Keeping your rods and reels off the ice is important. When water freezes in your line spool or guides, light lines can easily break. You also want a rod holder that will not slide down the hole when you get a bite. Holding a rod with cold hands can be brutal. Its ok to place the rod in a holder in between jigging routines. Here are some thoughts and ideas on how to keep your rods ready for action.
Bucket Rod holders I have seen many Icemen prefer to use a bucket for ice fishing. They attach a slip-on holder, that you can buy, or screw on a homemade PVC tube to hold their rods. ￼
Different lakes allow different numbers of rods. Canyon Ferry, in Montana allows an Iceman to use 6 rods. Other lakes only allow 2 rods. Managing a couple rods is way easier than managing 6. You can make your own rod holders or buy metal/ plastic ones.
Mechanical rod holders Some rod holders allow you to automatically jig the rods independently. Usually, an oval rotating mechanized wheel will bump the rod as it lays on the moving rack. You can adjust the tension, speed, and shape of the jigging action.
Jaw Jackers These store bought, or homemade rigs allow the loaded rod to set its hook on its own. These can be quite effective, but they take the best part out of fishing. Setting the hook and feeling the fish is what makes anglers feel the fix. Reeling them in is fun but setting the hook is better.
Tube rod holders These holders allow you to insert the rod into a cylinder made of pipe or rolled wire. The rod butt must be pushed in and pulled out. This means that when you go to set the hook, you need to move the rod in 2 phases. The first phase needs to pull the rod out of the holder. The second phase allows you to pull the rod up and to set the hook. For light biters, this means a less efficient hook set and missed strikes. ￼
On Rod Holders You can also make a rod holder that attaches to the rod blank. This legged holder allows the rods reel to be off the ice and angled. You can make the legs if you want. The rod holder stays attached to the rod. A hole is drilled in the wooden base to allow for the line.
Ice Piles Many Icemen just pile up ice to shove the rod butt into or make a ridge around the hole to lay the rod on. Both styles certainly hole the rod but also expose the rod and reel to freezing up. I prefer a clean and clear hole. If it is windy, I may make a up wind windbreak, but I want to slide fish out onto a smooth surface.
My favorite rod holder is more like a rack, that allows the rod to remain horizontal across the ice. Keeping the holder about 5-6 inches high is enough. This keeps the rod tip just off the water and out of the wind. The reel is also suspended in the air and off the ice. Spring bobbers on the rod tip move at the slightest bite. Now I can set the hook in one motion, not two. Using a longer rod of 4-6 feet allows the angler to stay away from the hole and a longer lever/ rod means a faster and more effective hook set. Short rods only need to be used when in a restricted space icehouse. I have also found that I can jig the racked rod by simply touching it with my boot and making it jiggle/ thump. You can make the racks to fit into your sled for storage. I also number them to alert others as to which rod is getting a bite. ￼
Jig, Jig Thump, Thump!