By Nick Simonson
From the first of these annual columns nearly fifteen years ago, the ice fishing market has burgeoned into the billions of dollars. From coast to coast across the ice belt, sales of shelters, augers and electronics has grown to rival the open water angling gear market in those areas and options have expanded season after season to provide the most cutting-edge technology, from buzzing blades to thumping jigs. What follows are the advancements that will once again be heating up the hardwater this winter and spurring anglers on to good fishing in the coming months as the hottest stuff on ice.
For mobile ice angling, lighter is better, and with the growth in popularity of lightweight yet powerful electric augers, it was only a matter of time before every major brand went all in when niche leader Ion placed its bet on lithium-battery powered models about five years ago. Jiffy (jiffyonice.com) enters the market this season with its E6 Lightning lithium-powered electric auger capable of punching 60 to 100 holes on a single charge, depending on drill size. The E6 comes after last year’s entry of the StrikeMaster Lithium 40v, a unit that boasts a short two-and-a-half hour charge time for its batteries. With the growth in the market segment, many electric units offer batteries at a discount over previous years and often under $100 per power source.
For those looking to go lighter still, drill-powered augers are becoming all the rage as those options which were once cranked by hand are now driven by the ubiquitous 18-volt electric drill on the ice. HT (htent.com) offers the Nero and E-Drill models with converters and handles designed to quickly change over from manual power to a drill in a matter of moments. These options build on the recent popularity of the K-Drill (kdrillauger.com) auger that broke the ice for this advancing area of ultralight auger options.
Where there was once a single model of a single brand on the ice, the sonar market has also spread its wings with offerings from Marcum, Lowrance and Humminbird taking hold on hardwater over the past decade to challenge the monopoly Vexilar once held. This winter bears witness to Garmin’s (garmin.com) claim to a portion of the on-ice sonar sect with its ECHOMAP and STRIKER units which pull double duty with built-in GPS and lake mapping software. The Garmin Panoptix bundle also offers side-viewing and down viewing options which show schooling fish out from the hole to help get anglers pointed in the right direction.
Humminbird (hummingbird.com) also builds on its recent successes in the winter angling market with three new sonars in the Ice Helix line which boast GPS, multi-colored maps and traditional circular depth display with a summery side-scrolling presentation next to it. The Ice Helix series also heralds an easy transfer to openwater deployment with a seamless transfer to the bow of any boat for consistent fish-detection options all year round.
Light Up Lures
Finally, the growth of glow under the ice has driven a niche of lures for everything from perch to pike. Northland (northlandtackle.com) continues its use of insertable glow sticks made popular in the last few years as part of its Glo-Shot Spoon line with the Glo-Shot Jig this year, offering both in multi-lure kits with a selection of lights in red, green and chartreuse. Similarly, Lindy (lindyfishingtackle.com) offers up insert-lit Glow Spoons to bring other options on the ice this season.
From fast-turning electric augers to fish-finding sonar options to the latest enlightening lures, this season brings hardwater angling to a new apex once again with the hottest stuff on ice…in our outdoors.