Emcee to Ice

Kellogg’s pro Dave Lefebre with a nice yellow perch!

After spending 6 weeks packing and planning for a 6-day trip to Raleigh, NC and then to Erie, PA, I awoke to freezing rain. Will my flights be late or cancelled? Airlines are on time just about as often as a teenager to an algebra class right after lunch. Hard to imagine why my airline advertises 80% on time performance.

If anticipation of traveling 6 days wasn’t enough, how do I pack dual-climatized garments for balmy Raleigh and Erie’s frozen ponds? Guys have no problem packing shoeless. Wear what you’ve got on. Fit over fashion! Pounding show pavement or walking on thin ice requires wearing comfy shoes and packing boots. Even stuffed with socks they become an issue.

A rather ambitious trip for me, the much less than frequent flyer. Airport prepared, plastic belt buckle, small tube of toothpaste and shoeless, of course I was chosen for a suitcase search. Just once I’d like to put some wet underwear for them to feel, likely resulting in a less than comfortable search.  To say I dislike flying, especially with today’s unfriendly skies, is akin to a toddler rejecting broccoli.  The first travel leg was to Raleigh to emcee a two-day Bass University with top bass pros. The last time I attended one of these events they used overhead projectors, placing items on lighted screens to cast a shadow image. Nowadays, younger polished presenters employ advanced Power Points and videos! Anglers pay $100 a day to hear 3 pros conduct two seminars each.

Departing Raleigh at 0600, I was headed to Erie, PA for ice fishing. I was lost in the concept of walking onto frozen water to drill a hole, waiting for frozen fish to bite. I expected to reel in Mrs. Paul’s. FLW Kellogg’s pro Dave Lefebre took me from the airport straight to the ice. I layered up in his Suburban, put on my boots and mentally prepared myself for a new fishing frontier. Dave lent me strap-on Stabilicers ice spikes to be sure-footed on a frozen Lake Erie Bay, called Misery! With plenty of traction I became the beast of burden, dragging the Otter sled with a pop-up thermal shelter to our spots. This sled was loaded with everything: food, water, fishing rods, lures, electric auger, and electronic devices. After lining up his secret spots, that happened to be close to everyone else’s secret spots, Lefebre relied more precisely on the Lowrance Endura Safari hand-held GPS to put us on the spot!

Onto the ice Lefebre told me that, during the War of 1812, American Naval crew members with smallpox, but still alive, were tossed overboard with stones tied to their feet. His history lesson was interrupted by a strange sound. He said it was only ice cracking and not to look down. At this time he also shared I should avoid cracks coming together. Now he tells me, as we drag our sled several hundred yards onto the ice, to “walk lightly” whatever that meant!  Not alarming enough? Just when I felt a little bit confident the ice would support us 400 yards from shore, Dave drilled holes around me.

An electric StrikeMaster ice auger created fishing holes. Dave hopped from hole to hole with two electronic assistants. MarCum’s ice fishing flasher and underwater video camera determine the depth, location and fish species. These tools enabled us to get lethargic fish to come off the bottom to bite.  Lures on the screen teased fish to slowly move off the bottom. Bringing baits up just a bit, fish would bite before they got away. Weighing less than 1/50th of an ounce, dime-sized vibrating, rattling, jigging Rapala lures come in various styles and colors with Trigger X soft body attachments. Jigging Raps jumped when jerked.

The lightest line I normally use for bass is 6-pound test. For ice fishing, Dave produced 1-pound test Suffix Ice Line on a variety of ice rods and reels. In addition to spinning reels, ice-fishing specialist “13 Fishing” has round reels and bait-casting style reels to pair up with rods with different actions for hook size and lure weight.

I enjoyed trying something new and catching a bucketful of crappie, bluegill, and yellow perch. Several rainbow trout, a brown trout and some largemouth bass warmed me up! But hanging with a pro angler and some outdoors writers made this Ice Force trip memorable. So now when asked about ice fishing, I’ll no longer respond…How do you keep the cubes on the hook?

Potomac River Bassing in March
Water in the 50-degree range. Fish are moving. Water clarity is key. Look for emerging grass. Cover water with suspending Lucky Craft Pointer 78 jerkbaits and Bevy Shad crankbaits in clear water. Allow these baits to pause, then twitch. With some stain, try covering water with Lucky Craft LV-500 in craw patterns. Use 12-pound test GAMMA EDGE fluorocarbon line and slowly drag this lipless crank on the bottom. If you find grass, stay there and snap baits free from it.

Slowly retrieve Mann’s Classic 3/8-ounce gold Indiana/Colorado blades and white skirt through bottom cover. Fish these close to wood cover and on shallow flats with a nearby drop off. For shallow wood cover at higher tides, try Mann’s Baby X crankbaits. All retrieves should be slow! Bump cover and hesitate. Shad colors in clear water and dark reds in stained. Carolina rigs with Mann’s HardNose soft plastics soaked in Jack’s Juice garlic will get fish to hold on longer.

For cold front days good baits on 6-8 pound test GAMMA Copoly: Punisher Hair jigs, Mizmo tubes with insert heads, small Texas rigged worms with a 2/0 Mustad Ultra Point hooks. Pitch to deeper dock pilings and near drop-offs. Work very slowly and let these baits sit. Soak in Jack’s Juice too!

Capt. Steve Chaconas, Potomac bass fishing guide, BoatUS “Ask the Expert”
(http://my.boatus.com/askexperts/bassfishing/)

Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates:
info@NationalBass.com.

Written by: Steve Chaconas

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