If you want to go ice fishing, a regular fishing reel just won’t cut it. You need the right equipment for the job - a reel that will perform no matter how cold the temperature.
The good news is that there are some really really good ice fishing reels out on the market today, and we’ve handpicked our favorite 5 to show you.
After these reviews, we’ve got a handy buying guide for you outlining everything you might want to think about before you buy.
And, lucky for you, following all that, we’ve also got a section where we answer a whole bunch of your most frequently asked questions.
Best Ice Fishing Reels - Comparison Table
Buy on Amazon
Best Ice Fishing Reels - Reviews
This ice fishing reel from KastKing is flying off the shelves at Amazon, and after well over 2000 customer ratings, the average customer rating comes out at 4 and a half stars out of a possible 5. That’s impressive.
There’s a lot of things that go into making this such a good ice fishing reel. Not least is the 500 size reel which matches perfectly with ice rods.
It has a high tensile strength graphite frame which makes it not only corrosion resistant, but lightweight too.
It’s got a superior drag system, with stopping power up to a whopping 17.5 pounds. This is thanks to it’s hardened metal main shaft, exquisite mesh drive gear, and precision machined pinion gear.
It uses an anodized aluminum spool, which will never rust, chip, flake or peel. The spool is light and strong and provides plenty of fishing line capacity, more than most competitors.
There’s also a super handy power launch lip for further casting.
There are a total 9 quality ball bearings at hand for use, plus an anti-reverse bearing too, giving ultra smooth performance.
With its unique design handle, you can use it whether you're right or left handed.
And we have to say it has a really nice finish too.
Now here’s a reel designed with ice fishing in mind! But you don’t have to take it from us - check out the customer feedback - after over 100 customer ratings on it’s Amazon page, the average customer rating comes out at an impressive 4 and a half stars out of 5.
Piscifun is a good brand too, offering the best quality in the price range, and they have great customer service.
With it’s high strength graphite body and motor, it's frost resistant and built for the harsh winter weather.
Another thing we love about it is it’s water resistant aluminum spool design which prevents rain, water or melted snow from getting into the rotor.
What makes it so smooth to use is it’s 5+1 ball bearing system with instant anti-reverse.
Then with its 5.2:1 gear ratio, it’s super easy to retrieve the fish. And you get superior drag performance, thanks to using double the drag surface of your typical fishing reels. The maximum drag is a very nice 12 pounds.
It’s a good little machine to handle lightweight, and with an extended stem that you can use while still wearing your gloves.
We love the black and red design, but if that’s not for you, there’s a nice black and silver option too.
This inline ice reel from Eagle claw is great - and it's super affordable too.
The Eagle Claw In-line Ice Reel has a real durable build, and is real lightweight at the same time, thanks to it’s nylon body and spool. It won’t freeze in frigid temperatures and creates less line twist than other reel types.
It has a 2.4:1 gear ratio, and a double paddle aluminum handle, to make pulling fish up from the depth super quick and easy.
It also has a smooth teflon star drag system and the drag is adjustable and can drag up to 5 pounds. It uses 4+1 ball bearings to aid the smoothness.
The spool tension is adjustable, for fish of different sizes and weights.
And the customer feedback is really positive, after well over 100 customer ratings on the Amazon page, the average rating comes in at an impressive 4 and a half stars out of 5.
It’s also listed as one of Amazon’s best sellers in the category.
Sougayilang is hands down the brand that most thoroughly dominates the ice fishing equipment market, and one of their most popular products is their rod and reel combos.
This model is one of the most popular, with well over 300 customers providing an average customer rating of 4 stars out of 5 on the Amazon page.
It’s designed for all manner of fishing situations, but on looking into it, it’s clear it’s well suited to ice fishing too.
Coupling a rod and reel together helps an angler get accustomed to the casting mechanism faster. But in keeping with the rest of the article, we’ll concentrate on the properties of the reel itself.
It has a whopping 13+1 Corrosion Resistant Smooth Ball Bearings, which is coupled with a Powerful 5.5:1 Gear Ratio for Ultra-Smooth Performance.
It’s aluminum spool is not only aerospace grade but is also frost resistant.
It’s lightweight and comfortable to use for long periods of time, and you can switch between using it right handed or left handed.
It comes as part of a complete kit, inclusive of 3 fishing lures and a 110 yards line.
It even comes with a 1 year warranty to boot!
This beauty from Sougayilang is one of Amazon’s best sellers in the ice fishing reels category, and after well over 400 customer ratings, the average customer rating on the Amazon page, still comes in at an impressive 4 and a half stars out of 5.
First off it provides ultra smooth performance, thanks to its 13+1 corrosion resistant smooth ball bearings and one instant stop one-way anti-reverse bearing.
