Top 10 Best Ice Fishing Reels (2020): Review & Buyer’s Guide
- Immanuel Baranov
Did you know that ice fishing requires a totally different reel than regular fishing? If you are a fisherman, you surely do. However, if you are just a beginner or you are using the reels recreationally and occasionally experimenting with fishing, this might be a new fact for you.
There are many benefits of using a specialized ice fishing reel in severe conditions, as its long stem will help you with your performance. Also, the specially designed body and the handle will ensure effortless and safe use.
It might seem trivial at first, but once you try fishing with this type of reels, you will see the difference for yourself. Your performance will be much better and the ease of ice fishing will let you enjoy nature and relax with your friends.
I myself was a skeptic before I got myself the best ice fishing reel from a myriad of options. Since then, I have been enjoying ice fishing more than ever. This is why I want to share my experience with you. Let’s begin!
What You Will Get Here
- Why Should You Trust Us?
- Types of Ice Fishing Reels
- How Did We Pick These Products?
- Things to Consider When Buying an Ice Fishing Reel
- Our Top 10 Best Ice Fishing Reels
- Our Top Pick: Piscifun Spinning Reel
- Our Budget Pick: KastKing Summer and Centron 9 +1 BB
- Top In Line Ice Reel: Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel
- Top Spinning Ice Reel: Penn Pursuit Ii & Iii
- A List of 6 Other Products We Reviewed
- A List of Other Products We Tested
- Final Words
Why Should You Trust Us?
There are hundreds of review sites on the internet and it's natural to get confused which one to believe and which one not to. If you're skeptical about our authenticity, we're giving you the following reasons to help put your faith in us.
We have no financial relationship with any of the manufacturers. So, all our reviews are unbiased and accurate. As no monetary gain involved, we dedicate our time and effort to ensure original reviews for you after physical testing. We don't drive you to a specific brand or model, our sole aim is to help you buy the right model for you.
We're not some random people that review fishing equipment as a hobby. We're the experts comprising a team of experienced and passionate anglers. We're aware of our actions and know the tools very well for the past few years. We gathered a hand-on experience when reviewing these products. We mastered the art of fishing during this learning process and that's why we know what you need to know but don't know yet.
Here at Fisher Reel, we only promote the deserving products available in the market to help the buyers make the right decision. Our reviews are written from objective view so you can count on us without any second thought.
Types of Ice Fishing Reels
First, you should know that there are several types of ice fishing reels and some of them are more popular than the others. Why? Simply, their features are more convenient for most of the users.
In this section, we will talk about the three most popular types: the spinning, the inline, and the baitcasting reel. We will also try to point out their pros and cons so that you can easily make your decision.
1. Ice Fishing Spinning Reel
Spinning reel is the most widespread type among the fishermen. Its key features are it's extremely lightweight and small size. Why are these reels supposed to be small? The answer is simple. They have to be in balance with small rods. As the rod size varies from 16 to 24 inches, they have to be accordingly small.
Their greatest advantages include excellent drag adjustment options, ease of use, versatility for different types of fishing, and suitability for live baits. Moreover, they are cheaper than other types. This is one of the reasons why spinning reels are so popular among fishermen.
2. Ice Fishing Inline Reels
Inline reels are the second most popular type. What do they look like? The easiest way to explain it is to compare an inline reel to the classic fly fishing reel. They resemble both in the way they work and in their appearance.
Their name, “inline reel” comes from the position of the reel. It hangs in line with the rod. Why is this position important? It actually enables the line to keep a straight line. There are no twists.
Its strongest assets include no line twists, excellent speed control, free spool, superiority in extreme weather conditions, fast thawing, no reel lock up, as well as suitability for shallow fishing and small fish.
We have already said that this is the second most popular type of ice fishing reels. However, the advanced technologies and smart positioning of the reel are making this type more popular day by day.
3. Ice Fishing Baitcasting Reels
This type is not very common and not very popular. However, it is present on the market for some time.
