MLF pro Dave Lefebre's ice fishing translates into knowledge that helps him in his pursuit of bass. Photo courtesy Erie Outdoors

Experience is something you truly need to become a good professional bass angler. A major component of experience is time on the water: the years and years of learning about fish behavior, and the subtle things needed to adjust correctly to continue catching bass under all conditions.

During the winter months, many of the top pros – when they aren’t hunting – still get out, fish, stay sharp, and continue to learn. Living where I do in Pennsylvania, that’s not something I can do (at least not on the open water). But, I do get out a lot and fish through the ice to stay sharp and on top of my fishing game.

I started ice fishing with my dad years ago as a kid – just tagged along for something to do in the winter to pass time. Now, I can’t wait to get out on the ice.

Ice fishing is like a chess match with the fish. Fish are fish, no matter what species you’re after. You can’t really tell what they are on your electronics anyway.

The chess match is figuring out how I can fish faster and follow the fish more effectively as they transition from one area to another. There’s so much fish movement: you can’t simply go to the same spot year after year and catch fish. It’s a dynamic and exciting way to fish. It never gets old, I keep learning and improving, and it helps me become a better pro angler.

Although he’s not able to fish open water during the Pennsylvania winter, Lefebre benefits greatly from lessons learned fishing through the ice. Photo courtesy Erie Outdoors

The Advantages of Ice

I once thought that not being able to regularly fish open water during the winter was a disadvantage as a pro bass angler, but I realized it’s not. I flipped it around and have made it into an advantage.

One of the great advantages I have is that ice fishing makes me very well acquainted with my electronics. When my new Lowrance units arrive, I’ll first use them on the ice and not a boat. It’s stationary, almost a controlled environment. The screen looks like a simulation. This allows me to tinker with the gear and really dial it in.

Ice fishing equipment is so microscopic compared to open-water gear. When I’m using my electronics, I can dial them in to see the tiny jigs we use, to see that 3-inch perch, and be able to decipher what I’m looking at. Fishing through the ice offers a unique stillness – it’s an overexaggerated stillness that allows me to fine-tune things. It makes you want to totally master the fishing techniques and electronics.

When you fish open water, you can never recreate that perfect stillness in your technique. Even on the stillest day with no wind or current, there’s added motion. Just you moving in the boat creates more motion. What ice fishing helps you with is how to master that stillness so you can try to recreate it on open water. 

Lefebre advises ice anglers to be attentive to safety, and consider adding a high-quality float suit like a Striker suit to their list of must-have gear.

Borrowing Technology

Now, of course, there are lots of other cool things ice fishing has brought to the forefront, like cameras. I use this really cool MarCum camera with a remote control that’s connected through a phone app.

I’ll set the camera at a home base, which is the primo spot on the ice. Then, my friends and I will all head out and drill holes to fish around and find the active fish. All of us have access to the camera via the app. If something pops up, we can head back and fish that area. It’s really neat.

I believe that technology will end up advancing and becoming even more useful to open-water anglers as well.

So, if you’re a bass angler in a frozen water location, get out on the ice and take advantage of what it can teach you. Fish are fish, so no matter what you’re catching, you’ll improve your bass fishing game. Just make sure you’re safe and wear things like a Striker ice fishing suit, and don’t fish alone. Turn that frozen disadvantage to your advantage.