Best Ice Fishing Reels

Best Ice Fishing Reels

13 Fishing Black Betty Inline Ice Reel
1. 13 Fishing Black Betty Inline Ice Reel
Best Overall Ice Fishing Reel
2. Okuma Ceymar Lightweight Spinning Reel
Best Spinning Reel For Ice Fishing
Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel
3. Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel
Best Ice Fishing Reel For The Money

Ice fishing is one of the most specialized types of fishing around.

It's so specialized that companies build reels just for ice anglers.This guide will help you find the best ice fishing reel for your needs.

eagle-claw-inline-ice-reel
  • Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel
  • Nylon body and aluminum spool
  • Smooth Teflon drag
  • Free spool release button
  • Spool tension adjustment
Okuma Ceymar C10
  • Okuma Ceymar C10
  • 8 ball bearings
  • Multi-disc, oiled felt drag system, Max Drag Pressure - 5-lbs
  • Can be switched for right or left-hand retrieval
  • 110 yards of 4lb. Test
fiblink-inline-ice-fishing-reel
  • Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel
  • Free spool release button
  • Aluminum star drag
  • Line clicker
  • Instant anti-reverse system
frabill-straight-line-371-ice-fishing-reel
  • Frabill Straight Line 371 Ice Fishing Reel
  • Lightweight composite construction
  • 5+1 ball bearing system
  • Instant anti-reverse
  • 22-inch line retrieval
13-fishing-black-betty-fishing-reels
  • 13 Fishing Black Betty Fishing Reels
  • CNC machined aluminum construction
  • Carbon drag
  • Instant anti-reverse
  • 2.7:1 gear ratio

There are 3 basic types of ice fishing reels. Each one has pros and cons.

  • Ice Fishing Spinning Reels.
  • Ice Fishing Inline Reels.
  • Baitcasting (Revolving Spool) Reels.

Ice fishing spinning reels are usually just really small spinning reels.

Spinning reels are also known as fixed spool reels because the spool does not rotate. This name is used even though modern spinning reels have oscillating spools.

The upside to using these is that they can be used to ice fishing and ultralight applications.

For example, after ice fishing season is over, the same reel will work for panfish or small trout streams.

Ice fishing inline reels are specially designed for ice fishing. They mounted under the rod and have rotating spools. Since they're mounted under the rod, they're used with spinning rods.

Baitcasting reels are used for ice fishing. But this is not a very common usage. Normally, when you see a baitcasting reel on that ice, it's a reel that's primarily used for other types of fishing. Then, in the winter, it serves double duty as an ice fishing reel.

Which type of ice fishing reel is best for you?The answer to this relies on how serious you are about ice fishing.

Spinning Reel vs. Inline for Ice Fishing

Many anglers choose in line because they want to avoid line twist. Line twist  often happens because of the way spinning reels wrap the line onto the spool.

It's almost inevitable to get at least a small amount of line twist on a spinning reel.

Inline reels on the other hand have revolving spools. This means that the spool rotates as line is fed out. 

Line twist is much less likely to happen with a revolving spool reel.  Keep in mind though, that some baits that spin could add line twists regardless of the type of reel.

Some anglers stick to spinning reels for various reasons. Using the same reel year round can be appealing. They don’t want to bother with having different reels for ice fishing and panfishing for example.

An ultralight spinning reel can easily serve double duty as a trout or panfish reel. Then, in the winter, the reel can be put on an ice fishing rod and be ready to go.

What To Look For In An Ice Fishing Reel

When looking for the right ice fishing reel, there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind. We'll help you ask the right questions before you buy.

Reel and rod weight

While there are some exceptions, ice fishing rods are usually shorter and lighter. This means that having a lightweight reel is even more important.

A lightweight rod should be matched up with a lightweight reel. This will help maintain the combos balance. It will also help reduce fatigue.

Installing a reel that is too heavy for the rod can create an imbalanced setup. This could lead to difficulties in detecting strikes.

