Have you ever wanted to ice fish the Great Lakes but just didn’t know how to go about the adventure?  If that is the case then you really need to look up Pro angler Mark Martin and his Ice Fishing Vacation School.

This can’t miss event is held every year on part of Lake Huron known as the great Saginaw bay.  This is an opportunity for fishermen and women of all ages to learn how to fish big bodies of water for walleye and perch.

Too often people look at big bodies of water and are intimidated by their size and by the shear quantities of fishing spots. This is where Mark Martin and his expansive team of Pro-Staffers come in.

Personally this was my first time fishing such big water through the ice and I really didn’t know what to expect.  Knowing that I was not alone in this situation and that all the students were here to learn the same things that I was made my mind rest that much easier.

Martin and his staff take you through everything you need to know about fishing the big water.  The event starts off with a meet and greet of all the students and Pro-Staff.  It then continues on into a two hour seminar packed with adventure.  This part of the school is loaded with great information from all different types of fishermen.

These seminars are a small peak inside of what each pro-staff member feels is the best way to target walleyes on big bodies of water.  The members discuss baits, rigging, presentations, and safety.  With a huge emphasis on safety.

Martin holds his team in high regard and also brings his experience into the mix to help others learn how to catch fish.  As Martin expressed, it is a matter of “the right place, right time, and right presentation to key in on these fish.” This coupled along with his philosophy that you “need to make a lot of mistakes to learn something new” made me feel at ease to know that we all were in good hands.

The team of Pro-staff members took their time discussing just what it meant for them to fish this big body of water and how each of them attacks it.  They discussed some of their great kept secrets and offered all of the students some great advice.  Some of which really helped put some fish on the ice for several students.

It wouldn’t be fair to give all the advice away without having taken the class first, however I didn’t want anyone to be left out so here are a few bits and pieces from some of the Pro-staffers that were there to help


Mike Schneider from Whitehall Michigan discussed the different presentations that are key to bringing these fish in and getting them to bite.  He talked about vertical presentations like the use of Buckshot spoons or flutter spoons.   He then went on to discuss Horizontal presentations like jigging rapalas or other darting baits.  Last but not least he touched on the use of a “dead stick” to get those finicky biters into taking your bait.

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Captain Pat Bentley discussed his love of fishing these areas with the use of Tip-ups.  It was his opinion that it was a great way to get baits away from the crowds and the sonars to find hungry fish.  Using a simple set-up of your standard Dacron backer with a  good barrel swivel and a 2-3’ fluorocarbon leader he discussed how downsizing your treble hook to a #12 would not only increase your bite ratio, but your hook-up ratio as well.

Not only does Martin have some young blood as part of his staff, but he also has some veteran fishermen that make you stop and pay close attention when they talk.  One such individual was Don Leuenberger.

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Don has been fishing the area for longer than I have been alive and when he spoke, people listened.  He talked about changing bait sizes throughout the day.  He stated, “Start in the morning with larger baits then downsize as the day goes on.”  He discussed the importance of using glow baits as well as upsizing the baits as the darkness of night came upon the bay.
Don shared tips on cutting minnows into 4 pieces to not only make the most of your minnows but this also allowed you to control the profile of your offering making is smaller or larger by the piece you were using.  One tip that he gave that several students were able to put to use and catch fish was the use of just the minnow tail on your spoon.  This tip lead to several walleyes on the ice by the students.   A piece of advice that stuck in my head was when Don said, “you hunt walleyes like you hunt deer”, that is use stealth and don’t group up tightly with others.


Martin made sure that his staff was there and available for everyone to pick their brains.  Martin’s staff was made up of individuals that were not only local but from all over the state that had experience with fishing for walleye on the big water.

One staffer that I had the pleasure to fish with was Brandon Stanton from Team Gunsmoke Charters.  Brandon has been fishing the bay for over 30 years and really knows what he is doing.  He and I took off from the pack on day two and took an adventure to see if we couldn’t locate some active fish.  His hunch was right and we found fish, but we just couldn’t get them to bite.

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Getting fish to bite seemed to be same problem throughout the entire group of anglers.  With the weather changes that had occurred when we arrived the cold front had shut these fish down and made our work to get them to bite much more difficult.  However, it wasn’t all about catching fish, but it was about the experience we had on the ice.

This school was a great way for me, as well as others to learn how to fish big bodies of water safely through the ice.  Between the great food, key information, and the great team of staff members this school was certainly a success even if I wasn’t able to ice my first walleye.

I certainly know what I will be doing next year when February comes around.  You will find me on Saginaw Bay in search of my first Walleye through the ice.

Mark Martin Ice Fishing Vacation school

Cory Yarmuth
Legend Outdoors