Best Inline Ice Fishing Reels of 2020 – Complete Buyer’s Guide

What's the deal with ice-fishing reels? Do you need a special reel for ice-fishing? Is your current fishing setup suitable?

For most people, a dedicated ice-fishing setup is the most appropriate option. Considering a lower entry cost than larger casting setups, most ice-fishing setups are simple, small, and easy on the wallet.

The reels used in ice-fishing are generally small and somewhat variable. Inline ice-fishing reels are favored by dedicated ice anglers. Inline reels are truly specialized reels for ice-fishing applications. Sleek, small, and simple is the name of the game for these reels.

Let’s delve a little deeper into the possibly mysterious realm of inline fishing reels. I assure you they are simple and easy to get a grasp of. Personally, I enjoy these reels tremendously for ice-fishing and vertical jigging applications.

Comparison Chart of the Best Inline Ice Fishing Reels

PRODUCT DETAILS
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Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel

  • Best overall
  • Equipped with a nylon body and spool
  • Weighs about 5.6 ounces
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Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel

  • Large line capacity spool with a free spool release button
  • Instant anti-reverse drag system with alarm switch and cast control cap
  • Quick 2.7:1 gear ratio with one way clutch
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Berrypro Inline Ice Fishing Reel

  • Brass gears and stainless steel shaft with smooth drag system
  • 3.6:1 gear ratio for speedy retrieval and a one-way clutch
  • Ergonomic non-slip rubber grip and sturdy construction
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Ellen Archery Inline Ice Fishing Reel

  • Aesthetically pleasing design with a 2.6:1 gear ratio and durable body
  • Equipped with automatic cable patent raft fishing tackles for cable problems
  • Adjustable discharge system with quick removal of the line wheel
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Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

  • Ice fishing reel and rod combo with size 20 spinning reel
  • Twist-lock reel seat with EVA handles and one-piece guides
  • Ported aluminum spool and blank with clear tip design
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How to Choose an Inline Ice Fishing Reel

Before we can go ahead and take a look at the best inline ice fishing reels, we will first take a look at the most important considerations and features that need to be considered before you buy the product:

Spool Quality

The spool quality will determine the longevity of the product along with the kind of fish you can catch with the reel. Some spools are made with high-grade aluminum, which is more likely to be an ideal material used for construction. 

Bearings

The whole reel’s mechanism and functionality depend on the quality of bearings. The bearing quality depends on the material used, in which case, stainless steel seems to be the most ideal material. It will guarantee the longevity of the whole reel, as it will prevent rusting. 

Extra Added Features

Extra added features do not directly impact the performance of the product but surely add value to your money and your experience. Features such as a protective carry bag can be really useful. 

Handle

The handle or the grip of your reel should have an ergonomic design so that it guarantees comfort and convenience during use. Grip material is also important, as some materials make your hands sweat and hence cause discomfort. 

Do You Need a Special Reel For Ice Fishing? 

Within the sport of fishing, there is a lot of gear that can be used across different practices of the sport.

Step into an ice shack full of anglers, and you may see a large variety of setups, from long poles, short poles, no poles and reels of all types.

While many different types of reels will certainly get the job done, there are select reels better suited to the application.

Inline ice-fishing reels have become increasingly popular with ice-fishing in recent years. There are certain advantages and benefits they bring over a more traditional and versatile spinning reel.

Inline reels are designed to reduce twisting in the fishing line and are meant for use with lighter-weight lines.

These are desired features in most vertical ice-fishing scenarios. Inline ice-fishing reels are a far more specialized tool and do not bring a large variety of use to the angler beyond ice-fishing.

Outside of ice-fishing, however, some people may use them for vertical jig fishing and pan fishing on open water.

Any sort of vertical fishing situation involving smaller fish lends itself well to these simple reels. These reels are fairly well-suited to these applications, though not much beyond in terms of casting or catching larger fish.

