament guys are faced with that a lot," he says. "There are people on all the spots, so you're forced to make those fish bite that are in your area."

He talks about pressured fish and how they tend to be harder to tempt. He brings up Jim Martin, a Michigan fisherman known for his ability to catch fish in crowds during tournament hours. "Jim Martin is the master at having lots of rods rigged up ahead of time," says Dave. "He puts a lot of effort into tying up all these rods the night before. His plan is to get those fish to bite by dropping a different bait down there. Something new."

The point is clear: if your mobility is limited, either by choice or circumstance, it becomes more important to try to coax a few reluctant fish into biting. It's more likely that you are going to be sitting over fish that are slow to react. Active biters get caught quickly, then you settle in to a period of working over tough customers.

In this scenario, it's more likely that the bites are going to be soft and hard to detect. The fish tend to ease up to your bait and perhaps half-heartedly suck at them, maybe just getting the bait to touch the outside of their lips. There is a theory in fishing that you "get what you ask for" from the fish, meaning that if you fish slow and subtle, you get timid bites. If you fish more aggressively, you tend to trigger more aggressive bites. But even that aside, in many cases when you're camped on a spot, Genz says, the bites become harder to detect.

This is one of the reasons that spring bobbers are effective tools for a lot of people. "But you have to realize," says Genz, "that putting a spring bobber on your rod limits what you can do with the presentation." We've talked about this before, but a spring bobber generally 'smooths out' the presentation, making it more of a swimming thing rather than a rapidly-vibrating thing as with the Genz Pound.

The good news is that, if you like to fish with spring bobbers and they match your style well, that your rods are going to cost less. You don't need a great rod with a spring bobber. The rod can't be a mushy train wreck, but any reasonable rod will do when paired with a spring. So it makes it more affordable to gather up an arsenal of rods, allowing you to do the Jim Martin thing and hit the ice with lots of rods, pre-rigged with different style and color baits.

Sight Fishing

Next stop: sight fishing. Dave goes into his thoughts on gear and outlook when you can see the fish. "And remember, these days we can sight-fish at any depth," he says, "because you can use an underwater camera and see deep fish, too, as long as the water is clear enough."

After watching countless others sight-fish, and doing plenty of it himself, Genz came to the following conclusion: when you can see the fish, you tend to slow down, or stop, your presentation as the fish gets closer. "It's like you want to make it easy for the fish to catch your bait," theorizes Dave. "So you slow everything down or stop. That's when your line starts untwisting, so the bait starts spinning. Most fish lose interest when the bait is spinning."

This has been a long-standing issue. Some sight fishermen have learned to grab the line to keep it from spinning. But now you have a hook-setting problem, because your line is in one hand, and there is probably slack line between your hand and the rod. The fish sucks in the bait, you deal with the mess, and the fish has long since spit it back out before you get the hook set.

The best answer to the whole spinning bait thing has been the introduction of 'fly reels for ice fishing,' so the line peels straight off without twisting. Genz was instrumental in designing the Ice Spooler series for Clam, which features a longer 'reel stem' so the reel doesn't sit tight to the rod, as a true fly reel would. This lets you get your hand in there and hold it like a traditional reel.

You can use a rod with a spring bobber on it for sight fishing, but the spring bobber is not useful for detecting bites when you can already see the fish, and the spring limits your presentation options. So perhaps the ultimate sight rod is one that allows you to either 'pound it' or swim it smoothly, and minimizes line twist so the bait won't spin around as you slow down or stop the presentation.

Mobile Attack

Genz's favorite style of ice fishing, the style he built the modern ice revolution around, is sometimes called run and gun. This is where you attack the lake, drilling holes on many promising spots, fishing quickly, looking for active biters, moving on. You keep moving, in most cases, even when you catch fish, because the theory is that there are only so many active biters in an area at any given point in time.

As soon as the action slows, you're on the move, drilling more holes.

Fishing this style was the inspiration for what became the original 'blue suit' by Clam, which has evolved into a series of ice fishing-specific suits that block the wind, let you kneel down on the ice, and just generally keep your comfortable while fishing 'outside' in the elements. It has become part of ice fishing lingo to say that you're wearing your portable shelter, using tools like Fish Traps primarily to block the wind better, to see better for sight fishing, and to get warm before going out on the next attack.

