While ice fishing may not be as popular as soft water fishing. It has many devoted fans. this is especially true is you don’t have a boat.
When the ice covers the lake, you can access the whole area and all you’ll need to burn some calories.
Many companies make specialized gear for ice fishing. This is very true for reels. Yes, there are dedicated ice fishing reels as well as rods.
When you’re out on the ice, you’ll want to make sure you have the right reel with you. Having the right reel can instill confidence and prevent equipment failure.
Below, you’ll find a guide on what criteria to look for when selecting the best ice fishing reel.
I’ll also provide recommendations on the top ice fishing reels to choose.
Two types of reels are usually used for ice fishing. Spinning reels and inline reels.
These types will meet the needs of the vast majority of ice anglers. Very light lines and short rods are typical ice fishing gear. As a result, ultralight reels will make help balance this equipment.
You wouldn’t want to pair a 24 inch ice rod with a baitcaster that is spooled with 20 lb test.
These are also known as open faced reels. They’re versatile in that they can be used for both ice fishing and regular soft water fishing. But you’ll want to make sure that you use the ultralight versions so they balance well with your rod.
Inline reels are are similar to fly reels and baitcasters. They have a revolving spool like a baitcaster but are mounted under the rod. The revolving spool means that the line comes off straight with no twists.
You can also easily load it will shorter lengths of line. You may not need to have 200 yards of line on an ice reel. Long runs are not common in cold conditions.
inline reels will also come with much lower gear ratios. You can even get inline reels with 1:1 gear ratios. This helps with the slower presentations when ice fishing.
Inline ice fishing reels are also available with no spool lock or release. This means you have a direct connection to the line similar to what you find in a fly reel.
Inline Reels vs. Spinning Reels
Spinning Reel Pros
- Easy to use
- Can be used for regular soft water fishing
- Lots of selection
- Drag and gearing included
- Can put a handle on either side
Spinning Reel Cons
- Can cause line twist
- Can freeze up
- May have less feel.
Inline Reel Pros
- No line twist
- Better sensitivity
- Better at fishing slower
Inline Reel Cons
- Can be more expensive
- May take some time few new users to learn
- Less selection
- No drag or gearing on some models.
- Some models have a handle on one side.
In the end, the choice as to whether to buy a spinning or inline reel boils down to a matter of preference. You can do well with both types.
Ice Fishing Reel Features
Anti Freeze Up
Some reels claim to have coatings that help prevent ice build up. Another option is to add anti freeze to your gear.
You can buy anti freeze paste suck as Loon Outdoors Stanley’s Ice Off.
Put this line on your rod guides or the fishing line itself and it will prevent the build up of ice.
The weight of your ice fishing reel is particularly important. When you’re using very short and light weight rods, you’ll want a reel that’s not too heavy.
A heavy reel combined with a light rod could throw of the balance and feel unnatural.
Ball bearing count is often times an exaggerated spec in fishing reels. However, with ice fishing reels, you’ll want to make sure there are enough for smooth operation.
You can get a graphite or metal reel for ice fishing. Often times you’ll find a combination of the two. Either way it usually comes down to a matter of preference. You likely won’t be dealing with high torsion forces on your ice reel. So, graphite is probably fine.
Keep in mind that some inline reels will have a handle that is on one side and cannot be switched to the other side. This is preferred by many anglers as they just buy a reel with the handle on the side they use.
It helps reduce weight by eliminating the need for extra parts to receive the handle on either side.
Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel
The Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel is a great reel for jigging over ice. If you love dropping jigs and working them, then this reel is for you.
It comes at a great price and has some excellent features.
the reel has a nylon body and spool. This makes it lightweight. It comes in at 5.6 ounces.
With this you get drag and spool tension control. The latter being very important if you’re planning on dropping different sized lures.
The handle comes mounted on the left side. If you want to change it to the right side, you’ll have to work on the reel with some tools, but it’s easily doable.
It also comes with a smooth teflon drag and 4 ball bearings.
- Easy jigging with spool tension control.
- Smooth Drag.
- Can handle be used for panfish in the summer.
- Some don’t like the build material.
