Ice Fishing is an exhilarating sport. It places you in this entirely new environment, giving you access to rivers and lakes that you wouldn’t have had foot access to in the warmer seasons, and it totally challenges you and your gear.
You see, with ice fishing, you aren’t casting. Instead, you’re dropping your line vertically; that’s why an ice fishing reel is utterly different from your everyday one.
It is much smaller in size as it is ultralight, has bigger controls and handles, a longer stem, and of course, it must be shielded and sealed for protection against the harsh elements of this environment.
Throughout this article, we will break down the 6 best ice fishing reels in the market today, and why each of them has its place on this list.
Additionally, we have compiled a small guide to walk you through your research for the best ice fishing reel confidently.
List of the Best Ice Fishing Reels:
- Okuma Ceymar – Best Overall
- KastKing Summer – Best Budget
- Piscifun Lightweight Smooth Fishing – Best Drag System
- Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 – Best Rod and Reel Combo
- Piscifun Torrent – Best Baitcasting Reel
- Eagle Claw Inline – Best Inline Ice Fishing Reel
Piscifun Lightweight Smooth Fishing
Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2
Eagle Claw In Line
The 6 Best Ice Fishing Reels in 2021
1. Okuma Ceymar – Best Overall
This spinning reel right here is the definition of small but deadly, as it weighs only 6 oz. Its lightweight, corrosion-resistant, graphite body is responsible for this lightweight.
On the other hand, the spool is two-tone anodized machined aluminum while the handles are made out of black anodized, rigid, forged aluminum. The mentioned spool has an extensive line capacity allowing you to fish as deep as possible and go after a variety of fish species.
This combination here makes for excellent strength and torque while maintaining lightweight and flexibility.
The handles do not stop here, as they have lightweight EVA knobs along with an ergo grip handle style.
Another thing that adds to the lightweight of this reel is the RESIl. That’s Computer Balanced Rotor Equalizing System, which takes a lot of weight off the reel.
Additionally, the whole reel has been designed with a narrow blade body design, which takes a lot of pressure off of your hands, wrists, and forearms, therefore delaying the onset of fatigue.
The drag system is a multi-disc oiled felt one with a maximum of 5 lbs. Furthermore, it has a gear ratio of 5.0:1, with precision machine-cut brass pinion gear. Add to that; it has six ball bearings and one quick-set reverse roller bearing; the anti-friction system as a whole is superior.
This reel is compact, so it is perfectly fitted for your ultralight ice fishing rod. Still, to some people, this petite size might act as a con as it won’t be suitable for any other rod.
- Light graphite body
- Large line capacity
- High-quality drag system
- Superior handles
All in all, this reel is precisely what you would need when going ice fishing. It will not put too much pressure on you as it is small and light. Moreover, it has a robust gearing anti-friction system that will take the toll off freezing conditions in stride.
2. KastKing Summer – Best Budget
This is a great spinning reel for anyone who does not want to spend an arm and a leg on a fishing device. It brings an impressive package to the table with its blue-white look, which is definitely attractive and eye-catching.
The KastKing Summer is made entirely out of graphite, making it lightweight and flexible, while maintaining strength and durability, as it weighs only 6.7 oz. Also contributing to its lightweight is the computer balancing system that it comes with.
Moreover, the spool’s made out of two-colored anodized aluminum with a power launch lip for extra smoothness. Plus, it’s designed with specific grooves that hold onto the line and prevent it from slipping.
Furthermore, the reel is ambidextrous as you can change the setting of the hand from left to right to suit yourself.
This device has a hardened metal main shaft, with mesh drive gear precision, machine pinion gear, and a gear ratio of 5.2:1, making the whole gearing system a superior component.
On the other hand, the drag system has also been taken care of, as it has a maximum of 17.5 lbs, which’s pretty adequate for ice fishing.
Still, the KastKing Summer has been known to have some problems with wind knots for the first few casts, which can be quite annoying, especially to beginners.
