Best Ice Fishing Reels of 2020 – Round-up Review

Jeff
| Last Updated November 23, 2020

During winter, there’s no reason for you to give a break to your fishing interests. As long as you have the proper equipment, you can continue trying to get a fish to take the bait.

Now, beginners or occasional fishermen might not know that ice fishing can't be done with the same reel used for regular fishing. Ice fishing reels have been specifically designed to work in severe conditions while ensuring efficient use and safety. To make things easier for ice fishing enthusiasts, we have created a review list, which includes some of the best ice fishing reels. We will also be answering certain ice reel-specific questions you might have. 

Let’s begin!

Our Top Picks for Best Ice Fishing Reels

  • Best overall
  • Very easy to adjust
  • FreeFall Trigger System
View Latest Price →
  • Runner-up
  • Durable graphite body
  • Folding handle
View Latest Price →
  • Best for the money
  • Efficient balance system
  • Great stopping power
View Latest Price →

Comparison of the Best Ice Fishing Reels

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Best overall
  • Very easy to adjust
  • Features the FreeFall Trigger System
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Runner-up
  • Graphite body is very durable
  • Easy to carry around due to the folding handle
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Best for the money
  • Features an efficient balancing-system
  • Superior Drag System offers better stopping power
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Best inline ice fishing reel
  • A smooth Teflon drag system
  • Impressive reel body and frame
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Editor’s pick
  • Can be used by left and right-handed people
  • Extended handle makes for a comfortable grip
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Spinning reel is size 20 - ideal for ice fishing
  • EVA handles on the twist-lock reel seat
  • Stainless steel guides and ported aluminum spool
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Composite construction is lightweight and sturdy
  • Strong and durable, even in frigid cold conditions
  • Palm grip thanks to the spool guarded reel
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Ball bearing drive is smooth and efficient
  • Composite housing is strong and durable
  • Has been built for power and speed
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews

Can Any Reel Be Used for Ice Fishing?

When it comes to fishing through ice, the reel you end up using can impact your performance. Now, some fishermen might use a regular reel with a regular fishing rod or even an ice fishing rod. However, it isn't recommended for you to do so.

To ensure performance, you should opt for an ice fishing reel. When trying to catch fish through the ice, an ultralight reel is the way to go. Such reels tend to be cheaper than open water reels. Other than that, during very low temperatures, the grease on a regular summer reel does tend to freeze up. There's no need to worry about your fishing gear doing that when using a reel made for ice fishing.

How to Choose an Ice Fishing Reel

Before you go ahead and purchase an ice fishing reel, certain factors can help you make an informed buying decision. When looking at a reel, you should take into account:

The Type

The types of ice fishing reels include spinning reels (offers flexibility), inline reels (don't turn or freeze at all), and baitcasting reels (adjustable spools). So, depending on your experience and fishing style, do see which type will serve you well.

Type of Fish

Do you want to catch small or larger species of fish? Depending on the type of fish you're interested in, the kind of reel you opt for can make a difference. For smaller catches, you can go for the inline reel. A spinning reel is recommended for bigger fish.

The Durability

You should want your bought reel to serve you well under harsh conditions. It should be durable enough to handle sub-zero temperatures. One that’s made of aluminum or graphite will do the trick. Always go for models that are anti-freeze treated.

Less Friction

For a reel to continue working smoothly, it should have decreased friction. You should know that friction isn’t a reel’s friend. It can impede its smooth operation and negatively affect your fishing experience. Models with ball bearings help deal with friction.

Quick Take | Best Ice Fishing Reels

Review of the Best Ice Fishing Reels

It’s time for us to begin with our review list. We have tried to be as in-depth as possible. We have covered each item’s main features, pros, cons, and more so that you have no issues in making the perfect choice.

13 FISHING Black Betty Freefall Right Hand Hardwater Inline Ice Fishing Reel

PROS

  • Adjusting it won’t be an issue
  • Spool disengages with a single touch
  • Has 4 ball bearings to counter friction
  • Comes with an Instant-reverse feature
  • Aluminum construction ensures durability

CONS

  • Can feel a bit flimsy to some
  • Magnetic drop speed can be an issue
  • Entire mechanism isn’t made of aluminum

What Recent Buyers Report

There are a number of features accompanying this reel that was appreciated by recent buyers. Many of them liked how easy it was to adjust to accommodate their fishing styles. They also liked the aluminum construction and overall durability. They felt that it didn't give rise to performance-impending friction.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We decided to add this selection to our list because it ended up checking numerous quality-related boxes. We liked the company's FreeFall trigger system. It allowed the spool to disengage with a single touch. The fall rate can be adjusted without hassle. The instant anti-reverse is also a feature that caught our attention.

