I’m hard pressed to think of any type of angling that’s more gear intensive than ice fishing. Being outside for long hours in the bitter cold, and drilling holes in solid ice, requires the right clothing to stay warm, and the right tools to help you get the job done. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg (pun intended). In addition to things like augers and shelters, modern electronic fishfinders are a must. You’ll also need to keep your bait alive and swimming, and a selection of jigging gear and tip-ups if you plan to use minnows. Knowing all this, it shouldn’t be surprising that ice anglers are always on the lookout for new ideas to make their time on frozen water easier, more productive, warmer, or more organized. To help you decide what’s worth your hard-earned money this winter, I’ve played with all the latest and greatest ice fishing gear for the 2018-2019 season. Here are ten items that are worth every penny.
The ICE HELIX 7 CHIRP 2 is the most advanced and complete portable electronics unit available. By utilizing pulsing CHIRP signals, as opposed to a single, constant frequency, the new HELIX transmits what’s below the ice with more detail and clarity than its predecessors. More importantly, the advanced CHIRP is great for differentiating targets, and the fish signals don’t blend in with the bottom. The HELIX 7 also includes Humminbird Basemap and AutoChart Live technologies so anglers can map lakes and save the data. In addition to an ice transducer, the unit also comes with a boat mount so you can chart your favorite lake all year and use the info for both open water and ice fishing.
St. Croix consistently leads the charge when it comes to crafting high-quality ice fishing rods, and the Custom Ice is their finest stick to date. The 10-rod lineup is divided into technique specific models, covering everything from a 20-inch long, light action “Sight-Bite” to a brute, 42-inch long, medium-heavy “Apex Predator.” Each model incorporates one of St. Croix’s five blank platforms to match specific applications. The Custom Ice also uses blank materials specifically created for ice fishing rods and the company finishes every stick with premium-grade components.
Frabill Magnum Bait Station
The Magnum Bait Station is an oversized livewell aimed at holding a large number of minnows. Built-in aeration keeps the water oxygenated and the cooler’s insulated, injection-molded body protects bait from freezing even in the coldest conditions. It has a padded shoulder strap, large handle for easy transportation, and a removable net liner that makes it easy to retrieve bait. The Magnum Bait Station is available in 13- or 19-quart capacities, comes with a quality 12V power adapter, and it can also run on two D-sized batteries.
The Aqua-Vu HD 10i Pro is the most technologically advanced underwater camera to date. Aqua-Vu’s modular XD Camera sends clear video to a daylight viewable, 10-inch wide LCD screen, and the innovative TouchZoom technology allows you to zero in on fish that are far from the camera. The HD 10i Pro has a real-time digital display that reports camera depth, water temperature, and direction, and it comes with 125 feet of cable.
More and more anglers are recognizing the value of soft-plastics for ice fishing, and the Soft-Plastics Holder from CLAM is your best bet for keeping them organized and dry. Instead of rummaging through piles of Ziplocs in your tackle box, the CLAM Soft-Plastics Holder splays your baits out for easy viewing. This durable wallet has enough room to carry numerous packages of plastics in a size you can easily stow or carry while you hop from ice hole to hole.
Lindy’s Glow Spoon takes luminescent ice fishing lures to a whole new level. Instead of a special finish that holds a charge, the Glow Spoon is fabricated to hold a luminescent light stick. The result is a bright jigging lure that doesn’t need to be recharged every few minutes. Combined with a vibrant finish, enticing swimming action, and built-in tungsten rattles, the Glow Spoon has no shortage of advantages over other lures when it comes to attracting fish.
HT Enterprises Predator Pro Thermal Tip-Up
The Predator Pro Thermal Tip-Up has the company's same popular thermal tip-up design, but with several new key features. Thermal tip-ups completely cover an ice hole and prevent ice and slush from blowing in and freezing it shut. The Predator has a thick layer of high-density insulation, a large capacity spool, and a super-sized flag that’s visible even in a snowstorm. A multiple setting trip shaft allows you to set several degrees of tension, and present bigger baits to bigger fish.
If you’re having trouble catching line-shy fish, Cabela’s Ice Fishing Fluorocarbon Line is virtually invisible in water, regardless of light conditions. The line itself has a silicone finish that keeps it soft, smooth, and manageable, without sacrificing knot strength. And, like other fluorocarbon lines, it’s highly abrasion and impact/shock resistant. It also has minimal stretch, which increases sensitivity and helps with hook-sets. The line comes in 75-yard spools in 2-, 3-, 4- and 6-pound test ratings.
The Ice Team Five-Sided 360 Thermal Ice Shelter is a hardwater condo. The full-sized tent has plenty of elbowroom for jigging, and its pentagonal shape gives you numerous lines of sight to watch tip-ups. Heavy-duty 11mm fiberglass poles, 600-denier polyester construction, and a 70-gram Thermal Trap Top keep the Ice Team Five-Sided 360 warm, dry, and extremely stable in windy conditions. The shelter has an overall fishing area of 64 square feet and a center height of 82 inches.
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Anyone who has ever pulled a sled across the ice knows the less you have to drag, the better, which is why backpacks are a stellar idea for keeping loads light. The CLAM Ultimate Ice Backpack is an incredible piece of gear for any ice fisherman. There’s a huge amount of storage space for stowing a flasher, tackle and accessories, food, extra clothing, or anything else you need for a day on the water. There’s a specially designed rod case on the side and extra long shoulder straps for maximum comfort, even when carried over a heavy parka.