Every year, Christmas forthcoming, guide Tony Roach begins his now notorious “walleye walk.” Setting out across frozen, massive Mille Lacs Lake on foot, Roach marches over six miles, power-drilling holes and checking ice and water depths with his favorite first-ice toy.

Early ice can sometimes mean tenuous ice, and that’s why safety always comes first. It’s also why trailing Roach on his pioneering quest are several companions on 4-wheelers, staking a safe path for the mass of anglers who will eventually ice fish these heralded walleye waters.

Of course, the main motivation behind Roach’s perennial trek is catching fish—perhaps more big walleyes and perch than anyone else on the 132,000-acre natural lake. He strives to be first to arrive on his favorite spots. So to stay light on his feet while discovering winter’s freshest secrets—hot structure and the big ‘eyes that live there—Roach carries a depth-finder in his pocket. Literally.

Last year, the professional guide caught wind of the remarkable ShowDown Troller—a smartphone-sized digital sonar unit with high-level fish finding features. Troller quickly became Roach’s cherished scouting tool. He drills a hole, slips the Troller from his pocket and immediately gets an accurate portrayal of the underwater terrain—digital depth, bottom content, baitfish and bigger fish. All of which takes mere seconds.

“With a Troller and an auger,” says Roach, “I can make quick work of locating walleyes, even on Mille Lacs’ vast structural elements. Getting on fresh, biting fish is always my goal; nothing is more exciting than drilling the first holes in your hotspot, and catching the first fish of the season. For these reasons and more, I believe the ShowDown Troller has carved out its own category of critical ice fishing gear.”

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