The 5 Best Ice Fishing Reel For Beginners & Advanced Anglers

by Thavius | Last Updated:   April 11th, 2022
The 5 Best Ice Fishing Reel For Beginners & Advanced Anglers


Ice fishing is one of the best ways to get rid of cabin fever in winter. However, it is quite different from fishing in open water. So, you will need to have tools that are specific to ice fishing. One fishing tool that can greatly improve your experience on the water is an ice fishing reel.

Several types of ice fishing reels are available today and this means that there is something for everyone. It doesn’t matter whether you are a beginner or an experienced angler. You can even find a simple reel for your kids. All you have to do is do proper research.

I understand that researching new products can be exhausting, so I have done the necessary research as your favorite adventure guide. This article contains a detailed review of the best ice fishing reels for hard water fishing, a buying guide, and other relevant information.

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Reviewing The 5 Best Ice Fishing Reels

13 FISHING – Descent – Inline Ice Fishing Reels

Ice anglers have made an interesting shift in recent years as the demand for inline reels has continued to rise. This shift has been majorly thanks to the great work done by a company known as 13 Fishing, a company that has released several high-quality inline ice fishing reels over the years. Their products are highly rated and the Descent ice reel is one of their budget options.

I like the visually appealing design of this ice fishing reel but it has much more to offer than just beauty. To start with, the reel is excellently built. It has a graphite body that is lightweight yet durable, so it won’t overpower your rod. The reel also features an aluminum crank and a star drag system that is highly suitable for fighting aggressive fish.

Additionally, you can be assured that the reel will operate smoothly thanks to its stainless steel ball-bearing system. Another feature that I like is the speed control. With this feature, you will be able to control how fast your bait is dropped into the water and then position it exactly where you desire. A fender has been included to prevent the build-up of ice and snow.

To ensure that the fish never get away with your bait, the reel has an audible alarm that will alert you when a fish strikes it. This will be a great feature for any angler that loves deadsticking. You will also find your lines easier to retrieve than when using a regular inline ice fishing reel. This is because it has a gear ratio of 2.7:1. Finally, the reel is affordable and suitable for all kinds of anglers. Both left and right-handed retrieval designs are available.

Pros
  • It offers great value for money
  • It has a beautiful design
  • It has a soft and comfortable grip
  • It features a fender
  • It comes with a bite alarm system
Cons
  • The fender might prevent you from fixing tangles

KastKing Summer and Centron Spinning Reels

KastKing has become synonymous with high-quality spinning reels and this product will be a good addition to any ice fishing gear. The KastKing Summer and Centron Spinning reels show that a spinning reel can be both aesthetically pleasing and highly functional. It also costs below $50 and can be used by anglers of all levels of experience. Let’s take a look at some of its best features below.

This ice-fishing reel has a beautiful design that won’t fail to catch the eye. The blue and black finish gives it a cool appearance while a layer of corrosion-resistant paint has been added to protect the reel from saltwater and chemicals. Also, the reel consists of a durable graphite frame that is incredibly lightweight. You will get a strong, stable, and long-lasting fishing reel.

What’s more, this ice fishing reel is equipped with 9+1 ball bearings to ensure smooth operation. These include nine high-quality ball bearings and a one-way anti-reverse bearing. The latter will help you avoid line twists by stopping you from winding in the wrong direction. It also has an aluminum anodized spool that features Computer Numerical Control (CNC).

Furthermore, the reel is available in different sizes including 2000, 3000, 4000, and 5000. The size of your preferred reel will determine its drag system, gear ratio, and weight. The largest sizes have a great drag system that can handle fish as heavy as 17.5 lbs. So, they will be suitable for catching large fish like bass, trout, and ice fish.

