man ice fishing

TOP 13 Best Ice Fishing Reels Reviewed 2019 with Buyer’s Guide & FAQ

Ice fishing is a great way to be able to keep fishing all year round. Waiting for winter to pass can be tough, so I decided to pick up ice fishing a couple of winters ago.

I wanted to get a decent ice fishing reel without breaking the bank, so I did some research and consulted my fishing buddies.

Check out this updated list I’ve come up with of the best ice fishing reels of 2019.

Hopefully, it will help you make the right decision when it comes to buying an ice fishing reel.

TOP 13 Best Ice Fishing Reels Reviewed 2019

Piscifun ICX 5 Spinning Reel

Review: With a graphite body, the Piscifun ICX 5 is light but super durable spinning reel designed specifically for ice fishing. Its extended stem gives plenty of space even when you’re wearing gloves.

Its quick-folding handle is a really nice feature which, allows for convenient travel.

It has 5 ball bearings plus 1 roller bearing so it’s nice and smooth, plus its drive gear is made from zinc alloy, so it’s extra sturdy and will definitely stand up to harsh winter conditions.

Pros

  • Light but still strong and durable.
  • Looks great – comes in 2 color options (black and red or black and silver).
  • Super smooth.

Cons

  • Less versatile than some reels.
  • Specifically designed for ice fishing.

Takeaway

The Piscifun ICX 5 is a super light, super durable, good ice fishing reel.

Shimano Sienna FE Spinning Reel

Review: With 3 ball bearings and a special counter-balance system, the Shimano Sienna FE is a super smooth reel. It’s a spinning reel with a 5.2:1 gear ratio, so you can retrieve a deep fish nice and quickly.

It comes in sizes from 1000 to 4000. For ice fishing, I would recommend 1000. It’s also available in left- and right-handed models.

Pros

  • Great balance.
  • Super smooth.
  • Versatile.

Cons

  • Relatively lightweight compared to other reels.

Takeaway

The Shimano Sienna FE is a really nice all round reel that’s simple and easy to use.

Daiwa D-Spin Ultralight Reel

Review: With one ball bearing, the Daiwa D-Spin is a decent basic spinning reel that’s suitable for ice fishing. Weighing in at 5.9 ounces, it’s one of the lighter reels on the list, though with that comes some sacrifice in sturdiness.

Its affordable price makes it a great beginner’s reel, and it has everything you would need to start your ice fishing adventure. Because it’s so light, it’s one of the best ice fishing reels for panfish.

Pros

  • Inexpensive.
  • Super light – only 5.9 ounces.
  • Smooth action.

Cons

  • Won’t add much to an experienced fisher’s arsenal.

Takeaway

The Daiwa D-Spin is a super light ice fishing reel great for beginners.

Abu Garcia IceMax Spinning Reel

Review: With 3 ball bearings plus 1 roller bearing, the Abu Garcia Ice Max is a super smooth spinning reel designed specifically for ice fishing. It comes with cold gear lube which helps it perform exceptionally in cold weather.

The rotor and body are graphite which makes it super light yet still strong, and it would be a good reel for the big game. The bail is nice and strong too, so you don’t have to worry about it snapping.

Pros

  • Lightweight but super strong.
  • Extremely smooth.
  • Designed specifically for ice fishing, but could be used in other conditions.

Cons

  • Comparatively expensive to some of the other spinning reels on this list.

Takeaway

The Abu Garcia Ice Max is a great looking, sturdy spinning reel with superb performance.

Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel

Review: With 4 ball bearings plus 1 roller bearing and a one-way clutch, the Fiblink Inline is a super smooth inline ice fishing reel.

It has a sturdy aluminum spool with a large line capacity. The 2.7:1 gear ratio is a little slower than some of the reels on this list, but that’s more common with inline designs and will provide the torque needed for heavier fish.

It comes in left and right-handed models and the nonslip cork grips feel great and are super comfortable.

Pros

  • Heavy duty.
  • Good line capacity.

Cons

  • Heavier than some other reels.
  • Temperamental drag system.

Takeaway

The Fiblink Inline is a decent midrange heavy duty inline ice fishing reel.

Frabill Straight Line 261 Reel

Review: With a 2.6:1 gear ratio, the Frabill Straight Line 261 is a great inline ice fishing reel for targeting heavier game.

While it’s slower than some of the spinning reels on this list, it has the torque needed to retrieve the big ones. The oversized handle and extended stem make it easy to use even wearing thick gloves.

Pros

  • Heavy torque – good for big game.
  • Strong composite body.
  • Oversized design makes it easy to use.

Cons

  • Tricky drag system.
  • Designed to only be used ice fishing.

Takeaway

The Frabill Straight Line 261 is a light, strong inline reel that’s perfect for targeting big game.

