The Build: Jason Mitchell Thermal X Shanty

Jason Mitchell Thermal X


Normally I would have been going ape like crazy not having my shack from Clam Outdoors already built and ready to hit the ice by this time of year.  After completing the build on the new Jason Mitchell Thermal X last night, yes last night, on New Year’s Eve, I can say how much I truly appreciate how easy it is to build a thermal hub styled shack.  Why?  Because they come pre-assembled!

It’s HERE!!!!

My very own pallet of ice goodness!

I get the call from Holland Freight that the delivery is less than an hour away.  Grab that cup of coffee and then the wait begins until I see that truck across the road getting ready to unload my very own pallet of gear from Clam Outdoors.  The Extreme Advantage bibs and parka, a couple of accessories that will be discussed later, and the big box containing the new Jason Mitchell Thermal X, two-man,  flip over, ice shanty.

X-Runners installed!

Always start your build from the foundation up!  For myself, that means getting the runners installed before anything else gets added on.  One nice feature about the X-runner Kit is that the holes are already pre-drilled.  No more measuring spaces, adding up the number of bolts, washers and nuts, or dividing those up to get the same amount on each runner.  I have always used the original runners on my smaller shacks, the whole walking versus driving 8+ miles to get to a spot, so these new runners with the thicker hyfax was a no-brainer type of issue for the application.  This all said and done, you will definitely need a heat gun, not a hair dryer, to mold these around the curve of the tub during the process. Clam suggests using grease to keep the keep the threads from locking up, but I used an old carpenter’s trick by going with wax, less mess and all that.

Receiver Hitch Kit

One of the accessories I mentioned before is the Sled Receiver Hitch Kit.  I absolutely love these kits.  They make getting the Lake Erie Express (Arctic Cat Bearcat, two shacks and Large Nordic Sled) rigged for towing a breeze.  You will need a drill and then match up the bit with the bolt.  Don’t ask me the size, because I literally took the bolt over to my drill bits and eyeballed them to get the right size.  Guess I have a knack for getting it right, you know, after checking two or three sizes first.

Backside installation!

Luckily I read some of the directions, and put the cross beam in for the seats before lining up the plates for the receiver kit.  Smack dab where the plates had to go was the lower bolt holding up the cross beam.  Full disclosure, as many already know, I have been on Clam’s Ice Team staff since 2002, so this wasn’t my first Fish Trap build.  Clam always includes a few extra nuts, washers and bolts and luckily for me, I kept them all over the years so I had a fix for this.

Side note:  You can see I also installed the battery holder box , the new foam addition to the base was a great idea by Clam this year!

Making it work!

Washers make great spacers.

I had some smaller, but longer bolts than those that came with the kit, but the same diameter as those for the cross beam.  Because of the extra length I was able to go through the plate and the bracket for the beam.  I did have to squeeze the mounting bracket over the mounting plate, but barely, and you can see that I used some extra brass washers as spacers to make the bracket flush again to the tub’s wall. When securing with the nylock nuts, everything was nice and tight, no slop what so ever.  Once that was addressed I used the rest of the bolts, washers and nuts that came with the bracket in the other three spots.

Tow Hitch Mounting Kit

Next up, while keeping with the theme of building from the ground up, were the tow hitch plates in the front of the shack.  I have three universal hitches already, so all I needed was the kit for this build.  With the big shacks, they stay attached to the sled or quad throughout the day, and if I want to create space, I can just drop a hitch and drive on a bit further.  When it is time to go, just drive back around and hook back up.

Corner brackets for the hoops

Easiest part of the install were the corner brackets.  Everything is pre-drilled and just a matter of dropping the bolts down and attaching the washers and nuts.  To accomplish this, all I needed was a phillips screwdriver and a nut driver.

Skipping ahead, the seats and hooks are mounted

I got just a bit lazy with the camera work, but here are the seats installed, complete with the deluxe cushions.  All the hoops are installed except the one that will rest on the ice.  Why, because you will need to thread it through the sleeves built into the tent section near the end of the build.  You didn’t miss much during this part of the install, everything was by the book.  Only tools needed were the screwdriver and nut driver again for the seats and attaching the first section of the hooks to the brackets.

