Real Weeds or Reel Weeds
By Scott Steil
It is common knowledge that fish are naturally attracted to cover. Whether it is weeds, submerged trees or rocks, fish seek out cover. When it comes to ice fishing, if you are looking for fish, it is as
simple as finding the right cover. The right cover offers protection from predators as well as a sustainable food source. Having a basic knowledge of this principle is key to understanding where to find fish on the ice.
One of the best types of cover you will find under the ice is an old cabbage bed. Cabbage is a very important type of cover because the thick weeds often take a long time to die off and as the old ones are dying there is ample new growth taking place. As long as there is adequate light penetration, weeds continue to produce oxygen and life’s natural cycle continues to happen. This natural cycle produces food for baitfish and when you have baitfish, you have predator fish. It is these predator fish that we, as anglers, are after.
Now that we understand why fish are naturally attracted to cover, what do we do when the cover is gone? In many lakes, all or most of the standing cover in the summer literally disappears in the winter. When this scenario plays out, it is time to look for some alternatives. In some states that includes sinking trees or placing wooded stake beds in strategic locations. This practice is actually illegal in many states unless you obtain a permit to do so. Luckily for us ice anglers, LaDredge Outdoors (inventors of Reel Weeds) has given us a safe, legal alternative that works.
The idea behind Reel Weeds is a basic concept that produces amazing results. The people at LaDredge Outdoors have designed an artificial weed, naturally proven to attract fish and put them in a system they call Structure on a String. Essentially strings of weeds with a weight on the bottom and a float on top to prevent the string from freezing in the ice. Again, this is a basic concept that produces big results. You can see all the variations of Reel Weeds at www.reelweeds.com.
Reel Weeds work a little different than real weeds. Now, that may sound like a play on words but it is true. Real weeds, natural to a lake, attract fish for the reasons mentioned above. Reel Weeds, from LaDredge Outdoors attract fish because they fool fish into believing they are real. Thus, roaming fish will naturally check out Reel Weeds, and by nature may hang around a little longer then they would normally. By doing so, you get a longer window of opportunity to target those roaming fish. It is this simple principle that has been putting more fish on the ice for me this year.
Reel Weeds will not fool every fish in the lake. If you are targeting fish that are holding in an area for a reason, you will be hard pressed to pull them away with anything, including Reel Weeds. In this case, drilling on top of them is really the only answer. However, as fish start to roam around and feed, that is when the Reel Weeds become very effective.
Anyone who has sight fished knows that as fish start to feed they come through your hole in schools but rarely stick around long enough to catch more than a couple. This is the perfect time to put down the Reel Weeds. I have had roaming perch stick around twice as long with Reel Weeds in place, versus holes without the Reel Weeds, literally doubling my catch rate.
Another good example of when Reel Weeds excel is when you are fishing in one of those lakes that has ample weed beds in the summer but virtually none in the winter. You will not find a better scenario to use your Reel Weeds, as these fish are accustomed to living in weeds. In this case, you can put down your Reel Weeds and often fish the same hole all day with good results.
Here is what fellow In-depthangling Ice Pro Staffer Luke Haugland had to say about his experiences with Reel Weeds.
“When I first saw this product, I was very skeptical. I thought the Reel Weeds would take too much time and effort to set up. In addition, I had a hard time seeing how they were going to help me catch more fish. I threw them in the shack and there they sat for the duration of first ice. I was crappie fishing in an oxbow of the Wapsipinicon River, and the bite was non-existent. I decided to try my reel weeds. I began drilling holes around the outside of my shack to create a pocket of weeds. The set up was so easy. I can have six different SOS set up in under a minute. Basically unravel the cord, set the float to your desired depth, and start fishing. I put down my underwater camera to see if there were any fish coming into the weed, nothing! So I decided to go fish some other holes near by. Twenty minutes later, I came back, and turned the camera back on. There were literally 15 crappies relating to the weeds. Then the fun began!”
In doing my testing on this product I spent many hours recording underwater footage with my MarCum OVS 560 underwater camera. Initially in my testing I was having trouble getting a fish to strike my lure with the underwater camera in place. The Reel Weeds were doing what they were supposed to do, but the camera was keeping them from biting. Ladredge Outdoors makes another product called Camera Cable Structure. After placing the 4 ft of weeds on my camera cable that make up the Camera Cable Structure, I was able to get even the finicky biters to take my bait no matter how close I was with the camera. Since doing my testing on these products I have really come to understand the benefit of the Camera Cable Structure hiding your underwater camera cable. You may not need to use the Camera Cable Structure every time out but it did increase the number of bites I got and that is what it is all about!
I personally have a lot more experimenting to do with Reel Weeds, as there are many scenarios where I know they will be effective. It is important to understand that Reel Weeds are not magic. I consider Reel Weeds more of a tool in my fishing arsenal. I like to think of them as I do live bait, just part of my ice fishing presentation. Sometimes they will work, sometimes they won't. But, understanding the fish you are after and what they are doing at the time you are targeting them will go a long way in helping you understand when and where to try Reel Weeds. So far the results speak for themselves and you will not find me on the ice without my Reel Weeds.
Author Scott Steil is a highly respected Pro Fisherman, Guide and Author in the upper Midwest.
...."Luckily for us ice anglers, LaDredge Outdoors has given us a safe, legal alternative that works". Read below.