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The Smitty Sled

ice fishing smitty sled

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2022 Update: I recently build a new style of Smitty Sled that is specifically designed to drop-down and raise-up for the flip-over ice shacks and tonneau cover anglers. Check out my latest build here:

Over the last few years I’ve been suffering from an ailment all too common to anglers. GAS, or Gear Acquisition Syndrome, is a serious issue that the vast majority of us will face in our lifetime. It’s a condition that is highly contagious and can cause some sufferers to turn green (with envy). Unfortunately the only known cure is experience and since I will never have enough experience, I’ve decided to steer into the skid.

In order to haul my excessive amount gear I bought an XL Jet Sled at The Fishin’ Hole’s Boxing Day sale. This particular sled is over 5 feet long and 30 inches wide and once loaded up, feels like you’re towing a small snow plow. I know dragging a snow plow hundreds of yards over frozen lakes sounds fun, but there is an easier way. So over Christmas break I picked up some used downhill skis from the buy and sell and built my first Smitty Sled. Wow. I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about these! It honestly cuts the effort of hauling a heavy sled in half, at least half, it feels like more.

History of Smitty Sled: 

The idea of Smitty Sleds for ice fishing is not new but it’s also not common. From what I’ve read on the Smitty was first brought to light in 2009. I’m sure innovative ice anglers came up with similar ideas but that’s when it was coined as the Smitty Sled. It’s surprising that it hasn’t caught on more. I’ve been out on the hardwater a few times a month for the last couple seasons and I have yet to run into anyone else pulling one.

How I built mine:

Smitty Sleds are a simple design. If you have some basic woodworking tools you can build one in a few hours. I began by cutting 2-2×4 pieces to 6” lengths and 2 more to 7.5” lengths. The front 2×4’s are cut at a 45° angle so the top portion is 6” long, to match the back. Next, I cut out the space for my cross members using a jigsaw. The cross members are 1×4 pieces cut to 25” long.

I planned on mounting the ski’s to the 2×4 on edge to give a bit of height. All the screws I used are #14×2” long. To mount the skis I drilled a hole a bit larger than the diameter of the screw through the ski. I finished the hole with a countersink bit to make sure the head of the screw would be sunk below the surface of the ski in order to reduce drag.

Screw heads are counter-sunk into the ski to reduce drag when towing.

Instead of screwing the plastic sled to the base I added some traction tape to the cross members to help hold it in place. I use two different types of sled, one is a single man Frabill Recon flipover and the other is an XL Jet Sled. Both are around 30” wide but the Recon is only 50” long. The cross members are spaced as far apart as possible to be able to hold both sleds.

There is some consideration for the type of ski used as well. I would recommend downhill skis over cross country. The increased width will give you more flotation with heavy loads as opposed to cross country which will dig a bit deeper. As for ski length, I chose skis that were roughly the same length as my sled. 

The downhill skis provide a lot of flotation in this light, powdery snow.

Mail Order A Smitty Sled:

If you don’t have the tools, or don’t want to waste time building one, you can order a Smitty Sled. Smitty himself has a mail order service through Facebook here:

Why you need one:

There are two reasons why you need a Smitty Sled. First, a Smitty really opens up the range you can haul your gear. It’s nothing for me to haul my Smitty Sled up to two kilometres in a day, I wouldn’t have a problem hauling it further but I usually run out of daylight first. Before using one, I would dread a 100 yard walk from the parking lot if there was any amount of snow. Now, I’m hole hopping all day and barely breaking a sweat. Second, the Smitty is way more convenient than loading up my ATV. I will still use my ATV if I am looking to explore a big lake but for quick outings, I’m packing the Smitty. Do yourself a favour and build a Smitty Sled this season!

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4 thoughts on “The Smitty Sled”

  1. suggestion – attach the rope to the ski tips. this way, you are pulling the skis and not the sled. when attaching the rope, feed the rope up from the bottom of the ski and tie your knot. this way, when pulling the skis, you are lifting the tips up a little to lead the unit over the snow. Use enough rope so that you are walking about 8 feet ahead of your sled.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Rich! That should help keep the tips up when the snow starts to build. I will definitely make that improvement for the upcoming season.

  2. Simple but basic…. The connecting pieces to the skis not X connected. Either a wire or rigid X connect will greatly reduce “ working” of fastenings to skis.
    I plan to use a section of metal pipe to reduce the working motion in the fastenings

    1. This is my first build so its as basic as it gets, sometimes basic is best though. In all the miles I’ve put on this sled nothing has worked loose. I am pulling by hand, not a machine, so the stresses on the skis are minimal. I would say if someone is planning on pulling by hand you shouldn’t need to use anything more than basic hardware. Thanks for the comment!

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