By Dennis Foster
One of the greatest attractions of ice fishing is that it is a relatively inexpensive sport to break into. It can, and often does, serve as an entry-level avenue that directly leads to getting folks into fishing in general.
Ice fishing can be viewed as a gateway drug, if you will, that morphs into a lifelong passion for many of us. Believe me, there are far worse addictions a person can be afflicted by.
On my first forays onto the ice, I did not even have a suitable means to gain access to the fish. While in college, the only option I had available was resorting to opening old holes with a tire iron. I quickly learned — more on the ice than in class — that humbly hanging out with the older guys would lead them to taking pity on me and offering up their power augers for a quick spin through the ice.
The next thing was getting a line down the freshly bored holes. This was carried out with copies of the “stick in the ice” method that was all the rage at the time.
These archaic contraptions were fashioned from old broom handles, where nails with the head clipped were inserted into one end and a couple pieces of doweling were used to wrap the line. I can even recall accessorizing them with bicycle handlebar grips that would fit over the non-sharp end of the broom handle, which helped drive the whole operation into the ice. At the time, I remember thinking that I now had some truly “fancy” equipment, and I was good to go.
The next evolution in the process was graduating on up to actual handheld rods, but not the kind you’re thinking of, as store-bought rods would have to wait until I had more money in my wallet than enough to purchase a six pack of Blue Ribbon. This meant I had to go back to Dad’s garage for broken open-water rod tips that I’d insert into the lower handle portion. These hand-me-downs were then topped off by some well-worn, classic reels such as Zebco 202s. Although they were a bit unsightly and not terribly functional, at the time I thought I was finally ready to wiggle some shiny metal to entice the fish.
Commercial rods were the next logical step, and, quite frankly, the rods available back then were only incrementally better than the admittedly crude models I had fashioned myself. At the time, ice-fishing rods were hardly worth the cost of what could otherwise procure a 12-pack of the previously mentioned refreshments.
That being said, as we were readying to enter a bold new century, the fishing industry finally began to recognize that ice anglers could and would actually spend some of their hard-earned money on decent equipment in lieu of totally relying on the rather rudimentary stuff that had been previously available.
Graphite quickly replaced heavy and stiff fiberglass models, and sensitivity increased dramatically. With dedicated ice rods made of graphite, we could now actually feel lite-bighting fish and react in time to sink some steel into their jaws.
Catch rates rose right along with enjoyment and interest in the sport, and we are now the direct beneficiaries of what can accurately be termed a revolution in equipment and tackle of all kinds. Just looking at what anglers of all levels are using today would have been nearly unimaginable just 25 years ago.
The Modern Age
While this nostalgic little trip down memory lane serves for great reflection, let’s now focus on the assortment of high-quality ice-fishing rods available today.
As mentioned, the more astute manufacturers have realized just how vital truly good rods are to putting more fish on the ice. More importantly, they continue to respond and refine their lineups of ice rods to answer the needs of serious ice anglers for a wide array of ice-fishing applications.
There are a handful of notable companies that are leading the way in design, and, in my personal opinion, the rods St. Croix has been producing should be the envy of the industry.
For the last several years, I have been a huge fan of St. Croix’s Legend Gold Series and Silver Series ice rods. With actions from ultralight to heavy, and lengths ranging from a 17 inches to 48 inches, you can effectively present lures of any size and weight to accommodate all fish species and conditions. From a barely discernable bluegill bite on up to hard-charging lake trout or pike, all the bases are covered.
Combine these traits with an innovative, fully adjustable spring-bobber system that incorporates four interchangeable tensions, and we can now fine-tune our presentations to exactly what is needed on any given day, giving us the ability to entice even the most lethargic fish into committing to our lures. Plus, this system allows us to not only feel, but also see the most tentative of bites, which is absolutely crucial when fish are often less than cooperative.
St. Croix’s latest offering is the Legend Black Ice series of ice rods. With an amazing 10 variations available in this model alone, you are certain to find a length and action that will not only meet your specific requirements, but also exceed your expectations.
Rest assured, I am not advocating throwing all your old rods away and rushing out to buy a whole new lineup. Rather, I would recommend picking up a new model or two in actions and specific lengths that meet your most common needs and putting them to immediate use. I think you will instantly realize the value of the addition to your current arsenal and will quickly expand your lineup of rods to cover more of your angling needs.
You see, high-end rods are much more than just a wistful want. They fall more into the category of a necessity as we continually strive to become better overall anglers. Please do not skimp when it comes to choosing a new ice rod, as great rods serve as an extension of your body and the only thing that puts you in direct contact with the fish.
Rods are about the most inexpensive and influential investment you will make in ice-fishing equipment. Do some research or consult with someone who has experience handling the better brands and models of ice sticks, then make your choice. I do believe you will soon find yourself putting more fish on the ice and an ever-broadening smile on your face in the process.
About the Author: Dennis Foster is an avid outdoor communicator, guide and tournament fisherman. He welcomes input, and questions and comments can be directed to either of his websites at www.eyetimepromotions.com or www.dakotapheasantguide.com.