Ice fishing gear is pretty basic. You need a rod, some line, a good ice fishing lure, and a way to drill a hole in the ice. A good ice fishing shelter and warm clothing will help you stay comfortable, but the right rod is essential — it can insure that you bring your catch to the surface.
All ice fishing anglers know that the rod you use makes a huge difference in the number of fish you actually land. A sensitive road that can keep your catch tense on the line will get more fish on the ice than an inferior rod.
We looked at the ice fishing rod market for 2023. Having one of the following rods will not mean that you automatically catch fish, but it is an important step to becoming a more capable ice fisherman or fisherwoman.
Best Ice Fishing Rods for 2023
SHAKESPEARE UGLY STIK ICE FISHING REEL & ROD COMBO
We all know that Shakespeare has been creating the Ugly Stick line of rods for many years. People are still buying the Ugly Sticks because over time these rods have proven to be durable, strong, and reliable. Ugly sticks have a near-iconic status in the ice fishing world.
This Ugly Stick is designed with a clear tip. The rod is perfectly balanced and has a twist lock reel seat and EVA handles. It measures 26.5” x 5” x 3.5”, so it is the perfect length to use in your ice shelter. It weighs about 8 ounces so it is easy to carry and easy to hold.
The line guides are stainless steel so they are durable and impervious to water. They are also strong and less likely to be broken when bumping around in your bucket of gear.
It comes with a 20 ounce spinning reel that is crafted to be used while ice fishing. The reel has one ball bearing and a smooth action that you will love. It has a ported aluminum spool so your line feeds off and reels back up with a silky motion.
FRABILL 6847 COMBO STRAIGHTLINE 101 27 QUICK TIP
Frabill is one of the top ice fishing supply manufacturers, and the name Frabill is synonymous with catching fish through the ice. They basically make everything except for ice augers. This ice fishing rod combo is another one of their fine products that is made to make the cold weather sport of ice fishing more enjoyable, and more productive.
The rod is crafted from a lightweight composite material that is strong, durable, and capable of withstanding freezing temperatures without being compromised. The rod blank establishes the handle into one portion of the rod so the sensitivity of the rod in increased. You do not have to worry about the rod coming apart where the handle joins the butt of the rod, or at the ferrule.
It has aluminum oxide guides that will not freeze up, will not be easy to break off, and will be impervious to water and moisture. The guides are strong and your line can easily move through them.
The gears in the reel have been carefully designed so that they do not freeze up, even if you fish in sub-zero temperatures. The gears in your reel will work smoothly, and not let you down when it matters most. You are getting a 1:1 gear ration that means smooth action and utmost response.
BERKLEY LIGHTING ROD ICE FISHING SPINNING REEL & ROD COMBO
Berkley is another one of those names that are associated with fine outdoor gear. This Berkley ice fishing rod is as good as its freshwater rods, and we think it will not disappoint you.
The blank used to create the rod is lightweight and built of solid fiberglass. The fiberglass is durable, responsive, and light to hold. The manufacturer has used over-sized guides that are not going to freeze up. These guides have been designed so that they are as much as 20 times stronger than the ordinary aluminum oxide guides. The guides are also lighter than aluminum oxide guides so the overall equipment is made lighter.
They have also implemented cork handles and grips to increase your gripping ability, your hand comfort, and to help keep your hands a little warmer while you fish. The handles create a better feel to the rod, and cork is a lightweight material that helps to keep the balance of the rod even.
On this rod is an ultra-light graphite spinning reel that has a ball bearing drive to create a perfectly smooth front drag, and flawless fish retrieval opportunities. It is designed to be used in frigid weather so it will not freeze up or become hard to use after hours of being subjected to cold, damp conditions.
You can get these rods in 24” lengths or 28” lengths. You can also choose between an ultra-light action rod or a medium action rod, depending on what preferences you have.
What to look for in Ice Fishing Rods
Strength in a fishing rod is determined by the materials the rod is created from. Also, the methods used to build the rod. Graphite rods have been around since the 70s. Graphite is one of the most common materials used to create rods, and that is because the tensile strength of this material is amazing for such a lightweight item. The fibers used to create graphite rods are heated to super high temperatures, and those temperatures create stronger fibers, that are capable of having increased sensitivity.
SENSITIVITY OF TIP
The sensitivity of the rod tip is what is going to determine how many fish you catch, and how many fish you think bit your hook. You want a tip that is sensitive enough to react to the smallest nibble from the fish. The increased sensitivity will increase the amount of time you have to react, and set the hook. Just like with a freshwater fishing rod, you want to gear the tip sensitivity to the size of fish you are fishing for. The smaller, more delicate the bite, the more sensitive you want the rod tip to be.
Keep in mind that you probably will be wearing winter gloves when you fish, so some advanced rod sensitivity is important. You don’t want to have to have your gloves off in order to feel a fish.
COMPATIBILITY WITH REELS
This is not quite as important as it is in your freshwater fishing rods, but make sure that the rod is a good fit with your ice fishing reel-of-choice. A safe bet is to buy products from the same brand, or better yet, buy a combo that comes pre-matched like the ones profiled above.
Ice Fishing Rod FAQs
CAN I JUST USE AN OLD-FASHIONED ICE-FISHING STICK?
Of course you can. The thing is, the old fashioned ice fishing stick does not have the sensitivity, strength, and abilities that technology has allowed manufacturers to put into ice fishing rods. These rods are designed shorter to accommodate the reduced height you have above your fishing area when you are in your ice shelter. They are also designed with reels that do not freeze in the frigid conditions, and they have guides that do not freeze or break off of the rod due to damp and freezing weather.
If you want to bring more of the fish that bite your lure to the surface then you need to invest in a good ice fishing rod.
WHAT ABOUT ICE FISHING REELS?
Reels are not quite as essential for ice fishing as they are for summer fishing. In freshwater warm-weather conditions, you are constantly casting, reeling, and the ability to land a cast in the perfect spot is essential. You might end up reeling the line in hundreds of times per day.
In the winter when fishing through the ice, you are not going to be casting and reeling. The main purpose of the reel is to get your catch up to the ice in a steady way. You need a capable and strong reel, but not one that has hundreds of dollars of engineering in it.