Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Fishing '12

For the 5th year in a row, I had a chance to go ice fishing on Christmas day. Although I did not catch "the big one" I did as usual have some fun.


Christmas Eve day a friend of mine and I ventured out to find ice, we ended up in Fremont, on a community hole in front of Larry and Jan's Resort. Depth was 5-7 feet of water, with lots of pan fish to be had. It worked out well to drill many holes, if you found a standing weed under the hole, you could have some good action. The fish seemed to stack up right next to the sparse weeds. We caught bluegill, perch, crappie, rock bass, largemouth and even a pike. Gold was a good jig color with a mix of both bright colored plastics (bright orange and bubblegum GoJo's from J and S Custom Jigs and Plastics) as well as dark colored. (Dark Green Gojos)

It seemed like hole hopping and picking off one or two fish a hole was the most productive. After catching the first couple fish out of the hole, the others were not as aggressive. Moving to a different hole(s) then coming back around after a while seemed to produce fish quickly.

Christmas Day I got out closer to home, Sheboygan Falls near the Sheboygan River. The small lagoon I was in has a large variety of fish available to catch, many of which run on the small side, but nonetheless, it was great to get out.

Once again, I drilled many holes, looking for active fish. As I would check the holes with the sonar, if I noticed marks there were elevated/separated from the bottom I would fish the hole. The suspended marks were generally the more active fish. I followed this pattern all morning. I would not fish a hole if I did not already mark a fish as it seemed you could not call active fish to a hole, they had to already be there. It again was the case of catching one or maybe two fish per hole, then moving to the next. There were fish in many holes, I caught enough "keeper" sized fish to make a meal, but was not keeping any fish.

The rig I was using was called a Michigan rig. I had a light ice fly tied to my line about 8" up from my jig. I tipped my jig with a red Ice Mite Jr. from J and S custom Jigs and Plastics. The fly I did not tip with anything. The reason I fished with the Michigan rig is because often Crappies would come in suspended, this allowed me to fish a little more of the water column because the depth was only 4.5-5' deep. I caught bluegills, crappies and even a largemouth.

Good luck fishing! If you have questions about baits of rigs, contact me at hardwaterjeff@gmail.com.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It Begins: 2012-2013 Ice Fishing Season with Team #711

Sheboygan, WI- It’s unfortunate that the official start of winter is a couple weeks away and the chance for a quick trip onto a small body of water to test new equipment and to work out bugs in gear is unlikely before the North American Ice Fishing Circuit Championship arrives. Fortunately though, for Jeff Kelm and Adam Schumacher of Team #711, the companies they work with provide them with dependable gear year in and year out.

Once again, Jiffy Ice Drills is on board, with a history of craftsmanship and ultimate performance team #711 will take to the ice with the Jiffy Ice Drills Pro4 and 4G models in tow. Jeff and Adam have used the Pro 4 propane powered drills for a few years now and with the introduction of the new 4G 4-stroke gasoline model in their arsenal, they know it won’t matter what the weather is, they are drilling holes and fishing.

For the second year Aqua-Vu has supported the team, and allowed them to utilize the new Aqua-Vu Micro cameras. The 2012-2013 model Micros feature upgrades to the case, screen, camera and an optional built in DVR. Look for video’s to be posted on Hardwater-Angler.com this season. The Aqua-Vu 760cz, a full scale model camera with 3 times zoom, has become an absolute necessity for the team and it will get quite the work-out on Lake Mille Lacs at the NAIFC Championship.

New rods and reels will be found in the cases this year of Team #711. Jeff and Adam have been evolving along with the industry to utilize smaller fly reels, specifically designed for ice fishing from HT Enterprises. Both members of the team have found a balance with the HT Sapphire Ice rods and the new “Tightline” reels. No twist, coils, knots or loops to worry about on the ice this season.

Search high and low through the team’s rod cases this year and you will find one constant item, Vicious Fishing Line. With the team having used Vicious for years, this should come as no surprise. The 2# Pan Fish Ice line in Hi-Vis for Adam and Low-Vis clear for Jeff is the mainstay regardless of the rod and reel combo. If you take a close look at the specialized rods Jeff using when fishing in the World Championship with the USA Ice Team, you will find the same Vicious Line team #711 trusts.
    
J and S Custom Jigs and Plastics have found a permanent home in the tackle boxes of Team #711. You most likely won’t get Jeff and Adam to agree on their favorite colors, but you will hear them both sing the praises of J and S. With a line-up of unique shapes, a full array of colors and now the addition of tungsten ice jigs, J and S Custom Jigs and Plastics will ultimately be responsible for the team’s successes this season.

The North American Ice Fishing Circuit Team #711 must also thank Muck Boots, Amercianfishingcontests.com, Squirmin’Worm Bait and Tackle and Dan Small Outdoors for their support. The team has big goals this season, and without the support of each company, it would be a struggle to compete, let alone win.

Team #711 of Adam Schumacher and Jeff Kelm was founded in 2009, since then, the team has done seminars, television shows, radio programs, kids clinics, sports shows and other presentations all while showcasing the companies that support them. For more information about the team visit www.hardwater-angler.com or email Jeff at hardwaterjeff@gmail.com.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Ride!...For the ATV's

The brand new Karavan Trailers Inc. Atomic 13! This should get us from point a"A" to anywhere we want I would think.



10' Aluminum Wishbone
Adjustable/Sliding Ski tie-downs
Quick Release Tilt Hinge
I got the optional 13" tires
Very Happy!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mercer, WI- Land, "Sea" and Air


There is no ice right now, so lets talk about what you CAN do!

If there was ever a town that enveloped a tight-knit community and the feel of the north-woods back-country, it’s Mercer, WI. Recently I had the opportunity to find out what makes Mercer such a thriving area and experience “The Loon Capital of The World”. 
I was invited to Mercer, WI in mid June for a “writers Camp”, an invitational event for members of the Association of Great lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW)The Mercer Area Chamber of Commercehad organized activities for 7 outdoor communicators over the course of 3 full days. We had scheduled fishing trips, meals, tours and an ATV ride; they kept us moving right along in the short time we were there.
Upon arrival to Mercer, WI from the south of HWY 51 you run into the mascot for the Mercer area, Claire d’ loon, a 16’ tall, 2000# loon statute that the chamber will decorate to represent the happenings in town. At the time of our trip Claire was not wearing a hat or wreath like she can be found wearing at other times of the year, but you must stop for a picture with her or stop into the Chamber’s office and speak to the great staff.

The chamber arranged for most of us communicators to stay at a beautiful place on Spider Lake called Pine Forest Lodge. Pine Forest has been in operation since 1938 and features furnished cabins situated on parts of the property to allow the choice of overlooking the woods or the water. The main office has WI-FI and John and Cheri Stratte are some of the most gracious hosts I have had anywhere. One of the most honorable and unique qualities at Pine Forest Lodge is that they cater to clients with physical disabilities. Many of the cabins are wheelchair accessible, and events are regularly scheduled for folks with disabilities to enjoy like ATV trips and Kayak tours. I met some great people on my trip to Mercer and at Pine Forest Lodge I met Rick and Gina, both long time customers who had extremely high praise for Pine forest and all that John and Cheri do. Rick has taken many of the pictures that are found adorning the main office of the lodge and Pine Forest’s Facebook page. Gina can be found at least a couple times a year enjoying time with her son on the property, kayaking, swimming and relaxing. Pine Forest Lodge is the type of place that no matter what you do during the day, how much hustle and bustle you have going on, you can relax here. A trip to the main office to sit and talk with John and Cheri about the day and the surrounding area is something I looked forward to each day.

Everyone has to eat, and you have many choices when in Mercer of places to dine. One name came up every time you ask a local where to grab a bite, The Pines, a small German style family restaurant in downtown Mercer. The Pines does not skimp on the portions and the service is great considering it’s a small family that runs it and the couple times I was there the owner Erv, was the host, bartender, waiter and busboy. The special on a Saturday night is duck, my suggestion, get the duck, so good. Now that I have to wipe the drool from the keyboard, the other great menu item is their Schnitzel, oh so good. I am about two seconds away from dropping everything right now and drive 4 ½  hours to eat. 

So many of the resorts have some great food too! Beaver’s Resort just outside of Mercer is one of those resorts, the owners hail from my hometown of Sheboygan, WI and like many Mercer residents, they had traveled to the Mercer area a number of times and at some point decided to stay. Gateway Resort has some exceptional food as well and newly built “cabins” to enjoy. They may be called “Cabins” but they are way nicer than the house I rent even, and I have a nice house! Tom’s Café was a great stop for a breakfast on a morning before fishing with healthy portions and a nice selection on breakfast items to choose from. Our final evening found us at Cranberry Inn a revamped motel/bar that the owner stuck lots of heart and soul into. With a beautiful décor and excellent food the Cranberry Inn is a must eat place on any trip to Mercer. They also have multiple rooms for rent that have recently been remodeled with the coup de grâce being a basement type dwelling they call the Dorm. Sleeps 8 full kitchen, living room and eating area plus 2 bathrooms for only $149 a night!!! My mouth fell through the floor when I heard that price, what a great deal for a few families looking for great lodging.


To view photos from my trip to Mercer, WI click HERE


Besides the obvious things to do in and around Mercer like fishing (I’ll get to that in Part 2) and ATVing, Mercer has a history of logging, and with logging comes railroads. The Mercer Depot Museum is a nice stop while in the area to see what Mercer was like while the lumberjacks of yesteryear resided there.  Folks from Chicago realized how nice Mercer was long ago and the railroads quickly went from hauling lumber from Mercer to hauling people too Mercer. The shops in downtown Mercer will not disappoint either, with the highlight being the Wampum Shop, if you want something pretty, noisy, classy, or weird they will have it. Known for its eclectic mix of items from handmade moccasins to “I mooned the Loon in Mercer” t-shirts the Wampum shop is where you can find something for everyone for any occasion or no occasion at all. Visiting the antique shops can keep someone busy for a while and if you are in the market for fishing gear, two of the areas best bait shops are right across the street from each other.

Of course this is the north-woods of Wisconsin and there is plenty of wildlife to see. The Little Turtle River area is home to some unique visitors, trumpeter Swans. These large birds were re-introduced years ago and have come back to the area each year to rise the next generation. There are opportunities for bird watchers and nature lovers to explore a wonderful piece of Wisconsin’s wildlife all around Mercer. Zach Wilson is a naturalist that will give tours to showcase loons, ospreys, eagles and other Turtle Flambeau creatures. No trip to Mercer is complete without a sighting of their mascot, the Loon.  To get a greater view, of the surrounding area, try doing it by air. I had a wonderfully scary chance to jump aboard a float plane and see the entire Flambeau Flowage from the sky. I am certainly not a fan of flying, but I wanted to experience a float plane, and with Lauer Aviation I did just that.  

There was some great fishing in Mercer as well and the guides are worth every penny. Read all about my fishing adventures in Mercer in Part 2 of Mercer, WI- Land, Air and “Sea”.

Now you can bet I will be back up to Mercer for some winter time fun as well. I am hoping to run a Trap Line with the Wilsons and I will get out on the flowage to fish as well. 

Follow me on FacebookTwitter or Google +

Thursday, May 17, 2012

RE: Sponsorship- Keep It Professional

It is every tournament anglers dream to have a full ride during their tournament season, have the pressures of finding a way to fund the adventures taken off their back. It’s also every company’s fear that someone is going to hound them for money so they can fish in a tournament. Honestly it’s not that the company has something against giving sponsorships, it’s that rarely they are a good deal for the company.


There are many variables that make a sponsorship a good “investment” for the company handing over the check. The number one thing companies want when agreeing to a partnership with an individual or team is exposure to other potential customers, if you can’t offer that to a company, you’re in an uphill battle already. Another issue companies have is persona of the individual or team they are giving money or product to. There are unfortunately a few bad apples that love to take the money and run, or don’t behave in a professional manner.

The first statement I brought up we will get to in a bit. The second is where I want to start. I have seen too often a team or individual be denied a sponsorship because they could not write a professional letter, could not hold an intelligent phone conversation or with the introduction of social media, have inappropriate clothing, gestures or statements that could affect who would want to be affiliated with them. Just like in the world of job hunting, marketing wise companies have hired people to do research to make sure they are being represented well on social media and online. Think about that before you try to approach a company, do you have inappropriate photos on Facebook? Have you claimed a very polarizing view of politics on Twitter? Do you have something incriminating on your personal page that the company could see as offensive? You may feel like your hands are tied at times when you want to speak up, but that is a small price to pay to be able to enjoy promoting a product or company that has put its trust in you to be a steward for them.