Ready to attach the tent to the rear of the sled section.

I like to work on the shacks from an elevated position, but due to the weight of the insulated tent (now with 50% more insulation), it had to come down to ground level. I tried to do it from the table, hence the ladder, but it came crashing down (literally) off the table.  Actually this was a mixed blessing because I was to make sure that the front hoop was laying perfectly on the ground before securing the back of the tent to the tub with the included channel and screws.

Next up was the channel and screwing it down.  It was the last step in the build and again, got a bit lazy with the camera work.  The main question you will need to address is how to make the channel pliable enough to mold around the tub while tucking in the fabric.  In the instructions there are three methods suggested;  use a hair dryer, a heat gun or soaking in hot water.

I gave up on the hair dryer fifteen years ago, did the heat gun for a period of time and on my built with the Kenai Pro Thermal Stealth three years ago I finally settled on the hot water bath.  The first time I came into the house with a five gallon bucket and filled it from the tap, one gallon at a time.  This time I got smart (It is a progression after all) and put the channel into the bucket, then let the shower in the bathroom run on its hottest setting for a few minutes, and filled it up in just a matter of seconds, maybe two minutes tops.

All done, and wrapped up for the first trip on Lake Erie or Saginaw Bay

Don’t be in a rush, let the hot water do it’s job.  After 10 minutes or so, I worked the channel around the tub,  while tucking in the fabric.  Once I knew I liked the placement of the molding, I took three screws into each corner, first fastening one dead center, then on either side of the corner for max effect.  Then two off-center in the back, and then one on each end of the molding on the sides of the tub.  Finally I took the last of the screws and continued to secure the backside down.

The travel cover which comes with the Jason Mitchell Thermal X is really a nice tight fit without the tie down straps.  With them though, the cover is locked down tight and not going anywhere.  Really a nice feature to have while trailering to the lake, and even going across the hardwater.


And for the first time this year, notice the copyright has changed.

Copyright, 2019


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

Stinger Hooks through the Ice

Sting’r hooks from Northland Tackle are a mainstay on the Detroit and Saginaw Rivers in the spring and fall. We even use them while popping hair jigs off the bottom of Lake Erie for that specialized walleye bite.  Often though they get put away when Thanksgiving passes on the calendar and December rolls around.


The question is why, don’t walleye short strike your baits on a frozen lake too? Of course they do and in this modern age of the underwater camera, it has been proven again, and again for all to take notice.  Whether you are using a jig or a spoon, half minnow or a whole, Northland has a type and size of sting’r hook to fit your needs.

Northland Whistler Jig, Northland Airplane Jig, Northland FireBall Jigs


If employing a horizontal jig you can use a three-inch slip-on Sting’r.  If you are using Northland’s FireBall Jig, then employ the 3” clip-on Sting’r

Northland’s BuckShot and Forage Minnow Spoons


One of my favorite presentations through the ice for walleye are spoons.  Their various shapes create so many different actions below the surface and will match just about any mood the walleye below may be in.  Actively feeding, taking that slow approach, or that tough bite where you have to anger them enough to strike out of pure aggression

Clam’s Fluttering Leech and Rattling Blade Spoons


Your options with spoons are even more varied than if you were using the horizontal jig.  While tipping you can use either a slip-on or clip-on two-inch Sting’r.  With a whole minnow you can use either option in the 3” variety.

Brest Bay Walleye


Next time while you are hitting the hardwater, go back into your softwater gear and bring the Sting’r’s with you to increase your hook-up rate. They work with nearly presentation and you will land more fish.  Don’t let that short strike be a whiff and miss.

Copyright 2018

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

Putting the Boards Away

Before anyone goes crazy on me and says there is still plenty of open water and they are not ready to put their boats away…I get it.  Unfortunately it is the ice fishing show season and time on the weekends for pulling boards has come to an end, for me.  The rest of you lucky dogs, keep it going as long as you can!

Church Tackle’s TX-22

While putting the trolling rods away, one must thing to do is to back off the drag on your reels.  It prevents your reel’s drag from being compressed and will lead to them being replaced somewhere down the road.  Take that concept to your planer boards and do this one small step of maintenance to increase your board’s effectiveness for a long time.

