Rods and Reels

Learn more about the different types rods and reels used for ice fishing.

Ice Fishing Rods and Reels

Unlike a freshwater or saltwater rod, an ice fishing rod is very short. Modern ice rods are typically a type of spinning rod varying from 24 to 36 inches in length. Spinning rods are typically made of graphite or fiberglass and can with stand the cold while still remaining flexible. Depending on what type of fish you plan to catch will help determine what sensitivity you should look for in your rod. Remember that in cold water, fish are not as active, so a bite might not elicit a large movement in your rod. For panfish you want a rod that is ultralight, but if you plan to catch game fish like Northern pike, you can consider something heavier.

A spinning reel or even a simple spring-tension spool will work for ice fishing. The line you choose for your reel should match your rod. The more lightweight the rod, the lighter the line needed.

You can also use a fly reel if you do not have a spinning reel, it is very similar. The advantage of a fly reel is that you have less line twist.

Some anglers prefer to fish with tip-ups, 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 something is 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 bring both a spinning rod and tip-up and setup two holes at different but close by locations, giving themselves more opportunities to hook a fish. In one hole, you can slowly jig with your spinning rod, while the other hole has a tip-up. Learn more about the jigging technique in the next section.

Video courtesy of USA Ice Fishing Team