Now back to the first statement, exposure is key. If you have nowhere but a truck window or jacket to place the name of a company, do not expect a lot of attention from potential investors. You are a form of advertising for these companies, and they want to sell product, gain hits or garnish attention from other paying customers. Websites are extremely easy to establish these days, with a half hour and a small amount of knowledge you could have a fully operational website including a “store”, blog, video section and a whole host of other content that could expose your sponsor to new people. It takes some effort thereafter to grow your site, but with a base, you have some talking points to add to your resume. Pod Casts and videos are other great platforms to share your use of a product or introduce people to the company your working with.

I have spent many months attempting to contact businesses that may be interested in allowing me to represent them while on the circuit. I set up professional presentations to give them, laying out exactly what we can do for them. I customize a plan with each company to fit a need they may have. Our team is fortunate to work with a host of businesses, some have product we use on the tournament trail and some wanted to partner with us to gain online attention.

Make sure once you have a deal set with a sponsor, you stay in contact with that company, inform them of your intentions to do promotion, or brainstorm with them to find ways to help them. Make sure you keep it about them, not you.

There are many resources online that may help you set up a professional portfolio and also gain contact information for businesses you may wish to contact. Good luck, and be professional.

Contact me if you are looking for more detailed information on how to begin creating sponsorship portfolios.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is it December Yet??

Is it December yet?? Sad day, put all the ice fishing rods and equipment to bed. It is enjoyable to reflect on the season though. I may not have caught as many fish as I have in years past, but this is a season I will never forget! 7th Place in the North American Ice Fishing Circuit (NAIFC) Championship, traveling to Kazakhstan for the World Ice Fishing Championships and then last weekend once again making it onto theUSA Ice Team! Does it get better??? I think a gold medal in 2013 could maybe, just maybe be better. Lets get'em boys!


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

USA Ice Team Daily Log

February 4th-Day 1 fishing complete. Everyone caught fish, not many. Size was slightly larger than we heard it was to be but not by much. Dinner and sleep tonight, full day of practice fishing time tomorrow.


February 5th- Day 2 Very rough day for Team USA today. Tried fishing in a few different areas to see if we could get on schools of fish to practice some ground baiting techniques and had no success even finding schools of fish. Total amount of fish caught by the whole team in 4 hours of fishing was in the teens I believe. It was a very cold wind today, windchill -5 or so. The Russian team has now arrived and the Kazakhstan Fishing Federation officially welcomed us to their country today with a nice speech and gift bag. We all hope tomorrow will be a better fishing day as we are not learning much only catching a handful of fish. I took no pictures today because it was so cold, and honestly I was concentrating on fishing. A few of us USA Team members are not feeling 100%, most likely due to the travel and 12 hour time difference, and demanding fishing conditions so far. Time to sleep (for me), and "party"for many others now. Wish for fish!


February 6th- Day 3 update- We found fish! Most of us anyway, still not many, and it doesn't truly matter cause they have not allowed us on the lake we are actually fishing for the Championship. We think we have learned a few things but its kinda like fishing Lake Michigan to learn how to catch fish on Lake Erie. Fishing is still relatively slow but as we learn the fish it has gotten better. The sun was out today, warmed all the way up to 11! Actually it was great with no wind, should be 35 by Thursday. Tomorrow starts the "Official" practice time (they will let us onto the lake we will be competing on) and opening ceremonies including a trip into Almaty to sight-see and shop. The competition between us USA team members starts tomorrow as well to find out who the 6 men will be that will actually get to fish in the Championship starting Friday. Everyone has acclimated to the change in time zones now,which makes it easier to push yourself to fish hard. There is 20-26" of ice we have to drill through by hand so you need all the rest and energy you can get. Time to re-rig then bed for tonight. Wish for fish! USA! USA! USA!


