Our Outdoors: First Line of Defense
By Nick Simonson
Openwater rods get a workout, and so does the line spooled on the reels. For that dedicated jigging rod, or those trolling rods that see regular deployment from the holders mounted on a boat’s hull, they are often in action nine months out of the year from ice off in the spring to winter’s onset. Likely, if they’re used frequently enough, they go through a couple respoolings in a season to make sure that not only the line is flexible and in good shape structurally, but also strong at the end that sees the most action – and the most teeth, and rocks, and structure, and therefore stress – near the lure.
Ice fishing rods however, at least in our region, operate in a much smaller seasonal window. While this year’s fast onset of cold conditions has spurred ice formation a bit earlier in many places and extended the width of that window, it’s likely that three or four months is the maximum amount of time that ice rods and reels, and the line packed on them, will be in use. In between those months of chilly activity is an extended stretch of time off where those combos sit in storage with the line wrapped tightly around the spool in a shed or garage. That’s where the single greatest threat to turning off fish under the ice comes to be.
More so for monofilament lines than those superlines available to ice anglers, memory remains an issue. In that time where it remains out of use, monofilament takes on the shape of its container, which in this case is the spool of the reel it is stored on. Without getting too far into the physics of it, the line takes on the curvature of the spool in each wrap during that nine months off, and then when released – say down that first ice hole of the season – it evidences a continuous coil as it falls off the spool. When it does, the lure below serves as a pendulum of sorts, and a weight which the monofilament tries to use to release all the stored-up bends and curls in its structure. As a result, that lure spins.
This results in the most unnatural presentation a fish could possibly see under the ice. In a world where things have already slowed down, and fish have a greater opportunity to inspect their next meal, any unnatural motion under the ice – such as a continuous back-and-forth spin of a lure – can be a serious turn-off for finicky fish. This is primarily because there are no natural prey items that spin in a circle. Watch a minnow that flits or darts and you’ll see it angles up or down or off to the side. Even freshwater shrimp or tiny insects dart or flutter in a direction, but rarely do they stand still and just spin in a circle suspended above a school of fish.
Thus, on those colder nights, or just ahead of the season’s first fishing outing, it’s important to remember to replace the line on ice fishing reels to be prepared for the season. Spooling up with a new stash of monofilament will help ensure the most natural presentation as hardwater action fires up. Doing so ensures that new line with less memory will result in less lure spin in those initial presentations and will eliminate those twisted coils of monofilament going down the hole. Remember to clip the old monofilament to eliminate long strands which can entangle wildlife and dispose of it properly after making the switch. In a season where every element counts, from lure selection to bait freshness to presentation of those offerings, eliminating an unnatural display down below is a huge step in the right direction and the first line of defense against bad ice fishing…in our outdoors.