Quick Take | Best Inline Ice Fishing Reels

Just looking for the top three best inline ice fishing reels? Here they are:

  1. Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel
  2. Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel
  3. Berrypro Inline Ice Fishing Reel

Review of the Best Inline Ice Fishing Reels

Now, let's go ahead and gain a better knowledge of some inline reels on the market and how they compare. This should give you the confidence and knowledge to purchase an inline ice-fishing setup of your own.

Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel

PROS

  • Buyers find it really easy to use
  • Remarkable price to performance ratio
  • Easily shifts between left and right hands
  • Comes with a free spool release button included in the package
  • Highly recommended for beginners and first-timers due to the smooth functionality
  • Simple, High-Quality Reel
  • Spool Tension Adjustment
  • Tough, Lightweight, and Attractively Designed Nylon Body

CONS

  • Too many small parts might need extra care
  • Some Prefer an Aluminum-Bodied Reel

What Recent Buyers Report 

A lot of buyers report that the reel is particularly really easy to use when it needs to be shifted between the left and right hands. Some disassembly is needed to shift it, but it was very quick and easy for most of the buyers. Moreover, buyers also report that it has a sturdy and reliable line and spool, which stays in place the whole time. 

Why It Stands Out To Us 

The most distinctive feature of this reel is its highly easy to use and user-friendly design. It comes in both right and left-handed orientation, and also shifts smoothly between both hands. Buyers report some really satisfactory experiences with the ease of use it provides, which makes it give tough competition to other models in the market. 

Coming in at the top of our list, this inline reel by Eagle Claw is a simple, yet ultra high-quality, ice-fishing reel on a budget. 

This reel is designed with a tough and light nylon body. This allows for more custom graphics, which in the case of this reel is an attractive carbon fiber replicating pattern.

This reel, like many others, comes complete with free spool release button. This allows for quick drops to the appropriate depth.

Additionally, this reel features a spool tension adjustment feature. This allows the user to adjust the speed of descent for your lure or jig depending on lure weight or application.  

The smooth Teflon drag, line slicker, and star drag all lend well to this reel’s functionality. With 4+1 ball bearings and a 2.6:1 gear ratio, this reel will perform smoothly and is well suited to most ice-fishing scenarios.

Who Would Use This Most? 

We would strongly recommend the reel to first-time buyers because it has an affordable price tag. Moreover, since it’s very easy to use, it can be a great choice of product for beginners and occasional users. Although, it has top-notch features which also makes it a suitable product for big fish hunting and professional level use. 

Bottom Line 

Summing it up, Eagle Claw reels in the market are known for their quality and affordability. Similarly, this one also has an incredible price to performance ratio, which makes it a good choice for everyone. If you are looking for a long-lasting, sturdy, and reliable reel for all types of fishing occasions, then this one will work great for you. 

This reel by Eagle Claw has received a fair bit of attention lately. It is easy to see why as this reel with a budget price is simple, effective, and has nearly all of the features of higher end reels. This is a great reel to step into the inline fishing market or upgrade your current setup.

13 Fishing Black Betty Freefall Ghost RH Ice Reel

PROS

  • Reliable for pulling in heavy and big fish too
  • Buyers report the reel to have a sturdy built
  • Reliable and easy to use drop speed adjustment
  • Switches smoothly between left and right-handed use
  • Aluminum-built spool is of great quality, ensuring longevity
  • Sleek, Modern Design
  • Drop Speed Freefall Technology Sets this Reel Apart
  • Instant Hookup Feature Allows Fish to be Caught on the Drop

CONS

  • Slightly pricier than most other models
  • Higher Price Point Than Other Reels

What Recent Buyers Report 

The majority of the buyers particularly comment positively on the aluminum built spool of the reel. The reports suggest that the spool stands out as a reliable and strong one and is, therefore, truly long-lasting. Moreover, buyers also report that dropseed is also very easy and quick to adjust. Many professional-level fishers have used and liked this product. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

We really find this reel impressive because of multiple reasons. Even though it is pricier than most models in the market, it still has incredible features that help add value to your money. One of the most impressive is its built quality, along with its efficient drop speed adjustment that makes it a professional-level unit.

The Freefall reel by Black Betty stays true to its name in excelling in the freefall fishing department.

Many reels drop a lure at one speed, dependent on the weight. With drop speed control, the Black Betty reel allows you to fine-tune the speed at which your lure or jig descends.

This may dramatically increase your odds of getting a hookup before even reaching your fishing depth. What really sets off the adjustable drop speed is the instant hookup feature. Which stops free-spool once the reel detects a fish strike, dramatically increasing hookups.

The reel has a nice, modern, fully-enclosed design with black and white side plates. Instead of an aluminum frame design, this reel uses a strong composite graphite frame.

If you are really looking to step up your ice-fishing game and open options for fishing style, this might be the reel for you.

With a 2.5:1 gear ratio, it makes a good all-around or shallow water (<50’) reel.

Who Will Use This Most 

We think that the reel is the best product for beginners, as well as for level fishing. The drop speed adjustment feature is really easy to use, which makes it a good choice for beginners. However, it is slightly pricey, which might put off some beginners form investing in it. 

Bottom Line 

Summing it up, the reel has notable features such as its switch movement between left to right-hand orientation along with easily adjustable drop speed. Its aluminum spool is meant to last a long time with excellent performance. Buyers report it to be really smooth, quiet, and long-lasting too. 

What makes this reel shine is truly the adjustable drop speed control. Couple this with the instant hookup feature and you can substantially increase your odds of catching fish.

However, with this feature comes the additional cost. If you are more interested in just fishing fixed depths, you may not need to pay for this feature.

Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel Right/Left Handed 2.7:1 Gear Ratio Mental Fishing Raft Wheel Ice Reels (Orange-Left Handed)

PROS

  • Comes with a rather affordable price tag
  • High-quality aluminum used for the spool
  • Comes with both left and right-handed options
  • Really efficient and responsive customer feedback
  • Smooth and reliable drag system with anti-reverse system
  • Simple, No-Frills Budget Reel
  • Retains Quality, Function, and Power While Remaining Simple

CONS

  • Some buyers report it to be of poor quality
  • Lacks Features of Higher End Reels

What Recent Buyers Report 

The Fiblink ice fishing reel is backed by several positive customer reviews. The majority of the buyers specifically appreciate the anti-reverse feature that comes with the reel. Moreover, buyers also report that its functionality is very reliable and smooth. There were some buyers reporting that the spool might be slightly unreliable and less long-lasting; however, most buyers were in favor of it. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

One of the most distinctive and highly impressive features of this reel is its non-slip ergonomic grip design. As discussed earlier, the grip’s quality matters a lot for choosing a good reel. Moreover, this unit has an EVA-made non-slip grip. Also, the ball bearings are highly functional and long-lasting, again making this one of the best performing products in the market. 

This reel by Fibilink is another simple option for the budget minded angler. Sacrificing no performance, this ultralight reel is designed with simplicity and function in mind.

With an easy free-spool release, getting your lure to depth is quick. Also featured is an accompanying spool-tension adjustment knob.

Additionally, the star drag adjuster on the handle makes quick drag system adjustments, even mid-battle.

With an attractive metallic black and orange design, this reel is just about guaranteed to give you a slick-looking setup out on the ice. The reel features a 4+1 bearing 2.6:1 gear ratio, lending well to smooth and efficient retrieves.

Who Will Use This Most 

We strongly recommend this budget-friendly yet highly efficient reel to professional fishers. It is made with great quality materials and is also designed with reliable and long-lasting ball bearings that guarantee good mechanism. Therefore, it is the perfect choice for professionals, as well as for beginners and people with tighter budgets. 

