By Nick Simonson

Dashing through the…um. Let it…uh. Oh the weather outside is… hmmm.

Alright, so winter isn't upon us just yet, but with the inevitability of ice in the near future, many anglers are abuzz with the latest and greatest equipment to help them successfully kick off the cold-weather fishing season. Plus, after we've given thanks and watched our share of football, we'll wake up at the crack of dawn on Black Friday to find gifts for our fellow fishermen, family members, and probably ourselves. So we'll need a game plan and this is it: the Hottest Stuff on Ice for winter 2013.

hot ice fishing gear 2013Tip Top
New from Frabill this year is a high-tech tip-up that does everything except set the hook and fight the fish. The Calibrator model is a wide snowshoe-shaped tip-up with an electronic display that gives an angler all the information on what's going on below and assist each time after the flag is tripped. The blue-lit display module keeps track of the depth at which a bait is set, but it's after the flag is tripped where things get really high tech. Once a fish hits, the display module keeps track of when the bite occurred, how long has passed since that moment and how much line your quarry has taken off of the Ultra Glide spool. Like standards tip-ups, the Calibrator has dual sensitivity settings - heavy for big fish or windy conditions, and light for subtle biters like walleye. At around $40, the Calibrator is a jump up in price for a unit with more bells and whistles than a one-man-band.

A Tight Spot
As ice anglers find new ways to finesse fickle panfish like bluegills, perch and crappies, niche fishing techniques find their way into the mainstream. That was the case with spring bobbers about ten years ago and so it is with the growing phenomenon of tight-lining that has bluegill spinning up to the surface in fear. Resultantly, a number of companies are offering up tight-lining combos and reels as more and more anglers flock to this form of fishing, once a secret of a close-knit cadre of finesse fishermen.
Much like fly reels, tight-line reels help keep the kinks out of the line and maintain a tight and untwisted connection to a small, but heavy, jig usually made out of tungsten. The horizontal axis and larger circumference of the reel limit the lure from doing an unnatural pirouette under the ice and lets the angler watch the line above the hole which might hint at subtle panfish takes. From the Dave Genz Ice Spooler by Clam ( to the Black Betty Ice Combo by newcomer 13 Fishing (, tight-line reels are becoming part and parcel to panfishing on hardwater.

Electric Avenue
Weighing a scant 21 pounds, and powered by a 36-volt battery, the Ion Electric Ice Auger ( is touted as the world's first high-performace electric auger. The unit has tested well and can cut up to forty holes through 24 inches of ice on just a single charge. It's a unit that brags of all the power of a gas auger without the fuel, fumes and fatigue that come with standard models. The initial offering is equipped with an auger head in the on-ice standard eight-inch diameter, and is great for those who don't do a whole lot of hole-hopping or enjoy fishing out of a large permanent shelter without choking on exhaust for the next hour.

Anglers looking to hook up with fish a little bit quicker will appreciate the expansion of tungsten technology. These compact jigs made from the heavier-than-lead material get small presentations in front of fish fast. As with most economies, as more companies enter the market, the price of the products drops with increased competition. On the ice, this theory holds true, as just a few years ago, only a few specialty tackle companies provided tungsten ice jigs. Now, many traditional lure companies like Northland Tackle ( and Custom Jigs and Spins ( offer a number of tungsten jigs to help set the hook whether you're using the tight-line technique or a sensitive spring bobber. Try Northland's Tungsten Fireball Jig and C J&S's Chekai and Majmun offerings new for this season.

A Spring for Everything
And speaking of spring bobbers, Frabill ups the ante in adjustable on-ice spring bobber options with its clip-on Titanium spring bobber. Consisting of a single titanium wire shaft for ultimate fish-catching sensitivity and no spring coil to get things wrapped up when the bite is on, the rubber clip lets anglers move it from rod to rod to find what works best for them without changing the rod action they're used to. At around $12 each, the reasonably-priced option can help anglers find that extra feel on the ice.
These are just some of the great items that anglers will get a chance to experiment with on the ice this season, whenever it gets kicked off. So in the meantime, make your list, check it twice and put them to good use on ice…in our outdoors.