Double Action Flag System

There is a spring on the back of your board which sets the tension for the Double Action Flag System on your favorite Church Tackle board. Consequently it is actually called a Tension Spring, and to ensure the effectiveness of the system, back the tension off, just like you do with your reels.  As you can see in the picture above, I have positioned the adjustment arm in what would like the 9 o’clock position on a clock with this starboard running TX-22 board.  If they were rigged for the port side, it would be the 3 o’clock position.  This allows the spring to be in a resting position during the winter months and will allow you to be fully ready in the spring when the ice leaves the lakes.

Copyright, 2018

Posted in Muskie Fishing, Northern Pike Fishing, Product Reviews, Salmon fishing, Steelhead Fishing, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Ice Fishing Kicks Off @Cabela’s in Dundee

Wisconsin Slab

Starting Saturday, I can be found in the fishing department at our favorite local Cabela’s in Dundee, Michigan.  I will working with some of the best companies in the ice fishing realm, so stop in and say hello while getting some of the best ice fishing equipment available to make your season a big success this winter!


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

Jigging Rap Upgrade

Jigging Rap Rainbow Trout

I know I wrote about this the last year we were 12 miles out on Lake Erie, but it has been a few years now and well worth bringing back for a refresher.  If you have been fishing with Jigging Raps for a while now you may notice the difference in the size of the belly treble hooks from those older ones and the newer ones available now. Often you do catch walleye on that treble, specially with the larger sizes like #7 and #9, so it just makes sense to go bigger to increase your catch rates.

#5 Brown Trout vs #5 Chrome Blue

Glow Tiger, old hook vs new hook

The difference in size is actually quite a bit as it better shown in the hooks above in the two pictures. Are the red hooks a must, definitely not, but I actually bought them to match up with a different application I was working on while fishing the Saginaw River last month. The process of switching out the hooks is fairly easy but I did run into one speed bump while making the transition.

Notice the split ring

Frank’s GO, the one stop walleye store

With the Jigging Raps themselves there is a difference in the ease of switching out the trebles.  Painted versus chrome bodies, both were easy to take off the smaller, older trebles, but there is a big difference while trying to snap in the new, bigger sized hooks.  With the painted bodies like the Glow Tiger above, there is not as much clearance between the body as there is with the chromed Jigging Raps. The gap was just a small enough due to the paint to make it a bit of a hassle.

For a minute I thought I would just have to put the smaller trebles back on and deal with it.  Then I noticed some of the Jigging Shad Raps in my box.  All of their trebles were attached to the body with the use of small split rings.  Problem solved, on went the bigger hooks and they have a little extra swing action to boot while tipping with a minnow head.

Most of my #3 Jigging Raps are fairly new so those hooks were already the correct size to match up with the body.  Only a few like retired Rainbow Trouts needed to be switched over to a size 12 hook.  The number 5’s got the upgrade to #10’s.  Quick tip for those that jig in open water with stinger hooks and plastics or livebait, ever have your leader get shredded to the point where you can no longer use them?  The hooks are fine though, so keep them stored away and if you ever need to replace your belly trebles, you are good to go instead of running out to the store.  Number 8 hooks are perfect for the #7 baits and are a breeze to switch out.

Besides a tetanus shot, you will need one or two small pair of needle nose pliers or manipulating the trebles into place.  For those few occasions a good pair split ring pliers will come in handy too. Usually you can get by with the needle nose pliers, but these small split rings are tight so use the right tool for the job.

Once you make the upgrade and switch out the sizes, you will definitely notice a difference in your catch rates.

Copyright, 2018



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

3rd Season Prep for Big Walleye



Big Eye Custom Lures

Time to break out those deep running, minnow imitating, rattling and jointed kind of baits.  It’s that time of the year for the 3 rd Season of Walleye Fishing to begin in earnest.  That wonderful time of the year when big walleye are in our home waters and you get a chance for that monster to come back to the boat!

