Ben Vicere writes:
Joel, I've watched you fish a lot and wonder what simple tips you can give on keeping your equipment in good shape (reels, rods, sonar etc.) so they function reliably in the harsh conditions of an ice fishing season?
Friends of mine would say that I'm the wrong person to ask that! While it's true that I can be hard on my gear, that fact also makes me qualified to comment. I've learned the hard way, multiple times, as to the very best way to keep equipment through the rigors of an ice season.
First off, if you tow your equipment in an Otter or similar sled, you need one crucial piece of equipment. In my experience, the ice auger is most likely to get damaged (notice all of the vehicle mounts for them), but also does the most damage inside of a sled. It sounds like a shameless pitch, but the Otter Auger Shield covers the flighting and takes away all of the sharp and protruding edges that destroy electronics, minnow buckets, and anything else plastic or less rigid.
Rods get a hard case as few soft-sided cases on the market withstand long hauls without some form of damage. A hard case does a good job with the reels attached too, as they can't move/rattle around too much.
Packing your gear is really important too. On long hauls over rough ice, the auger needs to be suspended above the bottom of the sled or somehow cushioned. Everything should fit tightly, as loosely packed items, especially heavy ones like propane, act as a wrecking ball inside otherwise. Sonar should go on the sled or ATV. It's just too expensive, and no matter what you're using it's plastic that can get destroyed.
I guess one thing too I've learned from guides over the years, is that gear prep gets attention immediately after you come off the ice, and again well-before you go out again. Put it away well, and it usually rewards you when you come back to it. I hope this helps, and good luck this winter!