Magic WandsBy Ted Peck - December 15, 2013
The reason is two-fold. When guiding, clients literally keep me hopping. There is usually little time to sit down, let alone get comfortable. When "fun fishing" the first essential is finding fish. Sometimes this means moving a little, sometimes a lot.
Several companies make winter ice fishing suits. I have a Frabill StormSuit and SnoSuit and love 'em both. Essentially, these are ice tents that you wear. On the Mississippi vehicle travel can be treacherous. If you fish here, plan on walking between a hundred yards and a mile.
I can't imagine hitting the ice without my Vexilar FL-18. The only other necessary gear is two ice dippers-and of course, the rods.
On an easy day a basic fiberglass stick with a cheap plastic reel can be enough gear to put fish on the ice. But when you make a living out there with ice and winter wind the only easy day is yesterday.
Have you ever seen an old guy heading out across the ice with a dozen fishin' poles in his bucket ? Watch him like a hawk. Old guys are the original fish locators. They have a dozen poles rigged up, because when the bite is on there is no time to re-tie with wise old eyes to guide the path of angel hair string through a tiny eyelet.
My eyes aren't that bad yet. On a fun fishin' mission I travel with four rods most of the time. Over the years I've acquired dozens of ice fishing rods, most of which see at least some time on the ice every winter.
For client rods most winter wands are HT Polar Lites or Frabills. Both companies market quality rods at a reasonable price point. Reels aren't that critical. Ones with the fewest moving parts seem to work best in a brutal environment. Choose one you can back-reel with rather than a complex drag system. Old school? For sure. Even an AK-47 will jam once in awhile but a fist is always ready to go.
Rods are what put fish on the ice. When you're out there with your back to the wind with the hole icing over every three minutes, you need all the sensitivity you can get. This boils down to rods and strike indicators.
Under balmy conditions those ballpoint pen spring hybrids like the Cyclone work just fine. Schooley's old wire spring bobber continues to function when icing is a serious problem, but lacks sensitivity required to see extremely light bites.
A few years ago Greg Wilczynski designed a strike indicator which doesn't ice up under the most brutal conditions. It is also adjustable, allowing tweaking for both lure weight and bite sensitivity.
Wilczynski's brainchild is incorporated into the St. Croix Legend Series ice rods.
The new St Croix Silver and Gold series rods are the best ice wands I have ever fished with. Their 24" light action is near-perfect for everything from perch to pike on the Upper Mississippi-if you know how to back reel.
St. Croix does one thing and does it better than anybody: They make rods-right here in Wisconsin.