Better angling: Modern ice fishing's multiple paradigm shifts
Walking around the St. Paul Ice Show this year I am struck by how dramatically different the sport of ice fishing is today from just a decade or so ago. It is definitely the fastest-growing segment of the fishing industry and if you don’t believe it, head over to the show and see for yourself.
Even if you miss the show, visit your local sporting goods store and cruise the selection of lures, electronics, shelters, augers and supplemental gear. The term “more stuff than you can shake a stick at” comes to mind. How much of it is actually needed to have a quality experience yanking fish through a hole in the ice is open to interpretation, however.
As an avid ice angler myself, I have a tendency to get that kid in a candy store mentality walking through the stores and shows. The newest products on the market are very cool and cutting edge. The fact that manufacturers are investing so much in the sport also speaks to the revolution of the sport throughout a very narrow band of the population that lives in the “Ice Belt.”
One thing that I still haven’t made my mind up about as I peruse the vast variety of ice fishing gear is the “team” approach that seems to be prevalent. Both the “Ice Team” and “Ice Force” have numerous companies representing the basic gear-groups working together as a conglomeration.
Within each group are team members who coordinate with the various companies and drive the consumer from one team-sponsored product to another. In an ever-growing market, the small scale shop has a tough time keeping up. A company can compete with these teams or they can join them in one capacity or another.
My question is this: Will this stifle competition or embolden it? I believe that, for the most part, competition is good for the consumer in that it drives prices down, keeps products innovative and encourages customer support. If the market it too competitive, however, it can cause companies to react wildly and take unnecessary chances in an effort to create the next big thing.
The stability these large teams bring to a rapidly-growing, yet still markedly small sport, could actually be just what the sport needs to enjoy its newly found fan base.
One thing is for sure, the days of the spud bar, string-on-a-stick hand-line fishing rods out on bare ice are long gone. And good riddance!