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Ice Fishing Articles by Noel Vick with On Ice Tour
Tag Team Searching Means More Fish
Noel Vick with On Ice Tour
Clearly, I can recall Minnesota’s esteemed Governor, Jesse Ventura, then traveling by the ring name of "The Body", being backed into turnbuckles by villains the likes of Jerry Blackwell and The Claw. And just when The Body and his feathered boa appeared to be in dire straits, out thrust the brawny arm of tag team partner Adrian Adonis, the Atlantic side of The East West Connection. The Body tagged and through the ropes entered Adonis to begin counter-pummeling. Former AWA fans can now regain their seats…
Fact or fiction, teamwork, that’s what it was all about. A reference to tag team professional wrestling might be a bit of a stretch, but trust me; teamwork plays a vital role in ice fishing.
Ice fishing success is predicated on finding fish, and finding fish in the fastest way possible.
Hardwater fishing’s Age of Mobility, which is largely credited to Dave Genz, involves the use of streamlined portable shelters, such as Genz’s Fish Trap; efficient and lightweight augers; high-tech sonar equipment; and a "mobile-mindset". The effectiveness of modern ice fishing tools is further realized when put to use by a group of anglers.
"A pair or group of fishermen, working together, can locate specific structure and active fish a whole lot faster than an individual," says On Ice Tour co-founder Chip Leer. "It’s amazing what a couple of anglers and a couple of augers can do to the ice. When we go out, our goal is to make the ice look like the surface of the moon."
"Drill holes until you think there’s enough to go around, and then go pop a few more!"
Having a bunch of guys running helter-skelter across the ice isn’t the answer either. Organization is a crucial ingredient in covering and dissecting a piece of water. The most productive ice fishing trips are those that were planned.
A good strategy begins on a map. Gather your crew before cutting holes and map the thing out. Highlight humps, circle sandbars, and reference rock piles. Ideally, everyone in the fishing party should carry a map. And before the meeting adjourns, make sure that each member launches with an assignment.
Don’t laugh! Think about how much faster it will be to find fish if your team spreads out, yet remains organized. Instead of wasting valuable time "group fishing" each spot, split up, and hit each area simultaneously; blanket the whole shebang at once.
At On Ice Tour, we Tag Team Search in one of four ways…
Leapfrogging involves two or three anglers (possibly more) quickly covering pre-drilled holes. It’s executed by first cutting a wide circle or horseshoe shaped pattern of holes, which envelop the entire structure or depths in question. Space your holes 15 to 20-feet apart over gradual tapers and shorten that distance to only 5 or 10-feet on a breakline.
Strikemaster’s lightweight but powerful Lazer Mag auger is ideal for blasting tons of holes over sizable distances. Its signature ice shaving versus chiseling feature makes swift work of even the thickest ice.
Line up, put the first guy on the first hole and the second guy on the second hole, and so on. A couple of minutes go by and no bites for angler number one…leapfrog past the other members to the next available hole. Hip, hop…hip, hop, and before long, your team has landed on fish or effectively scratched-off an area. You have to eliminate bad holes to find good ones.
On Ice Tour finds that this technique performs well on big structures, wide-open water, as well as complex sections of the lake floor.
Oh, and another thing about augers… The days of one-auger-per-fishing-party are over, that is if you’re serious about mobility. In order to make quick work of drilling and searching, every angler needs to carry an auger.
Meet in the Middle
This is another means for briskly covering ice in Trap Attack fashion. This technique performs admirably on breaklines, shoreline tapers, and weedlines.
Begin by choosing a straight-line path that crosses your location’s entire spectrum of depth and structure. With Strikemasters in hand, you and a partner walk to the outer edge of that path and commence zipping holes toward one another until Meeting in the Middle. At the rendezvous, lay down your arms, and walk back to the outer holes and begin jigging. Continue jigging toward each other until fish are engaged.
Like a wide push broom cleaning up the garage floor, The Sweep makes quick work of structure. Augers in hand, line up with 10 to 20 yard spacing between anglers; proper spacing is dependent upon size of the structure. Start your engines and commence drilling! Bore a hole, take about ten paces and plug another one. Continue this process until each member crosses the entire structure.
On Ice Tour employs The Sweep while exploring breaklines, large flats, and BIG structure in general.
A squeeze of the trigger leaves wide patterned holes on a paper target. Such is the case with the Shotgun as it applies to ice fishing.
In this approach, anglers simultaneously attack a variety of likely structures and depths. Send someone to explore shallow shoreline flats; somebody else hits a mid lake hump; angler three probes a deep flat; a fourth guy works some underwater brush.
Communication is an important component of Shotgunning. You need to get the word out quickly if your assigned location starts buzzing. On Ice Tour regularly uses cell phones and two-way radios to communicate. Flashing headlights or a Morse code-like flashlight signal can also alert party members of a hot bite. Heck, whistles and boisterous hollering do the job if you’re working a concise area.
The Shotgun is best applied to a big hunk of structure, which features numerous depth and layout options, as well as small or manageably sized waters that can be blanketed in one blast of the Shotgun.
Another hint… "Designated-drillers" can communicate their findings by leaving messages in the snow. Next to each hole, write down the depth and other pertinent information. For instance, you could inscribe "R 12", which means rock bottom in 12-feet of water. And a big "F" translates into Fish!
Each of On Ice Tour’s search techniques is intended to expose active fish. But a useful byproduct of jigging and graphing so many holes is the overall knowledge gained. Your hard work will be rewarded by discovering fish-holding irregularities, such as openings in a dense weededge, bottom content transitions, rock piles in the middle of nowhere, extra sharp breaks, and so on; all of which do not appear on maps. Call them, "The spots on the spots." Take special note of these areas because they can turn out to be lifetime treasures.
More on Tag Team Searching
Rapid exploration tactics work even better if team members experiment with various lures and bait varieties. Have someone pump a Lindy Rattl’r Spoon and fathead while another guy swims a Northland Mini Airplane and shiner minnow.
At this point we also need to touch on transportation and portable shelters. Tag Team Search Tactics demand mobility. And nothing gets around on the ice like a snowmobile or ATV, ice conditions permitting. Snowmobiles and ATV’s cover terrain quickly; travel where cars and trucks cannot; and, have the power (most) to pull multiple portable shelters and passengers.
Portable shelters have revolutionized the way we ice fish, and none more than the blue canvassed Fish Traps. Dubbed as "flip-over" shelters, the entire lineup of Fish Traps provide protection from the elements while doubling as gear-carrying sleds. Plus, their innovative design allows ice anglers to set up and relocate quickly.
Nothing frightens wintertime fish like a Trap Attack! Gather the troops, plan an offensive, and spread the field in Fish Traps. IBM might have Big Blue, but we’ve got the Blue Crew…
Thankfully, the days of randomly picking a spot, cutting a solitary hole, and sitting on a bucket all day long are behind us. Taking a mobile approach to ice fishing ensures better results and its simply more fun. Tag Team Searching takes individual mobility a step further by combining your group’s efforts to find fish even faster.
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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