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The Right Stuff

Picking out ice fishing equipment is just as important as making sure the ice is safe. In the previous ice fishing post I talked about some basic equipment and safety measures to take when going ice fishing. I will now dive more into the gear. Just like when picking out the weight of a rod for open water fishing you want to match it to the species you are going after.

Choosing a Rod

When targeting species such as Bluegill, Crappie, or other panfish go with an ultra light rod about 24-28 inches long. The rod will be extra sensitive and allow you to feel the bite of the fish and allow you to fight it well. Going heavier than a light rod for panfish will result in the loss of live bait and missed fish because you wont feel the hit.

Use a light rod for perch. Perch are usually bigger and stronger than panfish so you can go up in heft of the rod. With rod length go with a 24-30 inch rod.

Medium is a good rod to have. In the previous post I mentioned having a few holes augered out for fishing in simultaneously (depending on regulations in your area). Having at least one medium rod set up is a good idea. If you are going for panfish set up a live bait medium rod in case there are any bigger fish, such as walleye or bass in the area feeding on the smaller fish. The medium rod does an excellent job in bringing in bigger fish. While it is possible to bring in a walleye on a light rod, using a medium makes it much easier.

When going for big hitters like pike and musky go big like you would in open water. These fish can fight and will easily break an ultra light rod. Use a rod that is 26-30 inches in length for these big fish.

Choosing a Line

The line you go with should always match the reel as well as the species you are going after. Getting the ICE version of fishing line is also important as it behaves better in the colder conditions. Also given the slow nature of ice fishing a line that is less visible like a flourocarbon or low density monofilament line will work best.

You also do not need hundreds of yards of line when ice fishing because the fish wont be able to run as much and it is a much more vertical battle than a side to side battle like open water fishing. Matching the line weight and distance to that on the reel works the best.

Because of the lighter line learning to fight the fish and use your drag properly is very important while ice fishing. Unlike when you are in a boat you cant follow a big fish when it makes its run. You are confined to your 6-8in diameter hole. So playing the fish becomes the key to bringing it in.

Lures and Bait

Lures and bait are also smaller while ice fishing, typical jigs run from 1/64 of an ounce to 1/16 of an ounce and these are tipped with wax worms. When going for bigger fish the lures may get up to 1/4 of an ounce but most jigs and spoons are very small. This is because fish are not very active in the winter. Using smaller baits is more tempting that big baits while ice fishing. Live bait such as worms and minnows also work incredibly well in the winter.

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