7 Best Ice Fishing Reels + Buying Guide

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For the experienced fishermen you will know that catching a fish often results in the fishermen having experience, a good reaction time, patience and knowledge. That being said a massive factor of the success a fishermen will have is due to what reel they are using. 

Fish in colder water are often not aggressive when moving about down below, this is due to them wanting to preserve their energy, because of this it is important that when you go ice fishing your setup is highly sensitive and very lightweight so it can feel the faintest of nibbles. This is where your reels need to be the best quality for the environment you’re using it in.

Obviously there are plenty of reels out there that you can purchase for your plans but we want to make sure that you’re only buying the best for your particular needs. 

With the information that will be supplied below we think you’ll be in the best position to make an informed decision that can take your ice fishing experience from a complete failure to a complete and utter success.

The list below will give you everything you will want and need to know about selecting the right ice fishing reel for you.

7 Best Ice Fish Reels

1. 13 Fishing Black Betty 2015

13 FISHING Black Betty 6061 Hardwater Inline Ice Fishing Reel

The 13 Fishing Black Betty is made from aluminum which is what makes it so durable during the winter months, it features a free-spool that will give you the ability to cast the even the lightest of bait very deep into the water while still providing you the ability and strength to reel it back in.

It gives the user a very comfy grip which is of high importance when fishing as you don’t want your hands to start to ache or rest uncomfortably. The performance of this reel is quite incredible, it is highly flexible, the reel is hugely powerful and can withstand a lot of jigging on the line. 

The large spool along with the inline design helps eliminate any chance of twisting. It is fitted with an anti reverse system letting you adjust it with ease along with giving you a reliable performance. 

Pros

  • No chance of twisting
  • Reliable performance
  • Comfy grip

Cons

  • On the expensive side.
13 FISHING Black Betty 6061 Hardwater Inline Ice Fishing Reel
  • CNC MACHINED ALUMINUM CONSTRUCTION - The 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061 Inline Ice Reel features...
  • PISTOL/PENCIL GRIP STYLE - Its incredible frame design allows you to fish a "pistol" or "pencil"...
  • 2.7:1 GEAR RATIO - Just engage the super free-spool to drop even the lightest baits deep, and use...

2. Daiwa Crossfire Spinning Reel

Daiwa Crossfire CROSSFIRE4000 FD Spinning Reel

The comfort of the Daiwa Crossfire reel is incredible, it is lightweight and very versatile being perfect for both winter and summer seasons. The reel itself weighs less than a pound, it’s made from aluminum and ABS material which although being lightweight the reel still feels incredibly sturdy giving it the best performance that it can. 

Speaking of performance, it has an incredibly smooth drag and isn’t difficult to adjust either. Regardless of the conditions that you are in, the gyro spin offers brilliant alignment. 

The Daiwa doesn’t have loads of bearings, it only has four that are marked, this delivers a feeling that is smooth and very well balanced.

Pros

  • Lightweight design
  • Inexpensive 
  • Well balanced 

Cons

  • Not specific for ice fishing
Daiwa Crossfire CROSSFIRE4000 FD Spinning Reel
  • 4 bearing System
  • One touch folding handle
  • Infinite Anti-Reverse

3. Shimano Ultralight Reel

Shimano SIENNA 4000FE, Freshwater Spinning Fishing Reel

Another brilliant reel, the Shimano Ultralight, obviously offers an incredibly lightweight reel. The durability of the rod is not hindered by its lightweight design as it is made from a graphite and aluminum blend that allows it to be as such.

While admittedly the strength of the reel doesn’t match that of a fully metal reel it is still strong enough to withstand the cold conditions. 

The performance of the reel is incredibly flexible. The spool on the reel is very smooth and the drag which is adjustable is truly a work of art.

The line management system that it has will allow you to cast much further out without worrying that the wind will cause knots in the line. It also features a Dyna balance which removes any wobble while increasing the sensitivity of the line. 

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • No wobble
  • Smooth spool

Cons

  • Will twist the line sometimes. 
Shimano SIENNA 4000FE, Freshwater Spinning Fishing Reel
  • Perfectly suited for everything from freshwater to inshore fishing, the Sienna spinning reel...
  • Encased in a new M-Compact Body that moves the oscillation gear closer to the rod greatly improving...
  • Equipped with a Propulsion Line Management System that provides longer casting distances while...

4. PENN Pursuit 2 & 3 Spinning Reel

Penn Pursuit II Spinning Fishing Reel

The Penn Pursuit reel is of an incredibly durable construction and it offers an anti corrosive graphite body. Which allows it to be of lightweight design. The tough graphite body is more than just for the lightness of the reel though it also makes it much less corrosive than aluminum reels. 

