In the last issue of North American Fisherman, I shared my inside scoop on the best new shelters and depthfinders for this hard-water season. But there is much more great gear to get excited about, and if you crave the feel of ice under your boots, you need to keep up to speed on the new developments.
Check out the following lowdown on the best new GPS units, underwater cameras, augers, lures, rods, reels and more!
StrikeMaster’s latest entry into the high-speed drilling market is the Strike-Lite, which utilizes a 35cc four-cycle engine and a twin-blade, lightweight, 8-inch synthetic auger. Advantages of powering with the four-cycle engine include no fuel mixing and reduced emissions. Suggested retail, $499.95.
Eskimo has added a bigger, more powerful 3.7 horsepower gas auger to its Shark line. The Z71 buzzes through ice at 8,000 rpm, plus it has an extra-large recoil handle and a pressure relief valve that makes starting easy. It’s available with an 8-, 9- or 10-inch auger. Suggested retail, $439.99-$449.99.
Jiffy’s new STX Pro promises to be lighter, faster and more powerful. It is available in 2 and 3 horsepower models; both have a “High Torque Transmission” with a heavy-duty clutch. Each has new cushioned, compact handles. The STX Pro is available with an 8-, 9- or 10-inch Stealth STX drill and comes with a one-year limited warranty on the engine, two-year limited warranty on the transmission, and a three-year blade sharpening or replacement warranty. Sug-gested retails, $418.95 and $419.95.
The Big Picture
Underwater cameras have become a staple of the hardcore ice angler, and manufacturers have responded by making units that are even more versatile.
Nature Vision has three new entries in the underwater viewing department, including one that sells for less than a $100, the Fish TV. It features a 5-inch black-and-white monitor, 50 feet of cable, infrared lights and adjustable contrast and brightness. It’s powered by 10 C batteries (not included) and includes a 12-volt power cord. Suggested retail, $99.99.
The Aqua Vu Quad 4x4 has four 90-degree-plus cameras that provide 360-degree viewing. They can be viewed on the 7-inch black-and-white monitor individually, or in a four-way split-screen mode. It utilizes 40 Spectral Response lights for enhanced night viewing. The unit features 60 feet of cable, a built-in battery and charger, video out, and a soft case with zip-out sunshield. Suggested retail, $499.
Aqua-Vu’s Dt-7 with Explorer Lighting has a 7-inch black-and-white widescreen LCD that is daylight viewable and has greatly improved nighttime capabilities. It also includes an on-screen digital temp meter, and indicators for camera direction and depth. The Dt-7 comes with 100 feet of cable, battery and charger. Suggested retail, $899.99.
Marcum Technologies has added three new underwater cameras to its line, and the flagship is the VS825C. It features the company’s Manta camera with “Darkwater Technology,” which provides much improved viewing under low-light conditions. It also has 75 feet of cable, video out, a soft pack, battery, charger, and an 8-inch flat-panel color LCD screen with a resolution of 800x600 pixels. The camera is matched with high-intensity white LEDs with a dimmer control designed to enhance the display screen’s color capabilities. Suggested retail, $599.
Also available from Marcum is the slick new Camera Compass which is designed to work in conjunction with any underwater camera. It’s a molded plastic cover with a slit for the cable and a cleat to secure it. You can turn the cover with the finger grips to position it, and it will hold the camera in that direction. The cover also helps to keep a hole from freezing over. Suggested retail, $12.99.
Pointing The Way
There’s no doubt that GPS has changed ice angling forever. The latest innovation is combining a GPS unit with a highly detailed map in a nice, compact, portable unit. Manufacturers have definitely answered the call.
Lowrance has led the way with the introduction of its extremely popular H2O series. Their latest intro is called the iFinder Expedition C which has all of the features of the H2O, which includes the ability to plug in maps, but also has a built-in electronic compass and barometric altimeter. The company claims the compass lets you to navigate even if the GPS isn’t locked in. Suggested retail, $299.
Magellan’s most recent introduction to its line of handhelds is the Triton series, which includes the 200, 300, 400, 500, 1500 and 2000. All have touch-screen color displays and the 300 and up can be uploaded with highly detailed contour maps. Plus, they’re waterproof and built to take some abuse.
The 400 and up have an SD card slot which lets users install and save maps and data onto a flash card. Their capabilities range from basic functions all the way up to the Triton 2000, which has a two-megapixel camera, barometer, voice recorder and even a flashlight! Suggested retails, $129 to $499.
Garmin’s GPSMap series including the 60, 60Cx and 60CSx have built-in maps and can load and display today’s high-definition contour maps. The 60Cx and 60CSx can do it all in color and have a slot for plugging in and displaying microSD cards that are preloaded with MapSource maps. The 60CSx also has a built in barometric altimeter and electronic compass. Suggested retails, $249.99, $428.56 and $482.13, respectively.
Nature Vision has revamped its line of Genz Stix ice rods and made them available in Gold and Silver combos in lengths from 16 to 42 inches, with actions designed for everything from panfish to walleyes to trout.
The Gold series combos are constructed with solid-ground graphite blanks and have spinning reels with a 5.2:1 gear ratio. Suggested retails start at $30.
The Silver series blanks are made of a fiberglass composite and are also combined with a 5.2:1 gear ratio reel. They have lightweight Dyna-flo guides that resist freezing and have an ergo-grip cork handle. Suggested retails start at less than $20.
