Ice fishing has become a popular sport in northern areas and is great for allowing fisherman to enjoy their sport all year round. Like with any outdoor winter activity, having the right gear couldn’t be more important. While you have likely packed your ice fishing boots and found the best shelter on the market, it is important to consider the gear you bring for fishing as well.

While you have likely thought of packing gloves designed for ice fishing specifically, you may not realize that it is important to have fishing gear that is designed to handle these sorts of harsh conditions. One of the most important considerations in your fishing setup, besides having a high quality fishing line, is to have a reel that is specifically designed for ice fishing.

The best ice fishing reels are those that still provide superior performance, despite the low temperatures. Due to the freezing temperatures, you may experience some difficulty with the sensitivity of the line.

Ice fishing can be an incredibly fun sport as it allows you access to areas of the lake that you would not have foot access to in warmer months. When making your selection, know that finding the best reel for ice fishing doesn’t have to be difficult, despite the many options available on the market.

To start with, we recommend gaining a good knowledge of what to look for in your reel. You will then need to know the differences between regular reels and ones that are built for colder weather. Knowing what to look for will help you to make the most informed decision. To start, let’s take a look at some high quality options.

Ready to get started? Let’s go.

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How To Choose The Best Ice Fishing Reel – Buying Guide

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Before you decide on the best ice fishing reel for you, there are some features you will want to consider. Knowing the specs of your reel is important as it will determine the quality of your fishing experience.

While knowing the gear ratio and the number of bearings is important, with ice fishing reels it is equally important to understand about the freeze resistant technologies of your reel. Due to the extreme temperatures you will be in, it is important to ensure your gear will be able to withstand the rough conditions.

Before making your decision, be sure to consider the following aspects of your reel. Understanding the technologies that go into your reel will make for a more thorough understanding of your fishing experience.

Before making your purchase, be sure to consider the following key aspects.

Body Design

Ice fishing reels will have a different body design than other reels. The demanding environments seen while ice fishing can destroy normal reels.

It is also important to consider the case over the spool. A more robust design will shield the line from snow and harsh elements.

Spool

Ice fishing isn’t as demanding as other environments. You won’t have to throw casts so the spool can be designed differently. Ice fishing spools will more than likely be inline meaning that there is no twist when spooling. This means the line will stay on the spool better than normal reels. Another difference is that ice fishing spools will usually be able to hold more line than a normal reel as you will be at more of a depth.

Handle

Ice fishing can take place in near extreme conditions meaning you’ll more than likely be fishing with thick gloves. This means the handle will need to be altered when compared to a standard reel. Companies understand this and have created oversized handles with non-slip material to ensure you don’t lose your grip during extended battles. Large handles will also change the cranking power of the reel. You’ll be able to get more torque from the larger diameter.

Bearing Number

In all fishing reels, you will want to ensure that you pay attention to the number of bearings your reel has. The more bearings, the smoother it will perform. While quantity isn’t everything, especially in the case of ice fishing, you will want to ensure the bearings are made using high quality materials.

Bearings sit inside your reel and help it to function properly. Despite the drag load, the bearings will ensure that you have a smooth and free operation which is important when reeling in your catch. When less bearings are present, you will notice that your line catches when reeling in and can cause undue pressure on your line. This could cause your fish to get away or even your line snapping.

Drag Capacity

The drag rating is an important spec to pay attention to, just as with all other types of fishing. Dragging is involved in reeling your catch out of the water. The weight is how much tension is on the line while retrieving your catch and determines the size of the fish you can catch with the reel. You may want to consider a reel that is adjustable. This will allow you greater versatility to be able to catch many different species of fish and make your reels function go further.

Anti-Ice System

This is a feature that is specific solely to ice fishing. The anti-ice system, as the name suggests, this refers to the materials used in your reel to avoid it from seizing when frozen. As you will be spending your time in below freezing conditions, this is important as it will ensure that your reel still works properly regardless of the low temperatures. Inline reels excel in this department. If your reel does not have this feature, you will want to ensure that you have antifreeze paste on hand to help keep your gear functioning as needed.

Durability

The last thing you will want to worry about when you are out in the freezing temperatures is babying your gear. For this reason, having gear that is rugged enough to last rough outdoor use is important. As with all winter gear, it will likely take a beating. The extreme temperatures can wreak havoc on your gear, especially when using it in salt water. For this reason, finding gear that will last in these harsh conditions is important.

When checking the durability of your rod, you will want to specifically look at the materials used to make your reel. Ensuring your gear is freeze resistant will ensure that it will still provide superior performance despite the cold conditions. Finding metal materials such as aluminum and a tough graphite will provide the best performance.