The ergonomic handle gives the user an incredibly comfy time while reeling it. Due to it being so lightweight it makes it the perfect reel for those who intend to be out there fishing for quite a long time. 

The line rings of this unit are positioned in a way that offers an incredibly enhanced performance by allowing the correct amount of line for the spool. It also has an oiled drag system which keeps it lubricated whilst keeping the level of smoothness that you will find adequate. 

Pros

  • Comfy handle
  • Smooth reeling
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • The pil may need changing once it has dried.
Penn Pursuit II Spinning Fishing Reel
  • Spinning fishing reel delivers premium fish fighting power for anglers on a budget
  • Durable construction with graphite body, aluminum sideplate, and graphite rotor
  • Oiled felt drag system offers considerable drag pressure without sacrificing smoothness

5. Frabill Straight Line 261 Ice Fishing Reel

Frabill Straight Line 371 Ice Fishing Reel in Clamshell Pack, Black, One Size

Frabil has been making products since the year 1938 which means you know that you’re in for a good product when you see their name above it. The reel in question is no different. It has an incredibly pleasing aesthetic design and also has an ergonomic handle allowing levels of comfort that previously may not have been met. It is also a really lightweight reel. 

The durability of a Frabill product is not to be questioned, although nothing specific  is available for what has been used during the making of this product it is very sturdy and offers a high level of performance. 

The performance of the reel features a spool adjustment allowing you to make it perfect for yourself. It helps provide an incredibly smooth drag. It is the perfect reel for a beginner as it’s not too complicated but doesn’t lack in anything that it would need to make it a good reel. 

Pros

  • Very Smooth
  • Aesthetically pleasing design
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Will need a lot of adjustment. 
Frabill Straight Line 371 Ice Fishing Reel in Clamshell Pack, Black, One Size
  • Spool guarded reel to allow palm grip
  • Lightweight composite construction for strength and durability
  • Composite construction won't feel cold in frigid temperatures

6. Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel

Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel

The Eagle Claw Reel is manufactured by the world renowned Wright & McGill Co who are a household name in the fishing industry. It is fitted with a non-slip aluminum handle which is also ergonomic. 

The reel allows for quick and easy hand changes, making it very easy to swap either side when fishing, allowing you to feel less fatigued and more comfortable. The reeling process is also a really smooth experience.

The durability of the reel is great as it is constructed out of aluminum and the body of it being made from nylon. This will make it perfect for being able to cope with the icy weather. The reel is also extremely adjustable making it all the more smooth.

Pros

  • Easily swaps from either side.
  • Smooth experience when reeling
  • Very durable.

Cons

  • Drag is not the best
ON SALE $3.00 OFF
Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel
  • Nylon body and spool
  • Smooth Teflon drag
  • Spool tension adjustment

 7. KastKing Centron Spinning Reel

KastKing Centron Spinning Reel,Size 500 Fishing Reel

The KastKing Centron Spinning reel is a brilliantly crafted lightweight product. It is made from graphite and offers a great drag system. It has an anti corrosive layer that will protect it from rusting or any other damage that things like salt water can cause.

The drag system offers a stopping power of 17.5 lbs making it a very good performing reel and one that you should definitely consider using. 

It is a spinning reel and is very aesthetically pleasing, like mentioned the lightweight of the graphite can help its user when they feel fatigued from holding it for long periods of time. 

Due to the anti corrosive layer it makes it a surprisingly durable reel considering it is of an incredibly lightweight design which may shock you (not literally) Normally lightweight products have a tendency to be less durable but that is not the case here. 

Pros

  • Durable
  • Anti corrosive layer
  • Lightweight design to stop you from becoming fatigued.

Cons

  • Doesn’t have an ergonomic handle.
KastKing Centron Spinning Reel,Size 500 Fishing Reel
  • GREAT VALUE - Loaded with features yet low on price. KastKing Summer/Centron offers the best...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT - narrow graphite frame design and computer balancing system combine high performance in...
  • HIGH POWERED - KastKing Summer/Centron spinning reel's Superior Drag System offers incredible...

Ice Fishing Reel Buyers Guide

Durability

Due to the extremely cold conditions that are presented to you when ice fishing it is extremely important that the reel you use is highly durable. Durability can be impacted by lots of things but the main thing that will affect how durable your reel is, is its ability to handle the cold weather.

It is imperative that you make sure the reel you purchase is made with everything it needs to be to handle this, this goes for the materials used and its ability to not rust when exposed to lots of salt water which will obviously be in abundance when fishing.

The last thing a fisherman needs is their reel to be very flimsy and not well crafted. The reels above are best suited to ice fishing and are efficient in dealing with rough environments that ice fishing requires. 

