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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Look out for a spool with some anti-freeze lubrication so that you can fish for long periods in freezing conditions without interruptions.
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.
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.
There are three different types of reels, namely; spinning reels, bait casting reels and inline ice fishing reels.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.