Ice fishing is different from many other forms of fishing – instead of casting, you simply drop your line in a hole created by an ice auger. This means that the function of an ice fishing reel is different. Ice reels are typically ultra lightweight, especially compared to standard fishing reels.
Choosing the right ice fishing gear can be difficult, and reels are some of the most complex fishing equipment. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you. Our list of the top 6 ice fishing reels is sure to help you find the best one for your next fishing trip.
Best Reels for Ice Fishing
- 13 Fishing Black Betty Freefall Ghost Ice Reel
- Abu Garcia Ice Max Spinning Fishing Reel
- Pflueger MONICEB Monarch Ice Fishing Reel
- Ellen Archery Inline Ice Fishing Reel
- Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel
- 13 Fishing Descent Ice Reel
13 Fishing Black Betty Freefall Ghost Ice Reel
- FREEFALL TRIGGER - The revolutionary FreeFall trigger allows hard water anglers to use their flasher, hit specific depths, and get instant hookups by releasing the trigger in the target zone.
- SMOOTH PERFORMANCE - No line twist, drop-speed control, and a tangle-free spool cap create a user-friendly design that simplifies line management and makes your time on the ice more enjoyable.
- ONE-HAND OPERATION - Easy one-hand operation built for the pistol/pencil grip, smooth drag, and the perfect all-around gear ratio for shallow to mid-depth (5-50 ft.) ice fishing.
- FREEFALL PERFORMANCE WINDOW - A line performance window allows for quick-checks of the reel so you can ensure everything is working smoothly.
- DURABLE REEL - Built on a sturdy composite graphite frame with an integrated fender, this reel features 4 stainless steel ball bearings, instant anti-reverse, easy-to-adjust graphite star drag, balanced aluminum handle with soft touch knobs.
Abu Garcia Ice Max Spinning Fishing Reel
- 3 ball bearings + 1 roller bearing provides smooth Operation
- Cold gear lube for top performance in extreme cold weather conditions
- Lightweight graphite body and rotor
- Machined aluminum spool provides strength without adding Excess weight
- Ever last bail System for improved durability
Pflueger MONICEB Monarch Ice Fishing Reel
- 5 bearing system: Corrosion resistant stainless steel ball bearings
- Graphite body and rotor: Lightweight graphite reel construction
- Aluminum bail: Thick aluminum bail wire design, rigid to prevent mist shaping
Ellen Archery Inline Ice Fishing Reel
- Equipped with automatic cable patent raft fishing tackles to solve the majority of Diaoyu has been plagued by uneven cable problems.
- Weight: 220g Bearings: 8 +1 run more smooth Ratio: 2.6: 1. Winding amount: 0.2/210,0.30/90
- Exquisite line wheel design, all-aluminum CNC machining precision, anti-corrosion oxidation treatment.
- Stainless steel spindle, anti-corrosion, impact resistance, excellent performance. This product uses imported brake system
- Discharge system configuration, adjustable discharge, the line wheel can be quickly removed.
Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel
- Super smooth drag system and instant anti-reverse
- Free spool release button
- Comfortable nonslip cork grip with a epoxy
- 2.7:1 Gear Ratio, 4 +1 Ball Bearings, One-way Clutch
- CNC machined aluminum spool with large line capacity
13 Fishing Descent Ice Reel
- Composite Constructions with Soft-Touch Finish
- Composite Constructions with Soft-Touch Finish
- 5 Stainless Ball Bearings
- Instant Anti-Reverse
- Dead Stick Spool Clicker
Ice Fishing Reels Buyers Guide
As winter is upon us, ice fishing season begins. If you’re thinking of hunkering down on the ice to see what you can catch this year, you might want to consider first which equipment to bring with you.
The market is flooded with great new models of fishing poles, reels, and other accessories. If you want the best reel for your dollar this year, you’ll want to consider a few key factors. These include design and durability, reel type, controls and handle, and additional features.
If you are able to look at all these factors, you will be able to find the reel that works for you. Price doesn’t always equal quality. This is why we’ve compiled some of the best information to help you make your ice fishing reel purchase this year.
What to Look for When Buying Ice Fishing Reels
Knowing what to look for when buying your gear can help you save money and fish better. Ice fishing reels come in all shapes and sizes, with a number of helpful features. Be sure to look at the following features when deciding on the best ice fishing reels.
Durability Against the Elements
Ice fishing isn’t the same as summer fishing on a melted lake. It’s also very different from deep sea fishing or surf fishing. Each environment and climate brings its own set of challenges and benefits. It is essential to become familiar with these conditions so that you know what features you will need your reel to have.