- Excellent spool
- Great drag
- Prone to wind knots
This reel is an excellent choice for anyone. It’s budget-friendly while bringing a superior gearing system, a 17.5 lbs drag system, and a sleek, attractive design into your gearbox.
3. Piscifun Lightweight Smooth Fishing – Best Drag System
The graphite body and rotor belonging to this reel allow it to weigh only 6.70 oz, which provides you lightweight, flexibility, and comfort while maintaining excellent durability, and ideal performance.
The braid-ready CNC -Computer Numerical Control- machined aluminum spool can hold onto a significant length of line without slipping, making casting and retrieving a breath of fresh air.
The drag system here is the star of the show; it has a whopping maximum of 26.5 lbs. Hence, it can stop any fish from escaping sub-ice. This fantastic drag system is a three-carbon fiber one with a sealed rubber ring, making it completely waterproof.
This does not only expand the life of your drag system but the overall lifespan of your reel. Plus, it allows it to work just as smoothly at the end of its days as the day you purchased it.
Moreover, it has a gear ratio of 10 ball bearings and one anti-reverse bearing. Add to that reinforced alloy drive gear, reinforced body, stainless steel main shaft, and precision brass gears. All of these features make working with this reel as smooth as a knife going through butter. There is no glitching, no seizing up; everything is as slick as it gets.
The only downsides that come with this amazing reel are that the screws can be a little bit loose, and they need frequent tightening, plus the fact that it can feel a little bit greasy after heavy use.
- Superior drag system
- Suitable for salt and freshwater
- Braid ready spool
- Loose screws
- Feels greasy after heavy use
With a drag system like the one on the Piscifun Lightweight Smooth Fishing, you can easily make your purchase without looking at anything else. Yet, this one does not stop at its drag system; it has a plethora of excellent features adorning it.
4. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 – Best Rod and Reel Combo
If you want to save yourself as much effort as possible and skip the process of pairing your new reel with either an existing rod or a new one, you’d want to go for a reel and rod combo. The price is a little bit higher, but it is nowhere near being too expensive.
Our choice here is the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 ice fishing reel and rod combo. This combo is one of the best combos on the market today, and it comes in a minimal weight of 5 oz only.
The reel itself is made out of lightweight graphite, guaranteeing strength, lightweight, and flexibility. The rod itself is made of fiberglass, giving the whole thing an air of sturdiness and luxury.
The spool is ported robust cold-forged aluminum. Moreover, the rod is designed with a clear tip blank, and one-piece stainless steel guides, while the handle is an EVA one with a twist-lock reel seat for a superior grip and extra torque.
Furthermore, this reel boasts a maximum drag of 6 lbs and a gear ratio of 4.4:1, so they are perfectly complementary, ensuring the smoothness of your fishing.
The deficits that come with this line are mostly related to quality control as clients have received their products with striped handles, broken guides, and broken tips.
- EVA handles
- Great spool
- Quality control
This combo is a great comfort, and you’ll get a durable piece of machinery that is perfectly suited for ice fishing due to its size and features.
5. Piscifun Torrent – Best Baitcasting Reel
The Piscifun Torrent is the only baitcaster on our list because baitcasting reels aren’t that common for ice fishing. Still, when the job requires extra strength, it is time for this reel to shine.
This device is truly extremely strong; it has a great drag system made out of high-end materials. It’s a four-washer carbon fiber one with 18 lbs as its maximum. On the other hand, the CNC spool eliminates backlash and wind knots.
The gearing system as a whole in this reel is taken care of down to the very last detail. Firstly, we have climate-resistant Japanese Hami cut 3604 brass gears, shielded bearings, a gear ratio of 5.3:1, and a brass pinion gear. Casting and retrieval have never been smoother, absolutely glitchless.
Although lube is not the most common component for an ice fishing reel, it’s present in this reel. It has a unique side plate port that can help any beginner to prepare their gear properly using lube.
Lastly, the handles are designed ergonomically to be larger than the normal; they can easily accommodate your thick outfit while you’re working.
Unfortunately, some find it to be somewhat noisier than average.