The theory behind this fishing style has been proven so many times that it's no longer a theory. On most days, this approach produces the most fish, and the biggest fish. It places a premium on the first drop down a new hole, a time when the most aggressive fish is likely to rise up out of the pack and beat the others to your bait. These are often the biggest fish in the area.

"Our style of fishing," says Dave, "is we use the same jig and fish it in a lot of holes."

It's not that he never changes baits. In fact, he brings about four pre-rigged rods with baits he thinks should produce. But it's common for him to keep dropping the same jig down many holes. His classic presentation style is called the Genz Pound. To execute it, you need a high quality rod that lets you remain in control of many rapid, tiny vibration-like movements you impart to the bait, and distinctly feel each cycle. What you are feeling is the 'bottom of each bounce,' and you train your hands and brain to notice when the cycle of boomp-boomp-boomp gets interrupted. That usually means a fish has sucked it in, and it's already past time to set the hook!

It's difficult or impossible to fish this style without a top-quality rod. This is the style we talked about last time, that has Genz so excited about the new Legacy rods. "They're the most affordable rods ever," he says, "that let you fish this way."

That's it for today. There's always a reason for the gear selections, if you think about the style of fishing you plan to do. Hopefully, this will help you gather up the right stuff before you head out onto the ice.

Note: Dave Genz, known as Mr. Ice Fishing, was the primary driver of the modern ice fishing revolution. He has been enshrined in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport. For more fishing tips and to order his new info-packed book, Ice Revolution, go to www.davegenz.com

 

 

Adding to the Ice Revolution, Part 1

by Mark Strand

 

Genz_monster_crappie[1]

 

The modern ice fishing revolution is about mindset and tools. About approaching ice fishing as real fishing, rather than focusing on its limitations.

We all know the limitations. Mainly, you can't cast or troll, in the traditional sense. You have to drill a hole through the ice for every "cast" you make, as Dave Genz says. But if you follow the history of the ice revolution, you also know Genz has been highlighting the advantages ice anglers have - especially the ability to settle over a spot, tightly control your presentation, and closely observe the reaction fish have to that presentation.

Done right, you can experiment with the most crucial moment in fishing better through the ice than over open water - that make or break time when fish are closely inspecting your bait, and the decision is made to suck it in or move on.

When you marry mobility and specialized gear with the right mindset, says Genz, "you're definitely a fisherman in the winter."

In addition to mindset, the revolution has always been about gear. These two things are so interconnected that you can't have one without the other. A mobile mindset, in other words, does no good if you don't have an auger that can easily drill lots of holes. Makes sense, right? Likewise, the intention to experiment with presentation cannot be carried out unless you also have a good rod that can make that bait dance in various ways.

So What's New?

This is the big question every year, as Genz makes his annual tour of the Ice Belt, talking to anglers at sports shows, in tackle shops, and out on the ice. "It's the first question everybody asks," says Genz. "So what's new this year?"

The difference in the way Dave handles the question is this: he focuses on whether a new piece of gear will actually come with him on the ice. You might know his mantra: bring everything you need, but nothing else. As time goes on, his pursuit of mobility has not slowed one bit. And his drive to keep overall weight down has actually intensified.

So when Dave volunteers a product review, it comes from one place: whether that piece of gear comes with him on every mission, or plays an important role in certain situations. You don't get a long list of features and benefits that sounds like a press release. You get the Reader's Digest version, from the king of common sense.

This is what you're likely to hear from Genz this winter, if you ask him what's new…

"The handle for the electric drill," he begins, and we're off and running. He's talking about the new Ice Auger Conversion Kit from Clam. For more than 30 years, Genz has been a fan of electric augers and the promise they hold.

"Now we have something that turns your 18-volt portable drill into a real auger," Dave continues. "I've been experimenting with different setups for the last five years, cutting lots of holes with my drill, using adapters that connect directly to the auger bit. And I've twisted my wrist more than once, where it takes half the summer before it quits hurting."

