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Brad Laabs column: Ice fishing has come a long, long way

Fishing Columnist Brad Laabs

As you can see by the number of ice houses out on area lakes, as well as the many portables, a significant growth in the sport of ice angling is taking place.

All the new innovations in winter clothing, gear, equipment, augers, electronics, permanent houses, and portables, it is easier and more comfortable than ever to get into this activity or upgrade for comfort and ease.

These innovations have grown the sport, and as the sport grows, more new and cool stuff makes its way into the ice fishing market.

One of the significant improvements over the last few years is in ice fishing reels. Many of us still remember the ice sticks with a couple nails or pegs in them that you wrapped the line around—and hand-over-handing the fish in after setting the hook with the stick.

Then came the use of small size 10/100/1000 size (depending on make or brand) summertime spinning reels.Then reels that were made for the new ice rods ... they had terrible drag systems, were not smooth, and made for terrible line twist. Now they are multi-bearing smooth and trouble free.

The newest addition to the upgraded ice reel family is the fly reel style. A few years back, some anglers adapted the small fly rod reels to ice rods to help prevent line twist. The industry responded with a low end, ice rod/fishing specific fly style reel. They were good at reducing the line twist, but not as smooth and easy to reel as the spinning reel. Well, now the new series of fly style reel that have hit the market have solved that problem.

The new fly style reels have been the rage, especially for the die hard pan fish fisherman. The small jigs and 2-4 pound test line are managed well on these new reels. If there is one thing a pan fish angler does not want happening to them, it is line twist.

The twist in line will spin the bait. Finicky sunfish, crappies, and perch will turn their nose away from a bait that is turning un-naturally in front of them. With no line twist, a bait hanging on a small jig or flutter spoon will only have the action that the angler imparts to it.

You can still use the spinning reels for these pan fish with a few simple adaptations. One is to use any of the "super lines" like Fireline/Powerpro/Suffix 832 etc., but you will not direct-tie to your bait with these lines. Tie a small barrel swivel to that "hardline," and tie 2-4 pound test fluorocarbon or monofilament 12-18 inches to the barrel swivel, and tie your jig/hook/spoon to that.

The "superlines or hardlines" are no-stretch lines that are not as susceptible to line twist, but back your drags down to help with shock absorption due to the no stretch nature of the lines.

You can do the same thing with a mono or floro as your main line, but it will still sometimes get some twisting even with the small swivel. With fishing, it is always about using what you can afford. You can also adapt and innovate yourself to solve problems, increase ease and comfort, or save a few bucks with this fun winter sport.

Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide service in Detroit Lakes