If you are going after a particular catch that’s going to require the strength of the baitcaster, our top choice would be the Piscifun Torrent.
6. Eagle Claw Inline – Best Inline Ice Fishing Reel
This inline reel is the first one that we’re going to meet that’s made entirely out of Nylon. Nylon reels are relatively new to the scene, but they possess many great characteristics. They’re flexible, lightweight, cost-effective, and quite sturdy. This reel weighs only 5.6 lbs for a very affordable price.
The Eagle Claw Inline Reel was designed with a Star-Teflon drag system. Star drag systems are easily adjustable, and this one is no different, as it has a straightforward knob that is easily accessible. Moreover, it comes with a line clicker and a maximum of 5 lbs.
It has an adequate gear ratio of four ball bearings and one anti-reverse bearing, which all work cohesively to support the drag system, and make your process as fluid as possible.
As for the spool, it is ideal for ice fishing as it is quite capacious and fitted with several knobs for different adjustments. It has a spool tension adjustment, which controls how your line descends into the water and an instant release button, which drops your line instantly and quickly into the water.
The convenience of fishers has not been overlooked when designing this reel. Firstly, the hand is made of non-slip aluminum, which maintains a solid grip, increasing your torque. Also, it’s ambidextrous, so you can switch it from one side to another to suit your dominant hand.
The downsides that come with this reel include some internal plastic components and the fact that people still doubt Nylon’s durability and strength due to its novelty.
- Nylon structure
- Large spool
- Star-Teflon drag system
- Ambidextrous handle
- Internal plastic parts
This inline reel’s designed explicitly for ice water fishing. It will help you with vertical fishing due to its instant release button and the spool tension. Plus, the Nylon will give you a sturdy fluid performance.
What to Look for When Buying an Ice Reel
You’ll be using an ice fishing reel in a sub-zero environment, with freezing water, and strong winds. So, you have to go for something that is extra sturdy. The most commonly used materials for making ice fishing reels would be aluminum stainless steel and graphite.
As for aluminum and stainless steel, what’s common between them is that they are rust and corrosion resistant while maintaining a significant level of abrasion resistance. Additionally, aluminum and stainless steel are quite strong, while graphite is more on the flexible side.
There are many types of ice fishing reels on the market; some are used more commonly than others. Still, ice fishing has particular demands that go with its extreme environments, and that’s why only three types are fit for such a sport.
Even those three types are not used equally, but everything is dependent on your own needs and what you want out of a real.
Spinning reels are, of course, the most commonly used reels in fishing as a sport. 99% of anglers have more than one spinning reel in their gearbox.
They are smooth, versatile, affordable, strong, come in numerous varieties of shapes and sizes, durable, and possess strong drag systems. All of these features make ice fishing an excellent choice, as you will need it all when you are in such an environment.
Plus, they go very well with live baits, but they tend to be heavier as they are larger in frame. Therefore, they will put more pressure on your wrist and cause premature fatigue.
Baitcasting reels are the least used ones in ice fishing. Yet, they do come in handy when you are going after trophy catches. Giant fish will need a lot of torque, more muscular drag systems, and better gear getting systems to be able to lift it out.
Inline reels are designed specifically for ice fishing. They usually are smaller and tend to cope with the environment a lot better. They hardly ever freeze on you, so you don’t need to take time out of your trip to thaw or baby them into functioning properly.
Moreover, they are quite suited for jigging. Additionally, due to their small size, they are perfectly fitted for the smaller ice fishing rods. Still, they do have a long way ahead of them as they are yet to work on their drag and gearing systems in general.
Always try to go for the lightest reel possible, while still, of course, maintaining the options, features, and quality that you will need. You’ll be carrying this reel around in extreme weather conditions, so you don’t want to put on any unnecessary weight.
Furthermore, you will be dressed in a heavy outfit to protect you from the cold, burdening you with this initial weight. You certainly don’t want to add the reel’s weight to yourself and turn your trip from exciting to tiresome.
