By Mark Strand
In the sport of ice fishing, the old way and the new way
sometimes get in each other’s way as you search to maximize your
It’s legal to fish through the ice with at least two lines in
most places. Naturally, it’s not hard to find ice anglers who
assume if it’s legal to fish with two, they should definitely have
that second line down there.
“Some of the those rules,” says Dave Genz, captain of the Ice
Team Power Sticks, “were set in the old days, when the equipment
was crude and we couldn’t move around like we can now.”
As counterintuitive as it might seem, Genz believes you are
often less efficient and less successful with multiple lines.
“Mobility is not usually enhanced by setting out more lines,” he
says. “In most situations you actually cover less water because you
don’t pack up all those lines and move if the fish aren’t biting,
because it’s too much work.”
Consider the situation
Genz backs off a bit to acknowledge that there are situations in
which multiple lines can, indeed, be an advantage.
“You might want to put out more lines,” he says, “at prime time,
like evening or early morning, when the fish are moving and looking
for something to eat. Then you can camp on a good spot and do well
by letting the fish come to you.”
It’s difficult to make general statements about fishing, because
there are so many possible exceptions to every rule of thumb. But
Genz believes strongly in the power of “one hole and one rod” for
the lion’s share of his ice time.
“I do an awful lot of my ice fishing in the daytime,” he says.
“On most lakes, most of the time, fish are not as active during
daylight hours. They sit there fat, dumb and happy, so you have to
go find em, sit over em, and make em bite.
“You have to fish where the fish are, and a lot of times it
takes a number of moves before you find them. If you put out this
big field of tip-ups (or other lines) at the first spot, you aren’t
going to catch much if the fish aren’t down there.
“A lot of times, I don’t use any rods while I’m searching for
fish. Especially if I don’t know the lake, I team up with other
people and we’re drilling holes and looking down there with the
Vexilar and Aqua-Vu. We’re moving down the lake, using our
electronics to check spots.”
One is a handful
To reinforce his case, Genz stresses that it often takes his
full attention to fish well with one rod in his hand, preferring
not to split his attention with a second rod, which has to be
baited and monitored.
“Fishing with one rod works best for me most of the time,” he
says. “Ice fishing is all about covering water and being efficient.
It takes my full attention to concentrate and handle one rod well.
I can fish more holes in a day if I just have to reel up one line
and move to the next hole than if dealing with two or more.”
Most people don’t move as many times as they should even if they
only use one line, Genz believes.
“During that golden hour, when the sun is hitting the trees, the
fish are moving. Now is when you can sit still and let them come to
you. At that time, it can pay off to set out more than one line.
But most of the time, your energy is more efficiently spent trying
to find biters rather than waiting.”
When you do fish more than one line, both Genz and Brian Bro’
Brosdahl, another Ice Team member, agree that you should have lines
that offer the fish distinctly different presentations.
“I like to keep my extra lines within easy reach,” says Bro,
“with a presentation that’s different than what I’m using with my
“One rod can be a deadstick,” says Bro, referring to a
presentation where the live bait creates any movement. “One can
have a minnow or minnow head, another one a wax worm or a number of
The bottom line
When it comes to ice fishing, don’t just assume your best bet is
to put out the maximum number of lines allowed. Consider the
possibility that one well-tended rod, given your full attention,
might keep you moving efficiently until you find willing biters. At
the same time, take advantage of prime times and prime locations to
set multiple-line traps for fish that are actively seeking
Editor’s note: Dave Genz is captain of Ice Team, found at