Who Will Use This Most

This reel is great for anyone who’s interested in fishing during winter. The overall construction and quality will make sure you won’t have to deal with any performance issues. The easy adjustability also makes it a good choice for beginners. It can be used by people who will be fishing in very harsh conditions.

Bottom Line

This fishing reel is great for many reasons. Not only will you get a product you can rely on, but it's also effortless to use. The rate of the drop can be adjusted to help you get the best experience while fishing. You won't have to stress even a bit about it freezing up in the cold. Plus, the lightweight construction makes it convenient to carry.

Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Fishing Reel - 5.2:1 Spinning Fishing Reel - 5+1 Sealed Ball Bearings- Ultra Smooth Powerful Light Weight Ice Reels (Black&Red

PROS

  • You can easily carry it around
  • Drive gear is made of fine Zinc Alloy
  • Features 5+1 high-quality sealed bearings
  • Has an aluminum spool that is water-resistant
  • Features a high-quality graphite body and rotor

CONS

  • Could have better adjustability
  • Rotor’s performance could have been better
  • Instant anti-reverse might not work as expected

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers of this reel liked the design. They appreciated having two different color options to choose from. Furthermore, they had positive opinions to share about the high-strength graphite body and the associated durability. Buyers also liked how the 5+1 sealed bearings were able to counter friction. Using it was easy for buyers.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The design of this ice fishing reel does help it stand apart from many competitors. Other than that, the body and rotor are made of graphite. Such construction aids with improving durability. So, it's an excellent choice for fishing in winter. You also get a lot of portability because of the deluxe folding handle. The spool is made of aluminum and ensures that water doesn’t penetrate the rotor.

Who Will Use This Most

This is great fishing gear for anyone looking for a stylish ice fishing reel. It's durable and, thus, perfect to be used during the harsh winter weather. You won't have to think about it not performing well because it won't freeze. It's also recommended for those who don't want to put a lot of effort into retrieving the bait.

Bottom Line

The second selection on our list is a reliable reel you should know about. The folding handle lets you take this fishing gear anywhere you want without it taking up too much space. It is easy to adjust, and the stylish design is sure to catch your eye. The overall construction is also of high-quality and does away with friction.

Pflueger MONICEB Monarch Ice Spinning Reel

PROS

  • Can be used by either hand
  • Insertion system keeps away tangles
  • Attachment to the fishing rod is secure
  • You won’t have to worry about maintenance
  • Gives you better control through the extended handle

CONS

  • There is no back-reel switch
  • Can be a bit heavier than expected
  • Folding the crank might be an issue for some

What Recent Buyers Report

Customers liked how the 4+1 bearing system helped improve their overall fishing experience. They also liked the graphite body and rotor this reel featured. The high-quality aluminum bail received praise, too. It was easy to use for customers. They also had positive opinions to share about how it can be used with either hand.

Why it Stands Out to Us

One of the features that helped this reel stand out to us was the durability. This particular reel is quite resistant to corrosion. It can also withstand accidental falls. So, it won't dent quite as quickly as some other models. We also liked the stainless steel ball-bearing system to address friction. The oversized handle is another feature we liked because of the firm grip it offered.

Who Will Use This Most

This reel can make for a great purchase if you aren't someone who uses a back-reel switch. It can easily be used by beginners as well as more experienced ice fishing enthusiasts. This item can be used by people who want a model that can be used by either hand. The grip accommodates larger palms.

Bottom Line

Finishing up with the final selection in our review list, there's a lot to like about this reel. This item can be used in the coldest weather without any issue. Carrying it around shouldn't be an issue. The fact it can be used by either hand makes it convenient for many people who are interested in fishing.

Best Spinning Reel For Ice Fishing:
 KastKing Summer and Centron Spinning Reels

KastKing Centron Spinning Reel,Size 500 Fishing Reel

PROS

  • A stylish and durable design
  • Can hold its own against powerful fish
  • Also has a one-way anti-reverse bearing
  • Nine quality ball bearings ensure performance
  • A great fishing reel option for those shopping on a budget

CONS

  • Drag might be a bit glitchy
  • Could be more water-resistant
  • Customer service can be improved

What Recent Buyers Report

Talking about the third entry on our list, this reel got positive responses from recent buyers. They liked the overall design of this item. The featured graphite frame helped it withstand cold temperatures. It was easy for beginners to use. Being light in weight aided buyer’s convenience when carrying this reel around.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We decided to add this reel to our list because of the affordable price tag. It surely is high-quality fishing gear meant for those who are shopping on a budget. The graphite construction enables it to work during winter. Also, the gear helps you fight some powerful fish species. The power launch lip lets you have longer casts.

