W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Ice Fishing Articles by Noel Vick with On Ice Tour
Another Look at Flag Fishing
By Noel Vick with On Ice Tour
The stereotypes are out there. A casual ice angler glances out the frosted window of a permanent shelter to verify that his tip-up, which was deployed yesterday, remains un-sprung. Another angler, this one seated next to a buddy in the cab of a pickup, wipes just enough condensation off the passenger window to scan the ice for tripped flags. And a third party, slurping suds and dealing poker inside a toasty cabin, forgot about their field of tip-ups a case of beer ago…
Take no offense if that’s your style. But we choose to go a different direction.
On Ice Tour strives to blend the undeniable merits of tip-up or setline fishing with a modernized and mobile ice fishing philosophy. Founders, Chip Leer and Tommy Skarlis, embrace an ice fishing system, which uses tip-ups for exploration, experimentation, and as a remote and fixed presentation. But first, we should address the handful of circumstances where the "tip-ups only" attitude suffices.
Occasionally, Chip and Tommy put their trust in a well-placed field of tip-ups and suspend their desire to jig. When the boys need to cover a sizable piece of water or structure, which is ripe with depth changes and structure variations, they might lean on tip-ups, especially if northern pike or lake trout are being targeted.
The other time? When it’s so doggoned cold that you can no longer grip a pole or detect bites. Most would head in, but Chip and Tommy brave the elements, set flags, and watch them out the window of a heated portable, understanding that any form of fishing is better than to not fish at all.
Your New Fishing Partner…Mr. Tip-Up
Hardwater’s greatest anglers possess secret weapons that generate results when all else fails. Chip and Tommy’s secret weapons are couple of unconventional fishing partners.
Unquestionably reliable, their fishing partners aren’t afraid to stake out on an exploration, play second fiddle to jigging lines, experiment with different sizes and types of bait, keep things simple by merely offering a plain hook and minnow, or wander away from the group and work solo. And tip-ups don’t talk back or run out of money on a road trip.
Let me show you how On Ice Tour utilizes tip-ups by creating a hypothetical but realistic fishing situation.
Chip and Tommy have plans to dissect an offshore rock pile and pry out a few walleyes. In their home range, Minnesota, state law affords winter anglers two lines per person. So these guys are going to run with one jigging line and one setline apiece. Numerous states permit ice anglers more than two lines per person, but in some circumstances, Chip and Tommy have found that deploying too many tip-ups hinders mobility.
Finding the crest of the reef is job-one. Tommy breaks out his Strikemaster Polar Vision – a flashlight sized sonar device – and quickly locates the shallow top without having to cut a single hole. Chip follows him up and blasts a few holes across the identified crown and dozens more leading down the break and onto the adjacent flat.
Chip deposits one flag on top and the other at the base of the break, where it flattens out.
This particular rock pile is a known walleye producer, especially at dawn and dusk. So the role of the tip-up positioned on top is to announce the arrival of fish. Chip and Tommy will jig the extra holes on top once the flag unfurls.
After setting the tip-ups, the boys get busy jigging their pre-drilled holes, spending a few minutes at each one.
Suddenly, Tommy, using a flasher, marks a few fish against the bottom. To his dismay, they won’t touch a jigging spoon and minnow. A light bulb goes off in his head. Tommy repositions one of the tip-ups over "the hole with the fish that won’t bite". Why? A natural and simple plain hook and minnow, which this tip-up is rigged with, might invoke a response that his dancing lure could not.
Meanwhile, Chip is busy jigging and exploring up and down the reef. Paying close attention to his portable flasher, he discovers a depression in the side of the reef. Chip knows that this funnel might be the runway that walleyes favor during their twilight assault. He repositions a tip-up over it.
Sometimes fish gravitate to a specific, but indistinct portion of a structure. In our illustration, Tommy gets bit a few times while jigging a particular hole. On his flasher, surrounding holes reveal seemingly identical terrain, but there’s something special about that hole. So to mark it, and continue tapping into it, Tommy covers it with a tip-up. Call it "the spot on the spot". Tommy is free to continue jigging until his hot hole flares up again.
Chip’s final tinkering with tip-ups involves bait selection. He thinks there’s a colossal walleye swimming about, but Chip isn’t willing to rig a huge spoon on his jigging rod, in fear of discriminating against volumes of smaller walleyes; quantity versus quality. But by upsizing the minnow on one of the tip-ups the boys stand a good chance of finding that hog.
Variations of the above illustration can be applied to weedlines, shoreline points, and bars; basically any structure that presents varying depths and shape.
The Mother of All Setlines
Guys that take tip-up fishing this serious aren’t going to plunk down any old make and model either. Enter Finicky’s Fish Factory.
Conventional tip-ups, with their flat board design and exposed machinery are wrought with problems. The folks who build Finicky’s Fish Factory have cured the classic shortfalls associated with tip-ups. So much so that we cannot fairly refer to this animal as a tip-up, so we just call it The Finicky. You’ll never be able to forget its signature black box once you’ve seen one operating on the ice.
Problem: Tip-ups freeze in the hole.
Solution: The Finicky is fully enclosed and features an internal heat exchanger, effectively eliminating the "freeze factor".
Problem: After awhile, live bait dangled beneath a tip-up turns motionless.
Solution: The Finicky offers an automatic jigger with three settings.
Problem: The tripped flag of a conventional tip-up goes unnoticed at dawn and dusk; in the dark; at great distances; and anytime the snow flies.
Solution: The Finicky sports a highly visible dual-light bulb, as well as a flag, which are simultaneously activated by the tug of a fish.
Problem: Your knees get wet and hands freeze while checking a conventional tip-up.
Solution: The Finicky’s front door folds down, easily supporting the weight of a kneeling angler, and the heated box keeps your hands wind protected and warm.
Problem: Due to the threat of freezing, tip-ups demand that you use bulky and highly visible (to fish) braided and coated lines.
Solution: The Finicky’s line spool is kept in a warm environment, thus permitting the use of high tech fishing lines like Berkley Fireline and Micro Ice.
If you’re going to integrate modern setline fishing into a mobile routine you need a tool for the times. On Ice Tour is confident that by employing the prescribed techniques with Finicky’s Fish Factory that you’ll dismiss and soon forget the stereotypical tip-up angler and his ancient ways.
On Ice Tour is an intensive effort directed at expanding the sport of ice fishing. Cofounders Chip Leer and Tommy Skarlis offer public seminars and kid’s clinics; appear at in-store events; exhibit at sport shows and ice fishing competitions; broadcast a weekly radio show and conduct hands-on product demonstrations. On Ice Tour produces an annual ice fishing publication (On Ice), and they can be found on the Internet at www.onicetour.com
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Since August 1, 1998