As the weather starts its uphill battle in warming, I am starting my wind down for ice fishing. It has been a long grueling winter for Alie and I. We fish the Ultimate Panfish League, which consists of 4 tournaments in Minnesota. We also fished the Frankies State Panfish Championship, along with another duels tournament held in Cross Lake in Pine City, Minnesota.
So, six tournaments, a trip to lake of the woods for a Walleye beat down, and then of course the expos we work. How do we do it? We don't know either. We just keep grinding because we love the sport so much.
The love is obviously setting hooks, but more importantly, it's the camaraderie shared with our friends, peers and family on the ice, I also enjoy learning. I try to soak up any information I can. There is always value in learning a new technique, or presentation. Sometimes a minor tweak in something you already do will make a world of difference.
This year we set a goal to finish all our tournaments we fished with full bag limits required in the tournaments and we did just that. We were very consistent this year with our finishes. We finished our season a little lower in rankings than we liked, but our weights were heavier than years past, and we caught more fish.
What we realized is our competition is growing, and learning just as we are. We certainly had our ups and down this season with cold temps, equipment failure and then rain. Yes, I said rain. That was my breaking point last weekend for our last tournament on East Rush Lake in Rush City.
We had some nice fished pinned prefishing. We were going in looking at a half pound average per fish. That left me confident in coming in with a nice top 5 bag to cash a check. Sunday, tournament day that all changed.
The weather changed, pushing a rain front in. We caught fish, but they weren't the same fish we were catching the day before. It was a grind. Our first spot produced the sunfish that we had planned. Then we relocated to a weed flat which held a lot of sunfish and an occasional roaming crappie.
The plan was to fish hard and hole hop the area and target crappies. The crappies we were getting were barely breaking the 8-inch minimum. With the rain pouring down, we hunkered down in our Ice Armor by Clam suits and stared at our Vexilars, watching the panfish slowly come off the top of the weeds and lightly take our jig.
Frustrated, and searching for answers, Alie and I packed our soaked gear up, and headed to a different area that we fished. We drilled 8 holes and tried to set some hooks on at least a couple of fish. We had an average bag of fish at best, I thought maybe 5 pounds. Alie ended up catching a couple bigger gills, and I upgraded two key crappies. At the end, we finished with a weight of 6.8 pounds. Not good enough.
I needed some redemption. I wanted to go back. So, I put a little trip together for the following weekend. We got some friends together and made a day of it. With all of the traveling and tournaments we fish it makes it hard to spend time with friends and fish for fun.
Now, you’re probably thinking, well isn't all fishing fun? Yes, but this is without the stress of finishing well. Not only that, we got to relax and fish. Sunday morning, the weather cooperated, warmer and overcast, a fisherman's dream forecast.
I fired up the K-DRILL 6" and started drilling out an area. Once the holes were drilled, a quick explanation to our friends on how to attack these fish we knew it would be a small jig and plastics presentation. I used a variety of jigs and plastics.
The small size 14 drop jigs with MAKI Mino or Jamei plastics. A fast cadence with the Matt Johnson Ice Team Signature series light action spring rod. The sweet thing with this rod is that the spring is a bit heavier, but still detects the light bites. While jigging, we would watch the Vexilar, and see the fish come off the weeds and slam into the jig, they were fast and furious.
Mid-day, we took a break and had a fish fry on the ice. A bit of conversation and we relocated to a new spot and began hammering on more gills. Crappies weren't as prevalent in the new spot.
As the season begins to dwindle down, the sun is beating on the ice. Remnants of ice roads are rotting quickly. The banks from the plows are deceiving and holding water underneath. From here on out, we will run machines until walking out is required.
Also, it is time to put the spud bar back in the truck and start using that again. We always have our throw ropes and ice picks with us all season. If you don't have them with you, there is no better time than now to put that back with your gear when you go out. We hope everyone had a great ice season, and hopefully you can finish out with a bang.