Your portable drill fits into the conversion kit and you wind up with familiar auger handles and a lever to press on to start the drill. "There's an industrial ball bearing that absorbs the load," explains Genz, "so your drill is only used to spin the auger, not to support the auger torque. That extends the life of the battery and the drill itself."

The bearing system is a huge key, he says. "It turns it into a real auger," he stresses. "You get the speed (rivaling gas augers) now, using a lightweight drill."

Bring two fully-charged batteries, and an inverter so you can recharge batteries off your vehicle, ATV or snowmobile. "If you're set up like that," Genz says, "there is no limit to the number of holes you can drill."

Using portable drills as ice augers has become popular in fringe areas of the Ice Belt, where the ice rarely gets very thick. But now, for the first time, Genz is ready to say that they are legitimate tools in all but the most extreme conditions. They are lightweight and 'stashable' inside the sled of a Fish Trap. "Electric (augers) is the future," he says, "but they're here now, too." His prediction: battery technology, driven by the needs of on-the-go smartphone, tablet and laptop computer users, will continue to improve, benefitting applications like this.

The Conversion Kit is actually three separately-available components: the handle section, a standard-length auger, and an extension for thicker ice.

So what else is new?

Rod technology continues to advance. Lighter-weight guides and sophisticated blanks built to simulate performance of a much longer rod are resulting in tools Genz is excited to use. He has a, well, uh-hum, well-deserved reputation for being starkly honest about whether a given rod will allow you to fish with the famous 'pounding' presentation. That, and whether they help you feel the distinct bounce of your bait at the bottom of each pounding cycle - the secret to feeling bites. (When the bounce goes away, when the weight of the bait either disappears or becomes 'different' that usually means a fish has it.)

Learning the 'Genz Pound' has long been one of the cornerstones of his fishing system. This style, based on letting fish see (and feel!) a certain cadence (another one of Genz's favorite words), brings bites when other approaches go unbit. It takes a quality rod to do this. It has to be both stiff and resilient. This is the secret sauce. It has to both flex with, and rebound from, extremely fast, almost vibrating, presentations. All while helping you feel what your bait is doing, on every little bounce.

If you learn anything new about ice rods this year, let this be it.

The right rod has to transmit the feel, so you come to know that feel, so you come to know when the feel goes away, or changes just enough. A mushy rod - or even a rod that sports the right characteristics but is either too stiff or too soft to match up well with the weight of a given bait - doesn't allow you to fish this way.

Again, it's a matter of having the right gear to execute an incredibly effective fishing style.

Until this year, there has been a detectable performance gap between the best widely-available rods and the best custom rods. Genz is more than excited about the new Legacy Series rods by Clam, saying that they are as good as any he's ever fished with.

"Just pick one up," Dave says, "and you can tell right away. The guides are very light, they have all the attributes of a custom rod, and they come with a good reel that has a smooth drag."

We'll have more to say this winter about distinct styles of presentation and how the qualities of the right rod vary with each. From a rod performance standpoint, the pounding style, with the premium placed on responsiveness and feel, is the most demanding. The right rod for pounding can also be used for other styles, such as a smoother swimming presentation. But you cannot take a softer rod, or a rod equipped with a spring bobber, and make it work well for pounding.

What else?

Feel is enhanced, especially when using lighter baits, by using tungsten jigs. Tungsten is about 30 percent heavier than lead, apples to apples, so the feel advantage is there for the taking, as long as the jig design maximizes it. Genz helped with the new Tungsten Drop series jigs.

When a jig is "heavy for its size," it makes Genz smile. Forever, he has preached efficiency in ice fishing, "and a huge part of that is seeing how fast you can get up and down in deeper water," he says. "Every new hole, every drop, is like a cast. If I can make a lot of casts out there on the ice, it's going to help me find fish faster, and catch more."

The tools and techniques are impossible to separate, and the process of evolution and refinement continues. More on this next time.

