Great Lakes Angler Blog

Ice Fishing from a Boat

Friday, November 08, 2013

CROSSLAKE, MN – Just because your favorite lake has yet to freeze over doesn’t mean you can’t go ice fishing. No, we’re not talking about performing miracles, or walking on water like another ancient fisherman once did.


Rather, it’s all about the fact that as water temps move into the mid to low 40s, fish of many species are fairly settled in the same spots they’ll be once the surface seals the lake shut. Find ‘em first in a boat and you’ll be light years ahead of the pack once safe ice arrives, with fresh hungry fish awaiting lures below.



Last year, three top teams at the North American Ice Fishing Circuit (NAIFC) Championships hopped into boats a month before the December tournament and discovered some real gem fishing spots—places that eventually lead to monster crappies and winning weights. Anglers Shawn Bjonfald, Kevin Fassbind and Brandon Newbie travelled to Mille Lacs Lake in Central Minnesota on a cool fall day to literally search the water for hotspots.


The key, Bjonfald noted, was the use of GPS alongside Humminbird Side Imaging sonar, which made clean sweeps of large shallow flats. The anglers’ eventual quarry—palm-stretching crappies and sunfish—were known to haunt very specific patches of vegetation. But on Mille Lacs’ shallow southern bays, the best plant patches—including pondweed, elodea and coontail—only grew in small gardens. The choice greenery housed the biggest panfish, too, but was often surrounded by empty acres of clean sand substrate.


“Finding these spots with Side Imaging in a boat,” noted Bjonfald, “was infinitely more efficient than it would have been on ice. We searched hundreds of acres of featureless, fishless water before finally finding our best spots; can’t imagine how many holes we would have had to drill had we waited to start searching at first ice.”



For Bjonfald, Fassbind and Newbie, the strategy involved motoring slowly across expansive 10- to 15-foot flats in a parallel grid pattern, simultaneously inspecting 100 feet of real estate on both sides of their boat.  Bjonfald’s Side Imaging unit clearly uncovered not only the location of vegetation, but revealed the tallest pondweed stalks interspersed with little openings—perfect habitat for monster crappies and sunfish.


“Not only did the Humminbird reveal the best weed beds,” he said, “Side Imaging also let us zoom in and drop GPS waypoints on tiny pieces of turf—areas we returned to during the tournament to catch big panfish.” Bjonfald and his comrades noted that the coordinates were often so precise that literally just one hole was needed to position them directly over a sweet spot.


The teams also attributed their precision and eventual success to Aqua-Vu Micro underwater cameras. “In prefishing, anytime we saw something promising on screen, we would drop the camera optics and verify it—often spotting fish relating to specific plant stalks. When we returned to fish the Championship, the fish were still there.”


After the two-day competition, which hosted nearly 100 top-qualifying teams from across North America, the enterprising anglers had nearly made a clean sweep of the tournament, capturing 1st-, 3rd- and 4th-place finishes. Bjonfald took “big fish” honors with a trophy 2-pound crappie, eventually finishing 4th. Fassbind and partner Nick Smyers took 3rd, while Brandon Newbie and partner Ryan Wilson iced nearly 25 pounds of panfish to win the Championship by over 6 pounds. Newby and Wilson also won two other qualifying events in the 2012-13 NAIFC season, leading to a Team of the Year title.


Recently, Bjonfald and company were back afloat Mille Lacs. Once again, they searched the shallows for those elusive giant crappies and, perhaps, another successful showing at the upcoming 2103 NAIFC Championship, December 21 and 22.


Even though most of us won’t be fishing for anything more important than bragging rights among buddies, the same strategy of scouting for fish prior to the big freeze can make you a big winner. Wait for one of those nice, calm late November or early December days. Launch the boat and you’ll likely have the lake all to yourself— and set the stage for the best ice season you’ve ever had.


