By Nick Simonson
The weather has sent the signs that first ice is just a few days away! As things cool off across the upper Midwest, anglers look for hot early-ice action. With that anticipation comes Our Outdoors’ annual installment of The Hottest Stuff on Ice showcasing what’s new and needed for fishing this winter.
Ion Ice Augers brings an improved offering to hardwater this season with its Ion X model. With a 60 percent longer battery life, the X will punch more holes with zero exhaust. (Image Courtesy of Ion)
Marcum offers up the first flat-screen on-ice sonar with the RT-9 sonar and GPS unit. What’s more, the RT-9 also allows for the addition of an underwater camera. (Image Courtesy of Marcum)
Clam’s Guppy Flutter Spoon owes its crazy underwater action to the lure’s light weight (1/50 oz) and free-swinging hook for aggressively targeting panfish like crappies and perch. (Image Courtesy of Clam Corp.)
Winter’s first snow system serves less as a slap in the face of sportsmen and more as a gentle nudge to those excited for first ice. For those that welcome the cold – and the hot bite that comes with it – there’s much to do to get ready for ice fishing. Along with firing up the auger, charging the sonar and re-lining ice combos, anglers seek out the newest gear and tackle to make their efforts more successful with the Hottest Stuff on Ice for the 2016 season.
The advancement of battery-powered augers has helped anglers pursue panfish and predators alike from early ice into the late season without the added exhaust. Ion Ice Augers (ioniceaugers.com) has a redesigned electric auger in its Ion X model ($649) which builds on the benefits of its predecessor and adds in the more logical and familiar horizontal handles for better grip along with a 60 percent longer battery life to boot. The Ion X’s “Slush Flushing Reverse” function sends the chippings in the cylinder down under the ice once the hole has been punched. Weighing in at just 22 pounds, the X ups the power with only a slight increase in weight. Plus a light under the auger head provides illumination for night-time drilling.
StrikeMaster joins the electric on-ice market with its Lithium Lazer ($599) and Lithium Chipper ($599) models. Both tout 50-volt electric motors with rechargeable lithium ion batteries. The Lazer is based on the multi-bladed system of the time-tested line, while the Chipper spins a more traditional chipper-style blade. Models run 24 to 27 pounds in weight, depending on the auger size of 8.25- or 10.25-inches..
Frabill (frabill.com) doubles down on its line of ice apparel and ups the ante for all other suits with this season’s I-Float system (Jacket $249, Bibs $199). The jacket is the first commercially-available ice fishing suit that is also USCG-certified as a Type III flotation device, providing the standard windproof and waterproof warmth along with added buoyancy for safety. The I-Float line boasts a rugged outer shell with high visibility orange trim and ice picks included as part of the jacket.
Tablets have made the jump from home computing to open-water sonar set-ups, so it was only a matter of time until they made it to hardwater as well. Marcum (marcumtech.com) smashes into the flat-screen market with this season’s RT-9 Sonar/GPS unit ($1,699). Where the sonar company’s previous flat-screen offerings had buttons surrounding the display, all controls for both the sonar and GPS are now integrated into it, save for a home button, just like an iPad. Powered by a 12-volt battery, the unit can also accommodate sonar and underwater camera modules, making it the new industry standard in on-ice versatility and Star Trek-like technology.
St. Croix (stcroixrods.com) brings its popular Mojo line to the hardwater this season with 13 offerings (all $50 each) in lengths from 24- to 36-inches for a variety of on-ice applications. Featuring a precision taper carbon blank and pencil-hold handle for technical jigging applications, the Mojo Ice series gives anglers the perks on ice that they’ve enjoyed in the company’s affordable, high-performing openwater rod series.
Lindy (lindyfishingtackle.com) continues to lead the way in ice lure innovation by offering up a predator-sized version of its Perch Talker spoon in the Wally Talker, a collection of beads and brass above a chain-and-treble hook combination for presentation of minnows and other baits. Clam’s (clamcorp.com) tackle selection increases this season as well and is notable for a unique panfish lure called the Guppy Flutter Spoon. It consists of a horizontal aluminum blade and free-swinging single hook which provides an enticing, random and fluttering drop and a wobble on the lift that will attract the attention of hungry perch and crappies.
More than just tweaks and twists on previous offerings, this year’s selection of on-ice advancements from tech to tackle is the best in recent memory. Whether it’s a big ticket item that needs an upgrade, or just a new selection of lures to stash in a tackle box, there’s plenty of new stuff for anglers to warm up to this winter…in our outdoors.