Pros
  • It is budget-friendly
  • It is easy to use
  • It is portable
  • It has an excellent drag system
  • It has a corrosion-resistant finish
Cons
  • The bail isn’t easy to engage

Piscifun ICX Precision Ice Fishing Reel

This Piscifun inline reel is one of the best choices that you can make as an ice fisherman. It is an affordable reel that ticks all the right boxes. When you go o a fishing trip in winter with this device, you get a lightweight, strong, and durable ice fishing reel. The reel is also available in two different colors.

When it comes to comfort, you won’t be let down by the Piscifun inline reel. It comes with a lightweight frame that will allow you to fish for long hours without getting wrist fatigue. This also means that you will be able to carry it from one ice hole to another without fuss. What’s more, it has an EVA handle that was specifically designed for comfort.

Despite its lightweight, this fishing reel offers incredible durability. The reel is equipped with a strong aluminum-alloy body that helps the unit withstand the harsh winter elements. It also features a water-resistant aluminum spool that keeps out moisture and ensures proper line management and seamless line lay. This significantly lowers the chances of jig spin which can spook the fish.

Additionally, you can be assured that this ice fishing reel will deliver the required level of performance thanks to its 7+1 premium shielded stainless steel bearings. It also contains an instant anti-reverse and anti-ice lubricant to ensure smooth operation in extremely cold conditions. Finally, the reel features a unique free spool release button. This will drop your lure in an instant without worrying about line twists.

Pros
  • It features a free spool trigger
  • It is durable
  • It is lightweight
  • It is corrosion resistant
  • It has an ergonomic design
Cons
  • It is only suitable for ice fishing

Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Fishing Reel

Here is another high-quality ice fishing reel from Piscifun that offers great value for money. But unlike the ICX precision, this product is for lovers of spinning reels. It offers a significant level of durability and functionality. Depending on your style preference, you can choose either the black/red or black/silver design.

A top-quality graphite material has been used in constructing the body and the rotor to protect them from the harsh conditions of ice fishing. Also, the rotor is protected from rust and corrosion by an aluminum spool that stops water from getting into it. You will enjoy seamless line dropping and retrieving thanks to how smoothly the spool lays lines.

Though this reel is a budget option, it consists of high-quality components. These include premium sealed stainless steel bearings that ensure seamless retrieves and anti-release functionality. There is also a durable drive gear that is built from zinc alloy to give the unit the strength it needs to fight big ice fish. For convenient storage and transportation, the unit has been equipped with a foldable crank.

Furthermore, the reel provides a gear ratio of 5.2:1 which should be good news if you prefer jigging in the deepest waters. This amount of cranking power will allow you to pull your entire line without fuss. Sticky drag is one issue that pops up in several ice fishing reels, fortunately, this reel is equipped with quality washers to prevent it. As I mentioned earlier, this product offers fantastic features at a low price.

Pros
  • It is portable
  • It features a water-resistant aluminum spool
  • It is suitable for fishing at great depths
  • It has a premium graphite body and rotor
  • The drive gear is built from strong zinc alloy
Cons
  • The instant anti-reverse feature isn’t the most reliable

Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel

Eagle Claw has become popular for producing high-quality hooks and reels for ice fishing. Like other fishing reels in this article, this ice fishing reel comes at an affordable price. You shouldn’t be fooled by its low price though as it is an excellent ice fishing reel. Let’s take a look at the reasons why it made this list.

To start with, it consists of a high-strength nylon body and a graphite spool. Its construction will give you the power to fight large and aggressive fish. It also features an aluminum handle that is equipped with slip-resistant grips. So, the reel will remain comfortable in your hands during extended fishing sessions.

One feature that I found exceptional is the gear ratio. The reel has a gear ratio of 2.6:1 that makes it suitable for deep water fishing. It will also enable you to stop the jig with minimal fuss. I chose this product some years ago because many ice fishing reels only had a gear ratio of 1:1. This reel is also a jigging machine, so you will have all the line capacity that you will ever need.