Who Will Use This Most

This is a great choice for beginners who want to experience ice fishing while saving money. The value it offers far exceeds the price tag it comes with. It can be used by anyone who wishes to have longer casts. Plus, it can be used by fishermen who want to catch a variety of powerful fish.

Bottom Line

Wrapping this item up, we would like to say that this reel is a reliable choice to know about without being a burden on your pocket. The ball bearings ensure better fishing performance. It is easy to adjust. And carrying it around during winter won't be an issue because it doesn't weigh much.

Best Inline Ice Fishing Reel:
 Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel

Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel

PROS

  • Free Spool release button
  • Easy to make adjustments
  • Offers convenient portability
  • Easy spool tension adjustment
  • Features a Nylon spool and body

CONS

  • Might not be great for larger hands
  • Construction might need improving
  • Might not work well with all fishing rods

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers of this reel thought that it was a reasonably priced item that offered good fishing value. They had positive things to share about the overall design. They liked how it was simple in construction and easy to use. Many buyers liked the aluminum handle that was accompanied by a non-slip grip.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This particular reel stood out to us due to several reasons. The Nylon body, as well as the spool, make it a reliable option for ice fishing. Also, it will provide you with enough power to hold onto stubborn and larger fish species. The aluminum handle is also of high-quality. In addition, the non-slip grip ensures a better fishing experience even when you're wearing gloves.

Who Will Use This Most

People who will be fishing for larger species can benefit a lot from this reel. The non-slip grip helps make this option great for fishing enthusiasts who will be wearing gloves. Its lightness helps you to take it around without any hassle. So, it’s a good option to know about if you’ll be traveling. It’s meant to be used by beginners and more experienced fishermen.

Bottom Line

There's a lot for you to like about this reel. The construction is durable enough to let you use it during winter. Of course, you can use it during other months too. The aluminum handle and the accompanying non-slip grip give you better control while you're fishing. It can be used even if you're just a beginner or have been ice fishing for a while.

Best Ice Fishing Rod And Reel Combo:
Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel & Rod Combo

PROS

  • Classy black appearance
  • Reel with one ball bearing
  • EVA handle for optimum comfort
  • Aluminum material resists corrosion
  • Lightweight and durable aluminum spool

CONS

  • Tip is a bit soft

What Recent Buyers Report 

Recent buyers had a great time using this Shakespeare fishing reel. It has a long line with one ball bearing, which makes spooling easier. This is why people who used it for their fishing trips recommend it wholeheartedly. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

It has stood out to us with its thin and long stick that can take on all kinds of weather conditions. To add to this, it has an aluminum construction that never fails to add damage-resistance to a reel. It does not oxidize easily, so there are lesser chances of corrosion than with other materials. 

Moreover, this one has a comfortable EVA handle, which does not let your hand tire after a day of fishing. It also helps you have a firm grip on the line while you are waiting for fish to get caught. The overall design is quite lightweight, so using it does not cause any difficulties for you.

Bottom Line

To sum up, this is a nice choice for modern fishermen as it can work well in all kinds of water currents. The reel is fairly easy to set up, and it does not cost a fortune either. So, going for this one can be a nice decision on your part. 

Best Ice Fishing Fly Reel:
Frabill Straight Line 371

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

PROS

  • Very lightweight at 0.5 lbs
  • Instant anti-reverse design
  • Better palm grip and guided spool
  • 22-inch line retrieval in one revolution
  • Supports an ambidextrous orientation

CONS

  • Star drag needs more work

What Recent Buyers Report 

This Frabill fishing reel has impressed its buyers with its ambidextrous orientation. Unlike other reels that are for right or left-handed users, this one can be great for everyone. The reel also has a comfortable grip, which is just another reason why users liked using it. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

It has made it to our favorite ice fishing reels with its strength and reliable construction. The lightweight reel is simple to use and spool, which is why we like it so much. Moreover, it has a guarded spool, so it does not hurt your hand while you palm-grip it. 

In addition, there is retrieval of 22 inches of the reel in each revolution. Another amazing feature is the anti-bait alert switch that helps in operating the reel silently. This way, the fish does not get any forewarning while you are using this reel.

Bottom Line

To wrap up, this is an incredible ice fishing reel as it can work in freezing cold conditions. The spooling mechanism is simple and practical, so it helps you save both time and effort. Considering all this, your investment will be safe if you choose to buy this one. 