Their key features include large baskets and adjustable spools. Moreover, they are heavy. These are suitable for catching large fish like lake trout. You need to have some skills to use this type and this is probably the reason why they are not so popular.
How Did We Pick These Products?
Preparing this comprehensive list was not an easy task for the Fisher Reel team. First, we made comprehensive Internet research. Dozens of manufacturers, hundreds of different products, various types, and features – we considered it all. This step was not easy. Eliminating the poor ones and making a narrow selection of 25 products was a demanding task. The top 25 products seemed similar and it was hard to pick the top ten.
We put all the models to the test to find out which one tops the list. We considered anti-freeze feature, reduced friction, drag capacity, spool, and handle as the selection criteria when determining the best products. Our volunteer team helped us through this rigorous testing process. Depending on the data we gathered online, the reports from our volunteers and the performance of the models, we finalized our top ten list.
Then, we consulted the industry experts. Their precious knowledge of the materials and shapes was invaluable. We took their opinions into account to get a truthful insight into the product quality. This is how we got the top ten products list. Although preparing the reviews was not easy, we combined our new knowledge with our previous experience.
Things to Consider When Buying an Ice Fishing Reel
Before buying your reel, you should consider some very important points that affect your performance. For example, weight and design are extremely important. Also, you should pay attention to the durability and material.There are some very specific features for this particular product as well. Those include the anti-freeze feature, reduced friction, drag capacity, spool, and handle. You should learn more about each of these before making your purchase. Therefore, let’s begin.
1. Durability & Material
Durability is a very important feature for any product you can buy. You are giving your money and you expect the product to serve you for a certain period of time. This is perfectly normal, and you should expect quality in return for your money.
The story is the same when it comes to fishing reels. They are exposed to water all the time. This means that the moisture, freezing temperatures, ice, etc. will significantly affect its performance and durability.
You need to invest your money in a very durable product. This is why you should opt for those reels made from high-quality materials. The strongest materials you can possibly imagine for this type of product include aluminum, graphite, and stainless steel. These are the materials that were proven as the most durable ones via different independent tests, as well as user testimonials.
Why these materials? Because they are durable, rust-proof, and strong. Also, aluminum is lightweight and this is why most users opt for one of these three materials. Being abrasion-resistant is another advantage of a reel material.
2. Anti-freeze Feature
This is one of the special features specific for a certain group of products, including reels for ice fishing. The anti-freeze feature is crucial because you will be using the reel in an icy environment, ice cold water, and below zero conditions.
This is why freezing is the main concern when it comes to durability and maintenance of your ice fishing gear. You must buy a reel whose spool was protected with anti-freeze layer. In this way, you will be able to enjoy fishing without losing time on de-freezing.
3. Reduced Friction
For an ice fishing reel, it is important to know that it operates smoothly. This is why reduced friction is so appreciated. Which part of product is related to the friction? Ball bearings! You have to pay attention to the ball bearings when buying your reels.
Ball bearings play an important role in opposing the drag load and this is why experienced users value the models with many ball bearings. Therefore, the rule is simple: the more ball bearings, the better.
When it comes to ice fishing reels, you should go for the lightweight ones. Why? Such models are better for flexibility. Also, your movements will not be limited. Most importantly, you will feel less tired after hours of fishing and carrying your gear.
As you can already expect, they are designed differently from the regular fishing reels. Simply, the conditions require so. The depth of fishing is different, you don’t throw the casts far away, this type of fishing is more static, the water is different, and the weather conditions are harsher. Also, you have to wear gloves and handling the reel is modified.
These are the factors that dictate their design. This is why the reel body looks different. First of all, it is more robust. In this way, it protects the line from snow, ice, and other harsh elements.
Moreover, many ice fishing reels have covers specially designed for ice fishing in locations without a shelter. In addition, you should pay attention to the shape and design in accordance with the material of your reel. All of these elements heavily affect your performance.