Bottom Line 

Summing it up, the Fiblink reel is an impressive product available at a rather affordable price. Its affordability, along with its exceptional features such as the anti-reverse system and the aluminum built spool is definitely the kind of features every level of fisher will need. 

If you are looking for a simple budget-minded reel, you can’t really go wrong with this Fibilink reel. Although it lacks features and functions of higher end reels, it is well designed well for ice-fishing applications and does excellent at that job. The spool tension adjustment sets it a step above some of the even more well-known budget reels on the market.

BERRYPRO Inline Ice Fishing Reel Right/Left Handed Fishing Raft Wheel Ice Reels with 4+1BB Ball Bearings (Gray Left Hand)

PROS

  • Sturdy and reliable non-slip rubber grip.
  • Comes with an extra, replacement graphite spool
  • Shaft is made with stainless steel ensuring longevity
  • Offers versatility of choice because of 2 color ranges
  • Comes with a protective carry bag included in the package
  • Good Budget Option
  • Soft and Durable Black Rubber Coating Enhances Appearance and Grip

CONS

  • Drag can be slightly more smooth
  • Some buyers report that the anti-reverse was not included in their package
  • No Spool-Tension Adjustment

What Recent Buyers Report 

Some buyers really like the build quality of the spool. Even though it’s made with plastic, buyers still report that it is of great durability and strength, as well. In addition to this, buyer reports also suggest that it is equipped with a very smooth rotation, which further made their fishing experience easy and comfortable. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

There are a very few reels in the market that really offer the kind of versatile options that this one has to offer. Its most distinctive quality is its color variety, which allows you to choose the best color that suits your needs the best. Moreover, it is also meant to add great value to your money since it comes with a protective carry bag too.

The Berrypro is another all aluminum design, this time featuring a non-slip black rubber coating. 

This coating gives the reel a nice sleek, tactical look. Users report the coating makes the reel softer to the touch with an overall nicer feel to it.

The reel also comes with a quick anti-reverse feature that some may require for their applications.

Although this reel only contains 4+1 ball bearings, users still report a smooth reel and drag function on this reel.

The reel has a slightly quicker spooling rate with 3.6:1 gear ratio, this may lend itself well to some deeper water applications. 

Who Will Use This Most 

We would strongly recommend this reel to fishers who are fishing on a professional level and will be needing to use it on a frequent basis. The graphite spool replacement and the excellent built quality makes this a long-lasting product, which is why we recommend this for professional use. It is also good for people who will frequently need to carry or travel with the reel. 

Bottom Line 

Summing it up, the Berrypro fishing reel is one of the best in the market, considering its amazing design that features a graphite spool. The product adds great value to your money since it not only comes with a protective carry bag but also comes with a replacement spool that will save replacement costs in the future. 

For a solid, budget, inline ice-fishing reel, the Berrypro is a great no-frills option for your endeavors. Most users agree that the reel functions smoothly and is easy to use all-around.

Ellen Archery Inline Ice Fishing Reel Right/Left in Line Ice Reel with 8+1 Ball Bearings (Left)

PROS

  • Uses high quality, imported brake system
  • Highly lightweight compared to other products
  • Available for both left and right-hand orientation
  • Fully adjustable discharge with easy to use mechanism
  • Durable construction featuring an anti-corrosion oxidation treatment
  • Bait Clicker Function
  • Attractive Metallic-Coated Design

CONS

  • Only available in 1 color
  • Poor, unhelpful instruction manual
  • No Spool-Tension Adjustment

What Recent Buyers Report 

The buyers of this reel have used this for fishing different sizes, ranging from pike to trout. This suggests that it is multi-purpose and also has a reliable built. Moreover, buyer reports also tell us that that the spool, the drag, and the optional bait all are really functional and exceptionally well-built components of this unit. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

This unit has an outstanding design and built. Its most distinctive and outstanding feature is its highly durable construction that features anti-corrosive properties. Moreover, it is also easily available for both right and left-handed orientation, which further ensures versatility and multipurpose quality of this product. 