Note: Dave Genz, known as Mr. Ice Fishing, was the primary driver of the modern ice fishing revolution. He has been enshrined in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport. For more fishing tips and to order his info-packed new book, Ice Revolution, go to www.davegenz.com

 

    By: Mark Strand


      The dark blue four-wheel-drive van pulling the Bearcat snowmobile, with an auger rack across the front and Fish Trap nestled on the rear rack, knifes through Chicago traffic, headed east. Dave Genz is at the wheel, on his way for a three-week jaunt through many eastern states. All the way to Maine, as he has done every year for many years. "It still amazes me how summer fishermen will travel to fish," says Genz, glancing at the rear view mirror, "but winter fishermen don't do it as much. There's so much good fishing to be had, even in your local area, if you go find it." Maybe, Genz wonders, ice anglers just don't think of 'their' equipment as being as portable as a boat on a trailer. He glances back at the trailer holding the sled, rigged for ice fishing. "It can't be any more portable," he says. "I can be on and off the trailer just as fast as I am with my boat in the summertime. And I don't even have to have a ramp. I can unload on the side of the road, in a parking lot, even out on the ice." Literally, from the time fishable ice forms in northern Minnesota, until the last of it melts in April, Dave is on the ice someplace almost every day. Chances are, you don't have quite that much time to spend ice fishing, but you can rig up and find local, regional, and far-flung adventures, too.
Shelves in the Truck
Regardless whether you have a pickup, van, or other potential cargo hauler, you can build homemade shelves that will help you pack portable shelters, augers, depthfinders, and other ice fishing stuff. In his van, Genz uses a shelf system to stack rigs above and below a main shelf. "I can actually get four Fish Traps and all the gear back there," he says, tipping his head toward the rear of the van. " You won't find such shelf systems for sale at truck accessory shops, but with the spirit of ice fishing ingenuity, you can create sturdy shelves that are removable on non-fishing days. Or, if you fish normally by yourself or with one other person, you might not even need a shelf system.
Double-duty Trailer
Genz refers to his snowmobile as "the engine for my bass boat on ice," meaning it is used to haul additional gear and people. When he gets to the lake, the snowmobile backs off the trailer, the trailer is unhitched from the truck, then hitched to the back of the snowmobile. (Many people use ATVs as an engine for ice fishing, and they work really well until snow depth limits their effectiveness. Track systems are available for ATVs, which are expensive but turn an ATV essentially into a snowmobile.) Because typical snowmobile trailers feature a lot of aluminum construction, they're lightweight and easy to move into position by hand. A huge key is to place special skis under the trailer tires, so it will glide nicely across the ice and snow. Genz had his latest pair made, but you can find a few commercially produced with creative Googling. The auger rack is important, so that piece of gear is securely nestled while you're traveling across the ice. Dave had his custom made, but notes that Strikemaster sells a rack that bolts to either a snowmobile or ATV.
Mobile Fishing Unit
Once the trailer is hitched to the machine, you can load it up with additional Fish Traps, perhaps another auger, and people can pile on. "This should go without saying," mentions Dave, "but drive safely, so you don't lose your people off the trailer." Ice and snow, especially on cold days, can produce a relatively unforgiving ride. "When we get out on the ice," continues Genz, "we can do things you only wish you could do in the summertime. We spread out and go searching for the fish. We work in teams, drilling holes, checking them with a Vexilar flasher or underwater camera, dropping down and fishing as we go. Because our clothing (Ice Armor suits) have padded knees and lots of pockets, we can have everything we need to fish outside or in the fish house. "I have small jig boxes (which he helped design for Clam) in my pants and coat pockets, and we just kneel on the ice to fish from hole to hole." When they get over a good pod of biters, or just need to warm up for a while, the Fish Traps come out and heaters come on. The sled, or base, of the Trap holds more rods, heater, additional lures, a bucket for fish, and more. Just what you need, nothing more, to keep weight to a minimum and make mobility easy. From afar, Genz and his friends look like hunting dogs, driving hard at first, taking on vast sections of ice, then narrowing the search when positive signs are found, eventually huddling together right where the fish are. This process repeats itself every day, often on new bodies of water, often on waters they've never seen before. "When you're set up like this," says Genz, waving his right hand toward the back of the van, "you can go with four guys on a nice trip, and gas is back to a dollar a gallon. When you get good at packing up your stuff, you can hit more than one lake in a day, no problem. It's all a matter of getting rigged up for traveling."