6. Drag Capacity
Another important feature you must pay attention to is the drag capacity. Drag capacity directly affects the ease with which you can take your catch out of the water.
Of course, this depends on the weight of your catch and its size, but the drag capacity clearly shows the tension and capacity of the reel you are buying.
Some models are adjustable and we highly recommend these types, as you can use them for different types of fish and purposes. Their versatility will quickly get you back the money you invested, i.e. such a versatile and adjustable reel will quickly pay off as you will be able to use it for many different species of fish.
As you don’t throw the casts when ice fishing as you do in other types of fishing, the spool has a different design. Even if you are a beginner in ice fishing, you have certainly noticed that the spools for this type of fishing are inline. What does this mean?
Inline spool means that there is no twist. The line stays on the spool, unlike with the regular reel. In addition, you probably know that these spools can hold more line than the regular ones. Why? Because you will be fishing at deeper points than when fishing regularly.
If you think about the conditions in which ice fishing takes place, you will quickly realize that you need to have protection and accessories that will help you against extreme weather conditions.
Namely, we want to say that you will have to wear gloves and that the handle must be slightly different than the handles you are used to (regular reel handles). Otherwise, you won’t be able to use it.
This is why manufacturers provide oversized handles suitable for a gloved grip. This is what you should be looking for too. In addition, a large handle improves torque, which is good for you.
9. Value for the Money
Value for the money is always a burning issue whatever the type of fishing reel you use. You might ask yourself: “Is it okay to pay that much for an ice fishing reel?"
Even though this question may seem legit at first, you must be aware of the benefits a quality fishing reel brings you. Therefore, it is up to you. If you choose a quality, durable product, you should not question the value – money relation, because it will definitely pay off.
On the other hand, don’t underestimate the likelihood of finding an affordable, quality reel. You will see some examples in our review.
This is why we want to emphasize the importance of learning everything you can, in detail, about fishing reels before you make your final decision and purchase, as you will be able to evaluate the value to money ratio yourself. Now, let’s continue to out reviews!
Our Top 10 Best Ice Fishing Reels
Finally, we have come to the most interesting part of this article for the buyers. If you have the right rod and reel combo, you are going to have a pleasant fishing experience for sure. See which one might be the most suitable choice for you.
We picked the Piscifun Spinning Reel as the winner of all the products that entered the final selection for this review. This is a great choice with an excellent value and properties.
It is a braid ready model prepared with help of a CNC machine, for extra precision. It can be tied to the spool directly. It is a lightweight model with a graphite body. At the same time, it is a strong and durable product.
Moreover, this Piscifun model has a three-carbon fiber drag system. The stopping power of this model measures 26.5 lbs. This is why this product is an excellent choice both for freshwater and saltwater anglers.
We also appreciate the fact that it is made from anti-corrosion stainless steel. In addition, it has an alloy-reinforced drive gear. It works silently, without disturbing the fish and the user.
- 3 premium carbon fiber drag washers
- 5LBs max drag power
- 5:1 gear ratio
- 0 inches retrieve per turn
- 40lb/290yds braid capacity
- 10+1 anti-corrosion stainless steel bearings
- 8 ounces total weight
- 30-day money back guarantee provided by the manufacturer.
The greatest advantages of this model are silent operation mode, lightness, durability, and versatility. It is made from superb materials, including anti-corrosion stainless steel. Moreover, this model has a strong motor with up to 26.5 lbs. maximum drag power. It is a convenient, safe model we can proudly label as the most reliable choice for ice fishing.
KastKing Summer is a cheap product yet very durable. This lightweight product has a narrow frame made from graphite. Graphite is a tough material for this type of product that ensures durability.
Moreover, this is a compact spinning reel with an amazing performance, perfect for different types of fishing, including salt and freshwater ice fishing. This model also has precise pinion gear, which will make your job with demanding fish much easier.
