January 12, 2006 at 7:54 a.m.
As far as crappie fishing goes, the biggest change I made was to the rod itself. I finally bit the bullet at one of the “Big Box” retailers and picked up a higher-end 28” ultra-light model designed specifically for telegraphing light biting fish. The shorter and stiffer ice rod I had been using for years and years was costing me fish and I’d had enough of that nonsense. The newer rod’s blank is constructed of boron and has a very slow tip that telegraphs light bites effectively.
After I’d begun to use the new rod, it took a bit of time on the ice to realize that fishing deeper for crappies posed another major issue inherent to monofilament line––dreaded line stretch and memory. In other words, what’s the use of using a sensitive ice rod when what’s between your rod and the fish (stretchy, coiled mono) is robbing sensitivity? That issue was easily remedied by switching to one of the many “superlines” out there on the market as my “running” line. Spooling up with 100 or so feet of superline and using a three-foot length of fluorocarbon as my leader was the missing piece of the puzzle for me.
Last Sunday on Kroon Lake, the crappies were biting so incredibly light that the only way I could detect bites was to place my rod in a holder and stare at the rod’s sensitive tip. I quite literally couldn’t differentiate between a fish bite and the involuntary movements my hand and arm imparted on the rod. The crappies gave the rod tip only the slightest twitch when they took the bait. So slight that after a while I was going goofy and was convinced my eyes were playing tricks on me.
If in the past some I’m OK-You’re OK sensitive-type spoon fed you the line that fishing isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a competitive sport, I’m here to tell you that things can get pretty heated and ugly inside an ice shanty when one guy is doing all of the catching. Tension inside the ice tent can be a very palpable, quantifiable thing. No truer words have ever been written because I know…I’ve been on the unfortunate end of that deal more times than I care to recall. If you don’t believe me, the next time you’re doing all the catching, casually lean over and ask your buddy, “Say, you wanna reel up a few of the crappies that I’m catching over here? You know, just so you know what catching a crappie feels like.” If you’re brave enough and muster up the courage to actually say something like that, make sure there’s a clear path between you and an unzipped door. I’m not responsible for your fate.
Dan Brown’s weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankie’s Bait and Marine, in Chisago City, and St. Croix Outdoors, in St. Croix Falls, Wis.
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