Hold a regular fishing rod in one hand and an ice fishing rod in the other and you will find it hard to believe that the tiny ice pole is capable of the job. This comparison demonstrates just how unique ice fishing is. The small size suits fishing from a small opening on the ice and sometimes from the confines of a tiny ice fishing shelter.
The best ice fishing rod will also have good sensitivity to transmit the subtle nibbles from the lethargic and finicky fish in icy waters. It should be strong and able to drop and work lures vertically and haul even heavy and struggling fish through the ice hole against gravity. It should also be tough enough to withstand the freezing conditions and perform well, have a grip-friendly handle and be easy to use on the ice with the limited dexterity of gloved or cold hands.
So what rods on the market meet these conditions? Below, we’ve reviewed 10 top rated ice fishing poles that meet the above requirements and work great for ice fishing. Additionally, our buying guide makes it easy to choose the best ice fishing rod depending on the kind of species you fish for and how you fish on the ice.
Ready to get started? Let’s go.
How To Choose The Best Ice Fishing Rod – Buying Guide
Even the best ice fishing rods aren’t created equal so you may have some trouble deciding which ice fishing pole is best for you. Knowing what species of fish you want to catch or are likely to hook and whether you will be fishing on the open ice or from the warmth of a shelter is the first step towards finding the ideal ice rod for you. Keeping that in mind, pay attention to the following factors to choose a suitable pole that will suit your ice fishing style, serve you well out there, and offer the best value for your money.
Ice fishing poles come in different lengths to suit different ice fishing applications. The lengths vary from about 16″ to 42″, which is very short compared to warm, open water fishing poles. So why are ice fishing rods so small? This is because hard water angling involves dropping lures and lifting hooked fish through a small opening in the ice. There is no distance casting of lures and so longer rods are not necessary.
The rod length to go for will depend on the fish species you’re targeting or are likely to catch and whether you will be fishing from the comfort of an ice fishing shelter or in the open. If you will be fishing from a confined space, the four walls will limit the length you can comfortably use to between 16 to 30 inches depending on how small or big your shelter is. If you will be sitting or standing outside, you will be able to use the longer lengths.
The longer lengths are also easier to use when pulling larger fish. They give you more power and absorb the shock when battling hard pulling species. A shorter rod would require your hands to work harder in such a case and you would tire easily.
The harsh ice fishing conditions and vertical fishing technique require a strong and tough rod while the finicky fish buried beneath the ice require sensitive rods that can transmit the lightest of bites to enable you to set solid hooksets but with the backbone to lift hooked fish from the water through the ice hole and onto the ice.
Ice fishing poles are usually made from graphite, fiberglass, or a combination of the two. Graphite is lightweight, has incredible sensitivity, and is also strong. Fiberglass has incredible strength and durability but isn’t as lightweight or sensitive as graphite. To overcome the poor feel, fiberglass ice rods usually feature spring bobbers attached, which act as strike indicators. A composite construction that utilizes both materials offers you the best of both.
The action of a fishing rod describes how quickly the rod bends when a load is applied at its tip, where most of the bend is concentrated and how quickly the rod recovers once the load is removed. There are extra fast, fast, moderate, and slow action rods.
Extra fast rods are extremely stiff and only bend at the tip. Fast action rods bend mostly in the top third area from the tip. Moderate action rods bend in the lower half while slow action rods are the most flexible and bend uniformly throughout the length acquiring a parabolic shape.
Extra fast and fast action possess excellent sensitivity for transmitting lure strikes. Slow action rods suit small fish such as crappie and panfish. They also act as shock absorbers preventing hooks from ripping out of the fish’s mouth before they set properly such as when using treble hooks. Larger fish require moderate fast to fast action rods.
Given that you will be fishing with gloved or cold hands that exhibit reduced dexterity, the handle on an ice fishing pole is a very important consideration. The best pole should have a firm and comfortable grip. Ice fishing rods usually feature cork, foam, or plastic handles.
Cork handles are the go-to for ice angling as they are lightweight, soft, comfortable, feel warm, and add to the overall sensitivity of the rod making it even easier to sense subtle strikes. Some premium rods feature graphite handles, which are incredibly sensitive but very expensive. EVA foam handles are lightweight and durable. A split-handle design that allows finger contact with the rod blank when handling it makes it even easier to detect bites.
