Michigan’s own Schooley Reels are truly the choice for some of the best ice fisherman across the country, but this wasn’t always the case. While most folks were debating which 40 to $80 dollar reel was the best to tape on their panfish rods, anglers fishing the lakes and backwaters of mid-Michigan were jaw jerking up some of biggest bluegill and crappie caught in the state year after year. Their secret was the molded nylon reel commonly referred to by the company’s name, Schooley.
What possible advantage could a reel that costs less than five dollars actually give an angler chasing big panfish? Economics would be the easy answer, but not the one that is at the core of the reasons why. An anglers biggest enemy is line twist while targeting the biggest panfish in a lake, even the ones you want to take back for the dinner plate. Spinning reels can leave your jig spinning in circles, and if you were sight fishing and peering down the hole, you will need a clicker to count the number of rejections that will happen in one day.
That’s the original ”IceMan” Barry Williams in the above picture with a very, VERY nice crappie caught with a spoon while fishing with a Schooley reel. Barry is also the creator and owner of “Spooky Spiders”, a fine line of jigs and flies that can be used with deadly results through the ice. His website is: http://spookyspiders.bravehost.com/ and in the picture below is a collection of fish that I caught using his tungsten bead flies.
So after showing off what the Schooley can give you in terms of big fish and numbers, you can look at all the money you can take from using that expense spinning reel, and buy more jigs and bait! But, if you really want to fine tune the reel, and yes I know, it sounds pretty weird saying that, you can take a couple of extra steps to make your Schooley perform at a higher level.
To help keep your 4 lb or smaller line from burning on the nylon line guide coming off the reel, its time to break out the hacksaw. I know what you are thinking already, “How cool is it to say hacksaw and icefishing?”, or more likely, “What the heck is he thinking?” But, its true, one of the first things you will do is a little cutting! Take a look at the picture below and imagine cutting off about an inch and a half from each side white section of the reel seat after removing the reel, which would be the component below the red reel.
Now you might be thinking, Mason what are you thinking? You just cut off the line guide and the area where you screw the reel into the rod handle. First off, I don’t think I will ever find a day where I actually screw anything into a rod handle of mine. No worries folks, there is a back up plan. But, there is one more step before dealing with that issue. replacing the line guide.
To the right, Team USA gold medal winner, Myron Gilbert
Now this is a trick I learned recently from an ice guy I have the utmost respect for, Myron Gilbert of Brooklyn, Michigan. Myron let me bend his ear and he offered up this tidbit of information, which makes perfect sense in retrospect. The purpose of cutting off that line guide that comes standard with reel seat is to prevent your line from getting burned or scored from friction. His idea was to replace that with a single foot line guide where the hole of the guide lines up dead center with the spool of the reel. In doing some research, I found the perfect guide down in Ohio, at Jann’s Netcraft in a size 16: http://www.jannsnetcraft.com/fuji-single-foot-guides/230276.aspx . Now I have replaced that original nylon guide with a Fuji guide that costs less than a buck.
Now for the sake of ease, stay on Jann’s Netcraft website to get some epoxy to attach that guide to your rod handle: http://www.jannsnetcraft.com/rod-building-epoxy/029051600007.aspx . You can wrap it with thread if you like, but what I do is when I am done with a braid from my reels, like Power Pro or Fireline, it gets saved on an old empty spool. Use this old line like thread and you have a much stronger “thread”. Eyeball the guide to line up with the guides on the rod, apply a little epoxy to get started, and begin wrapping. Once you finish, apply a little more epoxy and spread it around the rod handle until yo have an even coat applied.
Once that is wrapped and dry, now you can attach your reels to the rod handle. Sometimes the easiest and oldest method is truly the best way to go. Electrical tape in my book works extremely well, and most everyone has some around the house already, if not it is an easy buy at your local hardware. If the guide seems a little high, you can bend it slightly by applying equal pressure to it, and pushing/bending it forward to get it to line up.
Where can you buy Schooley reels, by themselves and not in a combo? Check out these two links for availablity: