Jan 10, 2019

Sleek Hard Water Transports

Decked-out snowmobile provides all the efficiencies necessary for an efficient ice fishing experience

By Kyle Sorensen

When the hard water hit, my effort to get that first walleye on to the ice went into full gear. It gets my blood pumping knowing each new hole I rip could mean the difference between a successful day on the ice or one consisting of a lot of work with very little reward.

As with everything in the fishing world, one can enjoy this amazing past time with minimal equipment – or on the other hand – a full arsenal. 

I look at the equipment available to us as a balancing act.  Have too much, it will slow you down.  Have not the right stuff, it will hinder your efforts. Have too little, you may have to work a bit harder.

No matter what, one can have an amazing day on the water at any given time, no matter what you have or don’t have. There are many pieces of equipment that can help us – some in the fishing combo category, some in the electronics or ice shelter categories – but in my eyes, being mobile in the most effective and efficient way is critical.

If I’m able to jump from spot to spot with very little effort, it means more water covered, with less work. I look to various pieces of equipment and various ideas to help me achieve this. The way we get to the ice and move is what I believe to be the foundation for success.

The machine that holds us and our equipment must be reliable, and it needs to be set up in the most effective manner to help achieve this success. We’re going to break down why a snowmobile can be so effective and efficient for ice fishing.

 

Safer on the ice

I’ll start by saying you don’t need the newest and shiniest tools in the shed. After all, I’m sure a majority of us can’t go out and purchase a $10,000 machine, specifically for ice fishing. Most of us would like to though.

I run a 1998 Polaris snowmobile. It has been great over the years, and while it only has roughly 2,000 miles of use, those have been some very hard miles. Numerous starts and stops, sometimes only traveling 15 yards at a time.

I look at a snowmobile as one of the safest modes of transport while on the ice. The track and ski placement allow for amazing weight distribution – and because of the design of a snowmobile – it allows for the rider to disembark very quickly if needed. While I have never tried it – nor hope to with a sled I own – a snowmobile can sometimes be run over open water. I’m sure you’ve seen a video or two, and possibly tried yourself?

In the ice seminars I conduct, I always have an entire portion on ice safety, no matter if I’m talking to students or veteran fishermen. One slide I include in the presentation is a photo from Lake Poygan in Winnebago County some years back. The photo shows my sled’s tracks going over a spring which was hidden by a snowdrift I couldn’t see until it was too late. I had no other choice but to hammer down. I did barely break through, but because of my speed I made it safely across. After, I took a couple minutes to collect myself.

 

Taking a beating

Snowmobiles are made for one type of environment – they are made for the snow. Fishing the hard water during the winter months, snow is usually found on the ice, sometimes in great abundance. Having the ability to quickly run over the snow with the sled and not constantly get stuck with a tire-bearing vehicle allows for very dependable transportation.

The last few years I have worn down many components on my sled, primarily because I’ve faced very minimal snow cover. Last year, our county trails didn’t even open once!

When facing these conditions, an ATV or UTV shows a huge advantage. There aren’t snow drifts to get stuck in, travel on and off the water is easy, and the simplicity of these units can make a day so much better. If you’re running a side by side, I’m sure you absolutely love the ride! On a side note, an ATV or UTV can take up some traits of a snowmobile thanks to feats of engineering, allowing owners to add actual tracks to the normally wheel-bearing hubs. Unfortunately, these come at a hefty price.

So, while I have worn down my sled, I have stuck with it and will continue to do so. It’s quick and efficient. The way a snowmobile is designed, it allows for the operator to easily fish off the side and make quick moves. Drill a hole, fish it, and if nothing, start the sled and move on. It’s literally that simple.

 

Accessories for the job

Let’s look at some of the key pieces of equipment that makes this simple for me.

When I arrive at a spot, I grab the auger and drill my hole. Either on the side of the sled or right off the back of my Frabill Sentinel. The location of the hole is dependent on conditions. If it’s nasty out or if I’m in the watchful eye of the Lake Winnebago System Fish Finder – a.k.a., binoculars – chances are it’s off the Sentinel. When the hole is ripped, the auger goes right back on to the carrier, ready for the next spot.

My sled bears a Digger Auger Carrier, which is the only carrier I’ve ever tried, but it’s worked out absolutely fantastic for me. I have this mounted on the rear lift bar of my sled.

The Digger carrier has held my auger in its grasp for many years without one single issue. It allows me to pin down a variety of augers – either the Nills for early ice or the Jiffy Pro 4 Lite for the rest of the season – with just a few quick turns of the adjustment nut.

Some mount this carrier to the front lift bar, but I like it on the back and that’s where it has stayed. There are various mounting capabilities for this auger carrier, not just for sleds, but also for ATVs and UTVs.

An important part of my sled is how I store my go-to equipment. Enter ‘The Bago Box.’ This little concoction from my basement has helped me keep everything I need in arm’s reach.

The box is constructed with knotty pine paneling covering approximately three-quarters of the box. I made it just big enough to fit a milk crate. On one side of the milk crate, I cut down some PVC tubes, ground out some keyways to fit my combos and mounted the tubes to the side. These combos then hang outside of the box at the ready when the milk crate is slid into the knotty pine box. This ultimately results in various Frabill combos ready to be slid out of the PVC tubes and ready for action.

The best part of the Bago Box comes when I get on a school of fish and the milk crate can be lifted out and carried right into the shack. The combos are on the side of it, but the Humminbird flasher and Frabill tackle bag are in the center. It makes for one complete unit being moved all at once. One downside of this box – when I was making it, the wife sure didn’t like the mess or the noise that resulted from my basement “art project.”

The last two areas to point out are on the ends of the sled. In the back, the Digger Anchor Hitch helps me secure my ice shack with ease. A simple bolt-through design allows for easy connecting and disconnecting of my shack via its tow bar and single-pin connection. The shack helps tote my other needed equipment that can’t fit in the Bago Box. The hitch is mounted to the rear lift bar, under the auger carrier.

 

Electronics

The last area of importance comes from my electronics. Under the windshield I use a Ram Mounts’ horizontal swing armto hold my Humminbird Helix 5 to the dash. This unit not only provides important GPS capabilities, it also serves as an accessible and useful flasher. I have a small mesh pocket under the drivers’ side mirror that holds the unit’s transducer when not in use. When fishing off the side of the sled, this allows me to easily drop the ‘ducer into the water, grab a rod and reel combo from behind me, fish the water, and if nothing is happening, put everything back and leave without ever getting off the sled.

There are so many options for one to make their own “ultimate ice fishing machine” without breaking the bank. Like with everything I say, whatever works best for you is the best way.

If you are currently building or perfecting your ice rig, I hope this article helped spark an idea for you. Because I am dead set in running my sled again this year, I am really hoping for some massive amounts of snow … but only if it sticks around. The reports are already flying on the OB Outdoors Facebook and YouTube pages and if you have been on them, you know we have started off the season with a bang.

Hope all of you guys are all having a great start to the hard water season, and as always, until next time, “Tight Lines. Stay Dry.” 

Kyle Sorensen grew up all around the United States due to his father being in the military, but ultimately ended up back in his hometown of Oshkosh. Sorensen primarily fishes the Lake Winnebago System, but enjoys sneaking out to various bodies of water in the hunt for a variety of species throughout the year. He enjoys being able to pass on his knowledge and love for the outdoors in the form of online videos and articles. He can be reached through his website at oboutdoors.com.