Best Ultralight Ice Fishing Rods:
Daiwa D-Spin Spinning Reel

Daiwa D-SPIN500-B D-Spin Ultralight Spinning Reel, 500,Black

PROS

  • Powerful digital gear design
  • Has a smooth ball bearing drive
  • Composite construction material
  • Ultra-lightweight at 0.01 pounds
  • Optimized spool size for faster working

CONS

  • Not braid ready

What Recent Buyers Report 

This one has struck a fine chord with buyers as it has a practical construction. It has an ultra-lightweight design with all the parts optimized for better performance and speed. The reel is quite powerful, so it works well for ice fishing too. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

It has caught our eye with its composite construction material. It offers higher strength and durability since it can take on most harsh weather conditions. Furthermore, it has a smooth ball bearing in it, which helps in spooling the reel quickly without any reverse drag. 

Along with all this, there is a digital gear design that helps in keeping things quick and powerful. The reel is very easy to carry around as it weighs only 0.01 pounds. So, you do not have to worry about any extra load in your luggage.

Bottom Line

The bottom line on this one is that it comes from a reputed name and has all the right features that customers demand. It does not take a lot of space either, so this affordable yet highly useful fishing reel is worth a purchase.

Benefits of Investing in a Quality Reel for Ice Fishing 

Investing in a quality reel for ice fishing brings many benefits with itself. While you can try to use a non-ice fishing reel, it won’t offer you the same results. Some of the benefits include:

Better Performance

Using fishing gear that has been created for the type of fishing you'll be participating in is the way to go. Utilizing the appropriate gear and equipment will help improve your performance. That's why with an ice fishing reel, you fish better during the cold. Such reels won’t freeze in colder temperatures. They also have ball bearings to counter performance-impending friction.

Comfortable Grip

Many of you will be ice fishing while wearing gloves. Using a reel meant for such a fishing session means it has been created to offer you the grip you require. Such reels come with non-slip grips and longer handles to keep you in control of the fishing rod.

More Power

Reels that don’t have what it takes to withstand the cold can break or not perform as you want them to when trying to catch a fish. Reels for ice fishing give you the level of power and control you require to fight larger fish during winter without your fishing rod or gear snapping.

Better Quality

Such reels are water and corrosion-resistant. This means that they can be used during winter without you having to worry about them breaking just as you have caught a fish or waiting for one to take the bait.

What Do I Need to Know Before Buying?

Before you go and purchase an ice fishing reel, we would like you to stop and read a few tips we have to share with you. We have created this review to help you select the best reel for ice fishing. We want your money to matter.

So, some of our buying tips include:

What You Want to Catch

What kind of fish are you interested in catching? Do you want to reel in smaller or larger fish? Not every reel will be able to give you what you need. So, you should always go over the specifications. We say this because you have to know if the model you’re going for can hold its own against the size of the fish you want to catch.  

The Overall Construction

The durability and quality of a reel can’t be stressed enough. You will be using it during harsh weather conditions. That’s why the said fishing gear should be of high-quality. Aluminum, graphite, and nylon-constructed reels can give you the quality you’re looking for. The one you choose should also be resistant to water and corrosion.

Is it Easy to Handle?

Of course, the reel you wish to buy should be easy to handle. You should ensure it will give you the grip you need, depending on the size of your palm. Also, the said grip shouldn't be compromised even when you're wearing gloves. Take note; the more comfortable the reel is to adjust, the easier it will be for you to use.

Convenient to Carry

You should opt for an ice fishing reel that's convenient to carry around. Those that come with folding handles do make it easier to travel with. Also, lighter reels not only help with transport but don't add extra stress while you're fishing.

Types of Ice Fishing Reels

There are multiple types of ice fishing reels that the market has to offer at present. Each one of them has its own perks, so different people prefer them for different features. So, let’s have a look at the most common types to help you choose one.

Spinning Reels

Spinning reels are one of the most commonly used kinds of reels. They have a flexible design that helps them adapt to several fishing conditions. They are quick to spool and adjust, so if you want to control all of the aspects of fishing yourself, go for this.

Inline Reels

Inline reels are not very flexible. But they have rigid construction and do not freeze even after hours of exposure to wind and cold. 

Baitcasting Reels

The third type is bait-casting reels, which are also quite common. They have adjustable spooling, so using them is well-suited to pro fishermen. 

Inline vs Spinning Reel for Ice Fishing - Comparison Overview

Inline and spinning reels have both been used extensively for ice fishing. They have their own perks and drawbacks. So, let’s have a glance at their comparison to see which one works for your fishing style better. 

Similarities

Both inline and spinning reels are quite lightweight as they do not need heavy gear to work. They usually have a practical build so that there is no strain on the users while they are out there in the cold.