The reel has to be designed in a way as to ward-off the cold and freezing water while maintaining a smooth process on the inside. That’s why many ice fishing reels are designed with a cover, especially over the spool, to protect the line and ensure it’s easy in and outgoing.
Also, the handles and any controls or buttons have to be large and apparent in order to accommodate your thickly gloved hands. Lastly, anti-slip grips are a must.
An anti-ice system is critical when you are ice fishing. Otherwise, you will spend your day trying to warm-up your reel to get it back on track. If the reel doesn’t have an anti-ice system, we would advise you not to go for it.
When you are ice fishing, you are not just fighting the fish; you are also fighting the elements of the environment: the wind, the freezing water, and the fact that you are fishing vertically with minimal visibility. All of that places strain on your reel.
Strain creates friction, which can easily be the downfall of any reel. Therefore, it must be designed to adequately manage and dispose of it and the heat energy produced properly.
Two mechanisms help with the friction and the heat produced from it: the ball bearings and the gear lube.
Ball bearings are the wheels working inside of a reel, ensuring the smoothness of the entire process. So, naturally, with such a component, the more, the merrier.
Still, the quality will always rule over quantity. Hence, it’s much better to go for a lower number of high-quality ball bearings than to go for a high number of low-quality low ball bearings.
What are high-quality ball bearings? You can go for stainless steel ball bearings or ceramic ones. Anyway, they ought to be completely sealed to protect them and extend their lifespan.
Stainless steel is the most common as it’s more affordable, while ceramic is more luxurious.
Some say that using ceramic ball bearings makes a world of difference, while others say that the difference is minimal and that the stainless steel ones do the job just as good. You can judge for yourself as that will depend on personal preference.
Gear lube is not something that all reels have, although it is imperative and relieves anglers of a lot of work. The gearing system is quite complicated as it has several shafts, plus the ball bearings.
Gear lube works on all of that and all the reel’s internal workings, preventing them from clogging and glitching when they are under pressure.
The gear ratio numbers represent the number of full turns that your spool makes per one full crank of the handle. So, in other words, it is the speed at which you can retrieve your line.
Although some people might be tempted to go for the highest gear ratio possible, it is not always wise to do that. With heavier catches, you will want to go slowly but firmly to pull it out without your line snapping or your fish getting away.
You might want to go for a maximum of 7.0 gear ratio to be well prepared.
Drag is an essential component of any reel, and a faulty or low-quality drag system is a deal-breaker. What it does is that it determines how much force the reel can take before it starts giving line.
Hence, it is that line of defense between the strength of the fish and your reel. If it’s not adjusted right, your line and rod might snap. No matter which drag system you decide to go for, you should always search for an adjustable one to be able to go after any fish species you want.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Type of Reel Should I Use for Ice Fishing?
You can use spinning reels, inline reels, and, occasionally, baitcasting reels.
What is the Best Inline Ice Fishing Reel?
The Eagle Claw Inline reel is a fantastic choice as it has a superior Teflon drag system supported by an excellent spooling system.
What Kind of Line Should I Use for Ice Fishing?
Although each line has its own merits and deficits, we will have to go with braided lines as our top pick for ice fishing.
They offer zero stretch, low memory, excellent tensile strength within an ultra-thin diameter, and incredible sensitivity.
Those are all factors that will aid you greatly when dropping your lure deep in ice-cold waters.
To sum up, everything that we have mentioned in this article, ice fishing is an amazing sport. It changes the game through the thick outfits that you have to be wearing, finding shelter, fishing vertically, and minimizing your visibility.
Still, as always, with the right gear, everything works smoothly. Hence, if you want a reel that is on point for ice fishing, then our top pick among the best ice fishing reels in this list, the Okuma Ceymar, would be a fantastic choice.
If you are going after more massive, pride inspiring catches, you will definitely need a bait caster, and our top pick for an ice fishing baitcasting reel would be the Piscifun Torrent.
Lastly, if you do not want to break the bank on an ice fishing reel, then the KastKing Summer is a cost-effective option while maintaining excellent capabilities.