In ice fishing weather conditions, durability is an incredibly important quality. With the extreme elements like freezing cold water, jagged ice, and wind chill, you’ll need a reel that can stand up well to mother nature.
A plastic reel can spell trouble for ice fisherman because the cold can cause it to become brittle. Opt for metal in these conditions to avoid damage to your equipment.
Spinning Reels vs Inline Reels
Not all ice reels are the same type. There is an inline ice reel for every need and occasion. The major categories are ice fishing spinning reels and inline reels. There are a few major differences between these reel types. Know the benefits and detriments of each to help make your decision.
- Inline ice fishing reels have several benefits including less twisting. This makes them a frequent choice for ice anglers. They are smooth and consistent and stand up well to the elements. They don’t hold as much line as other types of reels, but this is fine as you don’t need as much line to ice fish as you do to fly fish.
- Spinning reels on the other hand are better for larger fish. They also don’t hold a tremendous amount of line, but again, this is not entirely necessary for ice fishing. These are the ideal choice for fishermen using live bait on the ice. The drag adjustments on these reels are better than that of the inline reel.
Both inline and spinning reels have their benefits and detriments, so your choice should come down to your needs as a fisherman. If you are using live bait for larger fish, opt for a spinning reel.
Handle and Controls
As stated above, ice fishing involves freezing cold water and ice. For this reason, you will be using ice fishing gloves while you fish. Take this into consideration when choosing a pole and reel. Your thick gloves will make a normal pole difficult to grip and operate, so you’ll need to look at designs made specifically for operating with thick gloves.
When you look at the construction of the rod and reel, be sure to find one with controls and a handle that are easy to operate with gloves on. You can ensure this by choosing one with a large foam handle. This is considered the easiest choice to use with gloves.
With all the new innovations in fishing technology, new equipment often comes with special features. These can help with ease of use, convenience, durability, speed, or other beneficial qualities. Know what you need so that you can invest in the features that are important to you.
There is no need to spend extra money on reels with features you don’t care about. On the other hand, it can vastly improve your ice fishing experience to get a reel that makes your life easier. Know what you want so that you can find the features that actually matter to you as a fisherman.
Spinning reels have better drag systems than inline reels. The drag system impacts the reel-in once a fish has been hooked on your line. The drag capacity of your reel tells you the size of fish you will be able to reel in.
Some reels have adjustable drag capacities, which is great for adapting to the environment you are fishing in. Be sure to choose a reel with adjustable drag capacity so that you can catch all types of fish.
The harsh environment and freezing cold temperatures can affect the functionality of your equipment if you aren’t properly prepared. Anti-freeze capabilities allow your reel to continue functioning in these extreme temperatures. It’s likely that cold will lead to frozen, seizing reels. Avoid this by ensuring that the reel you buy is anti-ice or anti-freeze.
Inline reels are often the best ice reels for anti-freeze capabilities. Choose the best inline ice fishing reel so that you can fish in any climates or conditions.
Ball bearings affect how smooth your reel is. If there are more bearings, the reel will be smoother. Be sure that you buy a reel with bearings made of quality materials like stainless steel. This is so that when you are reeling in the fish, the line catches less and is easier to pull.
Can You Use a Baitcasting Reel for Ice Fishing?
When beginning to ice fish, you may be wondering if it is possible to use a bait casting reel. Are ice fishing reels different?
The answer is yes, you can use a baitcasting reel on the ice. There are differences though that make it less apt for this type of fishing. While using your baitcasting reel can mean you don’t have to buy a new reel for ice fishing, it also means you will face some serious drawbacks. Ice poles aren’t built for a typical reel, and you will have to be more aware of your lure weight.
What are Ultralight Fishing Reels?
These reels are smaller than other types. They can hold a massive amount of line while weighing less than ten ounces. You can cast smaller lures with more ease by using these ultralight fishing reels. Ultralight reels allow you to catch significantly more fish. If you’re fishing for smaller fish, an ultralight reel works well for ice fishing.
The Bottom Line
Ice fishing is a wonderful hobby, sport, and career. You don’t have to be an expert fisherman to enjoy it, however. Know the ins and outs of ice fishing reels so that you can make an educated purchase that benefits you.
The type of reel you buy impacts your ice fishing experience. You can choose between inline and spinning reels, and opt for special features like anti-freeze. Use this guide to help you learn all that you need to know about your gear, so that you can buy the best reel for your needs.
Pick one of our top-rated ice fishing reels and get out on the ice! For more top products, reviews, and fishing tips, check out Fishmasters.
Also see these articles on additional ice fishing gear for this season: