Ice Fishing the Fronts: When to go BIG

While everything is still fresh in my mind, let’s get this out there.  Just got back Monday night from fishing a NAIFC ice tournament on Lake St. Helen here in Michigan.  We weight in 8 crappie and eight bluegill, and for what seems like at least five years or so, we actually had two straight days of solid weather.


What does this mean for an angler trying to get a heavy bucket to the scale,  it means you can fish a bigger jig than you normally would put down the hole.  A little background information, the crappies tend to run much bigger than bluegill, and they tend to bite better in the morning than when the clock starts ticking towards noon.  Because of these two main reasons, they normally get targeted first by anglers fishing the tourneys.


Normally, in the tourneys  the size of the jigs tend to run smaller than most people use.  A 2 or 2.5 mm jig, with a 18 or 16 hook, would be the norm, with the occasional 3 mm/#14 jig being used.  When you have a few days in a row with stable weather fronts holding over a lake, you can fudge the numbers a bit to the bigger sizes.


Since we were fishing in 10 foot or less of water depths on Lake St. Helen. I chose to start my morning crappie hunt off with a 4 mm/#12 tungsten jig.  I started off with a silver jig, rigged with plastic.  Silver and plastic combinations tend to be good crappie presentations, but after getting rejected once, I grabbed another rod with a blue 4 mm jig, and hooked on three spikes (a fancy word for maggots) and dropped it down the hole.  My partner and I were fishing a good weedbed,  and I started off pounding the presentation two foot above the vegetation.

As they say, game on!  My first two holes produced 10 inch crappie.  After hole hopping a bit, I had four more in the bucket.  Then around 10 am, I went back to my original hole and got my biggest one of the day,  right at 11 inches in length.  Not a huge one, but for the bite on St. Helen, it was a good fish.

At this point it was time to move and try to get on some gills to finish off our bucket for the weigh-in.  Unfortunately for my partner and I, this is where the train came off the tracks.  We never caught any of the fish that we had found during our days spent pre-fishing.  For the record though, I dropped down to a smaller 2.5 mm jig and livebait presentation.  The thought process was simple, the gills we found were more finicky than the crappie.  Plus, by the time we wrapped up our crappie, most of the weedbeds that held fish had been driven across, and pounded by other anglers.  It was time to coax them into biting by going into finesse mode.

Point of the article is this, when weather patterns hold steady for a few days, the fish will adjust.  Won’t say that they get comfortable, but through years of observation, they do tend to get more aggressive for that initial morning bite.  If you are a panfish ice angler, in these conditions, do not be afraid to go a bit bigger out of your comfort zone.  Also, since we were fishing in somewhat shallow water, that is the reason I went with the 4 mm presentation.  Under these same weather conditions, and I had been fishing in deeper water for crappie, I would drop a 5 mm/#10 jig through the holes in a heartbeat.


Copyright, 2017


Posted in Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Panfish Fishing, Perch Fishing, Tournament News | Leave a comment

St. Croix Rods 2017 Winter Sale

Buy a Rod, Get a Free Shirt

Buy a Rod, Get a Free Shirt

Latest promotion for the spring of 2017;  Buy a rod, and get a free tee…and worry less!


Big discounts on ice fishing and headwear gear over on the St. Croix Rods website.


Avid Glass Ice Rods



Avid Jigging Rods :  My favorite walleye rods!


Legend Silver Ice Rods:


Mojo Ice Rods:

Super Finesse Spring Bobber Variety Pack: Four pack to cover all your bases!

Super Finesse Springs:  You pick the ones you need!

Head Gear:  Hats, Sun Masks and Beanies

Search the website for other great products and sales from St. Croix Rods…the best rods on earth!


Copyright, 2017





Posted in Fishing Websites/Stores | Leave a comment

Clam’s Hitch Receiver Kit Install….

…..on my new Kenai Pro Thermal Stealth shanty!

My original thought was sound in my mind, at least in my mind 🙂  There are times when having a hitch on the back of your shanty could possibly come in handy.  First off, you and a buddy head out on one machine, snowmobile or quad.  Second thing that comes to mind is that you have a machine break down on you, and you have to double up in order to get on the ice.  Either way, having a way to hook up a second shanty or even a sled can come in handy.  Enter the Hitch Receiver Kit from Clam Outdoors.

