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.


  Read Full Story

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

  Read Full Story

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

  Read Full Story

‘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

Recent Posts


Plano Blue Heron Communications Swim bait Scholarship bimini top trailer tongue Wake Fishing Downriggers Oshkosh Green Bay St. Croix Rods TRAC Mag Light eZSplice Forage Minnow YUMphibian Walleye Personal Flotation Device Barry Brown Marine Chatterbait Costa Sunglasses Water Buddies ABT boat rental Louie Stout Micro-Mobile Pro Viewing Case Dan Egan jigs South Haven Indiana DNR Hamlin Headgear Marsh Madness Insurance 580P lenses Whale Pumps Iaconelli LineGrabber Mack's Lures Masters Walleye Circuit Air show DuraSafe Moisture Muncher Boga Safety Bethel University Port of Indiana Ice Features Up Stream Hydration Back Pack Soo Locks Smartfind S20 Personal AIS Beacon Radial Electronics Sun protection News/Social RAT FINKEE Humminbird Catch & Cook Turning Point Props Sport Shows Gull Lake Marine AKOYA Jeff Wenzel Dogwood Canyon Trail Runs LCWCC Marine Radio Gill NA Vick Jack Links USO VMC USSA Sunglasses Keep Kool Shelter fitness Fort Wayne, Indiana Jeff's Tackle Shop Safe boating Catfish ONIX treestand injury Sphaera Free Fishing Weekend Mike Seymour Sharpeners Walleye tournament Crankbait Net WeatherStation Legend Extreme Shock Wave Glacier Glove Absolute Outdoor, Inc. Spencer Yachts Walleyes Apps Beckson Marine Deck Plate Jeff Gustafson Beckson Marine Stowaway Bag Plate Lake trout Matt Serbenski Beckson Marine Stowaway Bag Plates and Kits Dollohan Ryan Wilson Thermacell SOG exotic invader Fuel Mercury Marine Insect repellent Ryan Kleckner Cliff Pace iPilot Link Shoes Salmon Unlimited of Illinois Niagara Falls Home Port Marine Marketing Bass Pro Shops Four-Person Dome Tent with Screen Porch McMurdo EZ Splice Fasteners Boat Covers Hobie Shipping spinning rod Olcott, NY Side Thruster Lead EVOLVE FISHING CO Bristol Bay Salmon Bad Elf John E. Phillips Audio Patrick Hurst Muskie Lure Kayaks Mazurek Multitools Glorvigen Lock Gunnison, CO award Fish America Foundation Blue Collar Outdoors Onyx Rapala Faria ice fishing, Bro Show, Traditions Media Aqualuma Practical Sailor Ranger Aluminum Deep V Series Rubrail binoculars PLB Hevi-Beads tree stand injury Reef Runner Ultracoat Records exotic species Games Kevin VanDam Tournament Gravity Soul5 Tackle Labs Bass fishing Airmar Beckson iPad Aluminum Deep V Series Global Spectrum cruzin Alaskan Marine General BoatUS great lakes Michigan USCG Alabama Rig Skarlis Brian Brosdahl LOTSA Grunden's Line JVD Z-Man Angler Raritan Rods Kurt Mazurek Lake of the Woods Rescue Matt Straw Mystery Tackle Box Michigan City, Indiana Bristol Bay Lowrance Flat Slider 75 Mustad Pharmaceuticals Bait head Innovative Outdoors Lake Huron spreader light Hunting Izaak Walton League Ditty bag Personal Flotation Devices SeaEra QC Streams Tight Lines Jewelry Ranger Spreads Tournament Grade Circle Hooks Alaska Clam Smart Guide to Freshwater Fishing PulseTech Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel La Mar Bro Brosdahl Knife sharpening Coast Guard Rain gear National Guard Plano Tackle Boxes Orca Fin System inReach Shurhold Aquatic AV GPS Speedometer Foul weather gear Boats Berkley Ascend Tommy Skarlis Lund Boats U.S.S.A. Frigibar Lake Assault Weather Buoy Boat maintenance Ultimate Flannel Shirts Angler 175T Lights Size limits Lake Michigan Goby Balog BOLT Padlock 1675 Pro Guide Baitcast Fishing Pole BBQ Lighter Lighting Costa Del Mar River Fishing One-Handle-Does-It-All System ODNR Optima Sunstream Boat Lifts Conservation splice Black Earth Creek Brad's Volvo Penta Earth Day Gary Dollahon ASA Dunkirk, NY Boat lifts Mary Snyder