Northland Fishing Tackle has jumped into the fishing rod fray with both feet and 10 new Trick-Stick combos. They break down into two series, the Classic Silver and Pro-angler Gold.
The Classic Silver combos utilize a composite blank, aluminum oxide guides and lightweight P-Cork handle, and come in five sizes and actions that cover the gamut of species you’d find across the hard-water belt. They’re paired with a two-bearing reel that’s preloaded with mono and includes a 12-piece Super-Glo Jig Kit. Suggested retail, $24.99.
The Gold series setups are built with a 100 percent graphite blank, aluminum oxide guides and P-Cork handle. Like the Silvers, these combos come in five sizes and actions. The four-bearing reel is preloaded with mono and the rod comes with a 15-piece Super-Glo Jig Kit. Suggested retail, $34.99.
St. Croix has added a shorter light-action rod to its Legend series that addresses a specific type of ice angling—sightfishing. The technique requires working directly below the ice and right under your feet where you can actually see fish, which is why a shorter rod is in order. The new stick is 17 inches long and made from a solid carbon blank. It includes a super finesse Ice Rod Strike Indicator. Suggested retail, $50.
Probably the most exciting development of late on the ice-bait front has been the expansion of unconventional, intensely scented softbaits like Berkley Gulp! Waxies. They are dead-ringers for waxworms and other larvae. Like other Gulp! baits, these release 400 times more scent and flavor than plastic. A jar of 24 Waxies goes for $5.49.
Eurolavae-imitating PowerBait Spikes are another great addition to Berkley’s line. Not only does their scent and flavor attract fish and trigger strikes, but their sturdy construction means they stay on the hook much better than the real thing. And that means your bait spends more time in the strike zone. Berkley offers them in bloody, glow, pink, white and yellow colors. Suggested price for a 100-spike, 1.1-ounce jar is $3.69.
Lindy has added a new jigging spoon to its lineup—a hybrid between a heavy rattler and a wide-ranging glider called the Rattl’n Flyer. The spoon is a made from a non-lead alloy that has the weight of a heavy spoon (which helps to get it down the hole quickly) yet has fins that let it glide out and cover more water. It’s available in three sizes including 1/8-, 3/16- and 1/4-ounce, and it comes in six hot Techni-Glo colors. Suggested retail, $3.99.
The Chubby Darter from Salmo has a much smaller brother designed to target crappies, sunfish and perch. The No. 3 Chubby Darter is a 1/8-ounce jigging bait that doesn’t need to be tipped with meat—nor should it. Salmo offers it in 14 wide-ranging colors but supplies for this season are reported to be limited so get them while you can. Suggested retail, $8.99.
More Great Gear
On the apparel front, Clam Corp. has improved upon its already awesome Ice Armor X Extreme Weather suit from last winter. For 2008, both the parka and bibs will feature Thermal Trap, a quilted insulating material with exceptional loft to retain body heat. The suit remains waterproof, windproof and breathable and it’ll retail for $349, the same price as last season, before the bibs were insulated. Additionally, the original blue Cold Weather Suit will see a nearly 20 percent price reduction this winter—down to $249.
The company also added the Ice Armor X Glove and Mitt, chopper-style gloves with extra-long cuffs. They are insulated with 70 grams of Thinsulate, have a waterproof and breathable liner, and a water-resistant oxford shell. Suggested retail, $39.95.
Vexilar has also joined the apparel market this year with its Cold-Snap parka and bibs. The parka is lined with 240-gram Polar Fleece and the 300 denier polyester outer shell is extremely wind and water resistant. It sports 15 pockets and a detachable over-size hood with easy access clinch cords and a built-in brim. Suggested retail, $109.99.
The bibs feature the same outer shell lined with polyester taffeta. They have reinforced padded knees with two large side cargo pockets, and easy boot access thanks to an extra-long side zipper. A heavy-duty Velcro flap on the bottom helps keep out ice and snow. Suggested retail, $99.99.
Marcum has developed two new packs designed to help you carry it all on the ice and should give those walking out a leg up. The Rod-Pac System houses up to four rod-and-reel combinations, a tackle box, ice scoop, handheld GPS, and a sonar unit, and it can be carried by a shoulder strap or handle. Suggested retail, $24.99.
Marcum’s Ice-Pac Tote System can do all of that, but also combines a soft and hard carrying case that can be carried with a shoulder strap or pulled across the ice. Suggested retail, $34.99.
Although it was technically a late introduction for last year, serious anglers will want to give the company’s Clam Chair a fresh look. The company teamed with Dave Genz to develop the lightweight (12-pound) combination of a fishing stool, rod case and tackle box, with a shoulder-slung carrying strap. It also has a mesh pouch, quick-access scabbards, two extra-long zippered compartments, and two large storage compartments. Suggested retail, $79.99.
Tip-up anglers can appreciate the new Double Head Chisel from Eskimo, which was designed for chopping out tip-ups that have frozen in. The handy tool has cutting tips on both ends and comes with a wrist band that will help keep it from accidentally being dropped down a hole. Suggested retail, $22.
And to help get your catch to the frying pan, Rapala is introducing a 110-volt electric fillet knife with a 71/2-inch blade and a 7-foot power cord. It also includes a fork used for pinning a fillet in place. Suggested retail, $29.99.
These products are, forgive the expression, the tip of the iceberg. Man-ufacturers are offering tons of other great gear. Shop smart and use these new tools wisely, you’ll be more effective on the water.