Clam Outdoors

Clam Outdoors


The kit comes the front plate, which has the lynch pin hardwired for both security and convenience.   A solid back plate for locking it into the inside wall of your shanty or sled, which also gives the whole kit more structural support.  And of course, the brass mounting hardware; bolts, washers and locking nuts.  This receiver can be used with either of the two models of hitches available from Clam Outdoors;  the Pro Hitch or Universal Hitch.

Kenai Pro Thermal Stealth

Kenai Pro Thermal Stealth


I believe that the KPTS (Kenai Pro Thermal Stealth)  will emerge, if not this year, after next season, as Clam’s best selling one-man shanty.  First reason, its easy to fish out of with the poles not needing to be extended, just flip and fish.  Secondly it’s a thermal, but its new fused tech means its a totally blacked out shack.  This is HUGE for using a sight fishing approach to catching more fish.  For the average angler, this means you keep warm, and you can see everything below, and still be able to fish traditionally with your Vexilar.  For the tournament angler, naturally you get your sight fishing angle, but when its BRUTAL out there, it gives you a hut in the storm and they can keep on fishing without going numb.  The third thing, and fourth and possibly the fifth, you will need to wait until after the total build is complete, because I am digressing and getting away from talking about the hitch receiver kit.  I will explain everything before the end of the week when the build is complete.


Here was the only concern I had when it came to mounting the receiver kit to the base or sled section of the shanty.  Notice the ribs in the back area of the base?  I did too, right away in fact.  The ribs give the shanty structural strength, or to put it bluntly, they stiffen the sled walls.  An engineering good thing, but they left me with two options, one bad, and the other brilliant if I must say myself, for installing the back plate.  The solid back support plate stuck out too far to used the bolts that came with the kit,  and all the stress would be put on that one rib.  If I  were to use those bolts, it would require me cutting the back plate into two sections to fit in between the ribs.  It was doable, I had the right tool to cut through the metal like butter, but then I would have lost some of its supporting strength.


My solution,  was to make some spacers out of wood.  Luckily, I had a scrap 1 x 2 piece out in the shop, and I used the back plate for a stencil for marking my holes, and after a little trimming on the ban saw, they fit perfectly.  The only bad thing is that I had to use longer carriage bolts that I had instead of the bolts provided in the kit.  The good thing, they were the perfect fit for the washers and nylon locking nuts provided in the kit.  If you were doing this at home, just take the nuts into a local hardware to match up with the longer bolts you will need.


As I mentioned, it was a perfect fit.  The back plate was flush with the wood and the single rib in the middle.  Which means, when regarding structural integrity of the original hitch and matching up to the base…nothing lost.  Everything works as it was originally meant to, and it just required four extra bolts, a drill press and a ban saw to make it work perfectly.  Of course if you don’t have a drill press, any electric drill with the right bit will work for making holes in the wood.  As far as the ban saw, it was just the right tool for the job, but you can easily accomplish the same result with a hand saw.


Now this project is just meant for any of the Kenai Pro models and FT Sleds available from Clam Outdoors.  If I were mounting this kit to my Voyager or Yukon big water shacks, there wouldn’t be a need to customize the process.  Once completed I can get the Lake Erie Express back out on the ice and train as many shacks and sleds as I wanted too.


All over the Ice Belt, anglers are out there with their Fish Traps and they are putting their own hallmark on their shanties with a modification here and a there to make them better suited to their style of fishing.  Installing the Hitch Receiver Kit from Clam  to the Kenai Pro’s is no different, ice anglers are the best when it comes to fabricating to make their whole ice fishing experience better.  That said,  use your own locomotive, and build your own train set to run the ice!

Copyright, 2017



Posted in Do-It-Yourself, Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Lake Erie, Panfish Fishing, Perch Fishing, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Tournament News, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Rapala’s DT Series for Spring Walleye? Lake Erie?

