Ever since I was a kid, I have done some fishing. From just a bobber and worm to fly fishing with my dad, let’s just say that I got “hooked” early on. I even tried to get my girls interested. More recently, I was introduced to ice fishing. For the past two years, two buddies and I have gone up to the Lake Tahoe area to drill holes in the ice and peer down into the depths, hoping to catch a bunch of hungry, cold fish. We’ve had a little bit of luck, but I’m hoping our subsequent trips will be even better. One thing that is always tricky about ice fishing is knowing when a fish is nibbling at your bait. With experience, you get better at knowing a strike, even soft ones. But, I was recently introduced to something that may be a game changer for ice fishing – the WonderStrike – which is on Kickstarter right now (but only for a few more days).
Table of Contents
First and foremost, I want to outline a few things. I don’t typically endorse Kickstarter campaigns – I’ve seen plenty of hits and misses and have even invested in a few. Secondly, I have yet to test out this particular product, the WonderStrike. However, I spent some time chatting with Gabe, the CEO of Rozwin Outdoors, the creators of WonderStrike, to better understand this new ice fishing rig. And I learned that it really isn’t that “new” since the original design and concept materialized over 20 years ago under the name of the Wonder Rod.
But let me back up a bit. Why the heck would a tech guy like me be writing about fishing? Well, there is something about being away from the computer and devices and out in nature that can truly recharge your inner battery and give you a reboot. Don’t get me wrong; my buddies give me lots of grief about bringing gadgets along on fishing trips – I even accidentally left my iPhone in the car when we went lakeshore fishing, and even though they saw it in the truck, they didn’t tell me. (Too bad I couldn’t get a photo of that LUNKER I caught – haha.)
My (Limited) Ice Fishing Background
With ice fishing, there are gadgets available to help you find fish – sonars that you lower down into the hole you drill in the ice. I don’t have anything like that (yet). In fact, my ice fishing gear is pretty sparse other than an inexpensive ice fishing rod and reel combo, an ice fishing “bucket” (a present from one of my buddies), an ice scoop (actually just a plastic kitchen utensil), a rod holder, and that’s about it (well, there’s more but those are some of the essentials).
As I mentioned, I have only been ice fishing twice now. My buddies wanted to try it, and I was invited along. While I did have some fly fishing experience under my belt (and seemed to think of myself as a purist in that regard), I wasn’t really used to using a spin rod, reel, and bait. I consider myself to be a newbie when it comes to ice fishing.
Ice fishing is truly an odd form of fishing. You go out in the dead of winter when it is freezing cold. You lug a bunch of equipment, chairs, gear, beverages (which are vital), and other items out into the middle of a lake that is (hopefully) frozen over and with ice thick enough that you won’t fall through, drill a hole in the ice, drop your line in, sit back and enjoy a beverage, waiting for some creature in the dark water below you to strike your bait.
I have over-simplified things a bit. There are variations of this story with huts or tents and other types of equipment. But essentially, it’s a great social occasion out in the cold of nature. And hopefully, you catch a fish or two. I have a feeling that I probably missed a bunch of strikes, but more about that in a second.
There is something odd (and slightly scary) about walking out on a frozen lake and punching holes in it. There is a science about how thick the ice should be before even attempting to go out on it. Both of my buddies have experience with snow camping and camping in general, so I still felt like a newbie, as I mentioned.
And there are those really terrifying times when the ice cracks. It happened to us on our first trip out together. The sound starts off in the distance and then seems to race by you. When it happened, I literally flattened to the ground like a scared cat, arms and legs spread out, ready to do something…what I would do, I’m not quite sure. But the ice we were on was a couple of feet thick. So, I felt (relatively) at ease.
As we were just testing things out, we used PowerBait and worms on our first trip. But nothing was hitting, or so we could tell. But another fishing party a few hundred feet away from us was catching things. Being friendly, we wandered over to find out what bait they were using. After some conversation, we learned they were using shrimp. Not raw shrimp or anything like that, but cooked shrimp from Costco! They gave us a couple of those shrimp, which we used for the next few hours, only using small pieces and treating them like gold. (By the way, the second year we went up, we brought up our own Costco-cooked shrimp and did slightly better.)
What makes up fishing?
Fishing is a combination of factors – skill, equipment, and luck – and, most importantly, friendship (with your buddies and with Nature). You can’t control the luck factor. That is Mother Nature at its finest. You may have a few holes in the ice within a few feet of each other. In one hole, you may be catching fish, and in the other, you have nothing but ice slowly forming over the black water.
Skill comes in many forms. The more practice with anything you do, the better you get at it, supposedly. Unless, of course, you are learning bad habits, which is very easy to do with fishing unless you have someone who has the proper skills mentoring you as you go. Listen, watch, and learn – and then test it all out on your own to make sure you understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. With ice fishing (and even bait and spin fishing and trolling), I know little to nothing and asked many questions and made many mistakes.
One of the guys in our group has this amazing ability to see a fish nibbling at his line simply by looking at it. He has developed that skill over the years and is typically the person who gets the most fish (that is, unless luck is against him, which has happened before). That is the skill at work. And sometimes, I think the fish hit my bait out of sheer boredom or sympathy – that would be the luck side at work.
But then comes the equipment side of the equation. And again, it is an equation – you may have luck and/or skill running against you despite having the best equipment around. Conversely, you may have the worst, old, broken equipment and be the only person pulling fish from the water simply because you have luck on your side, are using the proper bait or lure, or know how to detect a strike or set the hook quickly and cleanly.
Where does WonderStrike come into play?
OK, I realize I told lots of fishing stories before talking about WonderStrike. Remember, people who fish LOVE telling stories! With WonderStrike, two of the factors I mentioned above, skill and equipment, come into play. Again, I have NOT tested out WonderStrike and am only writing this based on what I have read and watched on their Kickstarter page. As I won’t be covering all of the details here, I encourage you to look at their Kickstarter page before their early-bird rewards expire on October 25, 2023.
What WonderStrike does is eliminate much of the guesswork behind knowing when a fish is bumping or biting your bait (some of the skill). The rod comes with a flexible steel shank that bends with your line. You have a rod, and then attached to the rod is the flexible steel shank with bright orange guides for the line. With the rod provided by Rozwin Outdoors, you don’t string your line through the rod blank (there are no guides).
You don’t cast with the WonderStrike, which is why it is perfect for ice fishing. You drop your line and bait down and strip off line to get your bait to the desired depth. The steel shank will provide tension to the line and will hover above the rod. You watch the orange tip for movement, which is often hard to do with a regular ice fishing rig. Rozwin calls it the Bite Magnifier.
If you get a nibble or a bit, the steel shank will snap down to the rod from the action of the fish. The Strike Assist feature provides just enough (but not too much) tension to allow the fish to take the bait without sensing resistance. And you will hear an audible click when this happens so that you can stop chatting with your pals and play your fish.
Again, I have yet to try this, but the logic makes sense to me.
They do have some other nifty features. You can swap actions and lengths of your rods quickly. The steel shank can be adjusted based on the weight of your bait and weights. There are three sizes available: Small (for light action – 1-15 lb fish), Medium (medium action – 1-30 lb fish), and Long (heavy action – 10 -40 lb fish). The rod sizes are swappable based on the type of fishing you might be doing. They even have some snap-in blanks with the guides built in so that you can use it as a regular rod without the steel shank. And you can order a reel from them as well – these are baitcaster reels.
There is a lot more you can troll through on their page. I have only touched on a few things here. Definitely check out the deals before the specials end, and the Kickstarter closes.
Final (?) Thoughts
The content, images, and videos on the WonderStrike page definitely have me intrigued – I think of myself as a fish circling some bait right now! And, I’m not going to issue any final thoughts about this product because I’m truly hoping my fishing buddies and I can test out some WonderStrikes on our next ice fishing (or even lake fishing) excursion. I will obviously have some opinions, being the newbie, but I would like to get different actions in the hands of my friends to have them test them out independently.
Perhaps on our 3rd annual ice fishing trip, we can do a 3-person photo with a bunch of fish that we caught using WonderStrike rods. If so, there will definitely be a review coming!
HTD says: This is my first “review” of fishing gear – but without having any hands-on experience with the equipment. I like the concept of the WonderStrike and do hope that it lives up to the promise of easier indication of the fish biting and help with the setting of the hook.