First check a few things off your to-do list, just simple things that can wreck your day on the water if you don’t do them.  The biggest thing is to take a good look at your line,  if it doesn’t pass the test, re-spool the linecounters.  These reels are a must have, and I have my old trustworthy Daiwa SG 27 LCA’s rigged up with 15 pound mono.  Before anyone gets their hair up, yes I know its above the suggested 10 lb rating for the dive charts, but I have my reasons.  For one thing I can pretty much assure you that the fish are not scared off by the bigger sized line out on the Great Lakes, and I will include Lake St. Clair in that statement.  How do I know, because my crawler harnesses are rigged with the same line, but with seven-foot leads of 20 lb test.  Hasn’t exactly hurt my catch rate!  Second reason, the difference in diameter is minimal.  I know that if I am marking fish down at 17 foot of water, if I let out enough line to get down to that 17 ft mark, that my baits will run above their heads.  Why is this important, just remember that fish feed up, and rarely down below them.

Next up, check your electronics.  What I really mean is, check your batteries.  Nothing can ruin your experience worse than just not being able to fish.  Check those trolling batteries, starting battery (ies) and accessory battery if you are running one.  It doesn’t take long and it would be worth any amount of time to get that out-of-the-way.  Since ignition requires a spark, check your plugs too.  If the engine doesn’t start, you cannot fish.

Last up, hardware which  can include a variety of things.  If you have been running the same snap on your line all season, give it an inspection.  This small item will be the cheapest item on your list if it needs to be replaced.  Not sure what kind of snap to use, I use a #2 Duolock snap.  #2’s are a good size, and you can use a #1 or even a #3, but to paraphrase Goldilocks, for me the #2 is just right.  Why the duolock, because the snap has a natural round bend which allows the bait to work itself back and forth as it was intended too.  Back before we knew that split rings would cut your line, it was common place to tie the Rapala knot for the lure to achieve the same action.

Checking your hardware also means inspecting your other gear, like the hardware on your planer boards.  I give my Church Tackle boards a thorough inspection.  Give the double action flag system a quick run through, and check tensions and I am ready to roll, or troll to be more precise!

All of these tips are little in the grand scheme of catching a big fish, but if you do not do them bad things can happen.  I have said it before, it could be the difference between catching that big fish, or watching it break-off at the boat.  4th Season is just around the corner, it wouldn’t hurt for you to catch up on that checklist for your ice fishing gear too!

Copyright, 2018



Posted in Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay, Walleye Fishing | Leave a comment

Getting the Jigs ready for the Tourney: Powder Painting

I have three large cases filled with jigs in 3/8th, 1/2 and 5/8ths ounce jigs and yet I felt the need to pour over 160 jigs and tame my wild hair fixation.  Throw in 50 more jigs from Angler’s Quest and the paint lab was a busy place the past few days.  Finally wrapped it up yesterday while cleaning out the eyes of the jigs and put in their cases.

One of my favorite colors in John Deere Green, both for hair jigs and vertical jigging .  The fluid beds from TJ’s Tackle make everything easier.  Before I discovered the fluid beds, I hated dealing with powder; the constant fluffing, uneven distribution and clumping led to some terrible results.

Here are the samples I did using the jigs from Angler’s Quest, and since I will be fishing a tourney this weekend on the Saginaw River, these are half ounce.  I had 50 to play with and went with 12 colors, four each and with the two leftover, I added an extra to two proven colors, Firetiger and Blue Ice.

Super Glows

The Super Glows were hard to do, only because of the difficulty in choosing which patterns to create.  I used some standard spoon references and some inspiration from past winner from my colorado collection for harnesses.  From left to right;  Yellow Tail, Erie Watermelon, Boy Girl and Ludington Watermelon.

The Ice Collection

The ladies love ice, at least that’s the game plan for these four jigs.  Technically these are “Disco” paints from TJ’s and I use them for the base color of the jigs.  From left to right;  Confusion (ish), Blue Ice, Copper Perch and Detroit Gold.

The Greens

These last four might have been the toughest to choose, but while looking through my other boxes I whittled down the choices until these four winners stood alone.  Left to right for the last time;  Antifreeze, John Deere Green, Firetiger and Pimp Daddy.  Like Blue Ice, Pimp Daddy was inspired by the plastics from Lunker City.

