Secrets of the Ice Hunters
Frabill pro Dale Stroschein’s system of hooking, fighting and landing trophy walleyes and deep whitefish starts with the proper ice rods
from The Fishing Wire
Plano, IL – Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Famer, Dale Stroschein, is an analytical guy; he has to be. Through his Wacky Walleye Guide Service, Stroschein leads hundreds of ice anglers each year to thousands of walleyes and whitefish, perfecting basic principles through unending trial and error.
He calls it completing the process: the act of getting fish to strike, fighting them and ultimately leading them safely through the hole. This last step is where Stroschein often sees inexperienced anglers struggle, especially where large fish are involved.
“In open water fishing, we have the greatest device ever created to complete the process – the Frabill landing net,” says Stroschein, who has the big fish gene in his DNA.
While competing on the nation’s largest walleye circuits throughout the 1980’s, Stroschein earned a title no angler has ever duplicated; Big Fish Awards for the largest walleyes caught during competition on both the PWT and MWC tours. Indeed, Frabill landing nets helped Stroschein complete the process on both monster fish. “But, on ice, we don’t have that luxury,” he points out.
Following such open-water accolades, Stroschein took hold of yet another title – one of the walleye world’s greatest – when he landed the all-tackle ice fishing world record, a behemoth weighing thirteen and three-quarter pounds. The fish was brought to hand using the big fish techniques perfected over years of guiding clients on and around his home water of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Thankfully, this system is easily duplicated, and starts with the proper ice rod.
As a lead pro and designer on the Frabill ice team, Stroschein has developed a duo of rods perfectly suited to hooking, fighting and landing the giant walleyes and whitefish he and his clients pursue.
The core walleye stick in Stroschein’s arsenal is a 27″ medium action that fishes comfortably within an ice shelter. “You have to put forth an effort to become a good ice angler,” says Stroschein, who points to mobility as one of the most important elements to consistent success in tracking down and catching roaming schools of walleyes. “Today, you really have to go to the fish with a mobile shelter to be successful every day, and a shorter rod is more practical for fishing in a shelter.” Through countless hours of testing within the confines of one-man shanties, Stroschein settled on the 27″ length of his namesake Frabill Ice Hunter walleye rod to allow anglers to fully set the hook without contacting the shelter’s roof.
Even with the advent of superlines in ice fishing, Stroschein continues to rely on monofilament for the bulk of his walleye fishing, as the line simply generates more bites and better hook-ups. “The biggest thing is that you make a very aggressive hook set with a firm rod,” he adds. “Mono holds up to that initial stress very well, and plays well with the shorter, medium-power rod to get big fish up through the hole.”
The rules change when Stroschein turns to chasing whitefish, often in depths approaching 90 feet. Here, the experienced pro moves to Berkley Fireline with a fluorocarbon leader to presents tiny jigs with live bait trailers. Of course, the analytical Stroschein has worked with Frabill to design the ideal rod for this scenario, too.
“The 30″ Ice Hunter whitefish rod has a positive locking reel seat, which is important, but the biggest attribute to completing the system is the rod’s tip,” he says.
In order to detect light bites in deep water, Stroschein demanded a rod with a bright, blaze-orange coloration at its highly sensitive tip. “It’s like a spring bobber without the headaches,” he says. “A live bait angler can detect subtle bites on a pause in the jigging stroke.”
The medium-light power allows for smooth hook sets on delicate fish, but delivers enough backbone to drive the hook home in deep water when using superlines. And the rod’s sensitivity is unparalleled; it has to be. “Whitefish are one of the most difficult fish, ever, to catch,” Stroschein confirms. “The bite is nothing more than a slight change in pressure.”
On average, Stroschein’s Wacky Walleye guide service outfits a minimum of 25 anglers per day, every day of the ice fishing season around Door County, Wisconsin. All clients are outfitted with Frabill rods, enabling each to complete the system Dale Stroschein has worked over 30 years to develop: present, hook, fight, land, repeat.