A well made and good quality ice fishing rod is usually composed of a blank made of graphite, fiberglass, or a combination of both. The other rod components such as the handle, line guides frames and inserts, and reel seat should also be well made using high-quality materials and designed to work well in the freezing conditions. The guides should be larger and properly aligned so that line can pass through smoothly without friction or twisting. The reel seat should be well positioned so the rod feels balanced and built to lock the reel firmly in place.
Whether you’re getting a ready-made ice fishing rod and reel combo or purchasing an ice fishing reel separately, the spool on the reel is an important feature to assess. Not only should it be a sufficient size and capacity to hold the weight and length of ice fishing line you will be using, it should be made to perform smoothly in the face of extreme cold. For example, it should have anti-freezing lubrication to ensure it doesn’t freeze up and fail you out there.
If you’re going for an ice fishing rod and reel combo, the bearing number on the reel is an important consideration. Reels are usually equipped with ball bearings to reduce friction and deliver a smooth operation. The higher the number of ball bearings the reel has, the smoother its performance will be. The bearings should also be good quality for them to serve their purpose well.
A lightweight rod is the best as it will be easy to handle even for prolonged durations. You will be able to fish for hours without experiencing fatigue. A heavy rod will tire you fast and leave you with aching wrists and shoulders. The rod shouldn’t sacrifice quality and durability though. Graphite rods are the lightest while fiberglass poles tend to be heavier. Composite rods are in between.
Another weight consideration to make is the weight of ice fishing line and lures the rod is rated for. Ensure that these ratings match the weight of the line and lure you will be using so you will have an ice fishing outfit that will perform well.
There are spinning and baitcasting rods. Spinning rods are easy to master and use and excel when using lighter lines and lures and catching small fish. They are the most popular with beginners and average anglers. The real seat and line guides are on the underside of spinning rods as the spinning reel is mounted beneath the rod.
Baitcasting rods are best suited for throwing heavier lines and lures when going for big game fish. They offer the angler more power, control, and accuracy but are harder to master, as they are prone to line tangles referred to as birds nests when handled by inexperienced hands. The reel seat and guides are on the top side as the baitcasting reel is mounted on the top side of the rod.
Durability is an essential feature in a winter weather fishing rod. How durable an ice fishing pole is will depend on the materials it is made from, how well it is constructed and the quality of its components such as guides and reel seats. Fiberglass construction is the most durable but graphite is also strong and long-lasting when used for lighter applications. Composite rods built using the two materials are also strong and durable.
Ease Of Use
The best ice fishing pole is easy to use and performs well in the harsh conditions. The quantity and quality of lines guides or eyes on the rod will affect how easy the rod is to use. The more the guides on the rod, the smoother the rod bend and line flow will be. The line guides should also be large so as to be easy to use with ice-beaded lines. The eyes should also be well aligned along the length of the rod.
In order to be easy to use, the rod should also be lightweight, have a balanced feel, and feature a grip-friendly handle. Longer ice poles are easier to use when hauling bigger fish as they give you more power and control and absorb some of the shock from the fight.
Comfort is very important when fishing in the winter. A good ice fishing rod should be comfortable to fish with. It should be well built so it feels light and balanced in the hand no matter how rugged it is. The handle should offer a firm yet comfortable grip. Cork handles are great as they feel soft, comfortable, and warm in the hand.
You want to end up with a rod that is high quality, performs well, and will serve you for a long time. A top quality ice fishing rod that is offered at a great price is always a winner. Being on a tight budget doesn’t mean that you have to settle for low quality poles that will disappoint you on the ice. All the best ice fishing rods we’ve reviewed offer great value for money as they are well made for long lasting service using good quality materials, perform well, and they all have accessible price tags.
Q: What Are The Benefits of Ice Fishing?
Just like skiing, snowboarding, sledding, ice skating, ice climbing, and other winter sports, ice fishing is a fun and exciting adventure. It is true that it is a risky activity but it is the risks and challenges that make it such a thrill.
One of the benefits of ice fishing is that you get to go home with dinner. Ice fishing is an opportunity to fish for species like walleye, trout, bluegill, panfish, perch, crappie, and pike. Being out there surrounded by a vast expanse of frozen water can be very relaxing and therapeutic giving you an opportunity to be contemplative as you wait for finicky fish to study and contemplate your lure or bait and strike.
