Ice Fishing’s Future Is Now!By Mark Strand
During the course of multiple interviews for his new book, “Ice Revolution,” Dave Genz spent many hours digging through his memory banks, recounting the years he and his friends transformed ice fishing. Near the end of the process, he was asked to look into the future and envision what might come next for the sport.
Are there more major breakthroughs on the horizon? Or have we settled into a period when evolutionary refinements will mark forward progress?
Dave surprised himself by how quickly he began talking about compelling advantages today’s ice anglers can have right now, some of which have been slow to make their way into the mainstream. “You can always wish for new things,” he said, “but there’s some pretty cool stuff a lot of people haven’t tried yet.”
He came away energized about the idea of stressing how he uses current state-of-the-art to take ice fishing into a realm most people have not experienced.
HIGH SPEED, HIGH TECH
Look closely at Genz’s snowmobile and the fabulous state of current technology becomes evident. His is a big-time, high-powered machine, but he says you can set up the same gear on any snowmobile or ATV that will get you around out on the ice.
A look around the dash, handlebars, and other parts of the machine reveals creative mounting of electronics that allows Dave to fish efficiently as he searches for biters.
“My GPS is right there in front of me,” he begins, “so I can go right to the spots. The GPS with the map chips is not new. It’s been around for a while, but there’s still a lot of people who haven’t taken advantage of the GPS.”
(If you haven’t used this technology, it’s downright amazing. Your location is shown superimposed over contour lines that reveal the underwater structure of the lake. As you move across the ice surface, your location updates. It becomes easy to stop right out on the tip of a point, nestle yourself into an inside turn, or work the edges of an offshore hump.)
“To me,” says Genz, “the size of the GPS screen is important. I struggle when I’m looking at a handheld GPS and trying to figure out where I am on the lake, because (the display is) so small. Once I get to the spot, then it isn’t quite so bad, but you just can’t blow it up enough to get a good, clear picture. A bigger screen, mounted on the snowmobile, is what I prefer.
“I have my Vexilar (flasher) mounted right up on the dash with me, too. I really like to fish right off the seat of my snowmobile unless it’s windy. I pull up, drill some holes, and start by dropping the Vexilar (transducer) to check depth, to look for weeds or some other type of cover, and to see if there’s fish down there.
“My underwater camera is mounted right there also, so if I’m struggling to see what’s down there—like if I’m fishing in the weeds—it’s really easy to whip the camera out and drop it down the hole.”
The secret to Genz’s latest version of the system, in other words, is the rigging. Each piece of technology can be employed in seconds, with no setup to speak of. That’s the difference, he says, between putting things into action or deciding it’s too much work.
“The things we’re tinkering with now,” he says, “have to do with being able to easily move our equipment from shore—when we pull up to the lake—onto the ice, so we can start fishing. We’ve mounted the Fish Traps up on racks on our snowmobiles or ATVs. We’re not dragging them behind anymore.
“We get to the lake and our shelters are already loaded onto the machines, packed with stuff like rods, jigs, heater, and a bucket for fish. There’s no time involved at the truck loading things. We pull the machine off the trailer, pop skis under the trailer tires if we’re going to use it to haul people and gear, and off we go.”
Simply put, it’s eye-popping how fast Genz is off down the lake, once he pulls up to an access point.
RODS FOR TIGHTLINING
Today’s best ice rods are pretty close to complete in their evolution, with amazing feel and flex that allows them to fish “like long rods in miniature,” one of Genz’s favorite sayings.
Wrapped with increasingly small and lighter weight guides, more of the blank’s natural properties remain after the rod is built. Used with fresh line that’s stretched before you begin fishing, matched up with a lure that’s not too light or heavy for the rod, almost anybody can learn to feel the cadence of their lure bouncing.
Recognizing when the cadence is interrupted is the key to detecting bites, something previous generations of anglers had a much harder time mastering.
COMFORT CATCHES FISH
Recent advancements in clothing have allowed Genz to fish “outside” most of the time, either on the seat of his snowmobile or kneeling on the ice. That translates directly to more holes fished in the course of a day, while remaining comfortable and effective, which means more fish.
“Now,” says Dave, “a nice day is any day the wind is not blowing. Temperature really doesn’t make any difference, because our clothing is so much better than it used to be. But if the wind is blowing, your hands get cold, so you have to find a way to get out of the wind.
“It’s hard to maintain the feel that you need, if you’ve got heavy gloves on. So when it’s windy, that’s when the Fish Trap comes into play. You take the Fish Trap down off the rack and fish out of it whenever you need to get out of the wind. And for sight fishing, too, let’s not forget about that.
“The fish houses are easier to pull around from spot to spot than they used to be. The sleds are nicely shaped for pulling, and we put runners underneath them that make the pulling easier.”
Today’s clothing and boots have also been engineered for less bulk and weight, and that is a huge advantage, according to Genz: “One of the things that really helped the system move forward is the lightness of our Ice Armor clothing. Our boots aren’t big and heavy anymore. They’re light, so it’s easy to get around out there.
“Especially as I’ve gotten older, it’s harder for me to pick my feet up high to clear the top of the snow. I needed a lighter boot. But lighter and warmer is the key, so we’re able to spend more time outside while staying comfortable.”
There will be additional refinements as the years go on. Perhaps even major breakthroughs. But for many anglers, there are existing elements of the ice fishing revolution that remain undiscovered.
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