To solve the biggest conflict upon the best ice fishing reels i.e. either it’s a spinning reel best for ice fishing or the in-line ice fishing reels are the perfect pick! As other types of reels aren’t a good choice for this type of fishing.
We have listed some of the top recommended ice reels to tackle hard water and extreme weather conditions. Both types of reels are perfect but you should know when to pick which.
Of course, you are spending your time and money, so you should end up with the best ice fishing reel that is the perfect pair for your ice fishing rods. Whether it’s an upgrade of ice reels or finding as a beginner, I am sure you will find the optimal pick for this fishing season.
Best Inline ice fishing reels
- 13 FISHING Inline Ice Fishing Reels (best overall)
- Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel (best for budget)
- Frabill Ice Fishing Reel (best for gloves)
Best Spinning reels for ice fishing
- KastKing Centron Spinning Reels (best all-rounder)
- Abu Garcia Max Ice Spinning Fishing Reel (best runner up)
- Pflueger MONICEB Monarch Ice Spinning Reel (best for durability)
- Clam 8480 Jason Mitchell Reel (best for smoothness)
- Daiwa Crossfire Spinning Fishing Reel (best for walleye)
Top 3 Picks for the best Ice Fishing Reels
- CNC MACHINED ALUMINUM CONSTRUCTION
- Pistol Grip Style
- 2.7:1 gear ratio
- 19” per crank line retrieval
- Graphite Body
- 9+1 Ball bearings
- Front Drag system
- 5.2:1 gear ratio
- Nylon body
- Left hand orientation
- Teflon Drag
- 2:6:1 Gear ratio
List of the best ice fishing reels
best ice fishing reel overall
13 Fishing is a popular brand for producing the best ice fishing gear then it’s a clear chance for ice anglers to find one of the best inline ice fishing reels for this brand.
These reels are slightly fast than traditional ice fishing reels, it has a gear ratio of 2.7:1 so enjoy fast retrievals with 13 fishing reel. You can retrieve a 19” fishing line per crank.
Enjoy ice fishing with a pistol grip reel as these shorter handles are easier to move with the wrist and never get in the way when you cast or retrieve.
Talking about its structural material properties, it’s a CNC-machined Aluminum constructed reel. So it is lightweight and still tough and durable. They are specially designed ice fishing reels to withstand extreme weather conditions.
The ideal reel for vertical jigging where you can also control the lure-dropping speed. This allows the controlled cast and pinpoints accuracy regarding the ideal water depth to hand the lure.
Carbon drag system, smooth drag with large bait caster style front adjustment, instant anti-reverse, both left and right-handed, reduced line twist, even line lay, and the ideal reel for lightweight lures, are some of its mentioned highlighting points.
There is much more to know about 13 fishing which will be revealed once you use it. This will be an expensive addition to your arsenal but reels that perform extra-ordinary and last longer are acceptable with this price.
The reels aren’t ambidextrous in nature either you have to pick the right or the left-hand orientation.
- Lure speed control
- Long lasting in-line reels
- Reduced Line twist
- Fast retrieving in-line ice reel
- Suitable with all fishing line types
- Expensive reel
- Not ideal for novice anglers
- Not ambidextrous handle
best spinning reel for ice fishing
If you are a beginner and just searching for a new and reliable ice fishing reel Kast King Summer is a great choice. Kast King knows what an angler wants and when. Serves a wide variety of spinning reels in multiple sizes.
KastKing Summer and Centron Spinning Reels are the best ice fishing spinning reels on the market. They are made of high-quality materials and have a smooth, powerful drag system that can handle even the most stubborn fish. These reels also have a 9+1 ball bearing system that makes them extremely lightweight and easy to use.
The reel is lightweight to pair with an ultra-light spinning rod because of its graphite body. Kast king makes sure to present its spinning reel as the best option for ice fishing, that’s why its body is covered with an anti-corrosion layer.
The major advantage of using this spinning reel is low-line memory due to its larger-sized spool. The front drag system is easy to adjust. The reel offers smooth and powerful drag performance with 17.5 lbs. drag-stopping power.
The brand itself claims that this reel can spool more lines as compared to other brands’ reels and I 100% agree with this and the credit goes to its lightweight but larger spool.
Its metal main shaft, mesh drive gear, and precision machined pinion gear are powerful enough and a clear indication that the reel wouldn’t disappoint you in tough fishing conditions.
Although the reel is saltwater protected still ice fishing spinning reels need maintenance before and after the cast.