Furthermore, the free spool will make your ice fishing sessions much more convenient. All that you will have to do to release the line is to push a button. You will also be able to control the tension in the spool to reduce backlash. The best reels have lots of bearings and fortunately, this reel doesn’t disappoint. It features 4+1 bearings that are well lubricated. Finally, the smooth Teflon drag system makes the reel a great option for open water trolling.

Pros
  • It features a free spool
  • It has a good gear ratio
  • It is highly suitable for trolling
  • The spool tension is adjustable
  • It features a Teflon drag system
Cons
  • The free spool button isn’t of the best quality

Our Top Choice

All products mentioned in this article are tried and trusted ice fishing reels. However, there can only be one winner. The best ice fishing reel that is available today is the 13 Fishing Descent Inline fishing reel. I have been a big fan of this product because it offers everything I need from a fishing reel and more.

At an affordable price, it offers an extra smooth fishing experience and great control over your fishing lure. It also has a bite alarm to ensure that the fish won’t escape with your lure while the star drag system will give you an edge over aggressive fish. Finally, it has a high-quality graphite body that is built to withstand the cold.

Watch this video for tips on ice fishing reel management:

How To Pick The Best Ice Fishing Reel

You shouldn’t pick a reel for ice fishing based on just its appearance, your reel needs to have the right features if you are to get the best experience. Here are the features that you should look out for when searching for the best ice fishing reel:

Type of Reel

The first question that you should ask yourself before buying a reel for ice fishing is the type of reel that you will be using. Three types of ice fishing reels are available for you to choose from but fortunately, there is a clear winner.

Ice Fishing Inline Reel

Inline reels are the best type of reel for ice fishing. They have a similar appearance to fly fishing reels but are more advanced. To prevent line twists, the reels are placed inline with the fishing rod but under it. They also perform excellently in harsh weather conditions.

Ice Fishing Spinning Reels

Spinning reels are the most popular type of reel in the fishing world due to their simplicity and lightweight. They are also budget-friendly. However, they aren’t best suited to ice fishing.

Ice Fishing Baitcasting Reel

Baitcasting reels have been around for a long time and they are more suitable for experienced anglers. Their heavyweight also makes them less suitable for ice fishing.

Material

Ice fishing reels are used in extremely cold conditions that can affect their durability and performance. As a result, you should ensure that your preferred reel is built with a high-quality material that can withstand the cold.

Good examples of such materials include graphite, aluminum, and stainless steel. These materials are trusted by ice anglers due to their durability and rust resistance.

Spool

As an ice angler, you need a spool that won’t be susceptible to line twists. This is why many ice anglers prefer inline ice fishing reels. As I mentioned earlier, the design of these reels ensures that no line twists occur during spooling.

They also have greater line capacity due to their smaller arbor. I highly recommend that you get an inline ice fishing reel if you will be doing lots of ice fishing.

Bearings

Regardless of what fishing reel you plan to buy, you should always remember to check out the bearings. Several anglers believe that reels with a higher number of bearings are automatically smoother but this isn’t always the case.

What truly determines the smoothness of a fishing reel is the quality of the bearings and this is particularly true when it comes to ice fishing reels. Ice fishing doesn’t require lots of bearings since you won’t be making long-distance casts and retrieves. It is the quality of the bearings that will prevent them from locking up or burning.

Any of these issues will put pressure on your line and cause it to snap. This is why the top brands make use of either roller bearings or stainless steel bearings.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio of a fishing reel simply means the number of turns completed by the spool each time the handle is cranked. Hence, reels with a higher gear ratio require less work to bring fish out of the water. Ice fishing reels are known to have a lower gear ratio than other types of reels.

That said, you should opt for a reel with a low gear ratio if you are going after larger fish. This is because such reels are built for reeling in large fish patiently over short distances. On the other hand, ultra-light reels offer a higher gear ratio and are suitable for pulling in fish over longer distances. Since smaller fish barely put up a fight, you will be able to pull them in quickly.