Spool

To ice fish you need to make sure that the spool is of high quality, when you can barely feel your fingers one of the last things you need is having to untie the line that seemingly keeps getting tangled.

A good spool will stop this issue from occurring. Spooling relies on the correct measurement of the line’s length and weight. Normally an ice fishing spool can hold more line than a regular one. The reason for this is because you normally fish at a higher depth when ice fishing.

The weight is based on how many pounds a spool can withstand. A good spool is one of the most important factors when ice fishing due to the weather having a huge impact on its ability, you need to make sure that your spool is perfect for your needs.

Material

The material used for creating the perfect ice fishing reel is of high importance, it can make or break how good the reel is. The reels listed above are either made from aluminum, graphite and nylon. These are all brilliant materials to use because they can withstand very low temperatures without presenting an issue.

The material can impact how much the reel weighs which will of course depend on how comfortable the reel is for the user, a lighter reel the better and a heavier reel the worse. It is also important that the materials used are durable, which won’t be an issue with reels that are mentioned above.

Handle

When thinking about the handle of a reel you need to think about two things, comfort and grip. The reason you need to do that is because a comfy handle will determine how long you are able to hold it.

Many of the above listed an ergonomic design that allows its user to hold it comfortably, surely there can’t be anything worse than holding your reel and finding that you feel the need to put it down every two or three minutes. You also need to make sure that it has a good grip that doesn’t feel like it is slipping through your finger.

Imagine feeling a nibble on your line and as you go to reel you have nothing to hold onto to help you reel it in, a good grip allows you to lean back when pulling in one of the heavier catches of the day without the worry of slipping through your grasp.

Weight

The weight of your reel comes with high importance as this can also impact the comfort you will feel and how fatigued you will also feel, the weight is determined by what materials have been used in the production process.

The above listed products are all incredibly lightly weighted giving its user the best experience while using it. It also doesn’t compromise for its durability either.

Many people think that just because something is very light that it is flimsy, this isn’t the case when it comes to the reels that have been mentioned above the materials used compromise nothing as well as making it an extremely light carry for those who use any of the reels mentioned. 

Anti Corrosive

One of the most important things to look for during your search for the best reel for you is if it will corrode or rust when exposed to certain elements.

Many but not all of the above listed have this so it is important that if you know that you will be really exposed to salt water on your journey then you should make sure the reel you purchase has this as a feature because it will be very important.

If the reel corrodes or rusts it can be rendered useless. The anti corrosive layer allows the materials that form the reel to be protected from this making them even more durable than they are anyway. 

Handling

The handling of the reel is again very important to take into account, you don’t want anything that feels very jaggedy when you are reeling something in. In the cold weathers a standard reel can often seize up due to it not being exposed to such low temperatures normally.

Sadly if you haven’t taken that into account you’re going to spend most of your time fighting with your reel. Which will take away from your overall enjoyment of your ice fishing expedition. The above listed products all handle the cold weather extremely well and are crafted with it specifically in mind you shouldn’t have the issue of the reel seizing up on you.

Drag

Drag is highly important when it comes to fishing and you should research it properly before making your purchase. Drag is defined by the effort that you will have to put in when reeling in your catch.

It is recommended that you pick a reel where you can adjust the drag capacity which will mean you can catch lots of different fish with hopefully only the right amount of effort and not an over the top amount of effort leaving you incredibly fatigued. Lots of the above mentioned have adjustable drag capacity but be sure to make sure of that before making your final decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best reels for ice fishing?

There are three different types of reel used when ice fishing: a spinning reel, a baitcasting reel and inline reel. The spinning and inline reel are the reels that are mainly chosen by experienced ice fishers as they’re the most useful.

We also have dedicated guides for musky reels and for walleye reels.

Can you use a regular reel when ice fishing?

It’s not necessarily that you can’t use a regular reel when ice fishing, it’s just that it is going to give you lots of problems when it comes to dealing with the freezing cold weather conditions. They can often seize up due the cold conditions making it an unenjoyable experience, whereas the recommended reels are perfect for the climate that you are going to be undertaking. 

Are the reels durable?

The reels that have been mentioned are incredibly durable due to the materials used for them. They can withstand the environment that you will be in when ice fishing and ofter lots of longevity. The materials used are also incredibly light so you won’t feel like you’re holding something very heavy which will only do your feelings of fatigue a favor. 

Last update on 2022-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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Ric Burnley

Author of The Complete Kayak Fisherman, Ric Burnley is a reknowned angling writer having been published in Kayak Angler Mag, Sport Fishing Mag, Paddling Mag, and Outdoor Life. Ric has entertained and informed thousands of anglers through his writing and seminars.