- Easy front-drag adjustment
- Beginner-friendly ice fishing reel
- Easy on budget
- Covers more lines on the spool as compared to other spinning reels of the same size
- You may miss the smooth reel performance just like in-line reels especially when jigging as spinning reels are prone to line twist when fishing this way
best ice reel for budget
Starting with one of my favorite ice fishing reels i.e. Eagle claw. Its attractive classy body and top of all its smooth Star Teflon drag.
The drag on the reel slows down the rotation of the spool and applies pressure on the fishing line to control excessive line out of the spool.
This Teflon drag is easy to adjust but if you are a spinning reel user then it may take time for you to set. Moreover, this reel also features the free spool release button.
You can easily switch this On to allow the spool to turn under the certain tension applied by the angler. This also prevents backslashes and more control over the cast.
It has a nylon body and an aluminum wide handle for a firm grip even with fishing gloves. I wouldn’t say it’s the best durable reel body but can withstand weather conditions better than spinning reels.
As it’s an-inline fishing reel, its major advantage is more line capacity. With 4+1 ball bearings and a 2:6:1 gear ratio, this reel is perfect for jigging. The line goes out of the spool smoothly and easily. Noticeable reduced line twists and backslashes.
Overall, it’s a recommended ice-fishing reel when fishing with heavy lines up to 4lb. You will be in big trouble in setting drag when using lines lighter than this.
With all these high-quality features this reel is under $40. It’s a bang for the buck for ice anglers. If you are looking for a budget-friendly in-line reel Eagle claw is the recommended one.
- Budget-friendly in-line ice fishing rod
- Easy spool adjustment with free spool button
- Wide handles
- The reel body can be more durable to withstand extreme weather as it also features some plastic components
- Not perfect for lightweight lines i.e. less than 4 lb.
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best runner up ice reel
The important feature regarding ice fishing reels is the non-slippery handles. Overall in-line fishing reels cover this gripped handle property more finely but Abu Garcia is exceptional in this case.
It has a wide, and thick rubber-gripped durable handle. You can easily wear fishing gloves with this reel as it breaks stereotypes regarding spinning reels. In addition, it is also best for traveling as with a button push, you can collapse the handle and store it properly.
First, it’s a lightweight reel with a graphite body and rotor. I really like its body structure as it is durable, tough, and still light in weight. The reel is equipped with long-lasting components without any additional weight.
It is a reliable partner in harsh winter fishing conditions. Abu Garcia keeps in view the nitty-gritty details regarding ice fishing. To reduce line twisting and tangles, they added their patented Rocket spool lip design to the reel.
Moreover, the spool is aluminum material to withstand corrosion. Whether you are a professional or a beginner ice angler, the reel is designed for every skill-level angler.
You can easily set drag with the front adjustment knob. I really like the reel’s line control. With its slow oscillations while retrievals, and the perfect line management system to handle any fishing line type.
Overall it’s a good, durable, and one of the best ice fishing reels I have ever used. You might not like the absence of an anti-reverse off switch but cons are part of almost every fishing budget-friendly gear. (The anti-reverse button is available with some older models)
- Smooth spinning operation
- The handle can be collapsed
- Everlast Bail to improve durability
- Ambidextrous Handle
- No anti-reverse off switch
- No spare spool is included in the package
best ice reel for durability
I think I should change this list title from “Best Ice fishing reels” to “Best Ice fishing reels under $50” because majority of the listed reels in-budget and most are of top brands.
This time it’s Pflueger Moniceb Monarch. My saltwater arsenal is equipped with Pflueger reels as they are pretty tough and durable reels, then why not upgrade the ice fishing gear?
Moniceb monarch features a graphite body and rotor for required strength and durability. Heavy bulky reels aren’t the ideal pick for ice fishing and regarding this, I recommended this reel because of its lightweight structure.
The best part about these reels is the bearing system. Its stainless steel 5-ball bearings are durable, resistant to corrosion, support the smooth operation of the reel even under heavy loads and additionally withstand winter fishing.
You may like it or not but if you have the same structure in mind just like Kast King Centron or Aby Garcia ice reel, then you might be disappointed as Pflueger Monarch is bigger in size as compared to these two.
It also features a thick aluminum bail that allows the reel to last longer. I am quite impressed by its versatility, from catching panfish to trout, lake trout, Perch, and bigger walleye, this reel will be your best partner.
Featuring a 4.2:1 gear ratio which is a slower option and a bit heavier compared to other listed spinning reels but slow reels are not bad at all for ice fishing. It’s a type of all-rounder option with a rigid body for ice fishing.
- Can tackle heavy and big fish smoothly
- Durable ice reel
- Heavier than Kast King Centron
- Features no back-reel switch
best ice reel for smoothness
What is better when a product is designed by the experienced one? Clam Jason Mitchell reel is designed by professional ice anglers to deliver the best experience on ice.
