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5 Best Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Combos for 2018

Ice fishing is a unique and specialized form of angling, and as such, it requires very specific tools and gear that are constructed with the harsh weather and water conditions in mind. One such example of this specialized gear is the ice fishing rod and reel combo, at once efficient, expedient and durable; this is a great combination of tools that you don’t want to be without when you’re going ice fishing.

The rod specifically, needs to be chosen very carefully, keeping in mind that fish are lazier and don’t bite as hard in the winter, so you’ll need something reliable and suitable to your needs. Here are some tips that you can use to find the best rod and reel combo for your ice fishing trip, along with a few suggestions on what we reckon are the best products in this category on the market right now.

Size

Ice fishing rods come in different lengths to suit different ice fishing applications, and getting the appropriate rod will enable you to feel the lightest of bites and reel the hook properly.

For example, you may want to stay inside a shelter while you’re fishing, which would necessitate the use of a rather short fishing rod of between 26 to 30 inches. A rod of this length is perfect when used within the confines of an ice fishing shack because it makes the jigging and setting much easier and you won’t have to worry about it bumping against the shelter walls.

Specifically, we’d recommend that you go with a 26-inch pole if you’re planning to enjoy some solitary angling in a one-man shanty, whereas a 2-man enclosure is larger and can accommodate a 30-inch rod comfortably.

Material

Ice fishing poles are typically constructed from hardy materials like graphite and fiberglass, and sometimes even a combination of the two. Both are solid materials, but they come with different properties and strengths. For example, graphite is stronger and more durable, but it can’t beat the sensitivity of a fiberglass rod, so a rod that combines the two materials is a good thing because you get the best of both worlds. Carbon fiber is another common material that’s used in the manufacturing of ice fishing rods, and is both sturdy and sensitive.

Handle

The most common materials for ice fishing rod handles are plastic, foam, and cork. Of the three, cork comes highly recommended because it warms up pretty quickly and is thus guaranteed to keep your hands toasty as you fish, but it’s most beneficial quality has to be the fact that it’s light and sensitive enough for you to feel the slightest movement.

Action

The part of the pole where it bends determines the speed and level of action that you’ll get out of the rod, and you’ll find these different levels labelled as Slow, Moderate and Fast action. An example of a light action rod would be a short 24-inch pole that you can use to reel in some panfish, but for large game like lake trout, you’ll need a fast action rod of 38 inches or more if possible. If you’re lucky, you might even get one of those rods that come with labelling that describe the type of fish that it’s suited to catching, which takes the guessing work out of the process.

What Makes a Good Ice Fishing Reel?

Reels come in different makes and sizes, and the one you choose will largely depend on your preferences as well as the type of fish that you’re after, as this will determine the level of strength and sensitivity required. Here’s what you need to consider when shopping for a reel to get the most bang for your buck.

Construction

Graphite and aluminum reels are your best bet, because they’re resistant to corrosion and they don’t break easily, and they work smoothly under pressure as well.

Spool

Look out for a spool with some anti-freeze lubrication so that you can fish for long periods in freezing conditions without interruptions.

Bearing Number

Reels also display the number of ball bearings that they contain to indicate if there is any friction on the reel. The rule of thumb is the more ball bearings, the better for ensuring smooth casting and reeling.

Weight

Regarding weight, a lighter fishing reel makes for comfortable mobility and flexible movement, while a heavy reel might feel like a burden after some time as it takes so much energy to hold and carry around.

Types of Reels

There are three different types of reels, namely; spinning reels, bait casting reels and inline ice fishing reels.

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    Spinning reels work great when angling for small fish, and you can use them to cast different types of tackle with ease. However, they’re not recommended for big game, as they don’t have the strength and accuracy to ensure a successful catch.
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    Baitcasting reels, on the other hand, are ideal for those long expeditions spent angling for large and heavy fish species like lake trout, as they allow for more accuracy and control. The only heads-up we can give about baitcasting reels is that they can be difficult to handle in the beginning, but once you get used to them they work very efficiently and can even help you to recover quickly from bad casts.
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    Lastly, inline ice fishing reels are very effective at preventing the formation of twisted lines, which means that you’ll never have to worry about twists interrupting your retrieve when using them, plus inline reels are lightweight as well.

Top Ice Fishing Rod & Reel Combos

We've done the research and believe that the following 5 combos will serve you well if you're looking for the best quality you can get.  Let's take a look.

Our Top Choice​​​​


This 2-inch rod from Celsius is made from really high-quality materials and comes with its reel. This combo comes pre-spooled with a line as well as a float and three ice jigs for your convenience. The pole is sturdy and makes it easy to reel in catches without a hitch; while the price means that you can buy quite a few of these at a time so that you always have more on hand when your gear needs an update.

