About a month ago, Alie and I were able to attend Ice Team University. I was humbled as Matt Johnson, The Ice Team Manager, asked me to lead up the bite on Lake Koronis for walleyes. This was quite the challenge for me for a couple of reasons. One, I really don't care for fishing walleyes, and two, I am a whole-hearted pan fisherman! I was up for the task, and honored that Matt thought of me.
Ice Team University is an annual event that is produced by Ice Team in a different location every year. The locations will always vary on species, and the bite according to Matt. The venue also must accommodate up to 120 people including Ice Team Pros, Clam pros, and media.
This year, the event was stationed at Bug Bee Hive Resort on Lake Koronis. "A unique event this year" explains Johnson. "As we were able to target three different lakes and several species". As a pro fishing this event and offering my guidance, it was certainly a daunting task.
I can honestly say there was hundreds of man hours into prefishing for Walleye, Catfish, and Crappies. Yes, I said catfish. Matt has had a knack for these whiskered fish since he started guiding and to say he has them dialed in is an understatement.
Now, I personally did not have the opportunity to wrangle one of these fish topside, but those that did, were easily addicted. A delicate biting fish, requiring a noodle rod as a deadstick, then watching the tip load ever so slightly and set the hook and hold on.
A good fighting fish on light gear will provide some great times. Matt chose the Jason Mitchell 36'' Meatstick Noodle Rod with a spinning reel and 5lb test.
Another group ventured to another lake and scored on crappies. Fishing a deeper weed flat, the students and pros homed in on the feasting crappies. Clam Pro Mike Raetz led the crappie bite. The bite was something unique. Even as a diehard panfisherman, Raetz could pass on some critical information targeting larger aggressive fish.
Mike explained how to adjust the gain on the Vexilar FLX-28 to show the more aggressive fish. We have always gone by the rule that less gain is better. We barely want to see the jig. In this case, Mike instructs us, and the students to increase the gain to allow us to see the actual fins on the fish.
By doing this, we could see out of the two or three crappies on the screen, which of the crappies would eat by the flickering of the red mark along with the movement of orange and green marks surrounding. Also, Mike instructed that fishing higher in the water column would eliminate many of the smaller fish.
The smaller fish held a threshold in the water column which they would not rise to. We held our jigs above that, and waited for the larger roaming crappies. With an extremely light bite, and fishing pressured crappies, I used my Dave Genz 26" Legacy Light Action Spring Rod. Jigging a small size 14 white Clam Pro Tackle Drop Jig with a Maki Jamei. Smaller was better for these crappies.
My task at hand was walleyes. Anyone that may know lake Koronis, knows it can be a tough lake all around. I have fished it in the summer and it is very good. So of course, like any angler, I tried my "summer spots" when I began prefishing. I struck out! I was bound and determined to find these marble eyes. I refused to have to make a dreadful phone call to Matt and explain I failed. I was not letting that happen.
So, I started over. I broke the lake down into sections. Looking between the Navionics app on my phone, and checking my Lowrance graph, I found some what would be "fishy" typical walleye spots. I found a nice flat basin with some outside structure surrounding. I fished the structure first hoping to find active fish. It didn't produce. I moved into the middle of the basin and drilled 20-30 holes. Dropped the Vexilar in the first hole, and it was lit up red four feet of the bottom.
Crappies? I thought to myself. I dropped a gold drop jig, and a Maki Mino XL down and as it fell, at 28 feet a red mark left a vapor trail from the bottom. A light tug on the rod, and a heavy hook set. A nice 16" walleye came top side! I proceeded to catch two more out of the same hole, and caught a few more in the other holes I drilled. I now had the confidence in having students out for a walleye outing.
During our first day, we iced over a dozen walleyes. After fishing all day, the students and pros regroup in the lodge for dinner and seminars. Clam also provides a nice selection of equipment and apparel for the students and pros for that matter to purchase for the event. They do a nice job of having relevant products to help with being successful for the event.
The seminars are very informative. Matt has the pros and Ice Team Pros host seminars throughout the evenings. Of course, Dave Genz is a speaker as well. Myself, as a professional angler, find tons of value, education in listening to my fellow peers.
Ice team University started in 2013. The inaugural event was held on Leech lake at Chase On The Lake. I could sit down and talk with Matt about Ice Team University. Matt has some pretty neat goals for the future. He would like the opportunity to expand into more states across the ice belt.
He is also striving to possibly have multiple events in the same season. Matt also enjoys seeing the students, year after year, growing with the education they gain from the University. He also enjoys the connectivity with the students. He gets to see their catches and answer any questions they may have throughout the summer months. This year, Matt was excited about seeing over 20 Clam pros catch their first catfish through the ice.
If you are interested in going to Ice Team University, go to www.iceteam.com. There is limited space, and is offered to existing student first. Look for information around August. This unique, all-inclusive event, is certainly capable of being a trip of a lifetime!