An attractive design coupled with plenty of features make this a choice worth considering.

With its special coated all aluminum CNC design, it serves as a corrosion resistant layer and gives the reel a look that is easy on the eyes. The reel also contains a core of corrosion resistant stainless steel components, adding to the resilience and longevity.

With a bait clicker function, it gives this reel a feature that many others may not have. With ultra-smooth 8+1 ball bearings and a 2.6:1 gear ratio, it is nearly a luxurious piece of equipment.  The aluminum body keeps this reel ultra-light and the polishing gives it a higher-end look.

Who Will Use This Most 

The reel does not come with the English language and clear instructions, which makes it more suitable for people who have experience and knowledge about using reels effectively. It’s a good product for frequent, commercial use as well since it has a really durable and sturdy construction that will withstand rigorous usage. 

Bottom Line 

To sum it up, the reel is an extraordinary product that is available in a range of colors, along with outstanding features such as its exceptionally corrosion-resistant built and reliable brake system.

At a mid-level price point, this reel is an excellent choice for those wanting the next step up and want it to look as such. With its coated aluminum body, stainless steel components, and bait clicker function, this is a reel that may turn heads out on the ice.

PROS

  • A complete package of both rod and reel
  • Well built, durable and sturdy graphite body
  • Stainless steel hood further ensures durability
  • Rod has a precise and sensitive tip for better performance
  • Really safe and reliable for use in cold water and big sized fish catches
  • Easy-to-Use Spinning Reel
  • Budget-Minded Combo Setup is Ready to Start Fishing

CONS

  • Tip broke easily for some buyers
  • Some issues with the reel’s lock experience by buyers
  • Spinning Reel Not Ideal for All Ice-Fishing Applications

What Recent Buyers Report 

Buyer reports suggest that the built quality of the reel and the rod is loved by its users for its durability and longevity. Some buyers even report that it was used in extremely harsh conditions and still withstood it. Moreover, buyers have also used it for both ice fishing and other smaller streams, too, suggesting that it is a multipurpose product. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

One of the many important aspects to consider when buying any reel is the value that it adds to your money. For this reason, this reel and rod combo stands out to us in the market. Both the reel and rod are made with exceptionally durable quality, along with excellent features such as a sensitive tip of the rod and graphite construction. 

If the thought of transitioning into an unfamiliar inline fishing reel is a little much for you, consider this option by Ugly Stik.

This rod and reel combo is a ready to use setup that utilizes a conventional and versatile spinning reel. The ultralight spinning reel, coupled with a short and light rod, make it an excellent option for most general ice-fishing applications.

Ugly Stik is the name when it comes to durability. You can count on this setup to stand up to years of abuse in the backs of trucks, sleds, and life on the ice.

Remember that spinning reels incorporate more twist into the line. This may be detrimental to certain situations.

With a 4.4:1 gear ratio and spinning reel on this setup, it may be a better option for larger fish in deeper water.

Who Will Use This Most 

This is a complete combo that is available at a great price. Therefore, we would strongly recommend the reel and rod to everyone, for all kinds of uses. It’s a durable product, and also budget-friendly, so people with tight budgets looking for quality can also make use of it.  

Bottom Line 

Overall, the reel and rod combo is a difficult kind to find in the market, especially at such a price. Therefore, it stands out and truly impresses us. Its customer feedback is also impressive, which tells us that the reel is made with a sturdy material that will withstand most conditions. 

If you are not looking to jump into an inline reel just and would prefer to stick with a spinning setup, this might be your ticket. For a rod and reel combo at this price from a reputable brand, it is hard to go wrong with this setup, particularly if you are looking to have the versatility of hooking some larger fish under the ice.

Using an Inline Ice Fishing Reel - What You Need to Know

If you are already an angler, setting up and using an inline reel should not be difficult. Like spinning reels, they mount on the underside of the rod. The line enters the reel from the pole on the bottom side of the reel, like a fly fishing reel.

An inline reel generally will have a quick, free-spool feature. This allows the line to feed out and the weight of the lure or jig to carry itself down to your specified depth.

In the case of some reels, they offer spool-tension adjustment. This allows you to control or slow your lure descent depending on the weight of the lure.

This may also allow you to be fishing on the way down to your desired depth. A spool-tension adjustment would personally be a feature I would look for, just to increase the reel’s versatility.

Parts of a Rod/Reel Combo(Source)

Some reels come with a line clicker or bait clicker function. This simply gives an audible clicking noise when reeling in and retrieving line. This is an appreciated feature by many, but may not necessarily be a make it or break it feature for most.

Any inline reel should come with a quick and easy adjustable drag. In the case of many, this is a star drag on the handle, similar to many baitcasting reels. This allows for quick thumb adjustment, even mid-battle.

Other than that, the functionality of these reels is pretty straightforward. Drop your lure to a specified depth, control descent, retrieve line, and adjust your drag. That is all you should need in an ice-fishing reel. To even a beginner angler, a simple inline reel is fairly straightforward in its operation.

Inline vs. Spinning Reels

Now, let's jump in and take a look at what sets inline ice-fishing reels apart from spinning reels.

As you may know, spinning reels offer versatility and may be one of the most commonly used reels in fishing today. 

While they are a good do-it-all reel, they may not be the most ideal reel for specialized applications.

An inline fishing reel is ideal for ice-fishing for a few different reasons.

  1. Inline reels eliminate line twist. Like a fly reel, an inline reel rolls the line around the spool in a straight fashion. A spinning reel puts a twist into the line as it winds onto the spool. In ice-fishing applications, no twist in your line means better jig/lure presentation and more sensitivity with a tauter line. For ice-fishing, having a straight and twist-free line may be the difference between a fish or no fish.

  2. Inline reels help retain line strength. When twists are put into fishing line, it begins to weaken it from its rated strength. While the loss in strength is likely negligible on heavier lines, the same may not be so for ultralight lines. For ice-fishing, where ultralight lines are often the norm, line strength retention should be closely considered.

  3. Inline reels are better suited for smaller bodied fish. These reels, while being made larger, are designed for lighter lines and smaller fish. If you plan on catching larger fish, such as pike or lake trout, a conventional spinning reel may be a better bet. Inline reels truly shine with ultralight rigs and targeting walleye or smaller-sized fish, as is the case in most ice-fishing applications.

Reel vs. Rod/Reel Combos

With a wide breadth of equipment on the market, it is easy to be overwhelmed with the selection.

Should you just go and buy a rod and reel combo? Should you research heavily and buy the two components separately?

The decision shouldn’t be daunting, but there are a few things you ought to consider.

Most rod and reel combos are selected to be a good match. The reel and rod are both designed to work with a similar weight of lines and lures.

So long as you know what size you are looking for, you can’t really go wrong with a rod and reel combo.

Eagle Claw Cold Smoke Inline Ice Light Fishing Combo(Source)

On the flip side, purchasing your reel separately from your rod may give you more selection and performance.

If you are looking for a very specific type of ice-fishing setup, buying your components individually may be your best route.

However, with this selection, comes a greater responsibility in knowledge. Unlike buying a rod and reel combo that is tough to mess up, buying a mismatched reel and rod can make fishing much more difficult.

Conclusion

Whether you knew what an inline ice-fishing reel was going into this article or not, hopefully now you have a solid understanding of what they are and when to use them.

If anything, just know that they are a smaller-sized reel designed for vertical fishing situations. These are generally found in most ice-fishing and some open water pan-fishing scenarios.

With minimal features overall, these reels are easy to use and don’t break the bank. Couple them with a nice short ice-fishing rod of appropriate weight and action and you will be ready to hit the ice.