Notes:
To watch a video where Dave shows how his gear is set up for traveling, go to www.davegenz.com. Dave Genz, known as Mr. Ice Fishing, was the primary driver of the modern ice fishing revolution. He has been enshrined in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport.
It was cold, but it was also cloudy, so on this day, Dave Genz chose to target shallow-water bluegills. An excellent decision, as you can see. Had it been a high-sky, high-pressure day, Genz might have elected to go after deeper-water jumbo perch instead.

Read More

Small Ball Ice Fishing
 
By Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson
 

Modern ice fishing methods have increased our enjoyment of the sport with advanced electronics, underwater cameras, and space age shelters/clothes which keep you warm. New tackle is also keeping anglers on the cutting edge. Rattles, high intensity glow colors and innovative shapes are catching more fish than ever before.  But as intense angling pressure is affecting many of our lakes, the fish are slowly adapting to more subtle presentations. That's where 'small ball' fishing is taking shape. Small Ball fishing is downsizing your jigs, hooks, and bait. If the loud, flashy, and vigorous action is not working, then start going small.

In order to take advantage of this trend in smaller lures, Lindy has recently introduced some awesome new micro-sized, mini mites for the ice. All of these new jigs sport super small #12 and #14 sized hooks. The Lindy Toad, Bug, and micro Slick Jig are all sized right to entice small nibbles from all species of fish.
Location
First of all, your location is critical when fishing on the ice. Bottom structure that holds baitfish is best for walleyes and perch. Focus on drop-offs near points, on humps or channel edges.  Crappies often suspend over the deepest water in small lakes. In larger lakes, they can be found suspended over the deepest areas of bays. Search funnel areas created where the tips of two points come close to each other or where a sunken island is located just off a point. Try fishing on the edges of old weedlines left over from the summer.
Good electronics are critical. Use a Humminbird ICE 55 to find the fish. Look for smaller clouds which could be forage fish, then adjust your location in the school until you see larger, individual marks that could be gamefish. Underwater cameras are also useful in determining the species of fish and how they react to your jigging action.
Rigging for jigging
Some of the new, high tech rods for ice fishing today are built specifically for jigging small, but 'heavy' jigs.  That means a tiny hook, but heavier body.  The St. Croix Legend ice rod, LIRML, is made with plenty of backbone and a fast tip.  This rod is perfect for Small Ball jigging.  Too often, ice anglers resort to wimpy sticks.  Choose a rod that balances with the size of jig and the weight of line you plan to use.  The jig should be heavy enough to keep kinks from the line, and you should feel the jig bounce through the rod when everything is right.
Try jigging with a hand-held rod and choose the right-sized Thill float for your "dead" rod.  There are a wide variety of Mini-Shy Bites or Mini-Stealth floats that can be perfectly paired with almost any size jig.
Use jigs with #10 to #14 sized hooks for eurolarvae, also known as "spikes." The larger, 1/8 and ¼ oz. Slick Jigs are perfect for minnows.  Keep your bait fresh.
Set the depth of the floats so your jig sits just above the marks on the screen or the flasher.  If multiple rods are allowed, try setting one real high in the water column just below the ice.  There are times when all species of fish will suspend 2 to 3 feet beneath the hole.  Any fish that close won't show up on your electronics very easily.
With your hand-held rod, lower your jig into the hole just below the water.  Jig it and watch how it behaves.  If your jig is spinning, adjust it until it stops by moving your knot on the jig or re-hooking your bait.  When ready, lower the bait into the water and start fishing it SLOWLY down into the "fish zone" using a jigging motion called "pounding".  This makes the jig appear more alive than just lowering it down fast. If the jig stops moving, set the hook. If you don't get a bite, try tempering your jigging motion to a slight quiver.
Here's another tip.  Watch your electronics closely.  If most of the crappies are concentrated at one depth and you see a fish come into the sonar's cone at another depth, raise or lower your jig quickly to intercept it.  Most likely it's a bigger crappie than those in the main school. 
Try some Small Ball ice fishing this winter with some of the new micro jigs from Lindy.  You'll be hooked on going small!
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