With the 2017 ice fishing season in flux, I have been thinking towards the walleye jigging season out on Lake Erie.  Last night I broke out the composition book that I write new ideas in for the lake.  Will it work, only time will tell.


One of my bright ideas involved casting cranks, which made me think of my friend from the burbs of Chicago.  Since both our first names start with the letter “C”, she is SC and I am NC.  She and I are both on staff with St. Croix Rods, and every couple of months or so we talk and bounce ideas and methods around.  Now SC fishes a lot of river systems, but there is one tactic involving a specific lure that I thought might apply to early season fishing on Lake Erie.


This lure is in the DT Series from Rapala, or the “Dives To”.  Actually there are two (perhaps three) that I think would be ideal for covering different depths in what most of us consider traditional jigging grounds on the lake.  The first is the DT-14, and the second, the DT-16.  These are deep diving lures, that as the name implies, dive down to a depth of 14 and 16 fow.  There is also a metal series that will go down to 20 feet when casted.

Between Turtle Island and the Toledo Light, where fishing depths range from 10 to 14 feet, the first two baits seem the best suited for casting for walleye.  In the dumping grounds near Luna Pier, the DT-20’s would see the best choice because depths will range from 14 to 20′.  Reel down after casting, feel it tick along, and work the bottom through schools of fish staging to run up the Maumee….what’s not to like about this concept?

Was this my only “bright” idea to try this year, not hardly.  But, that said, it may be one of the more original thoughts of things to try this year, even though technically I am borrowing it from SC, and applying it to a bigger body of water.  Loud, vibrating and getting a chance to break up the “same ol, same ol” routine…could be a winner.

Copyright, 2017

Posted in Lake Erie, Product Reviews, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Walleye/Ice Fishing Seminar with Fishing Michigan

Tonight I will be heading up to Trenton to give a seminar on catching walleye through the ice at the monthly meeting of the Downriver Walleye Federation, one of the largest groups dedicated to walleye fishing in the Midwest!  The seminar is free to the public and the meeting starts at 7pm so get there early if you plan on attending.  The meeting is located in Trenton, MI, right off West Road, and across the street from Trenton High School.

Here is a link from Google Maps if you need directions:  2700 Westfield Rd


The first 100 people through the door will receive a gift bag from the great companies I am proud to work with;  Rapala, Northland Tackle, Vexilar, Clam/Ice Team, Jiffy Augers and St. Croix Rods!

St. Croix Avid Ice Rods

St. Croix Avid Ice Rods

A lot of the gear I use will be on display for close inspection including the Avid jigging series ice rods that I use.  If you are familiar with the medium extra fast tips on the open water Avids and Legend Tournament Walleye Series rods, you will quickly see that these ice rods could have been labeled with a MXF rating, they load up that quick.  What does that mean to the average angler?  It means you could have the fastest hookset of any ice rod made today!


If you want to ice fish in style and comfort, check out and walk through my Jason Mitchell 5000 Thermal Hub from Clam.  The JM 5000 Thermal is fully insulated, and has an incredible 9 foot beam (open water term) across for handling as many holes as you want to drill.


I will be bringing the big 10 inch too.  When you are big water fishing, and fishing with big baits like a Jigging Rapala, every inch counts.  Instead of losing a big fish on an 8″ hole because your lure got stuck in the bottom of the hole, bring that big eye up with ease.  Propane fueled, the  Jiffy Pro 4 rips through the ice!

Clam Emergency Throw Rope

Clam Emergency Throw Rope

As always, safety first.  Check out the tried and true, and always carry a spud to check the ice.  That said, there are a few new items available to make sure you come home dry!


Although the focus will be on walleye fishing through the ice, after the seminar is over, feel free to ask any questions you might have about putting more gills, crappie and perch in your bucket!

Copyright, 2017

Posted in Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Lake Erie, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

When it Comes to Ice Fishing, Seeing is Believing

The art of ice fishing made incredibly simple,  you see the fish, see the fish take the bait,  you catch the fish! Wham bam, easy peasy…when it comes to catching panfish through the ice, there is nothing better than seeing it for yourself.  In Michigan there are many lakes that are crystal clear once the ice covers them, and at first ice the dark coops start to dot the lakes!