This is especially true under the ice where strikes can be very subtle. So, keep in mind that rod and reel weight should be complimentary. For most ice fishing rods, a good lightweight ice fishing reel should stay below 5 ounces.

Line retrieval

Since ice fishing doesn't involve casting, you won’t have to worry about backlash as much.

It can still happen if you’re using an inline reel and a heavy lure or sinker. This could cause the spool to over spin and result in a backlash.

Line management is still a concern even with ultralight gear. Use of fluorocarbon or monofilament lines in very cold weather can cause problems. Sometimes mono or fluoro will fly off a spinning reel because of line memory.  This can lead to tangles. Many ice anglers use line conditioners to prevent this. Other will only use braid as their mainline.


Inline reels don't suffer from these problems. The revolving spool helps reduce the chance of a tangle.

Weather resistant components

For ice fishing reels, weather resistance is a key feature.

Most importantly, this applies to the outer composition of the reel, and the gears inside. Reels composed of all metal are typically much more durable.

But, they will also conduct cold temperatures. This makes it difficult to hold the reel throughout frigid winter conditions. It can also lead to rod components locking up.

The internal gears also need some additional consideration when it comes to cold temperatures.

The best ice fishing reels will come with gear lubricant. This lubricant will repel the cold water, ensuring that gears don’t freeze up while on the water.

Another feature found in some ice spinning reels is rotors and spools that repel water as they spin. This can also help prevent the accumulation of ice on your reel.

Target Species

Ice Fishing For Panfish

If you’re going after panfish such as perch and crappie, the lightest reels and lines should work well. This means that an inline reel with 2 lb. test line should be fine.

The light weight of an inline reel will really help make fighting these smaller fish more fun. Also, the ease of handling super light lines will be enhanced by the revolving spool.

The ability to release the spool and drop the line really helps with jigging. Also, line twist will be greatly reduced with an inline reel.

Ice Fishing For Pike

Northern Pike are a different story. These toothy critters can slice right through light line. 

You may want to consider using a thick fluorocarbon leader when targeting pike.

As for the reel, you may want to opt for a spinning reel that can hold a bot more 6 or 8 pound test line.

If you hook up with a 20-30 inch northern, this type of set up will improve your chances of landing it.

Another challenge may be getting the pike up through the ice hole.  Sometimes a heavy fish can place additional stress on the line. When it is brought up through the ice hole, the lower edge of the hole may rub against the line and potentially break it. Once again, a leader may help prevent this.

Ice Fishing For Bass

Mos ice anglers targeting bass will be using a spinning reel. Often times these fish can be much heavier than panfish. You’ll want to go with a spinning reel loaded with 4 to 8 pound test line.

Many of the same techniques will work. For example jigging a lipless crankbait or a spoon should do the trick.

Ice Fishing For Trout

When fishing for trout through the ice, you should be able to use the same rod and reel that you use for bass.

Unless that is you’re going after large lake trout. Many anglers in the great lakes area seek them out in the winter. These fish can easily exceed 20 pounds and will make long runs.

Most anglers looking for large lake trout will spool a spinning reel with 8 to 15 pound test braided line. They will also use a fluoro leader. The heavier line also helps with abrasion resistance.

Line running across the bottom of the ice hole can definitely be a problem for this species.

A spinning reel used in the summer for finesse bass fishing would be fine for this application.Also, sometimes lake trout can be much deeper than normal ice fishing targets. You may be fishing for trout 100 feet below your ice hole.

Ice Fishing For Walleye

For Walleye fishing through the ice, you should be able to use a spinning reel or inline reel. While walleye can get larger, they won’t make the same long runs that a lake trout will.

So for this reason you should be able to use line as light as 4 pound test. You average ultralight spinning reel or inline reel should do fine.

Our Top Picks For Ice Fishing Reels.

1. 13 Fishing Black Betty Inline Ice Reel

This ice fishing reel has gotten nearly perfect reviews for its smooth drag and overall durability.

It comes with a bait alarm to help alert anglers to hits.

Also, the new frame design lets you use either a pistol or pencil grip when using this reel.