Line Recycle Bin Corey Schmidt Dollahon Jonathon VanDam Swedish FireKnife Rushton Gregory Strike King Youth FLW Accon Marine New Lures Lip-Stix Extreme Baitcast Reel Oculus Bait Holder Stabenow Acme WFN Seakeeper gyro MATE USA Extended Warranty Batteries Multi-species thieves trailer tongue Holland Silver Horde sunglass Wild River series Milennia MIL-iDock Cannon Simrad Marine Lighting Bait Rigs Nautical Knives toilet Ravenswood Media Coleman KVD Speedbag Wormfile Minnesota Honda Power Plano Synergy Fishing Pro Polish Scott Martin Todd Sokolow Synergy Outdoors Buff Side Imaging Green Bay, Wisconsin Boating On board Reese Lakemaster Big Bear Products Autotether Homeport Marine Marketing Owners tournament Frabill ATV AmVets ABT X-2 Countdown Fiberglass tiller Lures Clay Dyer WileyX Marcum PFDs CMP Global DSC Kevin Van Dam TRAC Ecological EZ BoatPort Northland Future Fisherman Foundation Speakers clubs Lake Superior Ditch BASSMASTER Trout Unlimited Mark Chmura The Harry Lure Marine NewsWire FRIDAY FUNNIES radar Cabela's Delorme Boat US Minn Kota Bass NAIFC Championship ShowSpan Dave Mull Bug bite relief Rovermax LR 100 ChartSelect Salmon Beckson Marine YUM LineSnubber InvisaSnap Dave Genz Yamaha marlin thieves Mosquito repellent Steve Wood KVD Speedbag CLASSIC METS Dave Mull Blog Lake Erie Davis Instruments Michigan DNR Gary Giudice Monel Metal Bheestie Bag spoon Army Corp of Engineers Traditions Bass Pro Shops Boat names Rugged Shark Ned Rig NMEA Husky Jerk Chargers Tyee KVD New Zealand Kill switch Lake Ontario PRADCO Rain suit Triton Boats Macho Minnow Uncle Norm's Tip-Up The Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls Andrew Dordek Deck Plate Black Velvet Footwear Bug repellent Mack's Lure iPhone BASSMASTER CLASSIC Bob Schmidt dock lines Chaco 360 iPilot IGFA Accessories MUSHING Mark Zona University of Buffalo Technology Venice, Louisiana Sheldon's Boating safety Tides Whale Okuma JBL Brandon Newby Shoremaster Sportsman's rights Ranger Boats Snow-Shoe Tip-Up Jerky Slide Moor Costa Marine Speakers Coleman cooler Fishing Clubs Wind Power Manistee Betsy Muscle Squared 65 Kindle book Magnum Flow-Troll Smart Guide Publications Tracker Marine tackle storage Navigation Grady-White B.A.S.S. GPS for Lightning Connector Grand Rapids Ultimate Outdoors Show RedHead Grab Rail SeaLife Cameras News Martin-Flory Wounded Warriors Aqua-Vu Evolve Yamaha ATV Custom Jigs & Spins Whistler Spoon Brown trout mudsnail Tim Popfinger Northwest Indiana Steelheaders Team Aqua-Vu BoatUS Angler Chicago barrier Radio Hobie Pro Angler Storage Bass lure Gene Larew Pop-Up LED Bowlights Lund Ethanol Bass Pro Wedding Ring Titan Chain Gear Quantum Contest Trade Shows YUM Dinger Normark Dogs Tools Fiberglass boat Invasive species MWC MULL BLOG Greater Niagara Fishing & Outdoor Expo Traxstech Swanson-Russell Legend Gold New York St. Croix Fishouflage Odd'ball Fin Spin Andrew Semprevivo Slender Spoon Rough Weather Full Throttle Chronglobal LakeMaster Western States Version Torpedo Divers F-Series Storm Gear Asian carp Video Wisconsin Soft Jigwobbler Tournaments Camera mount STRATTEC hardbaits Skamania Mania Ice Fishing Telescoping JIggler Long Rod Princecraft Evinrude Endura Oakley Sunglasses Rippin Lips Great Lakes Troller Launch ramp Rippin' Lips HELLA Brian "Bro" Brosdahl Traditions Media USCGA Deep Sea Diver Tackle Bag Church Tackle Prosepec Electronics Promise Keeper Conservation Marathon Brite Wash blue marlin Wildlife Forever Ranger VS1780 Bass Pro Shops Gift Card OHIO weather redfish Serious Shine High school bass fishing Scott Glorvigen DuraSafe Electronics Lock Larson Electronics Bibs Kayak Mr. Twister Interlux Topwater Swim Whizz Fish Hawk XD4 South Haven, Michigan Contaminants CUSTOM JIGS 'N' SPINS Aqua Vu EZ Dock theft Rig'N Tails Tom Neustrom