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Nine Degrees and "Ice Fishing" in a Boat

It’s one thing to be fishing in a boat when it's a bit cold or rainy or both. It's another thing when the thermometer reads its well below freezing and ice is still a month away. My friend Matt and I wanted to get out in his boat one more time before we started prepping for the hardwater so we decided to head out on a recent morning and try for pike and bass at Stockade one last time on open water.

We were fairly confident that the recent cold weather should have the fish on the prowl for food. If that didn't work, I suggested we bring our Vexilar IncFlashers and a couple of ice rods along so that we could try for panfish below the boat.

He'd just obtained a slightly used FLX-28 and I thought it would be great for him to get a trip in with it to start getting it dialed in on the settings he preferred. The FLX-28 is loaded with many different features and it allows some customization of them to suit the user's needs, which is a feature I love about my 28.

Well, we knew it would be cold when we left that morning, but we were very surprised when we got to

the lake and the thermometer read nine degrees. The coldest I'd ever been out in a boat when there was no ice was seventeen degrees, so this beat it by a long shot and there was no ice to see at all. Not even any snow around.

We made sure we'd bundled up in our Clam Outdoors Ice Armor suits and we set out for our first locations. Water temps ranged from 37 to 45 degrees so things were looking up as far as when ice would start forming on the lake.

However, in spite of our best efforts, several lure changes, and constantly clearing our rod guides of ice buildup, we had absolutely no action from our quarry. Not even one hit from a small one, which shocked us to no end.

After a couple of hours of trying for the bigger fish, we decided to head to the other side of the lake and bring out the Vexilars and ice rods. I was using my St. Croix Avid Glass rod that became a favorite of mine from last ice season and tied on a Clam Pro Tackle Drop jig and paired it with a Maki Jamei plastic.

There was no wind at all while we were trolling around the predators, but as soon as we needed to hold still to vertical jig, a slight breeze came up, making it difficult us to keep the boat still for long periods of time to see our lures below us on the Vex screens.

We saw fish on the screens at least, though, it was hard to get them to bite as well as keep the boat still where we could see our lure. Right as the boat started swinging and I was about to lose my jig outside of the cone angle, a large red mark came on the screen and line started being dragged off my reel.

At first, I thought it was a real nice bluegill, but I realized quickly after a couple of head shakes, that it was a bass. After fighting with it for several minutes (the reel only has 3# test line on it), Matt grabbed the net and I had a very nice smallmouth in hand. That was first time I'd ever seen a net used while "ice fishing" and we got a chuckle out of it.

After a few quick pics, I released it to fight another day. Matt caught a few perch after that before it was time to head back, so I was happy to see his new 28 was working great for him already. Now as soon as the lakes freeze over, we can actually go ice fishing at that temperature instead of trying it in a boat. Hardwater can't get here soon enough!

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