There are only two things that have made this relentless winter bearable: NHL Hockey and Ice Fishing. Although the latter isn’t my first choice in pursuit of my favourite fish species, and I would much rather be targeting largemouths donning my favourite pair of flip flops; one needs to maintain his sanity.
Chances are if you’re an avid fisherman, you at least spend a portion of y our winter on the ice. It may not be your first choice, but without ice fishing I know I would probably either turn into a snowbird or have a significant mental breakdown. As Canadians we have been wrought with one of the worst winters in recent memory. If you haven’t experienced -30 C without the windchill, blizzard like conditions when it does decide to warm up, or you ice shack blowing down the lake as you scramble to chase after it, chances are you haven’t been fishing yet this year!
Unfortunately, Canadian winters are part of our culture and climate and partly responsible for our far less crowded northern lakes, rivers, and cities. I can’t bring myself to thank Old Man Winter just yet…
I’m a firm believer, and will always preach about how crucial it is to have the best equipment possible. Purchasing the best rod, reel, line, and tackle that an individual can reasonably afford will undoubtedly lead to more fish hitting the ice. I can’t stand losing fish, and just the mere mention of that topic summons a select few personal reoccurring nightmares that still haunt me to this day. I’m sure that most of you are picturing, and can vividly describe your personal accounts of lost fish, ensuing heartbreak, and sleepless nights.
I can only shake my head when I hear a guy blaming his equipment for a lost fish. If that’s the case, take a good hard look in the mirror because using the proper equipment is a variable that you can control! St.Croix’s lineup of ice rods, which boasts an impressive 29 models, will definitely put the onus on you this winter.
New for 2014 and the hardcore hardwater angler are St.Croix’s Legend Gold & Legend Silver Ice Rods (MSRP $60-90). These ice sticks have precision taper solid carbon blanks that provide extreme performance and the Legend Gold series have an innovate neoprene skin handle with Fuji reel seats and Pac Bay Minima Guides! These rods are reserved for the Ice Fishing Elite and the guys that always like to one up their buddies, and the guys that like to spend money on fishing gear…wait that’s pretty much all of us.
If you can’t justify spending that much money on an ice rod, or your wife found the receipt from your first one, don’t worry, the St.Croix Premier Ice Rods (MSRP $25-40) can help you round out your lineup. Ranging from a 24’’ ultra light to a 42’’ medium spinning rod, and two wicked casting models St.Croix’s lineup should cover all of the bases.
The following is a quick rundown of my favourite models that I use to pursue some of Canada’s most sought after species:
Lake Trout – (PIRC34H) – After years of pleading with St.Croix to make a casting rod that can handle those line stripping, “I think he just saw the hole” last ditch runs that lakers are notorious for, they’ve come up with an answer. Paired with your favourite bass casting reel, 8-12 lb test, and your favourite white tube or spoon, and you are set.
Walleye – (PIR36M) – Needless to say rod length does come down to personal preference. I tend to use rods in the 28 – 36‘’ medium power range, 6-8 # test Vicious Fishing Panfish Ice line, 1/8 –1/4 oz jig with a live minnow tail hooked, or a jigging spoon with the same trailer.
Crappies – (PIC28ML) – I’ve found the 28’’ medium light Premier Ice combo which comes with a quality 3 bearing spinning reel (MSRP $45) to be perfect for winter slabs, and it still has the backbone to handle a bonus walleye or two. 4-6 # test Vicious Fishing Panfish Ice line, a 1/16 – 1/8 oz jig or tube jig tipped with a small minnow or minnow head should coax them.
Whitefish – (PIRC34MH) – The 34’’ medium heavy Premier Ice casting rod is absolutely perfect for icing a nice limit of whites. It has the backbone to handle trophy whitefish, and a medium tip to keep those treble hooks in place without tearing their soft subterminal mouths. An added bonus is that this model can double as a nice back country lake trout rod which I’ve field tested personally! My favourite application involves 8-10 lb Vicious Fishing Panfish Ice line, and a Williams Ice Jig. Once you have iced a few for dinner be sure to remove the dual side hooks for a quick and easy release on other fish.
Oftentimes bites can be at a premium during the winter doldrums, capitalizing on these chances with the proper Ice Rod and equipment can be the difference between bringing home the bacon, or attempting to explain to your significant other why you have glitter on your face (from the baits!), and what the hell you were up to all day.
Heed these recommendations to find the perfect ice rod and kick off the 2014 hardwater season right. Just make sure you’re back in time for the game, and with any luck and the right set up, you will be at home enjoying your favourite beverage and cleaning fish while watching Coaches Corner!