Just when you think you might have ice fishing down to a pat, you hear and learn something new. That is the way it goes with any type of seminar an angler might attend. No matter what your skill level may be in any type of fishing situation, if you do not learn, and adapt, you will certainly find yourself catching less fish than those around you. Granted, you will have your moments to shine and will catch a fair share here and there. BUT, if you want to catch more fish on a consistent basis, it is definitely worth while to stay up on the latest methods being used. Nowhere in the fishing world has change occurred more rapidly than in the ice fishing community.
When I first started competitive ice fishing 10 yrs ago, I was like a lot of guys just starting out in Michigan today. I had my bucket and few rods, and I hauled them around in the original Jet Sled from Shappell. I had the Vexilar FL-8 slt, which I had just gotten six days before the event. They didn’t come with the introductory DVD, and I did not have enough time between work and prefishing to really read the manual and get a good idea on what I was actually seeing through the lights on the screen. Looking back it all seems like child’s play, but it does not indicate by any means that I cannot learn more about the sport, just like anyone else.
Truly, there are many ways to gather useful information. You can have some of your buds over and you can chat it up on how everyone takes their approach to the sport. Its a nice way of doing it to be sure. You can get involved in the different ice circuits now operating across the country that we call the “Ice Belt”. You can observe to see what the elite teams are doing right, but that still leaves you some guess work involved into what they are really doing. And some of these guys are pretty tricky, they could easily fool you into thinking they have something, when its really a case of misdirection and leading you away from their really good spots.
One of the best ways though to settle down in a seminar setting, listen to your speakers, and gather what information you can during the speaking portion of the presentation. Take some notes on things you can use to improve your skills, and during the Q & A time at the end pick the speaker’s brain. Not that all anglers are not helpful, but you will be hard pressed to find an ice angler who will not spill their secrets in order to move the sport forward.
When I first started tourney fishing, they called it the Ice Revolution, and our leader was the legendary Dave Genz out of Minnesota. It was Genz who first came up with the philosophy of staying mobile to stay on top of fish. Those on the circuits took those lessons and souped them up, just like our fathers and grandfathers made the engines hotter on their 1950’s street cars. It went from staying mobile to a true run and gun strategy. Couple that with even better technology on our flashers like the FL-22 HD, and improved GPS capabilities on our machines, and you have the 2nd Ice Revolution taking place.
We have taken ideas started in Michigan, blended them with ideas started in states like Minnesota, Wisconsin and up into the Northeast section of the country and have taken ice fishing to a brand new level not seen before. Manufactures have picked up on these ideas and made the equipment even better than before. The rods we have now are even more target specific than this action is for this fish, now if you want to target walleye, some of the rods are becoming just as detail orientated as the open water rods we use during the rest of the year.
Before the 2nd Ice Revolution, it was a unique idea to have rods set up per species. Today thanks to small inventive places like Thorne Bros. in Minnesota, and nationally known companies like St. Croix Rods, we have several rods to choose from for each species, each one providing the right rod action for the particular task at hand. We, as ice anglers have pushed to have product like this for years and now we have the equivalent rods of any anglers who might seek out bass or open water muskie.
If you have the opportunity this season, get out and find a seminar near you. I just got back from the Lansing area Wednesday night, where the local sportsman’s club had over 90 people in attendance. A panel of us were up front, and the Q & A portion was lively and informative, and I picked up some good tips just from the other guys who I have known for years on the circuits. So attend, and put more fish on the ice this year!