It has a stopping power of 17.5 lbs. Its metal shaft is protected with an anti-corrosive layer, so you will be able to use it for many years to come. It also has an attractive two-color finish.We tested this product and absolutely loved the smoothness and ease of set up and use. It has nine ball bearings, an instant stop, and an anti-reverse bearing. This advanced system is perfect for extremely easy, smooth, and convenient fishing.
- 3 oz. weight
- 0 lbs. max drag
- 2:1 gear ratio
- 9+1 ball bearing
- 0 CPT
- 7 IPT
- 4/240, 6/155 lb./yds
- 18/180, 0.20/150 mm/m line capacity.
If you want to find a quality ice fishing reel but you are on a tight budget, KastKing Summer is the place you want to look at. This has a very good drag power, an advanced system of nine ball bearings, and some great finishes that make it both attractive and protected from rust.
It is made from graphite and aluminum. It is a durable, affordable reel suitable for salt and freshwater ice fishing. We definitely recommend this model if you are looking for products that won’t cost a fortune.
Looking for quality inline reels with some amazing features? We highly recommend you to consider the Eagle Claw In Line ice reel. There are many benefits of using this model for ice fishing. Let’s begin.
First of all, it is covered in nylon and provides a smooth touch. It has a quality spool and a Teflon drag that is very smooth.
You can easily adjust the spool tension, which is convenient for different types and styles of fishing. There is also a free spool feature. We liked the fact that this model features a star drag and line clicker as well.
Moreover, this Eagle Claw model comes with a comfortable aluminum handle that is easy to grab even with thick gloves. It has 4 + 1 ball bearing system. This product’s gear ratio equals 2.6:1 and it has 4 lbs. line capacity (190 yards).
- 4+1 Ball bearings
- 4/45 line ratio
- 6:1 gear ratio
- 7 x 5.5 x 3 inches total dimensions
- 190 yards of 4 lbs. test line capacity.
If you want a reliable reel, look no further. Experts, other users, and our own testing showed that Eagle Claw In Line with 4+1 ball bearings is a trustworthy choice in today's market. It has a nylon body, a smooth Teflon drag, and a very comfortable, large handle.
The winner in our top spinning ice reel category is the Penn Pursuit II. Its drag washers are made from HT-100 carbon fiber. This is a lightweight mode resistant to corrosion. It has a durable body made from graphite. Also, experts and users appreciate the 4+1 stainless steel ball bearings.
This is a great choice for all of you who are on a tight budget but want a serious, quality product that will have a very good performance and last for many years.
While testing this reel, we liked the fact that it was great for dealing with hard-pulling gamefish. Therefore, one of the key advantages and strongest assets of this product is reliability, convenience, and strength. Its durable frame is great for combining with graphite body and metal side-plate. We also like the balance between the sensitivity of the reel and its strength and durability.
Also, the oiled drag system is perfect for smooth, but a strong drag. In addition, additional leverage is provided by thick aluminum bail wire.
When it comes to the handle, it has an ergonomic shape. Also, you will appreciate the fact that it has the anti-reverse bearing system. Now, let’s see the full list of its specs, pros, and cons.
- 5 x 5 x 4 inches total dimensions
- 2 ounces of total weight
- 4+1 ball bearing system
- 370/15 braid capacity
- 13 lb. max drag
- 2:1 gear ratio.
Made from graphite and metal, Penn Pursuit II & III is a durable choice. Its strongest assets are an excellent balance between strength and sensitivity, very good drag force, and durability. It also has an oiled felt drag system, which makes the work with this reel smooth and effortless. It is a very good choice for demanding fish as well.
A List of 6 Other Products We Reviewed
The key features of this ice reel from MONICEB include the 5-ball bearing system, which is corrosion-resistant, a graphite body and rotor, and aluminum bail.
Its stainless-steel outer construction is responsible for the smooth, anti-corrosive, and durable reel layout. The body is very well constructed and our tests showed that it keeps the weight down to 11 ounces.
