Time to Understand the Successful Ice Angler

By: Matt Johnson

What makes an ice angler  successful?
This question seems complex  and out
of   reach   but  in  fact  the  answer  is
probably already under your nose. We
spend   a   lot  of   time   browsing  the
various Internet  websites, reading the
latest magazine articles  and spending
time chatting  with fellow  anglers  and
friends  trying  to  find out  how to  put
more fish on the ice. It’s no secret that we’re already trying to answer this
question for ourselves. The answer to this question may also be different for
each and every angler, but here are some of the crucial points to consistently
putting fish on the ice.

Do Your Homework
No it’s not time to go back to school, I wouldn’t do that to you, but it is time to
focus on preparing yourself for a day on the ice. With the modern advancement
of GPS units and highly detailed paper maps we can now take away a lot of the
guesswork before we even hit the ice. Studying the body of water we intend to
hit the night before the big day can pay off in dividends when it’s time to take
action. Plotting waypoints, critiquing strategy, finalizing a game plan; these are
all things we can do in the comfort of the living room without wasting precious
time on the ice. Let’s face it; we are becoming more and more deadly when it
comes to effectively breaking down a body of water. The tools are there to help
us so take advantage of those gifts.

Think Light and Stay Mobile
It’s no secret that staying mobile is the modern way of doing things, but we still
see ice anglers regress back into old habits. Don’t fall victim to sitting in one
spot if the fish are not biting. Just like out in the boat you wouldn’t cast to the
same spot over and over for hours on end, it’s no different when fishing through
an eight-inch hole. Give each spot some time but when the feeling disappears it’
s time to move on. The augers on the market today allow us to cut holes fast
and efficient, moving is now made simple. Our Fish Traps are lighter and more
mobile as well. With staying mobile, don’t overburden yourself with excess
amounts of gear. Keep things simple and bring only what you need. This will not
only help you move quicker and easier but it will also keep you more mentally

Become a Master of Your Flasher Unit
This goes without saying, but having the ability to see how a fish reacts to your
every movement is worth its weight in gold. Going to the lake without your
flasher is just as bad as not going at all. Spend the extra time to learn how your
Vexilar works and what you’re seeing on the readout. Understanding how to
read bottom content (soft or hard), how to tell if weeds are present, when to
know to switch baits based on fish reaction, depicting the fish’s mood levels,
these are all things that can be done with your Vexilar if you train your eye to
notice them. Don’t settle for only using your flasher as a means of showing you
the depth and where your jig is in relation to the fish, because its potential is
much greater than that. Spend the extra time on the details and nuances of
what your Vexilar is telling you. There is a reason we consider our flasher unit
as our best friend when out on the ice.

Look to New Fishing Methods
Being versatile out on the ice will allow you to find success no matter the
situation or conditions. Force yourself to use different techniques and
presentations. If you’re a bobber and minnow angler then try fishing without a
bobber or without a minnow. Constantly change the way you fish so you have a
more complete set of weapons. Having the ability to catch a certain fish with
several different applications will better prepare you for adverse situations.
Learn to fish smaller jigs in order train yourself how to use finesse tactics and
then switch gears and master the art of upsizing for aggressive fish. Also, don’t
feel like you have to always use live bait. Try artificial presentations and add a
variety of plastic-bodied baits into your arsenal if you haven’t already. The
recent advancements of artificial baits have taken the ice fishing scene by
storm and it’s something that needs to be a part of everyone’s game plan.
Bottom line here, give yourself enough options so the fish have no choice but to
eventually surrender.

Think like a Fish
Only if this wasn’t easier said than done. Thinking like a fish is probably the
single most important piece of the puzzle. Let’s face it, if we knew what the fish
were thinking then it would be all too easier, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try
to put ourselves in the right mindset. Fish are simple creatures. They eat,
reproduce (sometimes) and migrate from spot to spot. Understanding their
habitat and determining where they reside is often more than half the battle. Try
to understand the forage base in the lake and then relate that information to
where the predator-prey relationship takes place. Simple variables like oxygen
and cover can make drastic differences in fish location. Take a second to put
yourself in the mind of the fish you are targeting. Visualize the structure of the
lake and take into account where you find fish during the other seasons. Fish
patterns can be predictable if you take a second to think outside the box—or in
this situation, fish house.

While this in no way finalizes all the ways of becoming a successful ice angler,
hopefully it makes you think more about the details that ice fishing brings. The
beauty of the sport is that we can create our own ways of being successful.
Some days a successful outing means to share a few laughs and fish with a
close friend. Other days it means catching trophy fish and bragging to your
buddies. No matter the situation or outcome, enjoy your time on the ice and
being successful will come naturally!

Good Fishin’,
Matt Johnson

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