Trickle Down Techonomics

January 5, 2010 by  

Our Outdoors – By Nick Simonson

A post on the ice fishing forum of a website that I help moderate asked: “I paid $300 for an old sled shack and a Vexilar, did I get a good deal?”

Ice fishing sonar units and shelters have come a long way, but together they make ice fishing so much easier.

Ice fishing sonar units and shelters have come a long way, but together they make ice fishing so much easier.

My response was as it usually is for these kinds of questions, “You’ll wonder how you ever fished without them.”
As new shacks and sonar technology make their way to the ice fishing market each winter, the previous generation of innovations makes its way into the hands of those who either were priced out of the initial release or saw no need for the bells, whistles and gadgets. But when they do take the plunge, even on used gear, most anglers wonder how they ever got along without it. And many of them make the transition from casual ice angler to die-hard winter sportsman as a result of the success that the items bring.

Shack Attack
I had the chance this weekend to pop open one of the newer hub-style shelters on the ice. After about ten seconds of set up and a few shovels full of snow to bank it in, we were on fish. I was stunned at how quick, roomy and, when folded down, compact the icehouse was. It became evident that this six-man pop-up model was a very viable option for any angler, as I was without my pickup for the holiday weekend and was still able to tote the shack and all of my gear in the trunk of my wife’s car.

The hub-style shack was light enough to be moved from spot to spot by picking it up and dragging it, but it could also be folded down in a matter of moments, with no poles, snaps or twisting, before being set into the sled and moved any distance. This style of shelter is becoming well established and is clearly a viable option for anglers on the go. And that aspect of the pop-up shack is the most beneficial as the growing science behind ice fishing requires anglers to stay on the move to find hungry fish. With a number of new portable shack models, and previous generations of shack technology available at a discount, anglers are finding that ice fishing isn’t just spending all day in the permanent house.

Which is another important lesson learned over the past decade. If the fish aren’t biting where you’ve set up, you have two options: wait it out or stay on the move. And with a another piece of second-hand technology, anglers can quickly check and decide if they should stay put or set up somewhere else.

Second Generation Sonar
Aside from the occasional outing as a kid on a long-ago Lake Ashtabula that was so full of perch, a guy could fill a five-gallon pail in about an hour; I didn’t ice fish much until 2001. But I knew right away, returning from my time at the University of Florida (where I was de-facto captain of the Ice Fishing Team), that to be truly successful, technology in the form of some sort of sonar was going to be key.

It was the Vexilar FL-8 that caught my fish for me that first year on the ice, and it has been one of the best Christmas presents I have ever received. Three years ago I handed down that same unit to my little brother, and it has meant the difference in his ice fishing as well.

Where once there was just the FL-8 on the market, multiple manufacturers have designed a number of units for ice fishing. Marcum, Humminbird and Lowrance are all chipping into the virtual monopoly that Vexilar once held on the ice. From low-end entry units, to high-end flashers with all the bells and whistles, these companies are helping anglers catch fish like never before. What’s more, as the cutting-edge anglers feel compelled to upgrade every-so-often, the older technologies, still very capable, get handed down through classified ads to casual anglers.

If you’re ice fishing without a sonar device (and not sight fishing a gin-clear lake), you’re fishing blind. Whether it’s a new entry unit like the Vexilar FL-12, the ShowDown or Marcum VX-1, or used technology like an older FL-8, sonar of any kind means success. The secondary market of used units is expanding nearly as fast as the retail market of new models, making this winter the perfect time for you to see what might normally be missed under the ice.

Ultimately, it’s about catching fish and having fun, and a portable shack and a sonar unit – regardless of whether it is new or used – will help do just that. If you’re just starting out, or have been thinking about trying this technology for a few seasons, pick up a newspaper, check online classifieds and find the options that are priced right for you. There’s no better time than now to get a good deal on these items and see ice fishing from a whole new angle…in our outdoors.


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