When I first started peeking through holes in the ice, I used my Fish Trap Pro and then a few years ago I finally upgraded to a Kenai Pro.  It was moving up to a high rise as far as the seat arrangement went.  The Kenai gives you a more comfortable view down the hole, which after a few hours your back and neck will begin to greatly appreciate the elevated view.


Speaking of holes, although when of thinking of fishing for crappie and gills through the ice, your first thought might be of using a six inch auger, it would not be my first choice.  I run a 10 inch on Lake Erie for the big walleye, on the inland lakes for run and gun fishing off the bucket, I switch over to a six inch, but when it comes to sight fishing, the 8 inch rules the day.  Its like watching the fish on a big screen, but it also allows you to visually scan around for holes in the weeds.  Being on weeds is a good thing, sitting on top of a hole or runway through the weeds is like being on the golden brick road when it comes to sight fishing.  These are the best spots, because the bigger fish are hunkered down in the thickest sections of a bed.  After doing it for a while, you will begin to realize that the smaller fish locate up above, while the older fish will creep out to investigate your bait.

500-8One of the keys to increasing your hook up rate, is the bait you put down the hole.  Smaller is better, said only an ice angler in search of panfish worth putting on the wall.  While most situations call for something along the lines of running a #12 hook when hole hoping looking for the aggressive fish, not when peeking down a hole.  Most often you will want a #14 hook, but have a wide selection of #16’s in your jig box just in case the fish are finicky.  This can be caused by too much fishing pressure, but a front coming in can cause the fish to be tightlipped also.

maki_matdi_pink_glowAt first light, or when that clock ticks at 8 am for the beginning of a tourney, I like dropping down some plastic.  I want to maximize what the hole will have to offer, and re-baiting is not what I want to spend my time on.  The plastic must mimic something that the fish love to eat, and more often that means a wiggler, more commonly known as mayfly larvae.  There are number of plastics that will do the trick, but I have become confident in using MATDI’s from Maki baits the last couple of years.  Confidence is the key,  if you don’t trust your jig and bait combination, don’t bother dropping it down the hole.  Another key for using plastics, is to hold the fish’s attention is drop down something that glows, and I like red or a pink glow at first light.


As the day progresses though, the fish tend to switch their tastes over to something alive.  They may not want that active movement required by using plastic, and will want a more subtle approach.  That means that smaller jig comes into play, with less movement.  Just give it enough wiggle to gently move your livebait and bring those big fish out of the weeds to investigate.  Here is a little tourney secret, when the fish bite just enough of your bait to miss the hook, don’t panic!  Give your rod a little jiggle and more often than not the fish will think the livebait is trying to escape and will gobble up the rest of it!

Copyright, 2017


Posted in Ice Fishing | Leave a comment

Clam’s Spoon Box: Protect Your Spoons…

…. and some of your other jigging baits.


Clam Spoon Box

Clam Spoon Box


Not everyone has two or three hundred jigging spoons and swimbaits dedicated to fishing for walleye through the ice.  Or, perhaps you just don’t have the time to come up with something on your own.  For these thousands of people  across the ice belt, Clam Outdoors has a storage box for you at an affordable price.

Large Clam Spoon Box

Large Clam Spoon Box

The Spoon Box comes in two sizes to fit anyone’s jigging arsenal.  Maybe you want the larger version for your swimbaits to protect the fins, the box will work for that.  If you don’t have as many spoons, perhaps the small box is right for you.  Mix and match the baits in the same box, or get a couple of the large boxes and a leave a little room to grow your collection of walleye catching lures.

And, don’t forget about your perch swimbaits and spoons, works for yellow belly baits too.

Copyright, 2016



Posted in Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Lake Erie, Panfish Fishing, Perch Fishing, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

St. Croix’s Avid Ice Jigging Rods (Review)

St. Croix Avid Ice Rods

St. Croix Avid Ice Rods

A quick review of the jigging rods from St. Croix’s Avid Ice Series.  Not to be confused with the glass rods in the same series, the jigging rods are everything I want in a rod for jigging spoons and swimbaits like a Jigging Rapala for walleye.  In one word, FINALLY a rod manufacturer has introduced an ice rod with the characteristics I love in my open water rods,  in fact the extra fast tip reminds me of my Legend Tournament Walleye Series jigging rods from St. Croix,  with the MXF rating.