February 7th- USA Ice Team Update-Day 4- Finally! We were allowed to fish the lake we are fishing the World Championship on. Totally different than the practice lake of course. This lake has thick weeds in 0-10 feet of water and has a larger variety of fish sizes. We had only 2 hours that we were allowed to fish today. That time was spent competing with each other on the USA team for a spot in the final 6 that will fish in the Championship starting Friday. After day one Whiteside, Wilson, Burkart, Esbeson, McNett are the top 5. I caught 3 fish that all together weighed only 17 grams (.6 oz)!! Yikes! Tomorrows practice determines the final guys. The host country took us to the mountains near Almaty to a very nice ski resort to ride the sky lift. The lift took us to 2500 Meters above sea level. It was a 2 hour ride to the resort, the resort was a half hour then a 2 hour ride back to the hotel :) Fun. The food is still great here, though we are starting to ask what we are eating now and then, but its all delicious. Most teams have arrived now and its great getting to speak with other ice fishermen from around the world. Everybody is feeling great and ready to fish tomorrow. New pictures will be ready to view tonight in my 2012 World Ice Fishing Championship Album. Wish for Fish!!


February 8th- UPDATE- USA Ice Team Day 5- Team practice went well, it kinda flip flopped in standings between the team today. For full results go to the USA Ice Team page on Facebook. The top 6 fishermen from the USA team as determined by the competition between us will get to fish in the championship starting Friday. I started today in 9th position, I managed to find a super hot hole near the end of regulation time and managed 62 fish for over 500grams. With that I took 1st for the day and am now in 4th headed into the last day to fight for a spot. So I still need to fish hard tomorrow. The "official" opening ceremonies took place tonight, a wonderful event filled with speeches from local delegates and both traditional and contemporary dancing by local youth. LOTS of food tonight, that's one thing they do not lack here, food. Once again time to re-tie and go to bed. More pictures will be added to the 2012 World Ice Fishing Championships album soon. Wish For Fish!!


February 9th- USA Ice Team Day 6 UPDATE- Well the team is set, check out the USA Ice Team page for the details. I did not make it this year. I had a great day yesterday, but today I fell short. I will be a spotter for Ryan Wilson tomorrow. This has been a great experience and I am glad I have done this once in my life. The team is excited and ready to fight tomorrow. Very tired now, no re-tying to worry about tonight, time for bed. Wish for fish! USA! USA! USA!


February 10th- USA Ice Team- UPDATE- Day 6- What a day of competition. It was intense watching the rest of the world fish hard. I have seen our guys do it day after day, but with so many other world champions in once place it was awesome. What wasn't awesome was the fishing. It was rough for nearly every team. See results on the USA Ice Team page. I sat and spotted for Ryan Wilson today, 3 hours of watching something like 15 fish caught out of 11 guys and unfortunately none were from Ryan. We did all we could to try though, he drilled is heart out looking for fish. We will be working together tomorrow again, hope its a better day. Most of the team spent 3 hours in the Russian Bonya today. It's a great way to relax, a sauna that is hotter than blazes and as you walk out of it after 10 minutes or so there is a bucket hanging from the ceiling filled with water that is around 40 degrees you pull a cord and it dumps on you. Its so cold for only a split second. It felt great to do that 3 or 4 times, then there is a room off the side of the Bonya where we had all kinds of traditional Kazach food. What a truly amazing experience this has been for all of us. We have one more day to fight for a good spot, it will be tough to medal now, but with a little luck and lots of prayers we could still do it. Wish for fish!!


February 11th- USA Ice Team Day 7 Update- Wow! What an experience! This has easily been the highlight of my ice fishing life. Today was the final day of competition and we did much better than yesterday. (The zones had lots more fish in most of them) I had the chance to see how fast these other countries are once they are on fish, its amazing, in 6 feet of water I watched the Latvian catch almost 5 fish a minute at times. Thats super fast. We as the USA team have SOOOOO much to learn yet. We can catch fish, but we don't have the speed or the ability to keep fish in a hole actively feeding like these other countries do. The USA Ice Team finished 9th overall. This was yet another learning year for us and we did learn tons. The guys fishing gave it all they had, and us on the sidelines did all we could to help them. I will say this, I don't want to sit on the sidelines again though, I wanna fish. When it comes to the US next year, I plan to not only make the Team in the USA try-outs, but fish both days of competition in the World Championship. Having finished in a tie with less than 100 grams keeping me from fishing at least one day here, I am hungry to try again. As this event comes to a close, I want to thank the Country of Kazakhstan for treating us extremely well. I have a great respect for this country and its people and I would be honored to be invited back once again. I would like to thank my teammates for making this a trip I will never forget. I get the chance to see many of these guys nearly every weekend in the winter while fishing the North American Ice Fishing Circuit (NAIFC) but I have become so much closer to all of them. WE are the USA ICE TEAM and we are all damn proud of that flag that follows us. From all of us in Kazakhstan, thanks for following my posts, and we will be home soon. Many of us miss our significant others and our own beds. We start our travels home tomorrow. See you soon!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Let's UN- Do The Twist

