One Hook Set Closer
Setting up a dead stick increases your chances of catching more fish for the simple fact that having a second line down an ice hole is another line to be bit. Simple reasoning and explanation, right? The tricky parts come down to the fundamentals of the selections of bait and tackle to use for any particular species of fish, where to set up a dead stick and of course which style of dead stick to use to get the job done right. I recently spent a few days fishing the famous Mille Lacs Lake walleye and wanted to highlight how I rigged my dead sicks and why they played a major role in my success on the big pond.
You can never go wrong with an old fashioned spooled tip-up, however, I would much prefer to fight the fish with a rod and reel rather than hand line them in. For that simple reason, the IFishPro is my choice of tip up and is my preferred method of rigging a dead stick. This style of tip-up still acts as a tip up, raising the "game on" flag and allows me to utilize one of my favorite rods to fight the fish at play. Instead of fumbling around with a tangled mess and with frozen fingers, I can re-bait my hook, re-set the bait feeder on my reel, place the rod in the convenient rod holder arm and reset the tip up in no time at all while maintaining warm fingers.
Recommended gloves to perform these detailed operations while keeping my hands dry and warm? Striker's Stealth Glove is the most natural fitting glove on the market I have worn yet and are my hand's saving grace this ice season and for the years to come.
While chasing one of Minnesota's most prized species of fish on the famous Mille Lacs Lake this past week, I started rigging my dead sticks with heavier jigs and spoons, though after switching to a pre-rigged 15# fluorocarbon leader from Northland Fishing Tackle called the Predator Rig, the differences in productivity made between the different presentations became clear in the number of strikes and fish caught. The Predator Rig allowed for my live sucker or shiner minnow to move freely rather than be anchored down by extra weight. The line I prefer on my dead sticks and many of my jigging rods is suffix's Ice Magic Fluorocarbon, using five to six pound line and spooled on an Okuma Ceyemar 500. This reel in particular offers a bait feeder function with a simple flip of a switch, eliminating the need to keep my bail open and minimizing the risk of tangled line.
Just like any other fishing technique, it takes the proper rod selection to get the job done right. Tuned Up Custom Rods makes a phenomenal dead stick rod (actually called the Dead Stick) when it comes to bringing big walleye and pike topside on the ice and pairs exceptionally well with the IFishPro tip up. Offered in lengths of 32 inches to 36 inches long, it features a high-visibility orange tip. The action this rod offers allows the fish to swim off with your bait with little to no resistance at all, and allows the bait feeder reel to sufficiently trickle out the line as needed to preserve the element of surprise when setting the hook.
Location, Location, Location
The majority of my fishing excursions begin with punching a grid of holes blanketing a contoured area ranging in depths and structures; walleye fishing on Mille Lacs is no exception to that technique. To best stay on top of actively feeding fish, punching a grid over outstanding areas you pick out on a contoured lake map is key. Before you pick up the jigging rod, grab your dead stick and set it up in one depth range, then jig in another. For example, if I set up my dead stick in 23 ft of water up on a flat, I will then jig off the side of the flat in deeper water until fish are located. If you're not marking fish out deep but your tip up is going off in the shallower water, proceed to jig in the shallower water as that is perhaps where they are concentrated. Having your dead stick set up in different depths and in different areas than where you are jigging allows you to cover a bigger area and locate fish faster.
Adding a dead stick to your arsenal of rods and getting in the habit of setting one in a strategic location as your first step in any fishing excursion will absolutely help you locate fish faster, put more fish on the ice and will most definitely bring you one hook set closer to "the big one".