Ice show season: Checking out innovations for hard water 2014-15

The St. Paul Ice Fishing show has ended, which usually signals the beginning of the ice fishing season, but this year the early cold temperatures already had anglers telling stories of the big ones they’ve already caught. 

There was much to see while perusing the booths at RiverCentre. There wasn’t much that was new, but there were many improvements of existing technologies and equipment. Ice fishing shelters have become more user-friendly and warmer due to the quilting process and set-up design. Poles are easier to slide and there are no issues with condensation on the thermal models. Some shelters are not using a sewing process so no more thread holes where heat can escape. Portable shelters have never been better.

I had four wow moments. When I saw Brian Brosdahl wearing the new chest cradle for the Aqua-Vu underwater cameras I knew I had to own one. I scout a lot, and while my sonar is the primary tool for knowing I’m in the general area, for getting positioned right on the spot-on-the-spot I rely on my underwater camera. This new “pouch” is perfect for guys like me who need four hands. 

I was also impressed with the new Frabill 371 reel. Not just because it has a short-armed handle for guys who like to palm the reel. The spool is extremely smooth and the drag is easy to adjust when you want to use the reel on a tip-down. You can loosen the drag, set the clicker and prop the rod and reel in the tip-down cradle. 

Bruce Mosher from Today’s Tackle showed me his tip-down setup and I’m going to build a half-dozen for myself. He uses a Rod Rocker 2 rod-holder that fits a five-gallon bucket, but he’s drilled out a 2-foot long piece of two-by-six lumber to hold the Rod Rocker instead of the bucket. This setup cradles the rod. Then he uses a bait-bucket bubbler to keep his hole open. He replaces the bubbler stone and tubing that comes with the bubbler with some very soft tubing that’s much longer. He uses a snap-weight to position the hose in the hole and the bubbles keep the hole open even when it’s very cold out. Some bells attached to the rod makes some noise when the fish takes the bait. I’m in the process of building some now.

Mosher also showed me some crankbait weights he has developed that will make every floating-lipped crankbait you have into a jigging crank. You clip the weight to the front of the bait’s treble hook eye and it sinks the lure and turns it into a jigging lure. This should work extremely well for any vertical jigging situation on ice or open water. It was my favorite innovation at the show.

My fourth wow occurred when I saw the Clam Torchlight. A headlamp, a flashlight and a clip-light, all-in-one. I know of no ice angler who doesn’t rely heavily on his headlamp and wish they were more versatile. Well, your prayers have been answered.

Rapala impressed me with its new Titanium Spring Bobber, which adds sensitivity to any ice rod. Its snap-back titanium design will not kink or break, and it adjustable tension and a high-visibility indicator bead that will telegraphs even light-biting fish.

The Wil-Craft is now four-wheel drive and one model has tracks for traction. Rods are getting more specialized. Augers more efficient. Wheel houses more prolific and The Perch Patrol is still tearing up the Devils Lake perch and walleyes. All is well in the world of ice fishing and by the crowds that filled the aisles of the annual event, I can assure you the sport is still growing.

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