Warming up on the ice

Jeff Gustafson ice fishing

This time of year is always kind of stressful as we prepare for another season of competition on the Bassmaster Elite Series. While it’s my dream job for sure, there is a lot of work to do before we leave home and get to go fishing. It takes time to book places to stay for the season, work out all of the sponsorship relationships, finalize plans for the boat wrap and jerseys and get the boat rigged up for battle.

There is also the paperwork that is no fun, but it’s part of the job – insurance and registration for the boat and keeping up with all of the tax requirements. I also go through the process of obtaining a visa because I cross the Canadian/U.S. border as often as I do to fish.  

I’m planning to get on the road next week, and for me at least, it’s a big job to organize all of the tackle I want for the first few events. I have collected a lot of tackle by fishing so many different bodies of water over the years, and it’s a lot harder than you think to leave stuff at home.

I used to bring everything I owned with me when I started fishing professionally. I didn’t know what I might need. Now I try to only bring the tackle and equipment I’ll actually use. It’s a little harder for me because all of the events are so far from home. I have to bring tackle for multiple fisheries because I don’t always get to return home between events.

In addition to the fishing equipment, we have to make sure our boats are stocked with all of the required safety gear.  We are required to run a camera on our boats during competition, so those need to be dialed in with multiple SD cards. I want to make sure I have all of the tools I need in my boat, like map cards, an Aqua-Vu underwater camera, an actual toolbox as well as the pliers, scissors and everyday accessories we all use.

We’re in full winter mode here in Canada so it’s not like I’m fishing with my boat around home. Our lakes are frozen, and you can drive a truck around on them right now. I have a new boat, and it won’t see the water until I get down south so it’s important not to forget anything.

Speaking of ice, I’ve been doing quite a bit of ice fishing over the past few weeks. I live near Lake of the Woods, so I head out at least a few afternoons per week to catch some fish.

Jeff Gustafson ice fishing

I’ll leave from my house on a snowmobile, and it’s a few miles out to where I’m fishing. I’ve mostly been catching walleye and perch, which are the best to eat. We also have crappie, lake trout and pike we can catch. We also get the incidental smallmouth while we’re walleye fishing, so I can say I’ve already caught a bass this year.

If you live in the South and are reading this you’re probably asking, “What could be fun about drilling a hole in the ice to try and catch a fish?” We have very good fishing where I live. If I go out for a couple of hours it’s usually pretty easy to catch a bunch of fish and have some fun. While our winter is too long for sure — lakes won’t open until late April — it is nice to get out on the ice. I can tell you ice fishing is one of the most relaxing activities I know.

Jeff Gustafson ice fishing

All that being said, I can’t wait to drop the new Lund in the water later next week and get the new season started. I’m going to head down to Florida a little bit early to try and get a little warm-up in before the season starts on Okeechobee. It’s a legendary body of water that is always an exciting place to fish.