A high gear ratio may break your line if you try to reel in a large, aggressive fish without setting your drag properly. This is due to the reverse pull from the fish. A low gear ratio reel will help you pull the fish in slowly without exerting excess force on your fishing line.

Handle

As an ice fisherman, you will have to wear thick gloves to protect yourself from the cold. This makes it necessary that your ice fishing reel has a special type of handle. The manufacturers understand this and as a result, they equip their products with oversized handles that will remain comfortable during extended fishing periods.

Anti Ice System

If your reel is to last long and perform as expected, it has to be able to withstand extremely cold temperatures. The antifreeze system is usually included in ice fishing reels to ensure that they perform efficiently in winter. It is mostly found in inline reels.

Drag Capacity

Here is another feature that you shouldn’t overlook when buying a reel for ice fishing. The drag capacity of a reel will determine the amount of work that you have to put in to reel in the fish. You should consider opting for a reel with an adjustable drag capacity as it will enable you to catch different types of fish.

Weight

Finally, you should ensure that your fishing reel is of the right weight. A heavy reel will make it difficult for you to move from one ice fishing hole to the other and you will become tired before long. This will make your ice fishing trip unproductive.

On the other hand, you should also avoid extremely lightweight and cheap fishing reels. Get yourself a fishing reel that you will be able to carry around comfortably. Fortunately, the manufacturers have started utilizing special materials to reduce the weight of their reels without sacrificing quality.

Inline Ice Fishing Reel Vs Spinning Ice Fishing Reel

Inline fishing reels and spinning reels are the most popular options used for ice fishing. In this section, we will be comparing the pros and cons of both types of ice fishing reels.

Pros of Inline Reels
  • No line twist
  • Highly suitable for jigging baits
  • Excellent control over bait drop speed
  • Built for winter
  • Free spool
  • Great for catching smaller fish and fishing in shallow water
Cons of Inline Reels
  • More expensive
  • Lower drag performance
  • Higher learning curve
Pros of Spinning Reels
  • Highly suitable for live baits
  • Improved drag adjustments
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Incredibly versatile
Cons of Spinning Reels
  • More susceptible to line twists
  • Less efficient at cold temperatures
  • Minimal control over bait drop speed

Watch this video to learn how to put a fishing line on an inline reel:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best ice fishing reel?

The best ice fishing reel for you will depend on your unique needs. However, you should ensure that you invest in a product that is durable, versatile, and highly resistant to cold weather. You should also opt for a reel with a high gear ratio if you would like to reel in fish quickly and vice versa. That being said, I would recommend the 13 Fishing Descent Inline fishing reel as the best reel for ice angling.

Are inline ice fishing reels worth it?

You will enjoy several benefits when you use an inline reel for ice angling. Firstly, inline reels aren’t susceptible to line twists. Inline reels are also the best choice for jigging and they offer incredible control over the line when the bait or lure is dropped. Finally, they come with a free spool mechanism that enables the spool to spin seamlessly.

Are Ice fishing reels different?

Regular fishing reels can be used for ice angling, however, they don’t last long. Ice fishing reels are specifically built to withstand the harsh conditions of winter. They contain special cold lubricants that ensure that they don’t become frozen. Also, they are equipped with larger handles to provide a better grip.

How can I maintain my ice fishing gear?

The more expensive gear tends to last longer than the cheaper options. However, the longevity of your fishing gear will greatly depend on how well you maintain it. To keep your gear in good condition, you should always store your reel and baits in a tackle box and use a mesh rod cover.

What gear do I need as an ice angler?

Since the water surface will be frozen, you will need an ice auger for easy drilling. After that, you will have to get yourself a fishing rod and reel that are suitable for the cold conditions. You will also need to protect yourself from the cold by wearing warm clothing, gloves, and boots. Finally, an ice fishing fish finder will make it much easier for you to locate fish beneath the ice.

I've been a fisherman for over 35 years. From catching small bullheads with my grandfather at his pond to catching strippers on the backwaters of the Chattahoochee, I love to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water.