As long as you ascertain that the ice thickness and temperatures are safe for venturing out, dress to stay warm and ensure you’re not alone on the ice, ice fishing is an exciting and rewarding winter activity with a lot of benefits to enjoy.
Q: What Does It Mean To Choose The Right Size Of A Fishing Rod?
When it comes to hard water angling, choosing the right size of a fishing rod means that you choose the right length of fishing rod depending on whether you will be fishing from inside an ice hut or in the open and depending on whether you’re likely to hook and have to pull small, medium, or larger fish. It also means that you get a fishing rod whose fishing line pound test and lure weight ratings match the fishing line test strength and lure weight you will be using.
Q: How Can I Handle And Test My Rod?
If you’re in a store, you can handle and test out a variety of rods. If you order online, you will still have the opportunity to try out the rod as soon as you get it, as most online stores offer a refund period. To handle and test the rod, hold the rod in your hand the way you will be handling it when fishing and test if it feels light, well balanced, and comfortable. Inspect its build and components such as the line guides and inserts and reel seat to see how well made and durable it is.
Attach the reel you will be using to find out whether the outfit feels well-balanced. Test the bail to see if it opens and closes easily and works smoothly. Operate the drag knob to see how easy to operate it is. Grip the reel handle and ensure the reel also feels well made and smooth. If you’re satisfied, you can keep the rod and take it out with you on your next angling excursion to test its performance out there. If it feels flimsy, makes noisy, or feels heavy, you can return it and order another one.
Q: What Are Carbon Fibre Rods?
Carbon fiber is made up of very thin fibers composed of carbon atoms. These fibers are bonded together using crystal alignment technology, which makes carbon fiber incredibly strong. Carbon fiber or graphite fiber rods are high performance fishing rods that are lightweight and sensitive while being extremely strong and durable at the same time. This is because carbon fiber has a very high strength to weight ratio. These poles carry higher price tags to match their superiority.
Q: Why It’s important To Pick A Well Balanced Rod?
It is important to pick a well balanced rod for comfort and performance. A well balanced rod will feel good in your hand and be comfortable to use enabling you to fish longer without fatigue. Such a rod will also be easy to use and will perform as required when dropping and working lures and lifting fish. It is also important to ensure that the rod, reel, and line form a well-balanced setup that performs flawlessly when working lures, detecting strikes, and pulling fish.
Q: How Do I Know What Type Of Rod To Use With What Type Of Fish?
In order to know what type of rod to use with what type of fish, you first need to determine the species and size of the fish you’re going for or are likely to hook given where you will be fishing. This will determine the length and power rating the rod to use should have.
If you’re fishing for small fish like panfish and crappie, a shorter rod with ultra-light or light power rating will be sufficient. The best ice fishing rods for walleye, pike, trout and other medium sized fish are medium lengths with medium to medium-heavy power rating. Muskie and lake trout ice fishing rods should be longer with heavy power ratings so they have the backbone to lift the larger fish and give you more control when pulling the hooked and resisting fish.
Globo Surf Overview
Ice fishing is an exciting and rewarding winter pastime. However, it involves venturing out in the midst of subzero temperatures and harsh conditions and having the best gear is crucial to make the most out of it. An ice fishing rod is one of the most important equipment as it is what you use to drop and work your lures, you rely on it to feel for bites so you can set hooks correctly, and use it to lift what you hook through the ice hole. The kind of ice fishing pole you have will determine whether you will have a great time and have fish to show for your risky venture or will go home with cold, empty hands and a sour mood.
Our ice fishing poles reviews feature top rated ice fishing rods by reputable brands like Fenwick, Shakespeare, Berkley, Celsius, Frabill, and Fiblink rods. You can’t go wrong with these. More you can consider include St, Croix ice fishing rods, ice fishing noodle rods and custom made ones. We hope our review and buying guide will make it easier to pick the right rod for the type of fishing you will be doing on the ice.
Having the best ice fishing rod equips you for successful and enjoyable ice fishing expeditions. Ensure you get a well-matched ice fishing reel, spool it with the best suitable line and use the best lures for optimal performance catching fish in icy waters. Remember to keep warm and safe out there!
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Which of the ice fishing rods on our list is your favorite? We would love to read your thoughts or experience with the ice fishing poles we’ve reviewed! Let us know in the comments box below!