What We Like

  • This rod and reel combo comes at a very attractive and accessible price point
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    It’s made from high-quality materials
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    You get it pre-spooled with line
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    Comes with a float and three ice jigs 
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    It’s beautifully constructed with a classic and elegant design

What We Don't Like

  • No complaints here

Frabill Fin-S Pro 30-Inch Medium Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Combo, Black

Frabill Fin-S Pro

30-Inch Medium Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Combo


The rod from Frabill's ice fishing combo is made from solid fiberglass and boasts improved sensitivity with a solid carbon fiber blank. It also has a 3 plus 1 ball-bearing reel, and all along its length, there are stainless steel ice guides which culminate in an ultra-sensitive cork handle with a machined aluminum spool. It casts well and is a durable product overall.

What We Like

  • This is a very durable rod and is long lasting as well
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    It’s got a sensitive grip, thanks to the cork handle
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    Comes with a great quality reel
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    It’s available at a good price and offers good value for money
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    Made from strong fiberglass
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    Stainless steel ice guards
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    It casts well

What We Don't Like

  • The handle could use some improvements in strength as it doesn’t hold the reel very well

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel & Rod Combo, 26” Light Action Rod, USGXICE26LCBO

Shakespeare Ugly Stik

GX2 Ice Fishing Combo


With features like a ported aluminum spool, one-piece stainless steel guides and a twist-lock reel seat with 1 ball bearing, this Shakespeare Ugly Stik was made to help you fish in even the harshest of winter conditions. It casts well, and its handle is made from durable EVA material and features a replaceable 20 size spinning reel as well. The rod is available in sizes 26 to 30 inches, which means that you can get one for both light and heavy-duty fishing and enjoy its unique combination of strength and sensitivity no matter what type of species you’re fishing for.

What We Like

  • It comes with a replaceable 20 size spinning reel with 1 ball bearing
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    It’s ultra-sensitive
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    It’s lightweight and easy to carry
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    The pole is sturdy
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    It casts smooth
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    The smaller size makes for an ideal gift for young kids that enjoy tagging along on fishing trips
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    Durable and long lasting

What We Don't Like

  • It could use with a bit more sensitivity, as it can be hard to feel bites on it sometimes
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    It’s a bit pricey but well worth it considering its durability

Master Fishing Tackle Brush Spinning Combo Kit, 2-Feet, Ultra-Light (Colors May Vary)

Master Fishing

Tackle Brush Spinning Combo Kit


This is a heavy-duty, high-performance rod and reel combo that’s made for the big game connoisseur in mind. It’s two feet long and ultra-light and comes with one ball bearing reel and its fishing line. It’s a great option for young anglers, and it comes in spunky colors like pink, purple, green and blue.

What We Like

  • It comes in different colors
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    Great gift idea for young anglers
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    The one ball bearing reel comes with great action and reels them in effortlessly
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    Two feet long
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    Great for big game anglers too

What We Don't Like

  • The fishing line it comes with is to practically useless, so you might want to load your good quality line to it 
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    The rod could use some improvements in sensitivity

Berkley Lightning Rod Ice Fishing Rod & Reel Combo

Berkley Lightning Rod

Ice Fishing Rod & Reel Combo


Coming from a prestigious brand like Berkley, this rod and reel combo is a bit underwhelming, but it does a great job of not only catching fish but reels them in easily. Thanks to features that include fiberglass construction, a cork grip that uses fore-grip technology to ensure comfortable handling, and there’s an ultralight graphite spinning reel with a ball bearing drive. Other features include a minimalist reel seat, which when combined with the cork grip, makes for a sensitive combo that allows you to feel fish bites easily, as well as lightweight guides that are made from sturdy stainless steel. 

Sure, it’s not the amazing all-rounder that you’d expect from this seasoned manufacturer of fishing gear, but it still works fairly well and comes at a reasonable price point, plus you can choose your preferred size with options that range from 24 to 32 inches.

What We Like

  • Factory tested for reliability
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    Available in a wide range of sizes, from 24 to 32 inches
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    Provides medium to heavy action
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    It offers great sensitivity, thanks to the cork grip and minimalist reel seat
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    Ultralight spinning reel with a ball bearing drive
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    Constructed from fiberglass
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    Handles well
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    Lightweight guides constructed from special stainless steel

What We Don't Like

  • The quality and durability of the product could use some improvement and would make it a complete package

The Verdict

Angling in winter is hard; you have to contend with uncomfortable weather conditions, hostile waters and lazy fish that just don't want to bite sometimes, which is why you need to have a good quality rod and reel combo that's specially made for ice fishing. Not only are the rods made sturdy to accommodate the harsh environment, but more often than not, they've been customised to feature grip-friendly handles that are built to keep your hands warm and comfortable. The best part is that they're available in different sizes to accommodate both novice and experienced anglers, while some even offer different colors to suit all the members of your family.

Understanding that we've probably made the choice rather hard for you with all these options, we'd suggest that you keep in mind your needs and your preferences when choosing your rod and reel combo. Remember that shorter rods work best when angling from a shelter, while there's no denying the efficiency of a rod with high sensitivity. You'll also find that these combos come in different price points yet offer great value for money, which makes it even easier for you to choose one that's suited to not only your pocket but your needs as well.

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