Pfleuger MONICEB Ice Fishing Reel
The Pflueger Monarch Ice Spinning Reel is a graphite reel that’s lightweight and economical.
It will hold 110 yards of 6 lb. test monofilament line. It has a 4.2:1 gear ration that will bring in 19.7 inches of line per crank.
It’s a basic no frills reel. However, It’s known to be a reliable Ice fishing spinning reel. It can also do double duty as a light panfish reel for summer fishing.
Pflueger is a brand that has been around for a long time. So, you can expect a tried and tested design. The 5 ball bearing are made of stainless steel to prevent corrosion.
- Good value.
- Made to handle cold temperatures.
- Can be used for non winter panfishing.
- Some users don’t like the build materials.
The Okuma Ceymar in the C10 size is known for its smooth drag and low price tag.It has a graphite body and an aluminum spool. The dear ratio is 5.0:1.
Many anglers love the handle grip which is big enough to easily grab with gloved hands. It will hold 110 yards of 4 lb. test monofilament line.
- Smooth drag.
- Machined aluminum spool for solid feel.
- 8 ball bearing for smooth retrieve.
- There have been some out of box failures. But this happens with all reels.
Abu Garcia ICEMAX
The Abu Garcia ICEMAX spinning reel has been a solid ice fishing reel for years. It has a graphite body and an aluminum spool. This makes for a reel that is light weight but still has the solid feel of an aluminum spool.
What makes it ideal for cold weather? It’s gears are lubricated with cold weather lubricant. This makes it less likely to feel sluggish when you’re reeling in cold temperatures.
The bail features an extra heavy bail wire. This makes for a durable reel that will not have a bent bail wire after rugged ice duty.
The handle is interchangeable from the left to the right side. It also comes with a fold down switch. So, just push a button and the handle will fold down for easy storage.
It will hold 80 yards of 6 lb. test.
- Cold gear lubricant prevents seizing.
- Machined aluminum spool.
- Lightweight graphite body.
13Fishing Black Betty
The black betty ice fishing reel by 13 fishing is a popular inline reel with some premium features.
It’s made of CNC machined aluminum bar stock. This makes for a very solid reel that should last for years.
You can get the reel in left or right hand retrieve. With a 2.7:1 gear ratio, it will ring in 18 inches of line per handle turn.
It also features a carbon drag system and a bait alarm.
The frame design allows you to use a pistol or pencil grip without rubbing against the spool while it turns.
Ice anglers have no problem going after large species like lake trout with this reel.
- CNC machined aluminum construction.
- Carbon drag.
- Excellent sensitivity for jigging.
- Line can overrun if you’re not careful.
13 Fishing Black Betty Freefall Ghost Ice Reel
The 13 Fishing Freefall Ghost ice reel is a top of the line reel. Yes, it will cost more than your average ice reel, but you get some outstanding features for the money.
A freefall trigger lets you operate the reel one handed. This can be a very handy feature if you’re looking to handle two setups at a time.
The frame is made of graphite, and the handles are made of aluminum.
It also has 4 stainless steel ball bearings. It’s best loaded with 2 to 4 lb. test line and is good for jigging in depth ranges of 5 to 50 feet.
- Smooth operation.
- Great for vertical jigging.
- Smooth Drag.
KastKing Centron Ice Fishing Reel
The KasKing Centron is a great value for an ice reel. It’s made of graphite, has an aluminum spool and 9 ball bearings.
There are two color schemes to choose based on model names. The blue and black versions are the ice reel.
This is a 500 size spinning reel, so keep in mind that it will be smaller than your average spinning reel. Just keep in mind that this will most likely be ideal for ice fishing and even Summer panfishing duty.
- Smooth Retrieve
- Great value.
- Smooth drag.
- Some users don’t like the drag knob.
Ice fishing reels have come a long way. they’re now specialized for ice duty. The addition of inline reels has really added to the variety.
Lightweight reels that will go well with small rods are key. But just because they’re small and light doesn’t mean they’re weak.
You should be able to easily use 6 lb. test line and set line appropriate drag without slippage.
In addition, you can get spinning reels to easily serve double duty in the summer for panfishing.
Remember that whatever you choose, it should be able to handle cold temps without freezing up.