Pflueger Moniceb Monarch Spinning Reel

Review: With a 5-bearing system, the Pflueger Monarch is a super smooth spinning reel. Its graphite body makes it nice and strong. The aluminum bail is a nice touch for extra strength.

The 4.2:1 gear ratio is perfect for ice fishing, offering decent torque while not sacrificing speed for those deep-dwelling fish.

Pros

  • Feels solid.
  • Smooth action.
  • Versatile.

Cons

  • Relatively big and bulky.
  • No anti-reverse switch.

Takeaway

The Pflueger Monarch is a solid all round spinning reel that will get the job done.

KastKing Summer and Centron Spinning Reel

Review: With 9 ball bearings plus one anti-reverse bearing, the KastKing Centron 500 is ridiculously smooth spinning reel that’s perfect for ice fishing. Its graphite frame is lightweight but sturdy.

Its got a nice oversized handle that makes it really easy to use. It has a max drag of 17.5lbs so you can still go after a decent sized game.

Its low price makes this reel one of the best ice fishing spinning reels for the money.

Pros

  • Great value for money.
  • Super smooth performance.
  • Versatile.

Cons

  • Might not last as long as some of the more expensive reels on this list.

Takeaway

The KastKing Centron 500 is an awesome ultralight spinning reel with great value for money.

Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel

Review: With a 5-bearing system, the Eagle Claw is a smooth inline ice fishing reel.

It has a sturdy aluminum handle and big, comfortable rubber grips. The oversized star drag adjustment is nice and easy to use.

You have the choice of four different gear ratios, from 2.6:1 to 5.1:1, allowing you to match the reel exactly to the type of fish you’re targeting.

Pros

  • Smooth drag.
  • The nylon body doesn’t get as cold as aluminum reels.
  • Choice of 4 different gear ratios.
  • Good value for money.

Cons

  • Nylon body isn’t as strong as aluminum reels.

Takeaway

The Eagle Claw is a really nice inline ice fishing reel with an even better price.

Shakespeare Glacier Ice Reel

Review: With a graphite body and aluminum spool, the Shakespeare Glacier is a nice sturdy, inexpensive spinning reel.

Its extended stem and big rubber grip make it super easy to use and there’s plenty of room if you’re wearing gloves. It comes with cold gear lube to maintain its performance in cold winter conditions.

The low price makes it an ideal ice fishing reel for beginners.

Pros

  • Extra long stem makes it easy to use wearing gloves.
  • Good value for money.
  • Versatile.

Cons

  • Won’t add much to an experienced ice fisher’s arsenal.

Takeaway

The Shakespeare Glacier is an excellent spinning ice fishing reel for beginners.

Celsius Blizzard Spinning Reel

Review: With 5 ball bearings and an aluminum spool, the Celcius Blizzard is a smooth and sturdy spinning ice fishing reel. It has an extended handle which allows a lot of room for use wearing gloves.

The 5.2:1 gear ratio makes it a nice and fast reel, good for retrieving the deepest fish. The low price point makes it ideal for someone looking to get into ice fishing.

Pros

  • Good value for money.
  • Fast gear ratio (5.2:1).
  • Smooth action.

Cons

  • Won’t add much to an expert’s arsenal.

Takeaway

The Celcius Blizzard is a wicked looking spinning ice fishing reel with good all round performance.

Himenlens Ice Fishing Reel

Review: With a 3-bearing system and an all metal body, the Himenlens Ice Fishing Reel is a strong and simple inline reel. It has great line capacity and a smooth drag system.

Three different sizes are available. I’d say go with the biggest to get the most line capacity. This will let you go after the big fish that this reel is designed for, making it the best ice fishing reel for walleye.

Pros

  • Super strong and durable.
  • Smooth drag system.
  • Large line capacity (220 yards).

Cons

  • All-metal body is relatively heavy compared to composite reels.

Takeaway

The Himenlens Ice Fishing Reel is one of the best inline fishing reels on this list – super strong, perfect for going after big game.

13 Fishing Black Betty Freefall Ghost

Review: With a 2.5:1 gear ratio, the 13 Fishing Black Betty Freefall Ghost is perfect for shallow to mid-depth (up to 50 feet) fishing. The low gear ratio boosts up the torque, so target the big ones with this beauty.

A graphite frame with an aluminum handle makes it lightweight and sturdy. It feels great, with a super-smooth, 4 stainless steel ball-bearing system. A really nice touch is the FreeFall trigger which allows anglers to hit specific depths.

It’s more expensive than some of the other inline reels on this list, but if you’re after performance, no others will beat it.

Pros

  • Easy operation.
  • Lightweight but still feels solid.
  • Looks awesome.
  • Comes in left- and right-handed models.

Cons

  • Pricey.

