Nuggets of Knowledge


Like a forty-niner panning through massive volumes of sediment searching for a fraction of an ounce of gold, modern ice anglers who patiently sift through the chaff are often rewarded with glittering golden nuggets of knowledge. Here’s a few I’ve recently unearthed.

Next time you’re rigging your tip-ups, consider this: Single snelled hooks provide a seldom considered, but most definite hook setting benefit. How? Standard knots have a tendency to slide sideways within hook eyes. Whenever this happens, a percentage of your hooking force must first be wasted pulling the knot straight, reducing efficiency and, at times, causing your hook to roll sideways, resulting in missed fish.

In contrast, snelled knots are tied in-line and directly aligned with the force of your hook set, so when you apply pressure, your line is immediately pulled straight along the hook shaft, efficiently transferring that force right through to the hook point.

Most anglers experiment with various baits, but often with little regard for “matching the hatch” profiling. Walleyes might not be feeding specifically on 4” golden shiners like the ones in your bait bucket, but if those minnows closely resemble the natural shad forage in profile, you’re more likely to be successful. Similarly, a tiny, single spike-tipped micro jig may closely mimic a giant, juicy Daphnia to plankton-feeding slab crappie. Strategically use baits profiling natural forage bases, and you’ll experience increased success!

When using sonar, weed mode is a frequently overlooked option that can be effectively used in any situation where you want to sharpen individual target separation. This most often occurs when you’re fishing thick vegetation and want to filter out distracting congestion and more easily identify your lure among dense weed clumps—but also comes in handy when fishing tight schools of pan fish or working fish relating to hefty clouds of plankton, freshwater shrimp, or baitfish.

Weed Mode

However, since your display will be weaker when using the weed mode option, this feature is best used in shallower water (leading sonar manufacturer Vexilar suggests thirty feet or less)—and because you’ll likely have to turn up your gain for optimal performance, is best limited to situations where interference from other units is minimal. If you’re fishing really shallow, already have your gain set low as it goes in normal mode and the resulting display is still cluttered, consider switching to low power mode. This setting uses only a minimal amount of output power, and given significantly lowered sensitivity, unwanted signals caused by surface clutter, thick weeds and clouds of plankton are filtered out.

Again, due to reduced power output, this mode is effectively limited to shallow water use, but in situations where your lowest gain setting isn’t enough to obtain clear readings, the benefit quickly becomes obvious.

Most ice anglers purchase lures, then fish them, untouched, right out of the package. However, many mass-produced lures feature thick, inexpensive hooks, not always satisfactorily sharpened. Don’t be afraid to replace them with better quality, thinner wire, chemically sharpened models like wide-gapped trebles or premium single hook designs. Circle hooks, for instance, are engineered to not only increase hooking percentages, but nearly always efficiently stick fish in the outer lip, meaning minimal damage is caused to fish destined for release. As a bonus, you can more easily remove your hook and get right back to fishing!


That’s right: Using your smart phone or tablet, you can now use sophisticated electronic mobile apps to access lake mapping technologies and their related innovations, study your target waters, identify high-percentage features and pre-plan productive structures to fish.

By integrating these mapping technologies with GPS capabilities, you can also obtain directions to your lake and the most convenient landing(s), record coordinates for specific high profile structures—even plot direct routes between them. Now that’s efficiency at its finest!

If you move frequently and use sonar to search for fish, consider replacing your standard gel-cell battery with one of today’s lightweight, high-power lithium models. They’re more expensive, but also significantly lighter, provide greater power, charge faster, hold charges better and last longer.

Today’s ice anglers have access to seemingly overwhelming heaps of information. With all this greater knowledge and awareness, those who are infinitely patient, keenly observant and able to finely sift through the dregs are often rewarded with golden nuggets of knowledge like these—precious gems that ultimately allow them to strike it rich and experience extravagant winter catches!


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