In addition, both have a high resistance to cold. This makes them best-suited for ice fishing, so you can go for either of these if you do not have any strict preferences. 

Differences

The drag system is different for these two kinds of ice fishing reels. The drag system for spinning reels is better as it does not take much effort to unwind and spool. Meanwhile, the drag system of inline reels is less efficient but more cost-effective. So, the choice depends on what you prefer. 

The construction of these two is different because inline reels primarily have a jigging operation. So, their design is altered to accommodate jiggers, unlike spinning reels. 

How to Care For an Ice Fishing Rod and Reel

Caring for an ice fishing rod and reel is important to keep it going for your next fishing adventures. Keeping this in view, we have outlined the basics of taking care of your fishing gear here.

  1. Use a soft dry cloth to remove all the dirt from the fishing rod and reel. Begin with cleaning the reel and then move on to the rod.

  2. Then spray some detergent on a microfiber cloth (you can use a clean, soft cloth too if you do not have a microfiber cloth). Use it to remove all the stains and stubborn dirt from the reel and rod.

  3. After this, use a simple wet cloth to remove excess detergent.

  4. In the end, dry it off and store it in a clean and moderate place to avoid the growth of molds.

How to Put Line on an Ice Fishing Reel

Inline ice fishing reels are fairly recent, so most people do not know how to work a line through them. But, you do not have to worry about it anymore. Just follow the simple steps that we have jotted down here, and you will be good to go.

  1. First of all, take out the line and then insert it through the spring bobber. Spring bobbers usually have a small diameter, so you have to be careful with this step.

  2. Once you are through the spring bobber, run the line all the way back to the spool. 

  3. After this, circle the spool with the line and secure the end there with a slip knot.

  4. Now that you have secured the line in place, pick up the reel and start spooling it. Make sure you have a nice and tight drag to avoid any tangles or broken lines. Keep going like this till all of the line is spooled, and you are ready to go.

This simple procedure is sure to help you have a smooth line spooling experience. You can refer to this video to have a clearer idea of the process too.

Conclusion

We hope our best ice fishing review list and buying guide was able to offer some helpful information. Again, opting for a reel made for fishing during winter is an excellent way to ensure a better fishing experience. Always make certain the said reel is durable and easy to adjust as well as use.

Happy ice fishing!

People Also Ask

Ice fishing reels are an important part of fishing gear, right? So, people have many queries regarding them, which is quite natural. Considering this, we have answered some of the most commonly asked questions here. 

How Much Line Should I Put on My Ice Fishing Reel?

The length of the line depends on your style of fishing as well as the kind of water body you are going to fish in. Usually, a length of 60 to 80-feet works fine, but you can go for a longer line if you prefer deep-water fishing. 

What Type of Ice Fishing Reel to Get?

The most common types of reels for ice fishing are inline, spinning, and bait casting reels. You can go for any one of these as they are made with extreme weather conditions in mind. Spinning reels are generally easier to use, so if you are a novice fisher, it could be a better option for you.

How Many Ball Bearings For an Ice Fishing Reel?

Most of the ice fishing reels come with one ball bearing, and that works fine. But, to reach an optimal level of performance, you will need five ball bearings. Going above that will be more costly and tricky, so it is better to avoid that.

What is an Ice Fishing Reel Called?

Ice fishing reels are also called ice reels. There is no technical name for them, so just tell your dealer you need an ice fishing reel when you step out to buy one. 

What Hand Should I Reel With For Ice Fishing?

You can use any of your hands for ice fishing. Use the hand that you are more comfortable doing your tasks with. You can even go for an ambidextrous ice fishing reel if you are going to be sharing it with someone who has a different orientation than you.

Can You Cast With an Ice Fishing Reel?

Yes, you can cast with an ice fishing reel, too. It can be a little hard for people who do not have much experience in fishing. But, if you know your way through fishing gear, then you can do so easily. 

Is There a Closed Face Ice Fishing Reel?

Yes, there are multiple closed face fishing reels on the market as well. You can go for Zebco Omega Pro or Pflueger President Spincast Reel if you want one.

Can You Use Summer Fishing Reels For Ice Fishing?

Yes, you can use summer fishing reels for ice fishing too. But, they have to have high-quality construction and strong resistance to weather damage. Other than this, you need to have the right skill set to make your summer fishing reel work well for ice fishing too.

How to Use a Straight Line Ice Fishing Reel

Line the straight line reel by running the line through its rings and then spool it. Keep the pressure on the line balanced with two of your fingers to avoid breaking the line. Once you have spooled it completely, you can go fishing with your straight line reel.

                                   Share to Pinterest

Jeff

My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.