History of The Hot-Box

I started developing the HOT-BOX™ 6 years ago. During this time, we have had several prototypes, hundreds of hours of field testing and professional engineering refinements. I was first introduced of the general concept of a heated fishing box in the mid-90’s when my friend invited me to go fishing with him and his grandpa. Back then, it was referred to as the Mille Lacs Box. Ice fishermen had all kinds of their own versions of it, all made from scratch in their garages. They slapped them together with whatever was handy. Most were enclosed wooden boxes, which did not fold up, and were quite bulky. There were numerous heat sources which included candles, charcoal, or sterno. With these heat sources, the run time was limited, the flames would blow out in the wind, and the heat was generally not enough to keep the fishing hole open in low to sub-zero temps. The one exception was my friend’s grandpa, who was heating his box with a duel mantel lantern. Let me tell you, he had the Cadillac on the lake. He could run all night even in temps dipping below zero.

The running joke around the Mille Lacs Box was they were extremely effective but you need a separate U-Haul truck to get them out and around. While doing the required search during our patent process, we discovered the first attempt at patenting this concept was done back in the 30’s on a heated wooden box. It’s safe to say the problem of a hole freezing over has been an age old issue that ice fishermen have been trying to solve for decades.

For years my dad and I brainstormed ideas about making a box that solved all the problems that ice fishermen have had with the Mille Lacs Box. My dad, Tom Bricko, worked as a Design Engineer with the Toro Company for 33 years where he holds 8 world patents. The idea with our fishing box didn’t get serious until he retired from Toro 4 years ago. At this time I had been getting by with a version I constructed and was two years and a few prototypes into. It was a wooden box with a tip up on the top and heated with a miniature propane lantern. The lantern worked great but the wood was a problem. Most of the boxes were charred from the high heat of the lantern after a long weekend, because wood is combustible. The other issue I experienced is the wood sticks to the ice. In a typical year the snow is deep, heavy, and weighs down the ice, so when you drill a hole there is standing water, which is not good for the wood. If the heat source would go out for any reason, the box would freeze to the snow/ice and you’d need a jackhammer to break them out. Oh, and did I mention that wood rots? In addition to this, the boxes were heavy and didn’t fold up, so they took up a lot of space while transporting and storing.

Far beyond any of those issues, the biggest negative of all was the strike indicator which was an off the shelf premium tip up. The flag would pop up and you’d run out all excited, just to find there was no fish there. Another dropped bait, one after another. The catch rate per flag made the MN Twins batting average look good in comparison. Many times I would be walking back to my fish house shaking my head only to find a rattle reel had been bit and was steadily rolling. Right then, the light bulb went off. Fish don’t drop the bait on rattle reels. Why is this? A rattle reel is used with a bobber; ideally, one that can be adjusted to achieve the perfect balance and neutral buoyancy. The best one is the Venom Bobber ( When a fish grabs the bait, the spool rolls and the resistance is minimal, but most importantly consistent. With the tip up, a mechanism needs to be tripped to release the spool. When a fish grabs the bait on a tip up there is a ton of resistance as the fish tugs and tugs. Then, as the mechanism is released, there is a massive change in resistance and with that the fish spits out the bait.

News Flash: Fish are programmed to sense change!!

From there, we ditched the non-performing tip up and integrated a rattle reel into the box and started experimenting with different types of materials for the box. The spools were from empty fishing line spools and orange duct tape forming the indicator line. We started experimenting and testing different types of box materials such as clear Lexan, stainless steel and aluminum. Through many hours of field testing, we arrived at aluminum being the best material. The next challenge we tackled was keeping the aluminum from melting into the ice from the heat of the lantern. This set of trials used a rubber belting material attached to the base, which performed but was heavy and didn’t hold shape well. The led us try a thermo plastic base, used to make ice cube trays. The thermo plastic is totally inert, indestructible, and stays pliable in extremely low temps. This became our ultimate solution. The next revelation was hinging all four corners so it could fold flat and fit into a standard five gallon pail. With our final design, 3 boxes, folded down fit into one five gallon pail.

So, a couple question you may ask:

1. Is it worth the money?

Flat out the HOT-BOX will increase your catch rate. Simply based on probability the HOT-BOX will allow you to expand your coverage area presenting your bait to more fish which equals more bites. All across the ice belt, groups of ice fishermen huddle in ice houses that are on average 6.5 x 12 or less. The common story is “we got a few late most after we shut everything down and went to bed, the rattle wheels started going off”. Coincidence? Definitely not! In the meantime our group produced another 50 fish per day. Throughout the development of the HOT-BOX I now have a full understanding of how fish push away from noise and pressure and not just in shallow water. We see this when we fish in 30+ feet.