Takeaway

If you’re willing to pay a bit extra, the 13 Fishing Black Betty Freefall Ghost Ice is the best inline ice fishing reel of 2019!

Choosing the Best Ice Fishing Reel

Here are a few key points that are worth keeping in mind before you buy an ice fishing reel. Hopefully, they help you get what you want.

Spinning or Inline Design?

There are two types of reel you can use to go ice fishing. Some people use ultra-light spinning reels while some go for inline reels which are designed specifically for ice fishing. Inline reels look like heavy-duty fly fishing reels.

Both designs have their advantages and disadvantages. Spinning reels can be used in different seasons, and their design makes them less likely to twist and tangle the line, especially if you’re new to fishing.

Inline reels are much simpler and therefore easier to use and less likely to malfunction in cold and icy conditions. Plus they are specifically designed for jigging, which is the best technique for ice fishing.

sunrise on frozen lake

What’s the Best Gear Ratio for Ice Fishing?

A fishing reel’s gear ratio refers to the number of times the spool (where the line is held) turns per every turn of the crank or handle. For example, a reel with a 5.0:1 means that the spool turns five times for every single full turn of the handle.

Because you’ll be retrieving long lengths of line, you’ll want a pretty fast gear ratio to pull it in quickly. The higher the gear ratio, the faster the line retrieve.

You probably don’t need a 7.0:1, which is better for something like baitcasting, but you also don’t want to go to the other extreme of 1.0:1. Somewhere in the middle, 3.0:1 to 5.0:1 is a good gear ratio for ice fishing.

What Are Drag Systems?

When you go ice fishing, you want to match your drag to the kind of weight of fish you’re going after as well as the weight of your line. With the strong, heavy fish you might catch ice fishing, like pike and walleye, you’re going to depend on your drag system to do a lot of the work.

Spinning reels tend to come with front drag systems. A dial on the front of the reel allows you to adjust the drag. Fine adjustments can be made, which is one of the advantages of using a spinning reel as opposed to inline reels.

Inline reels tend to come with a star drag system. A five-fingered wheel on the side of the reel allows you to loosen and tighten the reel’s drag. While they aren’t quite as precise as front drag systems on spinning reels, the technology is slowly improving, and the more expensive inline reels are actually pretty good.

What Line Should I Use Ice Fishing?

A specific ice fishing line is available that is designed to work well in below-freezing temperatures. You can get four kinds of lines for ice fishing – monofilament, fluorocarbon, braid, and tip-up line.

Fluorocarbon lines tend to be very popular because of their strength, though there are good options of the other kinds of lines available as well.

A good tip is to get a blue fishing line for ice fishing. Fish won’t see it in the water, but you’ll be able to see it in the snow. Good luck finding a clear fishing line against the white snow. It takes forever trust me!

man ice fishing

FAQ’s

What is Ice Fishing?

As you’ve probably guessed, ice fishing is where you drop a line through the ice on a lake in an attempt to catch the fish that live underneath. Because of the inherent risk of going out on the ice, always make sure it’s thick enough.

You need the ice to be at least 4 inches thick if you’re walking on it, more if you’re using a snow machine (7-12 inches) and even more (14-16 inches) if you’re driving out in a truck.

What Gear Do I Need to Go Ice Fishing?

Because of the extreme conditions, ice fishing calls for a decent amount of equipment. First, you’ll need an ice saw or auger to make a hole in the ice.

Then you’ll need a fishing rod, reel, line, and bait to actually do the fishing. Then, because the temperature will often be below freezing, you’ll need adequate, warm clothing as well as good ice fishing boots. Some fishers drag a kind of structure onto the ice to sit in, often called an ice shanty, which sometimes has heaters and stoves in to keep warm while waiting for the fish to bite.

Some ice fishers use sonar or camera equipment to spot the fish, these are called ice fishing fish finders.

What Kind of Fishing Rod Should I Use Ice Fishing?

You only need a small, light rod for ice fishing because you’re going to be jigging. To jig, all you have to do is lift the rod every so often.

Lightweight rods are extremely sensitive and you will be able to feel any fish biting the bait. Ideally, an ice fishing rod is somewhere around 24 to 28 inches.

hole in ice for fishing

How Do I Look After My Ice Fishing Gear?

If you look after your fishing gear, it can last you a good few years. The more expensive you go, the more equipment is built to last, but even less expensive gear should stand up to a good few seasons.

When transporting your fishing gear, use mesh rod covers on the rods and keep the reel and bait in a tackle box. Remove any bait after fishing and break down the rod when transporting it.

Rinse it off when you get home, let it dry, oil your reel and store it where it won’t get damaged.

Summary

Now you’ve had a chance to compare the best ice fishing reels of 2019, it’s time to make your choice and get out there! Ice fishing is an awesome way to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.

Stay safe and have fun out there.