You get a powerful drag system too, with it’s precision brass gears, and hardened metal main shaft, great mesh drive gear and precision machined pinion gear.
With it’s hollow frame design it's real lightweight.
The durable aluminum handle can be used by right handers and left handers alike, or you can change hands if your arms start to tire.
In addition to the aluminum spool, you also get a spare graphite spool.
You might notice that on the Amazon page it’s suggested for use in many different scenarios, but although it’s use for ice fishing isn’t pointed out here, we’ve done our homework on it and it is perfectly suited to ice fishing.
Best Ice Fishing Reels - Buyers Guide
In sum, a good ice fishing reel is freeze resistant, of good build quality and will have a good gear ratio and number of bearings.
Let’s go though everything bit by bit.
Materials and Durability
Your ice fishing reel needs to be more frost resistant than your typical fishing reels. As such, an aluminum, graphite material would be a good fit. These materials are not only well suited to the cold, being corrosion resistant, but also cope well with drops or falls.
The materials need to be sufficiently lightweight, and resistant to rust and abrasion.
You will need a very long reel since when you’re ice fishing the line has to go down to a much lower depth. So the spool needs to be able to hold more line than a normal fishing reel.
Inline reels are the best for ice fishing - an inline reel rolls the line around the spool in a straight fashion, and so they eliminate line twisting completely. This means you get a tauter line with more sensitivity for the jig.
When you’re ice fishing there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll be wearing thick gloves, and your reel handle will have to accommodate this. This is why the manufacturers make oversized handles for ice fishing reels.
The other advantage of this is that larger handles bring more cranking power due to the increased torque. The handle should also use a non slip material for good grip.
Bearings sit inside your reel and help it to function properly. The more bearings that are in the reel, the smoother it will work. If there are too few bearings, the line will catch on winding due to the high pressure on it, which could lead to losing your fish, or worse, break the line.
Our recommendation is that you go for a reel that has at least 4 bearings.
Drag System Capacity
We also recommend that you go for a reel with adjustable drag, so that when you’re pulling the fish out of the water you can adjust the degree of line tension. Having adjustable drag means you get more versatility with regards to the size and weight of the fish you catch.
Using frost resistant materials and parts should prevent the reel from seizing when frozen. If for whatever reason you’re not using adequately frost resistant materials, then you will need to take antifreeze with you to counteract this phenomenon.
You will want your reel to sit comfortably in your gloved hands. It will be easier on your wrists as you hold your equipment if your reel is relatively lightweight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are ice fishing reels different?
Many anglers choose to use their regular fishing reel when they go ice fishing, and this is fine to do provided that the reel is frost resistant and can be used with gloved hands. We even feature some regular fishing reels in our Top 5 picks.
Where ice fishing reels are different is that they are purpose built for use in cold climates and harsh winter weather conditions. And you don’t generally need to pay any extra money for these features. In fact many reels designed for ice fishing are actually cheaper or the same price as many regular fishing reels out on the market today.
Can you ice fish with a normal rod?
The short answer is yes. You can ice fish with a regular sized rod and many people do.
What we will add however is that having a rod and reel designed for ice fishing has a few advantages that can certainly up your game. If you’re in the market for a new rod as well as reel for ice fishing, you might want to join the current trend for rod and reel combos.
We have one such rod and reel combo in our Top 5 picks, specifically our Number 4 pick, the Sougayilang Spinning Fishing Rod and Reel Combo.
How do you use an inline ice fishing reel?
We would like to describe to you how to use an inline ice fishing reel, but the best way to teach you would be to show you. So that end, our recommendation is that you go on YouTube and search for videos that will show you how to use an inline ice fishing reel step by step.
What line is best for ice fishing?
The most popular type of line for ice fishing has to be the monofilament line. It’s strong, durable enough for cold and frosty weather conditions, twists less, and has low stretch for solid hook sets and better control of your lures.
The next best option after monofilament is flurocarbon, which offers excellent line sensitivity, but unfortunately tends to coil up after being on a spool for a while.
Braid lines would be your next option. It’s advantage is it’s ultra small diameter, much like a strand of hair, and it’s lack of stretch. It does have a drawback however, and that’s that it tends to absorb water, so it's certainly not ideal.
What depth should I ice fish?
Our recommendation with regards to what depth you should ice fish, is to use the general rule of thumb which is to bait your fish at approximately half of the total depth where you are ice fishing.
And that leads us nicely onto our next question.
How much line should I put on my ice fishing reel?
The general rules of thumb surrounding the amount of line you should put on your reel are also related to the depth of where you are fishing. Specifically you should spool at least double if not 3 times the depth. However many anglers like to fill their reel up to capacity, or at least close to it.