Firstly, if you have a GPS with a map chip in it, you can cut a few corners. Using the GPS, try to  put your first hole right on the tip of a point and then fan around the point with other holes, in order to fish the shallow spine, the deep base, and some basin water that might be holding suspended fish. If you’ve mapped these points from your boat during the warmer seasons, you’ll have a leg up, as well. Marking waypoints at key structures and spots that have produced for you in the past lets you drill holes on those points, as well as the surrounding area. The less you know about a lake, the more holes you’ll have to drill.

When it comes to drilling holes in a pattern, though, think about what kinds of patterns you might want to use before you even start up your auger. Odds are you’ll have to drill more than one, but you don’t want to drill more than is necessary. The key is finding the balance between making holes and making each hole count.

If you find a breakline, drill your holes along it length-wise, weaving in and out as you do so you hit an alternating pattern of shallow and deep spots along the line. Along reefs, down a drop-off, or checking a flat, a wide zig-zag pattern of holes is smart. With this strategy, you’ll hit upon key features, like vegetation or sunken timber, which are ideal for holding fish. When you find a great spot, all you have to do is save it in your GPS.

Other tips to keep in mind where hole patterns are concerned include drilling holes relatively far apart, which will give you a better feel for a given spot, especially on an unfamiliar lake. If you’re using electronics, such as a Vexilar or underwater camera, and you see fish, drill more holes, closer together over the spot. When you find a group of fish, you can avoid spooking them by drilling a cluster of holes above them and then waiting a bit before you fish the holes, making sure to move quietly between holes.

These tips are a great way to ensure you systematically locate and cash in on groups of fish beneath the ice this winter. Keep them in mind and you’re sure to bring home a delicious bounty of fillets on your next trip to the ice.