Secrets Of The Ice Hunters: Vol 2
Vast and far-flung angling experiences aside, one facet of fishing remains near and dear to this highly-recognized angler: ice fishing in central Minnesota. Here, near his home in Minneapolis, Pennaz spends hundreds of hours pursuing panfish each year, often alone in the dark seclusion of his ice shelter. There, he tinkers, tries and learns, while pioneering prime practices for making fantastic catches. Pennaz's studies have resulted in volumes of angling intelligence, which the angler has made a career out of sharing with the fishing public, as well as select fishing equipment manufacturers.
"I live on a lake in Minneapolis that has massive schools of deep-water crappie. I literally fish 150 feet from my house," he says.
Such immediate access lends itself to relentless field-testing and, ultimately, to the discovery of intricate trends and patterns. Pennaz cites two primary advancements in technology, which have greatly increased his crappie catch rates: micro-fiber, low-stretch fishing lines, and portable GPS and sonar.
Another break-through came as Pennaz expanded his use of Aqua-Vu underwater cameras. "A fish that's feeding on microscopic forage; it's not chasing. Watching through an Aqua Vu, I'd see a lot of fish suck the bait in and blow it out extremely quickly. I realized I was only catching 20% of the fish that bit," says Pennaz.
"Deep-water crappie anglers need real sensitivity to feel when the fish takes the bait. I used to watch a fish on sonar rise to the lure, but the bite wouldn't come," says Pennaz, who learned from his Aqua-Vu camera that the fish had, indeed, often bit, but he simply hadn't realized it.
To combat the problems presented by fishing in deep water, Pennaz took a two-part approach. "I made presentations as easy as possible for fish to get, using light super lines and horizontal jigs." He then matched those accessible offerings with specific, task-minded tackle. When working with Frabill on the Steve Pennaz Model 678004 30" L Deep Crappie Ice Hunter Combo, Pennaz demanded a blank that was sensitive, but also fairly stout. "When I see the red lines come together on the flasher, I now use a gentle lift to determine if I have a bite. It takes a slightly stiffer rod to detect the weight and immediately set the hook in deeper water."
With more apparent bites and less line stretch, Pennaz favors a softer, more forgiving tip for shallow-water crappies and gills. It's why he designed Frabill's Steve Pennaz Model 678002 30" Quicktip Panfish Ice Hunter Combo, where the rod itself acts as a strike indicator and helps prevent the line breaks that are more common in shallow-water situations.
As a former winner of the US Ice Fishing Championship and current host of two popular television shows covering the sport, Steve Pennaz leaves little to chance when it comes to fishing. His intimate knowledge of his quarry, coupled with exhaustive research and design of the ideal equipment used to pursue it, has led to monster catches of finicky fish. Follow his tips, and you'll be on a similar path.