by Greg Clusiau,
When it comes to catching panfish through the ice, there aren’t too many that can get the job done any better than Michael Thompson.
Thompson, better known in fishing circles as “MT”, hails from Minneapolis but don’t be surprised if you find him on a lake near you, especially if the big bluegills are biting. He’ll get wind of it somehow. He’s like a big bluegill detective and isn’t afraid to put the miles on to get them.
Case in point - I was fishing a small lake in the McGregor area, in a boat, when I noticed some commotion going on near shore. Not really sure what was taking place, I turned away and focused on my fishing.
The next time I turned around, I found MT closing in on us in a float tube of all things. An avid camera buff, he had a GoPro strapped to his head and all equipment necessary to catch a big bluegill or two. He certainly looked out of place but there he was, watching his graph and back-paddling away from one hotspot to another, catching fish in the process.
One other time, when I was fishing a local northern Minnesota lake, during the late-ice period for big bluegills, I noticed someone trying to drive out onto the lake. I thought “well this should be interesting”, as I had been fishing the lake regularly and it had gotten to the point where I figured the ice to be unsafe. Therefore, I loaded a small sled and walked a half-mile to the hotspot.
I watched a small white pickup truck try to maneuver rotten and open holes near the public access until it broke through and became stuck. Someone on an atv, heading toward the access to help out, slowed as he past me saying “it’s Michael Thompson.” I just shook my head. The man’s relentless and that’s probably the reason he does so well in so many ice fishing tournaments.
MT started fishing the competitive UPL (Ultimate Panfish League) ten years ago and won his first event. Since then, he has partnered up with four different anglers to take home first place finishes.
This thirst for ice fishing competition has led him to become a member of “Team USA”, where as an alternate he competed against the likes of the very best in the world, with teams from Russia and Mongolia taking part in the battle for first place.
I was somewhat surprised with his answer to what his “go to” equipment is, when targeting trophy panfish. One would naturally think it would be fairly expensive, consisting of the most recent state-of-the-art gear. Not for MT. Here’s what he recommended.
“For rods, I prefer HT Enterprises “ice blue” rods because they’re inexpensive and super-light. I’m hard on equipment and have broken my fair share of high quality rods that cost a lot. I’m a “line watcher” so I really don’t need a $100 rod.
“When it comes to reels, again, I have made the switch from expensive spincast reels to the low-cost, plastic “Schooley” reels. The only time I use a spincast reel is when casting in the summer. The Schooley works well because all I really need it for is storing line. For a drag, in case that big fish gets on, I just use my thumb to slow the reel.
“My favorite fishing line is gold Stren in 2 or 4 pound test, depending on the species. Being a line watcher, the gold color is easy to see. All I do is watch for the line to straighten out or loosen up, which means I have a fish on the other end. No corks or spring bobbers for me.
“On the business end of things, there is usually a Fiskas jig of some sort, depending what size or color the fish want on that particular day and it’s tied on by a double surgeon loop knot, which allows the tiny offering to freely swing about.
“That’s basically it” Thompson stated. “There’s nothing fancy about me. You don’t need expensive gear to catch trophy fish, just pay attention to your fishing line.”
Well MT, that’s easy for you to say.