JT Outdoor Products Ice Fishing HOT BOX with Live Catch, 2014

Over the last 6 years of development we have an overwhelming large amount of case studies where the HOT-BOX out produced guys who I consider to be excellent jig fisherman at times 8-1. The obvious is the boxes are placed away from where the noise and pressure is. I’ve found that bait fish are more sensitive than say a walleye, but what do the walleyes follow? A bait fish. If the bait isn’t under your ice house the walleyes won’t be either. The other aspect is the stealth. When the box is placed, it is with a single minnow with minimal terminal tackle away from other presentations. Think about what it looks like when 8 lines are down in a 6.5’ x 12’ area? It doesn’t take much for a fish to call your bluff; especially big fish. For me the ability the hot box has in producing giants is in-valuable. I spent a better part of a lifetime trying to break the 30 inch mark on a walleye through the ice now I’m able to do it year after year with the HOT-BOX, including my personal best. A 32” walleye caught on a highly pressured lake near the metro area. We have discovered that walleyes on the majority of lakes go nocturnal in the winter. This is where the HOT-BOX really shines over all others. The Hot box is certified to keep the ice hole open down to -20 degrees with the heat produced from the lantern. The lantern also illuminates the face of the rattle spool providing night time strike indication visible at distances up to 200ft. Added options for the box include electronic strike indicators that wirelessly alert you of strikes so you don’t have to look out the window at the indicator.

2. Is the Hot-Box only for the hard core angler?

Absolutely not! I’m getting a ton of positive feedback from folks who have very limited equipment and traditionally were only fair weather ice fishermen. A good friend of mine was eager to get his 6 year old into ice fishing but he doesn’t have a fancy wheel house or even a portable fish house, he doesn’t own a flasher. All he has is an auger and a few dusty old jiggle sticks. He bought a few HOT-BOX’s and he and his youngster drive out on the lake in his SUV after he gets off work, still in work cloths and they watch the boxes from the comforts of his truck, with the heat and tunes are on. They produce fish with ease and comfort even when it’s well below zero.

Fishing is a passion of mine and I want others to have the experience I do while out on the ice.

To purchase the HOT-BOX or any other of our specialized products visit us on the web at To see more, such as current videos, pictures, usage tips and where the hottest bite is happening, “Like” us on Facebook at JT Outdoor Products or search us on YouTube.

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I look forward to seeing you on the ice!
– Joe


The HOT-BOX Design Description:

JT’s OUTDOOR PRODUCTS HOT-BOX is designed to be corrosion resistant, lightweight, and simple for operation and transportation. The user will unfold the box and place it over the ice hole, bank slush or snow up to the box. Next insert and ignite the lantern, position the spool and close cover. The lantern provides just the right amount of adjustable heat to keep the hole in the ice from freezing, while providing illumination for night visibility. The reflective/ high visibility face on the rattle spool illuminates, providing visibility to motion day or night. The unique spool bearing surface offers unmatched sensitivity. Because the system keeps the hole entirely open in extreme cold conditions, a bobber positions the bait in the strike zone. The combination of a neutrally buoyant perfectly balanced bobber (, and an ultra-sensitive spool provides a near zero dropped strike system. The Thermoplastic base keeps the heated fishing system from freezing or melting into the ice providing a maintenance free system. When a fish strikes, the strike indicator line on the rattle spool rotates, alerting the angler the bobber is down. The angler will approach the box, opens the cover, and swings the spool out of the way. These two simple steps provide a 9” x 10-1/2” area for landing fish of all sizes easily.

Extensive product development, field testing, and certifications have proven the HOT-BOX to have the best design configuration and components needed to meet the necessary demands. Testing has proven that the Coleman™ lantern keeps the interior of the box above freezing in temperatures as low as -20 and also illuminates the spool for night time vision for distance up to 200 feet. Testing has proven that lantern run times on the highest setting are 15.5 hours and 35 hours on the lowest setting which is sufficient anytime it’s above 10 degrees. The highest setting is only used at night for maximum illumination or when temps are below 0. The innovative spool design reduces the spool drag on shaft, making it extremely sensitive when rotated. Expert field testing has proven the HOT-BOX has far less false strikes and significantly higher catch rate versus similar systems and tip ups. Because the resistance is constant, opposed to having a tripped indicator, that abruptly changes resistance, causing the fish to spit the bait. In addition, tip ups are nearly unusable in temps below 20 degrees due to the hole freezing over. Additional testing and design value provides one full rotation of the spool, equals one foot of line, so that operator can accurately position the lure, and identify how many feet the fish has taken on a run. The thermo-plastic base is a material used in making ice cube trays, thereby keeping the box from sticking on to the ice. This material also provides a thermal break keeping the heat from transferring down on to the ice thereby keeping the contact surfaces at equal temperatures.