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Line Up For Ice Fishing

By Bob Jensen - December 1, 2013
Ice-fishing and open water fishing are very similar in some ways and very different in others. The differences are obvious; the similarities are much more subtle. One of the things that open water fishing and ice-fishing have in common is the importance of the line you're using. At any time of the year, your line is the only connection between you and the fish. You have to find them, and then you have to make them bite, and your line can influence whether they bite or not, but once you do get a bite, the line you're using can be the difference between landing the fish or not. Following are some ideas about line for ice-fishing.

Back in the day, we used the same line for ice-fishing that we did for open water fishing. It coiled and curled and was hard to use in cold weather, but it was all we had. Then some folks started to make line specifically for ice-fishing. It was so much easier to manage. Now we have several lines with different characteristics so you can choose the line that best fits your needs. In fact, some anglers use two different lines on the same rod to get the exact features they're looking for.

First a bit about the different lines. Ice lines made of monofilament are manageable, reliable, and least expensive. They have some stretch so hooksets and sensitivity aren't quite as good. Bionic Ice-Fishing Line would be a good example of a mono designed for ice-fishing.

Lines made from fluorocarbon are tough and pretty much invisible to the fish. Bionic Ice Fluorosilk is a fluorocarbon line made for ice-fishing that does a great job.

Braided lines such as Bionic Ice Braid have no stretch and are really tough. Braided lines are easier to see, and some anglers believe this added visibility can spook the fish. Braided lines are also more expensive than mono or fluorocarbon.

Panfish under the ice can be very finicky. They'll come in and look and look, and if anything is wrong, they're gone. Mono or fluoro in a small diameter, say two or three pound test attached to a tiny bait is the way to go for these guys.

Sometimes you'll find walleyes, crappies or perch in deep water. You'd like to use mono for the low visibility, but mono stretches quite a bit, so you'll miss some hooksets in deep water, and line that stretches isn't as sensitive. This is when you use two different lines on one rod. You spool up with braid, then tie a small swivel to the end of the braid. To that swivel you tie a twelve or sixteen inch piece of mono or fluoro in the appropriate size. By doing so, your lure is attached to a mostly invisible piece of line so spooking the fish isn't a concern, but you still have the sensitivity and hooksetting ability of braid. I've done this quite a bit and it works well.

Ice-fishing is getting more and more refined, and ice-anglers are getting more and more successful. If you keep these ideas in mind when you "line-up" your ice rods and reels, you'll be more successful too.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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