Ice FishingIce Fishing Gear

Ice Fishing Rods & Reels

Ice Fishing Rods & Reels

Learn more about the different types of ice rods and reels you can use for ice fishing. Get the info you need to select the best ice fishing rods for your next trip.

Ice Fishing Rods and Reels

Unlike a freshwater or saltwater rod, ice fishing rods are very short. Modern ice fishing rods are typically spinning rods varying from 24 to 36 inches in length. Ice spinning rods are typically made of graphite or fiberglass and can withstand the cold while remaining flexible. The type of fish you plan to catch help determine what sensitivity you should look for when selecting ice fishing rods. Remember that in cold water, fish are not as active, so a bite might not elicit a large movement in your rod. Therefore, the best ice fishing rods for panfish tend to be ultralight rods, but if you plan to catch game fish like Northern pike, you will probably want to consider something heavier. 

While there are plenty of ice fishing reels on the market, spinning reels or even a simple spring-tension spools can be good ice fishing reels as well. Fly reels can also be used in lieu of ice fishing reels as they are very similar in design. The advantage of a fly reel is that you have less line twist. Just remember, the line you choose for your reel should match your rod. The more lightweight the rod, the lighter the line needed. 

Instead of dealing with ice fishing reels and rods, some anglers prefer to fish with an item of ice fishing equipment called a tip up, which is not a rod at all. A tip up is a device set on the ice above your hole that dangles bait beneath it with a flag as a strike indicator. Tip ups, which typically hold a small reel submerged in the water, get their name from a flag that's bent over and attached to the reel. When a fish takes the bait, the reel turns and releases the line and flag at the same time. The flag "tips up" alerting the angler to something on the line. 

Most tip ups are made of wood, but some newer versions are circular in shape to help keep your hole from freezing up. The best line for a tip up is heavy, braided line as tip-ups are better for larger fish such as walleye. 

Many anglers will include both a spinning rod and tip up among their ice fishing gear, allowing them the ability to set up two holes at different – but nearby – locations, giving themselves more opportunities to hook a fish. In one hole, they can slowly jig with their spinning rod, while the other hole has a tip up. Learn more about the jigging technique in the next section.