Traditional wisdom suggests that if you prefer to fish inside the friendly confines of a portable ice shelter or permanent house, a short rod of 24 to 28 inches or so in length is just about ideal. You sit on a bucket, close to the hole, and jiggle-wiggle-lift-flutter lures or baits to your heart’s content. And at the moment of truth, sweepset the rod upward on the strike–all without bashing the rod tip on the ceiling.
When fishing outside a house, particularly when walking hole-to-hole and standing while fishing, using a bit longer rod tends to work better. Something in the 32- to 36-inch range is pretty comfortable. It lets you point the rod down to work or flutter lures, lift the rod tip to work fish higher off bottom, and sweepset skyward to set the hook in deep water. All without hunching over the hole, which leads to a sore back.
All that being said…when you’re fishing out in the open, there’s no limit to rod length. For years, our guys at the office have used longer rods when lake trout fishing outside of shelters. They not only use sweeping hooksets to bury the hook on deep biters, but oftentimes walk backward from the hole as they do to remove stretch from the line.
Laker takers don’t have an exclusive on the longer-is-better routine, either. Some walleye anglers, like Alex Keszler from Winnipeg, Manitoba use their 7-foot, open-water rods on the ice for walleyes, too. And not just for fishing deep water, either. Even when fishing shallow Lake Winnipeg, Alex prefers fishing with his long rods. Once you get over the mental hurdle of breaking the rules with different tools, you might just find that longer rods give you more control.
Perhaps not when finessing panfish with tiny baits, but certainly for fighting really big walleyes like you’re likely to encounter at Lake Winnipeg. At the very least, it will get you out of the house.