You went to the fishing location, drain a hole to fish, and if at the end you are still empty handed nothing is more frustrating. To make sure this doesn’t happens these reels are properly tested before launch.
Within an affordable price, these high-quality reels feature graphite bodies and 5+1 ball bearings. Although the quantity of ball bearings doesn’t influence ice fishing cast but still more is better for smooth operation under pressure.
To enhance, improve durability, and maintain shape, the Jason Mitchell reel has thick aluminum bail wire. With a 4.8:1 gear ratio, the ice anglers can land any size fish with smoothness.
You can easily set the drag to 25% of the line test with the front drag system. Overall it’s a good performing reel, a good alternative to Pflueger if you don’t like its heavy body.
If you are a beginner searching for a quality performing reel or you are a regular ice angler fishing deep, the Clam Jason Mitchell reel is recommended option, and all without any spark in price.
- Smooth drag system
- Lightweight reel structure
- Affordable price
- Dedicated Ice fishing spinning reel
- Not ideal for heavy lines
best reel for wearing gloves
The major reasons swapping to inline reels from spinning reels is line twist and their freezing rate at extreme weather. Beside all the durability, you have to lubricate the spinning reel to avoid moisture absorption.
The anglers who want once for all ice fishing reel, aren’t good with maintaining their reels Frabill Straight is something for professional and line twist sufferers.
Beside all the basic quality features the exciting part about this reel is the bail alarm feature. Whenever the fish picks up your lure the alarm triggers you. A good reel when dead sticking.
A durable ice reel with a wide handle to offer a firm grip when wearing gloves. It features a free spool release button on the side of the reel to release the line without any tension on the line.
With this feature you have to be careful with lure drop also it’s a good point you have more control over the cast to reach the desired water depth. Free spooling leads to no line-twisting tangles and line memory.
Overall it’s a good tough ice fishing reel 3.7:1 gear ratio, a pretty much fast in-line reel with 5+1 ball bearings. Besides all this, the reel isn’t ideally smooth. I miss that buttery reel operation in this reel.
- Tough ice fishing inline reel
- Fast speed in-line reel
- Best for 2 pound test line
- Drag isn’t smooth as 13 Fishing
best ice reel for Walleye
If you aren’t a dedicated ice angler and searching for a fishing reel to support your regular freshwater pan fish fishing too in parallel also suitable for ice fishing, Daiwa Cross fire is the perfect match to your requirements.
This smaller sized reel is a type of that can always be in your tackle bag. Its smaller size and lightweight body is mainly its selling point. The reel is available from 500 to 4000 size reel. As you are searching an overall option, I will recommend going with size 2500.
This size reel pairs perfectly with ultra-light fishing rods. Daiwa is a well-known fishing gear brand so it wouldn’t disappoint you.
It is overall an aluminum reel with an aluminum handle and 4 ball bearings. The part I really appreciate you can cast live baits as well as vertical jigging.
With a 5.3:1 gear ratio, you can retrieve the live baits speedily and set a fast hook. Drag can be easily adjusted with a front drag system and an easy-to-operate reel for beginners.
The reel can face corrosion and rust if you aren’t careful with its maintenance and forget to give it a freshwater wash after use. The drag can also be improved but inexpensive reels may have some drawbacks that can be compensated.
But the feature that should be appreciated is how perfectly the line lays on the spool to achieve casting distance. It’s a good reel if you are good with the weekly maintenance of the reels.
- Easy to operate reel
- Not an expensive reel at all
- Suitable for live baits
- Not completely corrosion resistant
How to choose the best ice fishing reels
Before we dive into the buying guide for the best ice fishing reel you must be familiar with the terms “Spinning reels” and “In-line ice reels”, and the main difference among them so you can make a better pick.
Spinning reels or Inline Reels- which is best for ice fishing?
Almost every angler from beginners to professionals is familiar with the spinning reels. It’s a perfect start-up package for novice anglers as the easiest gear to operate and the favorite type of reel among bass anglers but is it suitable for ice fishing?
Yes, spinning reels are recommended reel for ice fishing especially when you are using live bait. The reel with better drag adjustments and is relatively budget-friendly than in-line reels is mostly adapted by anglers when
They already own one
Are more familiar with the spinning technique
Are tight on the budget
Casting live baits
When presenting their lure in a motionless manner i.e. vertical fishing
Targeting larger Ice water specie
When fishing with heavier lines than 4lb.
Regarding spinning reels, use ultra-light spinning reels for targeting larger-sized fish, especially when fishing 30 feet or deeper than this.