Reduced Friction

Cold conditions can have serious negative effects on the gearing of ice fishing reels. To combat this, companies use cold gear lube which makes the gears able to withstand extreme conditions. Normal rods don’t use lubricants that can withstand freezing temperatures and can break the rod.

Weight

As you will be in cold weather, and likely wearing some heavy duty gear, it is best to get a lightweight reel. This is more of a general rule for all fishing reels rather than specifically for ice fishing. A reel that is lightweight will sit more comfortably in your hand, be easier on your wrist, and is better for long term holding. This becomes even more important when wearing thick gloves that are already uncomfortable. A lighter reel is also much easier to store.

Material

When looking for your next fishing rod for ice fishing, you will want to ensure you pay close attention to the material that is used. Due to the extreme temperatures you will be fishing in, you will need materials that are a bit more heavy duty in design so that they are able to handle the low temperatures.

In short, your other fishing reels will likely not work well for this cold weather fishing. Your ice fishing reel needs to be more specialized than your average reel. Materials that are more durable, such as aluminum and graphite, work well for ice fishing. Not only are these materials able to take more of a punch, they are corrosion resistant which will be needed in these types of conditions.

Metals work best for this type of fishing but you want to ensure the metal carries a lightweight design. This is why graphite is one of the most appealing metals. You need your rod to be abrasion and rust resistant so that it doesn’t crack in the cold conditions.

Design

The ideal ice fishing reel will have the best combination of these features that best suit your use. You should look for a reel that has been tailored to not only the fish you’re looking to catch but also the location and conditions. For example, you will want to use a reel that has a cover if you’re ice fishing without an ice shelter.

With all that being said, the rod should also look the part. If this matters to you take a look at some photos to get a better idea of how it’ll fit your style. This shouldn’t be your main priority though as the features that make a reel functional will seriously affect your fishing time.

FAQs

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Q: What Type Of Reel Should I Use For Ice Fishing?

A: Most commonly, there are three types of reels considered amongst most ice fishers: spinning reels, inline reels and baitcast reels. Out of the three, spinning reels and inline reels are the most popular choices and therefore the ones that hold primary focus. Baitcast reels are typically only used by deep water fishing or for very large catch such as lake trout.

Spinning reels are by far the most popular reel type to go for. As ice fishing rods are smaller than regular, you will require a smaller reel. Consider a compact ultralight model that sits below a 2500 model number (or 25). This will be the most ideal for your fishing and create the best balance.

Inline reels, while less popular, are still widely used. This type of reel is very similar to a fly fishing reel both in style and function making them a popular choice amongst fly fisherman. This type of reel is quickly growing in popularity.

Q: Can I Use A Regular Reel For Ice Fishing?

A: You can use a regular reel for ice fishing, but it may not work for long. Ice fishing takes place in extreme weather which means the reel needs to be specially designed for these conditions. The temperature will be below 32 Fahrenheit (0 Celsius) meaning the gearing should use special lube designed to not freeze. This cold can also cause regular rods to cease up.

Ice fishing rods also have other features making them easier to use with gloves. The handles are usually extra long so you can keep your fingers protected against the cold.

Q: Can I Combine Ice Fishing Reel with Regular Rod or Do I Need A New One?

A: Ice fishing rods have been specifically designed for the frigid conditions. You can try to use your regular rod but it will more than likely not last that long. For example, the gearing won’t have cold gear lube and could freeze in cold weather. This could seriously damage your reel so you won’t be able to use it. Also, ice fishing reels have been made with larger handles so you can use gloves when you’re reeling in your catch. Normal reels have a shorter length handle making it almost impossible to use with proper gloves.

Globo Surf Overview

The reel you use will play a direct role in the quality of your fishing experience. Having a low quality reel, or one that can’t withstand the harsh winter conditions, is a sure way to come back empty handed. Instead, having high quality gear will ensure that you are able to seamlessly transition to cold weather fishing.

Having the best fishing gear, specifically the best fishing reel, that has been specifically designed for ice fishing will help to ensure that you have the most fun day out on the lake. Combined with a high quality fishing line that can withstand the changing conditions and a rod that is built for cold weather, you will be able to bring home fresh fish all throughout the year.

Happy ice fishing!

More Fishing Reviews:

Are you an ice fisherman or looking to get into the sport? Let us know if this guide was helpful to you in the comment section below.

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Getting ready for ice fishing season with my new D-Spin Ultralight Spinning Fishing Reel By Daiwa!

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!