Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Open-Water Rod Quality for Hard-Water Success

By Glen Schmitt
Staff Writer


Experienced hard-water anglers have seen the custom ice fishing rod market truly erupt in recent years. Readers of this publication have seen new rods at sport shows, online, and garnering praise from some of the nation’s top ice-fishing gurus.


Several major ope- water fishing rod manufacturers have dipped their toes into the custom ice rod market. Other folks have been building them in mom-and-pop tackle shops, in their basements, or mid-level sporting goods outlets. 


The options are endless, which is probably one reason they’re so popular. In short, custom ice-fishing rods now contain the same quality components you’ll find in top open-water rods, and they’re designed for specific fish species and presentations.


Prefer a short winter rod with a light tip and stiff backbone or something that’s a bit more stout? Rods with or without reel seats, cork handles, short handles, long handles … it doesn’t matter. You can own an ice-fishing rod built to your specifications.


The wrinkle? You’ll pay more. Quality, custom built ice fishing rods will run north of $100. But good anglers appreciate this get-what-you-pay-for deal.


Proponents of custom ice rods often argue that most anglers have no problem spending a $100 or more on their open water rods. So why not invest in winter rods, too?


It’s up to individuals and usually relies on their dedication to ice angling. Only hit the ice a few times each winter? Then investing in a custom rod probably
 isn’t necessary.


But if they’re hardcore anglers who want to tip the odds in their favor even more, consider a custom ice fishing rod. Again, you can choose the type of rod for the fish you chase most often and build it to match specific presentations or your individual needs.


Custom panfish ice rods are typically more popular and practical than those for walleyes or other large gamefish. Crappies, bluegills, and perch often demand a finesse game, especially since they swim in shallow and deep water or suspend at different levels of the water column during the winter months.


Sight-fishing pannies in 4 feet of water requires a different stick than you’d want for fish sitting over 30 feet of water or more. 


It might be a shorter blank for those shallow fish or a longer, heavier blank over deep water. Depending on the individual, that scenario might flip, but custom rods let you fish them effectively no matter your approach. 


Many anglers overlook the confidence factor. The most successful anglers, winter and summer alike, are confident with their tools and usually catch more fish.


Using a custom ice rod built with the components you want (and that feels the way you expect it to in your hand) boosts the confidence level and improves your angling efficiency.


So if you haven’t treated yourself to a custom ice-fishing rod, maybe winter 2019-20 is the season. 


Modern ice anglers now can experience the same quality and specific fishing traits via a custom-built ice rod that they can with an open-water stick. And that’s pretty cool.

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