Original Avid Ice

There hasn’t been a rod like this since the original Avid ice rods were introduced in the mid-2000’s.  I recently saw someone talking about how they liked the moderate action of a rod for jigging,  in my head I started screaming, “WRONG” right away.  A rod that takes a while to load up serves one purpose in my book, using for live bait where you don’t want to rip the bait out of the fish’s mouth.  You want a XF tip for sticking and hooking while jigging.  The rods load up fast and will drive the hooks of your favorite bait home!


I still have a pair of 32″ Medium Avid ice rods, and a 32″ Heavy from the old production run.  When I placed my order, I wanted to cover the rest of my bases.  So for fishing in a one man shack, I got a pair of 27″ Medium rods.  The shorter length means I wont be tapping the top of the shelter’s roof.  For fishing in a two man shanty or fishing outdoors, since I had the two 32″ M rods already, I went big with a pair of 36″ MH.  The last two rods will be great for fishing for walleye on Lake Erie, the Saginaw Bay and River systems.

Copyright, 2016

Posted in Fishing Websites/Stores, Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Lake Erie, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Cabela’s Ice Fishing Classic….

….come see me at Cabela’s all weekend, the ice fishing season will soon be upon us, and the sales kick into gear NOW.


The big sales at Cabela’s started yesterday and run through the 18th of December, and both Saturday and Sunday I will be giving two seminars each day.  First, at 1 pm, I will discuss an “Intro to Ice Fishing”.  This will be geared for those just starting out, and the novice who just might have a year or two of experience under their belts.

The second seminar starts at 2 pm and will be all about “Ice Fishing Electronics”.  Topics will be GPS, flashers and cameras.  The game plan will be to have the seminars upstairs in the conference room behind the cookware, to the left of the deli.  Each seminar will be 30 to 40 minutes in length, do a Q & A and then go downstairs to help folks pick up the essentials down in the ice section of the fishing department.

I cruised through the ice fishing circular and picked out some good deals.


First off, the Cabela’s exclusive Ice Team version of the Yukon X.  Same shack, EXCEPT you get included in the sale’s price, a travel cover ($60 value), light stick ($40 value) and battery bracket ($10 value) for your Vexilar style 12 volt battery for the lights.  I have the Yukon X, and this is a great deal with all the extra’s included and it holds in the heat.  It’s a big deal when cruising the big water in search of walleye!


Love my Vexilar units, what can I say, they have best customer rating in the ice fishing electronics market.  They also have the venerable FL-18 on sale for $399.99.  Loved my FL-8’s, they took me to my first two national championship tournaments, but I suggest the -18 for those starting out, the 6 foot bottom zoom is a must when it comes to panfish to walleye!


Can’t fish though the ice without drilling some holes, and I have been running Jiffy’s 4-stroke, propane augers for five years now.  No more mixing gas, no more worrying about ethanol gumming up the carburetor purrs until she punches out the bottom of the hole.  And they have a deal, buy a Jiffy, and get a Powerhead cover, ice skimmer, minnow scoop, handwarmer with a mail in rebate.  Love my powerhead cover, leave it on throughout the off-season and when roaming the ice too!


I have been fishing for walleye out of Monroe for over 40 yrs., during all the seasons.  When it comes to the winter season, my best, and first lure to get dropped down the hole is a Jigging Rap.


They are sale for 20 % off, that’s like a $1.20 at least off these great walleye baits.  My favorite way is to tip the belly hook with a minnow head.  Little secret, if your minnows are running on the small size, tip all three hooks, big water walleye can’t resist the presentation!


