March 1st, 2015
Ever caught an eight-pound walleye, 10-pound lake trout and 20-pound pike in a single ice-fishing season? Jeff Gussy Gustafson often does it in a single day. As a professional touring bass pro and host of Fishing with Gussy TV, Gustafson travels all across North America in search of the hottest bite.
Born into a Canadian fishing family, there was never a doubt in the young angler’s mind that he would make a living outdoors. “I participated in the University of Keep Mom Happy program,” Gustafson jokes. “But, other than that, fishing is the only job I’ve ever had.”
Gussy began guiding on Lake of the Woods at the age of 15, and tournament fishing soon thereafter. He’s a multiple winner of two of Canada’s largest bass tournaments, and placed fifth overall while traveling the United States’ FLW Tour, cashing a check at every event. But it’s his time on the ice near his home in Kenora, Ontario that Gustafson enjoys most.
According to Gustafson, Lake of the Woods presents “the best multi-species ice fishing opportunities in the world.”
He may be right.
The massive Minnesota and Ontario fishery is a bucket-list destination for ice anglers interested in predator species to test their tackle. Big walleyes are commonplace, and giant pike can be almost annoying. In addition, abundant lake trout provide heavy targets for deep-water specialists.
To combat such giants, often at the same time, Gustafson designed the ultimate ice rod. His namesake Frabill 38” heavy action is one big stick. “It’s stout, but not a broomstick,” Gustafson insists. The extra length is the real key: “When fighting a big fish on the ice, you can’t move around like in a boat.” Trophy anglers can relate, frequently feeling helpless as massive, toothy fish make tireless moves, often resulting in pulled hooks.
Gustafson combats a predator’s power with length – just as a steelheader does when pinned in a stream with a fiery jumper. The length of the rod absorbs the bold and athletic moves of a big fish when the angler must remain stationary.
In addition, the 38” heavy power series comes standard with large, oversized guides to prevent freeze-up. “I fish inside, outside… whatever,” Gustafson says in his trademark no worries tone. “I can’t have my rod freezing up when the next bite could weigh 30 pounds.”
In addition to his favorite weapon, Gustafson worked with Frabill designers to create a slightly more moderate and shorter big fish rod, the Ice Hunter Jeff Gustafson 32” model. This technical wand is nearly identical to the 38” model, but is a little more moderate in terms of power. It’s the perfect choice for anglers targeting walleyes or lakers, and its shorter length makes it the ideal big fish tool for fishing inside a shelter. When a big pike does strike, the 32” still has plenty of backbone
“The action is important on both of these rods,” Gustafson confirms. “I use eight-pound diameter braid for my mainline, and change leader material for each species. For walleyes, it’s eight-pound mono, ten-pound for lakers and twenty for big Esox.”
Braid’s low-stretch characteristics can create challenges when it comes to converting strikes on shy fish – a concern Gustafson addressed with design. “They’re big rods, but each features a soft tip throughout the taper to allow the fish to take the bait and offer more sensitivity.” For Gustafson, such subtleties make the difference between a mediocre day and another predator grand slam.
Trophy ice hunters take note: Premium fish call for premium weapons. Choose wisely.