Years ago, when the greatest sticks on the ice cracked the tight-lipped panfish nut, it created a virtual pressure heave across the Ice Belt, opening up a new world of ice fishing. Almost immediately, savvy ice anglers began tweaking their gear to eliminate jig spin, learning firsthand from underwater cameras that big bull ‘gills and even bigger crappies don’t care much for the ballet. But try as they might, it wasn’t long before anglers realized they needed a properly balanced rig – a reel smaller and lighter than typical fly fishing reels and a rod balanced precisely for it.
Then Frabill introduced the first Straight Line reels and combos – both the Straight Line 101 and 241 – bringing ice battalions precisely the tactical advantage they’d been looking for to put the bead on big bluegills, perch, crappies, and finicky walleyes. The Straight Line was an overnight success, growing legions of ‘palm cuppers’ who consistently iced fish when those reluctant to change scratched their icy beards.
Line still feeds straight off the spool, eliminating line coiling and jig spinning, but the new lightweight and durable composite Straight Line 101XLA Reel features a large and balanced spool to maximize retrieval rate without any need for backing line.
Plus, for guys who prefer gripping the rod handle—rather than cupping—the 101XLA comes complete with both short and long interchangeable reel stems. Use the short stem for cupping, the long to distance the reel from the blank for a traditional grip, like when it’s well below zero and even the calloused, nerve-damaged meathooks of veterans require gloves—often the kind of conditions when fish are most finicky. To make operation easier with gloves, the 101XLA also features an ambidextrous oversized reel handle to increase sensitivity and fish-fighting control. Plus, even as the mercury plummets to that Ice Station Zebra reading, the reel will wind like butter in a hot biscuit thanks to Frabill’s exclusive Sub-Zero lube.
“Although I spend a lot of my time cupping the Straight Line 101XLA, when it’s cold I’ll fish it more like a spinning combo with the long stem. Or if I’m fishing big perch with walleyes mixed in, there’s a benefit to using the long stem for more control of potentially bigger fish. It’s pretty cool that I can now match the reel to how I’m fishing that particular day,” says Brian “Bro” Brosdahl.
Straight Line 101XLA Combos come in three lengths and actions. The 24-inch Ultra-light 6915 Combo is designed for panfish jigging applications, while the 27- and 32-inch 6916 and 6917 Quick Tips offer tons of versatility for various techniques and species. Rods feature microphone-sensitive blank through handle design that telegraph the slightest bites and aluminum oxide ice guides that reduce freeze-up.
Whether purchased for your favorite ice stick or as a complete, perfectly matched and balanced combo, this much is certain—there’s nothing better than the Straight Line approach for getting the most discriminating panfish to bite.
Images courtesy Frabill, Inc.