I joined the Ice Team back in 2001 when I was first fishing the Trap Attack tournament series.  That means we were fishing for gills and crappie with tungsten jigs while the backwater guides were still using over sized lead jigs with limited success.  People took notice and today more ice anglers fish tungsten over lead.  All the Clam tackle is 20% off, and not just the tungsten panfish jigs, but spoons and Maki plastics, as well. In fact all the Clam accessories are 20% off!  Tackle storage, ice picks and shelter add-ons!

Not sure what to get, buying Christmas gifts, clothing or going after something species specific? Will be available in the ice section of the fishing dept. on both days, Saturday and Sunday.  Want to learn even more, come attend one of the seminars either day, ask questions and talk ice fishing.

Copyright, 2016



Posted in Ice Fishing | Leave a comment

Make Your Walleye Presentations LOUDER on the Ice

I wasn’t really sure what I was going to write about today, but then again,  I never know some of the time where the inspiration will come from.  I started cruising Facebook and then I found it, my friend Mark Sak and fellow Jiffy auger staff member, posted an AC/DC video featuring lead vocalist Bon Scott.  It really is a long way to the top if you want “Rock and Rattle” walleye through the ice.


The nice thing about the information age is that you don’t have to get all the way to the top to be a better angler, but you do need to dissect the information you gather and see if it applies to your style or even geographic location.  If you are an ice fishing walleye angler, and you fish the Great Lakes, or a large inland lake, these ideas might work for you too.  All that said, bring the noise this year when you hit the ice!

Rattling Rapala's

Rattlin’ Rapala’s

The venerable Rattlin’ Rapala isn’t considered an ice fishing bait, in fact they weren’t really thought of as a jigging bait at all.  Cast and retrieve in open water was the initial intent when these lipless baits were introduced.  That is the great thing about ice fishing, if you think outside the box occasionally, you will discover new applications and find out they work really well through the ice.  These baits are LOUD, and even though they lose some of their vibration when tipped with a minnow head, there is more than enough noise to call walleye in from a distance.

Rippin' Shad

Rippin’ Shad

It’s BACK!  Earlier this year Northland Tackle reintroduced the Rippin’ Shad.  Gone are the Live Forage patterns, now the baits feature vibrant glow and metallic patterns that walleye anglers on the Great Lakes are used to seeing on their open water baits.  They have “rippin” in the name because that is what the baits are designed for, to be fished vertically and ripped up the water column creating both vibration and noise from the internal rattle chamber.  Like the Rapala’s, I do tip the belly treble hook with a minnow head, but I feel that any loss in sound is worth the extra scent and flash that is gained.


Until about three years ago, I would have labeled myself a spoon guy when it came to icing eyes on the big water.  Then the Jigging Rapala’s in the arsenal were rediscovered and it was like the spoons were the forgotten red-headed stepchild in the shanty.  No longer folks, today’s rattle spoons from Clam have renewed my faith in spoons because they make so much noise, it is hard to ignore them anymore.

Clam Rattling Blade Spoon

Clam Rattling Blade Spoon


Jason Mitchell Rattling Blade Spoon

Jason Mitchell Rattling Blade Spoon

With a Pyrex chamber, the stainless steel BB’s make noise when either ripped up or jiggled at the bottom of the drop when twitched.   These spoons have rejuvenated my faith, so when I bring the noise, one rod will have a Rattlin’ Blade Spoon, and the other will be rigged with one of the louder lipless baits.  Minnow heads will not effect the noise of the spoon, and that scent and flash of the meat on the hook definitely makes a difference.


Since the noise that the spoons produce is a bit more subtle compared to the jigged body baits, I prefer to fish the baits a little closer to the bottom of the lake.  I let the Raps and Shads call the fish in, with the concept being that they will take the more aggressive fish about a foot or two higher up in the water column.  For those walleye with second thoughts I find that the noise made with the spoons will keep them interested enough to take that more toned down presentation.


If you don’t have anything in your walleye ice fishing arsenal that makes some noise, remember the inspiration for the article today.  There are no dirty deeds when trying to get inside a walleye’s head, everything is fair game.  So, “LET THERE BE ROCK”,  and make some noise through the ice!

Copyright, 2016




Posted in Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Lake Erie, Product Reviews, Saginaw Bay, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment