By Nick Simonson
Hard water is fast upon the northern tier of the landscape, and with a few bumpy warm-ups out of the way, the ice season can begin in earnest. Once again, ice anglers will find an incredible array of augers, sonar, rods, reels, tip-ups, cameras and more this season, and at no other time have there been more options to choose from, as a new crop of interesting items hit store shelves, to establish themselves as “The Hottest Stuff on Ice” for the 2017-18 winter season.
The expansion of electric augers is quite notable this season, as Strikemaster drops its Lithium 40V model into the hands of anglers. On one charge, the auger is rated to punch over 100 holes through 16-inch-thick ice, setting a new industry standard. The battery charges to full in under three hours, and two LED guide lights help with those early morning or late-night runs, to keep cuttings straight and true. To convert those hole-drilling maniacs who have relied on gas models, Strikemaster includes a second battery as part of the retail package, meaning double the cutting for the same price.
Jiffy continues to refine its auger offerings, providing more efficient fuel-powered models, and this year’s 46 X-Treme raises that bar. A 4-Stroke propane powered unit, the 46 boasts a 49cc engine and Jiffy’s ripper and power-point 3-blade configuration to make short work of any ice. With start-up on one or two pulls, the unit also carries with it a five-year warranty. While coming in slightly heavy at 32 to 35 pounds, serious searchers on the ice won’t complain about the weight with the power it provides.
For those looking to improve their portable ice houses this season, a number of companies are offering new and improved models, starting with Clam Corp. Expanding its hub-style offerings, Clam issues this season’s Escape and Refuge Thermal pop-ups. With wide-base, 900 denier insulated fabric, these shanties are rated to serve as on-ice basecamps for up to six people, with the Escape having 94 square feet of fishing area and a 90-inch ceiling and the Refuge boasting 64 square feet of ice and a center height of 82 inches. For those die-hard pike spearers, the Stealth Spearfisher is a darkhouse version of the Refuge.
Top Notch Tech
Imagine an underwater camera screen you’d want to watch the Vikings game on, and you’ve got the new line from industry leader Aqua-Vu. This year’s installment of HD-series camera models in the HD7i and HD 10i lines boast some amazing options, including heated LCD touch screens for easy zoom, and a camera that sends back signals in 720p high definition that can be run out to a permanent shack’s flatscreen via an HDMI out line. Also new for this season, Aqua-Vu also offers up the AV Micro Plus DVR-DT, a hand-held camera model that includes 8GB of recording capabilty to replay all the action and study the takes and misses under the ice.
Marcum updates its sonar devices for this season as well, bringing anglers the new M Series flashers. These brushless units tout target separation of less than 3/4 of an inch, and a run time of up to 40 hours on one charge – nearly an entire weekend of fishing. Additionally, the unique Shuttle System case houses the battery and can be easily detached from the unit. This base also sports two USB-outs which anglers can use to charge their phones or other accessories.
A Can’t Miss Tip-Up
If it looks like a giant traffic cone, it’s going to be tough to miss on the ice, at least that’s the theory behind the Firehouse Tip Up. Initially designed as a tip-up within that traffic cone, the addition of lights viewable from up to half a mile away help increase the visibility of the teepee-like tip-up which keeps the hole covered and free of slush. Perhaps the best feature of the unit (besides not getting run-over by inattentive anglers on their ATVs) is that it deploys and folds up in one motion, and the hooks and leaders are held securely in place by a magnet, keeping tangles to a minimum. While a bit pricey at 99 dollars, this durable unit is worth a look this season.
Acme Tackle shoulders its way back into the center of the tackle market this season with the addition of the Hyper-Glide and Hyper-Rattle jigging minnows which are advertised to glide up to 40 percent farther out under the hole than its competitors’ minnow baits. The maker of the classic jigging spoon also has revamped its established lure lines with new UV color schemes in its Kastmaster and Rattlemaster lures.
For panfish anglers who have accented their favorite jigs with a few fly-tying tweaks like hackle and tails, Custom Jigs & Spins takes the extra work out of the winter season with their new JaJe tungsten offering. It’s a jig, it’s a fly, it’s spot on for imitating bloodworms and other nymph larvae that bluegills, perch and crappie crush under the ice.
These are just a few of the options that ice anglers will have to choose from in the coming weeks as hardwater becomes safe across the nation’s ice belt. Take a stroll through a favorite tackleshop or sporting goods section and see just how intense the ice fishing market has become, as year after year these items – and others – become the Hottest Stuff on Ice…in our outdoors.
(Featured Photo: The Firehouse Tip Up is a unique item hitting the ice this year. Image Courtesy Firehouse Products Promotional)