Copper Perch

One of my thoughts for this tourney was to come up with some new approaches to try for finicky walleye.  Making up some hair jigs seemed like a logical decision.  Most of my hair jigs are made with the Ultra Minnow jig mold, but in this instance on the Saginaw River, I wanted more of a drop that can be provided with the Walleye Jig mold.  The Copper Perch has a copper flashabou core, then wrapped with medium olive craft fur.

Blue Ice

The Ice in Blue Ice

One of the hair jigs I knew I had to create was Blue Ice.  It’s a jig head that produces, and a rubber body that also does extremely well.  Really this was the no-brainer in the decision making process.  To get the ice effect I used two colors of flashabou.  The top section of the core is blue, while the bottom is silver.  The outer layer is blue craft fur, then the belly section is a fine white fiber version of craft fur.  In the water, the blue and white would stand on its own, add in the ice that will shine through the fur and should be a deadly combination.

There are more hair versions, including Firetiger, John Deere and even Purple Ice, but I think you get the idea.  Besides I have to pack up the gear and prep before heading to Bay City tomorrow.  That and work on a short shopping list at Frank’s Great Outdoors to replace some beat up hooks on …. nevermind, that’s top secret for now!

Copyright, 2018

Posted in Ice Fishing | Leave a comment

Accessorizing the FLX-20 Genz Pack

It’s not a secret for anyone that knows me, I run Vexilar through the ice, in fact I use my Vex all year-long.  Its been a great 14 years with the company as a member of their staff, it is a great company and the units have never once failed me.  My favorite platform has been the Genz Pack from day one, so when it was time to choose my units for the year I jumped on the chance to pick up the FLX-20 mounted on the blue box.


There are two things I have always added to my Genz Boxs since they came out with my very first FL-22 HD, first of which is the DD-100.  This little device serves two purposes, the first of which is to act as a battery status indicator.  To be honest, I have never hit that little yellow button since I charge my batteries after each use and a Vexilar will run for days on a charge.  The second feature is that it gives you a digital depth reading,  this I use for a quick reference for setting my dial on the unit itself.

Neoprene Cover

The second accessory is really the one must have for me when it comes to fishing with the Genz Pack.  I have never used a soft pack with the blue box, which left the flat screens of the units unprotected from scratches while traveling.  I treat my equipment like gold and I would be a little more than upset if one of the units ever got nicked up.  Vexilar makes a neoprene cover and for $10, I call it cheap insurance!

The Glo-Ring

This year Vexilar came out with a new accessory that I knew was going to be part of my favorite platform, the Glo-Ring.  I like glow lures, but like many people I get caught up in the moment and often forget to charge my lures up before dropping them down the hole.  The ultra-violet Glo-Ring makes the process easy, no more fumbling around in my pockets for the typical flashlight devices.  The installation was a breeze, just attach the bracket to my blue box, and slide the ring into it.

It has a built-in On and Off switch which easily mounted to the side of my Genz Pack by using two interlocking clear velcro pads that have adhesive backs.  You can “plug” it in with two different methods.  The first is the easiest as most pre-built packs from Vexilar have a charging port already installed and you simply plug it in.  The second way is by using the alligator clips that come with the Glo-Ring.  This method can be used on any pack, inside your Clam flip-over style shanty or for those with permanent shacks, any spare Vex style 12 volt battery.

Everything folds up fairly compact and still fits nicely into one of my milk crates.

All of these accessories are great for getting the most out of your Vexilar Genz Pack.  You can run each of the electronic add-ons on the classic FL-8se or the FL-18, up to the FLX-12 and FLX-20.  Each of these will do nothing but enhance your fishing experience.

Copyright, 2018

Posted in Ice Fishing, Ice Products, Product Reviews | Leave a comment

Perch are Heating Up on Lake Erie

Thursday I got the chance to hit Lake Erie for some perch fishing with an old friend from the Ice Team Trap Attack days.  It was always fun to fish against Tim because nothing makes you a better angler than to fish against good competition.  Back in 2005, he and his partner won an event on Wampler’s Lake out in Irish Hills.  No small feat since there were some really good anglers fishing back then.

We hit Jeff’s Bait and Tackle for some minnows, mixed it up this time and picked up some  rosey reds to go with along with some really nice emerald shiners.  Just wanted an assortment of sizes to put down to see what the perch would want the most. Tim already had the Michigan 2-Fly Rig on his rod and reel, but we still checked out the assortment on the wall.  I always like getting a couple of packs to mix up the color combinations on the rig.  He went with all Glow Pink and I put down a Glow Pink with a Silver Shiner.  It turned out to be a good combination for both of us, until I hooked the anchor rope and switched to a Glow Orange, but I saved that Silver!  Will retie that for a later trip, its been the most consistent fly for me all year.

Double on the 2-Fly Rig

We set up in 26-27 foot of water, just inside the state line.  Tim didn’t have an Ohio license, thinking he will remedy that next year.  When fishing Erie, you almost have to have both licenses in order to stay on top of the fish.

The fishing wasn’t slow, the best way to describe it would be steady.  We pick away at them and every once in a while they would hammer the baits for about five minutes.  There were a few doubles, but the fish were biting really light.  The best method was to pound the bottom a few times, let it sit for a few seconds and then slowly raise the bait.  More often than not, I could feel just a slight weight difference on the other end and I would set the hook with my St. Croix.

When things slowed down, I would take some Lure Lipstick pheromone enhanced scent that Jeff’s Bait has in stock and just touch up my fly a little with a couple of squirts.  It’s not easy to hit a moving target!  I did get pretty good at it and caught some of my bigger perch while using it.  All the fish we kept were over 8 inches, and most of them measured 9 inch or bigger.

Under a time crunch we wrapped up the day’s trip when the Catch Counter registered 50 perch in the cooler.  It was a good day, and back at the dock after talking to a few people, we learned that we did better than most!

Have a wedding to go to today, but weather permitting, will be back at Jeff’s Sunday morning to hit the lake again!  Have to remember this time to collect my $25 for winning big perch contest a few weeks back!!!!

Copyright, 2018

Posted in Lake Erie, Perch Fishing | Leave a comment

Hair Jigs and Catching Smallmouth Bass

Catching bass and hair jigs, for a walleye guy, it just seems wrong in every regard.  Last spring though, I got a little creative with my color patterns and made some smaller sizes for taking a casting approach when targeting shallow water walleye or pitching around structure.  1/8, 1/4 and 3/8 ths of an ounce just seem so small when I am used to making 5/8, 3/4 and 1 ounce jigs for the spring bite on Lake Erie.

Copper Perch

I got really creative with the colors when I picked up some different types of Hareline material.  That’s a brand name by the way, they make a large assortment of fly tying materials.  A friend of mine decided she was going to get into a bass league this year NW of  Chicago.  She’s a good bud and fellow staff member with St. Croix Rods and when she told me about this bass distraction, I let her know that I thought I had some hair jigs for her!


If you want to do something like this Firetiger, take a look at the color options in powder paint from TJ’s Tackle.  They have a great assortment colors, disco’s (ice) and glows.

Blue/Black Craw

In some patterns, I looked jig n pig colors like this black with blue flake head and matching craft fur.

Blaze Orange over Disco Gold

I also looked at some of my Rapala’s for inspiration, instead of gold and flo. red, I went with something similar but with gold and orange.  Came out pretty good I must say.

St Croix Rods

I packed a lot of rod and reel combinations for my trip up to the cabin and when it came to plying these hair jigs to catching smallies, my two favorite combinations were a six foot, six inch Premier Light Fast Action rod and a 6’8″ Legend Tournament Walleye Medium Extra Fast.  Both rods were a lot of fun catching the bass, but also the many pike that hammered these handtied baits.

St Croix Tournament Walleye Legend

You might be asking why wasn’t I using a Bass Legend rod, the easy answer is I don’t own one, but this was pretty fun so I just might be calling Park Falls, Wisconsin soon.  Some of my hits came on when the jig entered the water and others while I was working the retrieve back to the boat.

Copyright, 2018


Posted in Bass, Lure Making | Leave a comment