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Iowegian Sees Mississippi Crappies Sideways

Thursday, October 24, 2013

EUFALA, AL – Fishing pro Tommy Skarlis is no stranger to seeing his name on the top of tournament leaderboards. But what stood out about the Waterloo, Iowa, native’s latest first place – along with partner Kyle Steifeldt during the recent 2013 Crappie Master National Championship on Mississippi’s Lake Grenada—was the species of fish the duo were targeting.  Read Full Story

Chicago Angler Wins Tracker Marine Grand Prize

Friday, October 18, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, MO – When Steven Reay, an angler from Chicago, opened up the first envelope announcing he had won a 2013 NITRO Z-7 boat with 150hp OptiMax motor and trailer, he was skeptical. However, he sent in the requested information, and when he received a letter confirming he was being awarded the grand prize, he went from disbelief to delight. Reay’s lucky day was the result of a random drawing as part of the Tracker Marine Group’s NITRO “Ride With The Pro” Sweepstakes.

Kevin VanDam, the all-time money winner on the Bassmaster Tournament trail (left), poses with Steven Reay, a Chicago angler, who won a 2013 NITRO Z-7 boat with 150-hp OptiMax motor. This grand prize package was the result of a random drawing as part of the Tracker Marine Group’s NITRO “Ride With The Pro” Sweepstakes.

“I submitted a photo to the Facebook page back in February and then forgot about it. So, when I got the confirmation letter, I was totally amazed, just blown away,” Reay said. “It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever won.”

In addition to the NITRO Z-7 boat, OptiMax motor and trailer package, Reay also received a grand prize package, retailing at more than $30,000, which included:

• KVD Signature Series HYDROWAVE
• KVD Strike King Lure Kit
• MOTORGUIDE Tour Edition trolling motor
• Humminbird Model 597 GPS Fish Finder
• Pair of Oakley KVD Signature Series eyewear
• QUANTUM rod/reel combo
• $500 Bass Pro Shops gift card

In addition, Reay was invited to Missouri so he could receive his prize at Bass Pro Shops’ flagship superstore in Springfield. During a visit to Table Rock Lake, just south of Springfield, Reay also got to meet Kevin VanDam, the all-time money winner on the Bassmaster Tournament trail.

“It was awesome to meet KVD, it was one of the best parts of the trip,” Reay said. “He even signed my new boat.”

Reay said he plans to do even more fishing now and is excited to take his grandson.

NITRO Boats hosted the Ride With The Pro contest on its Facebook page from Feb. 22, 2013, to Aug. 26, 2013. To enter, participants were required to ‘like’ the NITRO Facebook page and complete and submit requested information via an online entry form. Participants were invited to submit a photo of themselves and complete a simple online entry form. All photos submitted as part of the contest may be included in a photo mosaic that will appear on Kevin VanDam’s tournament boat wrap at a future BassMaster Elite Series event. In addition, the boat wrap will be unveiled on the following Facebook pages:

More than 8,500 people entered the Ride With The Pro sweepstakes. Participants were encouraged to enter each month for an increased chance to win the grand prize, as well as having a chance to win monthly prizes including:

• Two KVD Signature Series HYDROWAVE fish finders equipped with special features just like Kevin VanDam’s
• Two Bass Pro Shops Gift Cards
• MOTORGUIDE Freshwater Edition trolling motor
• Three pairs of polarized Oakley KVD Flak Jacket eyewear
• Humminbird 597 GPS fish finder system, equipped with features such as a color LED display and dual beam PLUS SONAR
• Set of QUANTUM Bass Pro baitcast reels with medium-heavy KVD casting and cranking rods
• Plano Tackle bag and Strike King Lure Kevin VanDam Kit

For more information on this event and other Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Marine Group events, please visit or

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Humminbird 360 Imaging Continues Winning Streak With NMEA Award

Monday, October 14, 2013

EUFALA, AL –- With its ability to provide anglers with stunning underwater imagery up to 150 feet in every direction, Humminbird’s 360 Imaging™ has been heralded as the biggest advancement in fishing electronics since Humminbird introduced Side Imaging™ in 2005.  Read Full Story

Lakemaster Lets You Chart Your Water

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

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‘Superman X-Ray Vision’ Now Within Reach Of All Anglers

Monday, July 16, 2012

ORLANDO, FL – Since anglers first glimpsed Humminbird’s 360 Imaging at this year’s BASSMASTER Classic, the buzz has been electric. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the biggest name in bass fishing, KVD, took the podium and said fishing with 360 Imaging is like having “Superman X-ray vision.”  Read Full Story

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