Moreover, misting will not develop, as the aluminum bail, i.e. the rigid wire prevents it. This is a great choice even for extreme weather conditions. It will withstand very cold weather and very low temperatures. It will not freeze and you won’t waste your time on the de-freezing process.
Therefore, this model from Pflueger will last for years. What about user comfort? We have to mention the handle specifically. Its designers made an oversized reel covered with rubber. We really liked this solution, as it was very handy. You can easily grip it, even with large gloves. Now, let’s see the full specs list.
- 3 ounces total weight
- 4+1 ball bearing system
- 2/180, 4/110, 6/85 line capacity.
If you are looking for a comfortable, durable, graphite body ice reel that does not cost much, you should consider the MONICEB Monarch. It has the line insertion system that prevents tangling and is easy to use.
Moreover, it has a lightweight body and a durable frame. Fully secured ball bearings (4+1 system) don’t require much maintenance. If you use the tips and tricks for ice fishing, you are likely to get amazing output with this reel. This top of the line model definitely deserves your attention.
We liked this model from Fiblink because it has brass gears, a stainless-steel shaft, and a line clicker. Moreover, it has a very good spool tension adjustment system and a free spool feature.
In addition, you will appreciate the large, plastic star drag and handle. This reel has a reduced line twist. The drag is super smooth. Users also value the instant anti-reverse system.
Let’s talk about its technical features. Its gear ratio equals 2.6:1. There are 4+1 ball bearings. This model has a 2/110 line capacity. This reel weighs 5.8oz.
As a matter of fact, this is a reliable ultralight choice on the market. In addition, it is strong enough for different sizes of fish, even the demanding ones. Its smooth operation, consistent performance, and simplicity of use will amaze you. It has a reduced line twist and very good power.
You will get a package with the fishing reel and the drawstring bag. Now, let’s see the full specs, pros, and cons list.
- 4+1 ball bearing
- 4/45, 2/110, 1/270 line capacity
- 1-year warranty
- 6:1 gear ratio
- 8 oz. weight
If you want a reel that is very light, yet consistent and convenient, we recommend this Fiblink Inline model. It is made from stainless steel, with plastic handle and you will get optimal fishing experience if you can set up the reel perfectly.
It has a 4+1 ball bearing system and the anti-reverse system. You will enjoy its smooth and effortless operation whenever you try fishing.
The greatest peculiarity of this model is its sleek design and lots of excellent features that are not seen every day in an ice fishing reel. Let’s begin!
First of all, it has an attractive, sleek design and a black color finish that makes it look very cool. Moreover, it has a graphite frame that is resistant to severe weather conditions. Also, this will serve you for many years to come, if properly used.
Most importantly, we loved its technological features. Its gear ratio is 2.7:1 and it has a 5-ball bearing system. Its frame has a soft touch finish and you will definitely benefit from a large handle.
It is equipped with the anti-reverse system that is instant. Moreover, it is extremely responsive and you will definitely feel even the lightest catch. It is a precise tool with convenient performance and consistent results.
You can easily control its speed and the great thing is – no worries about the line twist! This feature is actually the greatest advantage of this amazing product. The manufacturer made sure you don’t lose the fish with your bait, with help of a dead-stick-bait alarm feature. We really want to emphasize that this feature is not a common one when it comes to the majority of the mid-class ice fishing reels.
Finally, this superior model has an integrated fender and a possibility to retrieve it from left-hand to a right-hand model. Now, let’s see the full specs list for this product.
- 7:1 gear ratio
- 5 ball bearing system
- 5 lbs.
The strongest assets of this product include a durable graphite frame, a very good 5-ball bearing system, and the instant anti-reverse feature.
Moreover, you will benefit from the release spool and the comfortable, smooth operation. The handle is large enough for effortless grabs and the soft finish of the reel provides additional comfort for the user.
Do you want a product well-equipped with lots of features? Are you looking for a composite material? Free spool feature, excellent grip, a comfortable handle, and a very good gear ratio are your preferences? Frabill Straight Line 371 has it all!
