Learn About the Amazing New Ice-Fishing Lines
Ice fishing is now a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide. High-ticket items like underwater cameras and portable shelters fly off the shelves. Popularity is at an all-time high, meaning the industry is listening. Line manufacturers are tripping over themselves to produce better, more functional connections between you and the fish.
Fling a crappie into a tackle shop in December and it’s bound to hit a new braided line designed specifically for ice fishing. These lines have space-age coatings with syllables in the double digit range. Like “polytetrafluoroethylene.” Causes carpel tunnel among writers! The techno-abbreviation is PTFE, it is the chemical compound substance used to coat PowerPro Ice-Tec. Water slips off before it can freeze. Berkley Fire Line Micro Ice, Tuf-Line DuraCast Ice, Sufix 832 Ice Braid—these and many other specialty braids are built to shed water and stay flexible in extreme cold.
The great thing about braided line is never having to replace it. Braid never breaks down. No spooling up with new line year after year. Put the rods away, reels attached, at last ice and forget them until ice-up. Then grab the rods and go. Freedom. However, braids don’t stretch. Hooks can pull out, and braids are opaque. Light doesn’t pass through as it does with mono or fluorocarbon. Even though braids are extremely thin, fish can see them better against most backgrounds. Now you need a leader that a fish can’t see quite as well and a leader that lasts as long as the braid.
Fluorocarbon is, of course, the most invisible of all lines (same reflective coefficient as water) and it doesn’t break down from heat or UV either. However, flourocarbon tends to be stiffer than mono. Spooling up with it was a bad idea for years, but that changed too. Many companies now have fluorocarbons designed to be spooled up—like Seaguar’s InvizX and AbrazX lines. Raven Invisible is a leader material, but very supple and thin. Intentionally or not, these and several other new fluorocarbon lines behave and lay quietly on the spool in extreme cold.
Having all these new lines to play with, I created what I call Minute-Man systems for each species that allow me to leave lines on spools for years while making presentation more effective than ever before. For panfish, bass and walleyes, the spool is almost filled with one of the new ice braids. For panfish, its 4-pound test. For walleyes and bass, 6 to 8-pound goes on first. Using a spider hitch to create a doubled line at the end of the braid, I tie in 20 to 50 feet of fluorocarbon using back-to-back uni-knots. For panfish, I use 4.5-pound Raven Invisible and tie direct to tiny jigs and hooks. With larger fish, I use 5.6- or 6.8-pound versions and a Berkley Cross-Lok Snap attached to the end of the line for quick lure changes. Most winters, that knot never needs to be retied. The leader knot can last for years.
For steelhead, salmon, and brown trout, I spool up with at least 120 yards of InvizX or AbrazX and tie direct to hooks or jigs. Bigger and faster fish like those can bury leader knots in the bottom of the hole pretty deep, but experience says fluoro fools more trout than mono in clear water. Luckily, these Seaguar lines designed to be spooled up have great shock and abrasion resistance—two critical requirements for speedy trout and salmon.
New polyester and braided tip-up lines from Celsius, Sufix, Mason, HT Enterprises and others are more flexible, too. Thickness is required to safely hand-line a giant toothy green thing up through the ice, and it needs to be a little slippery. That, so line can immediately be fed toward the hole when a big pike turns and takes off. Most tip-up lines are black, but the new Sufix Metered Tip-Up Braid alternates bright colors every 5 feet, revealing how deep the minnow or deadbait is set. Pretty convenient.
Rather than tie a quick-strike rig directly to a thick, opaque, tip-up line, I tie 6 feet of 40-pound Toray Superhard or Ande FCW50-40 Fluorocarbon to the end of the tip-up line using a swivel to connect the two lines. Yes, the swivel can get caught in the bottom of the hole, but not until the end of the battle when the pike is close and tired—so the line never breaks and pike typically pull it free themselves (hooks getting caught in the ice under the hole is a bigger problem). Guides have shown me how much more effective it can be to hide the connection between quick-strike rig and braid by hooking every fish we caught on several occasions.
Ice-up can be a sudden thing. Like the Minute-Men of the Revolution, be ready to roll out the door with dependable gear at hand when called upon. Always be ready!