Moving towards in-line reels, there is no doubt they are more professional reels. The main reason for this is their quality performance and their line-twisting management. As the name suggests, the fishing line lays flat on the spool so it’s low line memory.
In-line fishing reels are more likely fly-fishing reels so they are free spool systems with instant lure drop speed and no reel engagement as the line leaves the spool straight while in spinning reels there is much reel processing before the line passes through the guides.
Moreover, we don’t say these rules are free from freezing but in-line reels are less prone to freeze as they have lesser no of internal components than spinning reels.
Anglers pick in-line ice fishing rods due to
No line twist
Large spools (more fishing line)
Steady Lure Drop
Low freezing rate
Which type of reel is best for ice fishing?
When you are targeting larger-sized fish, I will recommend you pick spinning reels because of their drag adjustments and fast retrievals because in-line spinning reels are ideal for pan fish with low retrieve ratios.
The ideal location for in-line reels is shallow depths and when fishing with lighter lines up to 4 lb.
Fast-speed fishing reels with high gear ratios are usually the best reels but not the case for ice fishing. The gear ratio tells how many times the spool will rotate on one turn of the handle. This also indicates how many times you have to turn the handle for lure retrieval.
Slow fishing reels and low gear ratios are preferably adopted by ice anglers as they don’t have to make longer casts to target larger fish as they are fishing through an ice role.
Following the dead-stick fishing and vertical drop, an ice fishing reel with a gear ratio of 5.6 or less is the optimal pick.
Spinning reels are more versatile in gear ratios. As 5.6:1 or higher ratios are available in spinning reels while the in-line spinning reels have lower gear ratios ranging from 1:1, 1:2, 2:2, and 3:3. When fishing 20-30 feet deep, pick slow retrievals in-line reels.
Ice Fishing reel body
Just like saltwater fishing reels have to bear the saltwater bruises so should have tough and rough bodies of durable materials same is the case with ice fishing reels.
Among all, graphite and aluminum fishing reels are the ideal picks for ice fishing. They are light in weight, corrosion-resistant, and durable to prevent freezing of line on the spool and other reel components.
When ice fishing, you don’t need the big bulky reels with bigger spools. It’s calm fishing, with no stress on the spool with lesser line twisting. At this point, I prefer in-line fishing reels. They have more line capacity than spinning reels and involve almost no line twisting.
Ball bearings are responsible for the reel’s smooth operation and reduce friction between all the moving parts. So more the ball bearings, the smoother reel you will have. In this way, ball bearings influence a lot in ice fishing reels.
In addition to their quantity, the quality also matters. Either it’s their construction material or their pattern i.e. shielded or sealed. Some anglers also say that the number of ball bearings doesn’t matter in ice fishing due to shorter casts but in my opinion, it still matters.
Ceramic and stainless steel ball bearings are both durable and corrosion-resistant. They are virtually frictionless and light in weight.
Summing all this up, fewer bearings are no problem at all because ice fishing reels come with fewer ball bearings as compared to spinning reels but if you have to pick between two, one with more ball bearings than the other, prefer the more bearings reel.
Generally, ultra-light to light power fishing rods are picked for ice fishing. So a lightweight reel is an optimal pick for this type of fishing. Picking a heavy reel will be a big disaster, especially in ice fishing.
Ultra-light ice fishing reels are easy to hold and cause no arm fatigue and support all-day fishing as you may have to wait for a long for the fish through an ice hole.
A frozen reel is nothing but a disaster, as the ball bearings get jammed then the things you will be missing is a smooth reel operation. Make sure to pick durable rods that can withstand extreme freezing conditions.
Some reels by default come with anti-freezing protection reels, you can also use some synthetic lubricants for smoothing bearings. Spinning reels tend to freeze sooner than in-line reels so lubricants are the best saver for spinning reels.
You ice fish mostly in zero weather conditions, so where the reels and line guides get frozen your hands too. Anglers wear gloves to prevent their fingers from freezing so ice reels should have large handles of diameter for a firm grip on the reel.
Ice Fishing rods are merely 24 to 28 inches long, so pairing a perfect combo reel with a 500-1000 size reel is the optimal smaller-size spinning reel for ice fishing with easy drag adjustments.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ice fishing is a great fishing experience and the best way to enhance your fishing skills. You may find it difficult to find the best ice fishing reel become of plenty of varieties in the market and the endless debate on spinning reels vs in-line reels for ice fishing.
Both are good but in certain conditions, both have plenty of pros and some major drawbacks. You can make the right decision according to your line, fishing location, and target fish.
Wishing you the best of luck!!! May you end up with the best ice fishing reel for your best ice fishing rod.