First of all, you will enjoy its quality design, durable and strong frame, and a guarded spool. This is a lightweight model which is very sensitive, so you will definitely feel the catch biting, even if it is a very small fish.
Moreover, the product is user-friendly. It has a soft touch and its composite material is very suitable for cold temperatures. You won’t feel cold when you touch it. Also, the 3.7:1 ratio is excellent.
Finally, we want to point out that this model has a long and a short stem position. Therefore, it is a versatile model that can be used for different fishing styles.
It has a 5+1 ball bearing system. You will enjoy the extremely smooth drag. The drag setting makes it suitable for walleye, pike, and panfish. Also, it has an integrated anti-reverse system. There are no line twists.
- 7:1 ratio
- 22-inch line retrieval/rev
- 5+1 BB system
- 8 x 4.2 x 7-inch dimensions
- 8 ounces weight
If you are looking for a model that comes with both long and short stem and that behaves amazingly in severe weather conditions, look no more. This model from Frabill has a 5+1 ball bearing system, a free spool feature, and the anti-reverse system.
It is a lightweight model made from a composite material that is extremely durable and resilient. We highly recommend it, even for very small fish and very cold temperatures.
We liked this model at first sight due to its attractive design. It has a long stem. Therefore, it is very suitable for fishing with bulky gloves. Also, it has a large handle, which is necessary for ice fishing.
Moreover, you will like the smooth line flow. It is enabled by the angled rotor of this advanced choice. This model also has cold gear lube. This is why it is so suitable for extreme weather conditions.
In addition, we liked the fact that this model can be used both as the left-hand and right-hand reel. It is easy to set up and use. Even beginners will not have problems with using any of the features of this product.
It is suitable for all freshwater fish types. The spool is made from aluminum. It has anti-rust protection. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about corrosion and material deterioration. You can safely use your reel for many years to come.
- 4/110 line capacity
- 2:1 gear ratio
- 45-pound weight
- 7 inches long
- 6 inches wide
- 5 inches tall.
This is an excellent choice if you want a freshwater ice reel. It is durable, strong, and has very good sensitivity.
Moreover, this model has a good 5.2:1 gear ratio. It weighs 0.45 pounds. It is perfect both for the left-handed and right-handed users.
This ice fishing reel from Abu Garcia, a reputable fishing equipment manufacturing company, has a very long stem, specially designed for this type of fishing. Moreover, we liked the smooth and convenient handles. They are large enough to grab even with the bulky gloves.
In addition, this reel is sensitive, yet strong. It has a 100/4 lbs. line capacity and 3+1 ball bearing system. It weighs 8 ounces, making it an ultra-light choice.
Also, it measures 0.55 x 0.2 x 0.175 inches. If you are looking for a small product, you should definitely take this model into consideration.
As we have already said, this model has a very good balance between sensitivity and power, so you will be able to use it for different types of fish. We tested this product, and it definitely deserves its place among our top-rated ice fishing reels.
- 3+1 ball bearing system
- 100/4 lbs. line capacity
- 8 ounces of total weight
- 55 inches long
- 2 inches wide.
If you are looking for a very light model, we definitely recommend this one. In addition, it has a smooth handle that is easy to grab. It is large enough for ice fishing with bulky gloves. Finally, the experts value a very good balance between its sensitivity and strength.
A List of Other Products We Tested
Finally, we hope you've enjoyed this comprehensive buying guide. We tried to provide an insight into all the factors that impact an ice reel's performance so that you can choose the best ice fishing reels for your needs.
We chose the Piscifun Spinning Reel model as the winner because it was durable and sensitive with an excellent ball bearing system and quality materials.
The KastKing Summer is the most affordable one, while the Eagle Claw In Line is a great inline model. Make your choice today and you will surely thank us later!
You can also check other reels made by prominent manufacturers like Okuma, Yongzhi, X-Cat or Shimano. These reels are widely used for ice fishing by expert anglers but they didn't make it to the list as we had only ten spots to allocate.