With ice season right around the corner (some northern areas already started), I thought I’d do a quick article on the upcoming gear for this season, or my wishlist.
Vexilar has come out with four new flashers for this season. The FLX-20, FLX 12 ProPack II, FL18 ProPack II and the FLX-12 Genz Pack. For those of you who like the clear readout of the flat FLX-28 screen, Vexilar has now put it on all except for the FL-18 ProPack II for head units. Being a tournament ice angler, I still can’t say enough about my FLX-28. With all the special features like weed mode, low power mode and bottom zoom to name a few, I can honestly tell you it has made finding fish easier. I get asked all the time, “What do you suggest I get?” Well if you’re only going a handful of times each winter, you can’t go wrong with the FL-8 or FLX-12. As for price point, it won’t completely break the bank and these units are close to indestructible. If you’re a very avid and serious ice angler, hands down go with the FLX-28. My tournament partner use to love another manufacturer, but after using my FLX-28, he has sold his old units and now has two himself.
Strikemaster, to me, is the most reliable workhorse of an auger I’ve ever owned. My first Lazer Mag is now 11 years old and I decided to buy a new one two years ago just to have two different size bars to pick from. If you are looking for lightweight and don’t want to deal with pre-mixing your gas, the Strikemaster Honda 35cc Lite is the lightest, and possibly the quietest, auger I have ever used. The only downfall that I noticed – it isn’t quite as quick as the Lazer Mag.
For years, I have always had a doubt with using a battery-operated auger, but after watching other tournament teams, including my partner, I am biting the bullet and buying a K-Drill this winter. Sure, it isn’t as quick as my Lazer Mag, but not having to start the auger to punch more holes is a very nice thing. Towards the end the tournament season last winter, I found myself “borrowing” my partner’s drill and punching all of the holes when we were running and gunning, chasing down suspended crappies. The K-Drill comes in two sizes, a 6″ and an 8″ auger. I’ve heard through the grapevine that there is talk about a 10’’ auger coming out as well.
13 Fishing has taken ice fishing by storm with their selection of rods and reels including the Black Betty 6061 reel and Widow Maker rod. Well, this winter they took it one step forward and came out with a new line of plastics. I am really looking forward to putting my 13 Fishing Sneak, Coconut Crab, Jeffrey and Paralyzer to the test.
Going back to what really worked the last few years, I can’t leave out Clam’s Maki series of plastic. The Clam Maki Mino was a great plastic to get the larger, aggressive crappie and bluegill to go, but when the bite got tough, the Clam Maki Polli really shined through.
I have absolutely fallen in love with my 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061’s over the years, but now 13 Fishing has come out with the Black Betty FreeFall Ghost. I’m really looking forward to not having to take my hand off the reel to let line out with the FreeFall. Plus if you’re like me and rarely use gloves, you won’t have to worry about your hand sticking to the metal reel if you pistol grip the reel.
After using my 13 Fishing Widow Maker rods the last two ice seasons, I can’t say enough good things about them. I will tell you right now I’m, hands down, one of the toughest people on my rods and I have yet to break one. The light action rods are sensitive enough for the smallest 3 and 4mm jigs I use, but also stiff enough for sending Rapala Rippin’ Raps and Slender Spoons down the hole.
If you are a tight liner, I would highly suggest looking at the HT Enterprises Ice Blue Super Flex 18″ ultralight. Pair this rod with an old fashion Schooley reel and for under $20 you have an excellent tight lining combo that will take as much abuse as you can give it. I personally run 2lb and 4lb pink Sunline Siglon F on my reels (thanks to my tournament partner who turned me on to tight lining) and I have had no issues getting fussy bluegill and crappie to bite.
If you are looking for an ice suit that can withstand subzero temperatures, I would highly suggest taking a look at the Striker Ice HardWater Jacket and Bibs. I invested in them last year and couldn’t be happier. The coldest tournament I fished had temperatures at -15 all day long and at no point did I get cold. Being 6’0, 260lbs, I put my leg through thin ice on a river last winter and the bibs did what they say they’ll do. Instantly, my leg floated up and, after taking a second to think of what just happened, I was shocked at how buoyant the bibs were. As much as I would like to mention other manufacturers, I can only speak to what I have and how it worked. I will tell you right now, having the flotation is such a great piece of mind, it will be hard for me to ever go back to a non-flotation ice suit.
These are just a few of the items on my personal wishlist for this ice season. I hope this gives all of you some new ideas if you are looking for a new auger, flasher, rod, reel or plastic selection. Tight lines and remember: NO ICE IS SAFE ICE.