Good stuff 420.
Very interesting take on the barbs topic. I find it depends much on type of fishing and also species being caught. There is certainly much debate out there on the subject, I'm glad they changed the laws to allow for fisherfolk to make their own decisions on this. One thing for sure is I lose many more fish on pinched barb hooks vs barbed hooks. If I was into keeping fish for the fry pan I likely wouldn't pinch, but I'm not a big fish eater. Fly-fishing, usually hooks are so tiny I don't bother pinching barbs bc I can barely see them lol and it's hard enough to keep a feisty trout on, as you know, and trout generally take it just on the lip anyway. Different story still-fishing, especially with bait. Just one example.
Never been huge into pike fishing, but I agree with your technique for ice-fishing for them. Still smelt on or near bottom seems to work well. On my last particular outing I mentioned we actually spent the day fishing for trout in the Hills then briefly stopped off at a pike/perch lake on the way home as I got a tip on a perch location out there and I've never fished the lake through the ice. Wanted to give it a shot and happened to catch a small hammer-handle on the first descent, then nothing for the next hour. Was going for perch using both worms and minnows but clearly we were not on them, suffice to say.
Ah the joy of manual hand augers. Not so fun in really thick ice but do the trick. Used to use one but then started relying on buddies gas augers, finally purchased a used gas one of my own off a friend of a friend this year. Next comes the tent and heater etc. You know how it goes lol. Amazing what I guy will do to go stare at a couple holes in the freezing cold haha.