If you have ever sat directly over your ice hole in shallow clear water (sight fished) and noticed how your lure and bait is presented to the fish then chances are you have noticed your lure will spin as you stop it or maybe even jig it. It causes a very negative reaction from the fish, more often if it is a very tough bite situation.

The occurrence of line twist is frequently in users of spinning reels, which revolutionized ice fishing over a decade ago, but some experts are questioning if they are a good choice for use while fishing for panfish.

The reason for the twist is simple to explain, as the line is wound around the spool by the bail, it twists it as to avoid a reversed coil on the spool. The problem then is the coil is much more pronounced as the line is released, and it must work itself out, starting at the end of the line, your bait. Much hype is give to fishing line that hold less memory, due to the fact that many anglers use these spinning reels and these coil create large problems.

Anglers have gone to interesting lengths to avoid line twist at the bait, the most common technique is adding a swivel to the line 18-24” up from the bait. For very obvious reasons this does not seem like the greatest idea when fishing with small jigs for panfish. The addition of the swivels is two-fold problem. It is two extra knots between you and the fish and a significant weight between the rod tip and your bait. This causes the action of your jig to be dramatically reduced. When you jig with a swivel on the line your jigging the swivel much more then you jig the lure.

Other ways anglers have attempted to reduce line twist is to “pre-stretch” the fishing line. It works to an extent, if you’re using Monofilament. With the introduction of Fluorocarbon, and other polymer line, the “pre stretch” method is much less affective due to the fact that these lines have virtually no stretch. It in fact can have the opposite effect on some lines by expanding the molecules and making it curl up causing all kinds of tangles.

The easiest way to avoid line twist is to use a reel that allows the line to roll on and off the spool straight. Many fishermen today have begun to use Fly Fishing reels on their ice rods to allow themselves to have a drag system and take advantage of the straight on and off action of the line. The styles of fly reels are virtually never ending but ones I enjoy using are the Okuma SLVs in 4/5 weight. The weight sometimes is an issue, and you will have to learn to grip the rod differently than you would an ice rod with a spinning reel.

The best way I have found to avoid line twist, keep the weight on the combo down and still give me the versatility of fishing water 5-40’ is using the old standard ice reels. Yup, those old plastic ones found on ice fishing rods for the last 60 years. Simple, cheap and highly affective. In fact many of the top anglers on the North American Ice Fishing Circuit use these ice reels. The ice reels are easy to use, light weight and readily available, any box store with even a limited selection of fishing equipment will have them for sale.

Nearly all my rods are set-up with the HT Enterprises ice reels, modified to fit the way I would like to fish. I modify them slightly to allow me to reel in more line per turn. I start with a standard ice reel, wrap 3/16” wide closed cell foam (weather stripping) around the reel 5-7 times, filling it nearly to the top. Then I take a good electrical tape, you don’t want “Cheap” stuff for this, and begin to wrap the foam with the electrical tape, applying quite a bit of pressure so that I have a solid base for my line to rest on. When completed I end up getting 8-9.5” of line spooled onto the reel every turn. That’s as good as a spinning reel with a 5:1 ratio and I don’t worry about line twist.

There are ice fishing reels available that are specifically designed to have a large arbor, wrapping as much line as you can to allow you to fish fast and in deeper water comfortably. There are also manufactures offering combos that are equipped with a small fly reel specifically designed for ice fishing.

Get rid of the spinning reel, certainly get rid of the darn swivel and go back to basics. Line twist hurts your presentation and hurts your fishing. Let’s UN-do the twist!