With a 2.7:1 gear ratio, the reel will retrieve 18 inches of line per crank.

With the combination of the instant anti-reverse, retrieves are fluid and effective. The lightweight EVA handles provide a comfortable grip, allowing ice anglers greater control over the reel.

The carbon drag system allows for reliable performance.

With solid construction, the 13 Fishing Black Betty model is becoming one of the most talked-about ice fishing reels.

Pros

  • Super Smooth Drag.
  • Lightweight.
  • Great for jigging.

Cons

  • Overruns can happen if you're not careful.
  • Line can become wrapped around tension knob.

2. Okuma Ceymar C10

The okuma ceymar size C-10 is a great choice for ice fishing. Ice fishing forums members across the upper Midwest rave about this reel.

The ceymar is known for having a silky smooth drag at a price that is reasonable.

It will hold 110 yards of 4lb. test mono or 70 yards of 6 lb. test mono. it has a gear ration of 5.0:1, weighs 6 ounces, and a max drag of 5 pounds.

The reel is constructed with a graphite body, a brass pinion gear and a machined  aluminum spool. This is standard for spinning reels and should be more than adequate for ice fishing applications.

The long handle stem is great for anglers wearing thick gloves. The eva foam grip is also large enough for gloved hands to get a good grip on.

Pros

  • Great budget reel.
  • Not just for ice fishing.
  • Handle is long enough for hands wearing large gloves.

Cons

  • Some users report early reel failure.

3. Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel

The nylon body and spool make the Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel well suited to withstand bitter winter weather.

Ice anglers will be pleased to experience the free spool release button. It removes the drag and allows the reel to go into a free spool. This makes ice jigging much easier, allowing for a tight lure to be dropped into a fishing hole without causing tangles in the fishing line.

It comes with a left hand retrieve.  But if you need to change it to a right hand retrieve, you can do it with a little bit of work.

Each crank of the handle will reel in 15.75 inches of line.

The spool tension adjustment will help prevent any backlash when using heavier lures.

As an additional benefit, the Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel comes with a line clicker. This helps ice anglers monitor the amount of line output from the reel.

Users report that it's a solid, reliable reel that has converted many to inline reels.It's one of the most affordable inline ice fishing reels on the market.

Pros

  • Resistant to freezing up.
  • Not just for ice fishing.
  • Excellent spool tension control.

Cons

  • Some users report spool slippage.

4. Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel

With four ball bearings and a gear ratio of 2.7:1, the Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel is an altogether smooth and sturdy ice fishing reel.

At 5.8 ounces, it is light enough to comfortably hold for longer periods of time.

Even though it's light, it's still sturdy enough to withstand wear and tear from changing weather conditions.

Brass gears, and 4 stainless steel ball bearings plus 1 roller bearing help ensure smooth operation.The drag system is easily adjusted, and the free spool function makes ice fishing much easier.

Fishing line can quickly drop down as far as needed, and the line clicker will keep track of each and every inch.

As an additional benefit, the Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel also comes with a one-year warranty. It also includes a soft carrying case to protect the reel when not in use.

Pros

  • Lightweight for all day use.
  • Easy to use with gloves.
  • Smooth drag.

Cons

  • Some users report they got the reel without instructions.

5. Frabill Straight Line 371 Ice Fishing Reel

What really sets the Frabill Straight Line 371 model apart is its lightweight composite construction.

The construction maintains rigidity and increases durability. It also resists conducting cold temperatures. This creates an overall comfortable reel to hold during the winter.

With a 3.7:1 gear ratio, this ice fishing reel offers additional strength and power to bring larger fish through ice holes.

The large construction of the spool allows for maximum balance and a quicker retrieval rate. With each turn of the handle, it brings in 22 inches of fishing line.

As an additional benefit, this reel also comes with an adjustable bait alarm. This will help anglers who are monitoring multiple setups.

Internal sub-zero lubricant ensures that gears will continue to function throughout bitter cold.

Pros

  • Ideal for light jigging action.
  • Spool guard allows palm grip.
  • 5 +1 ball bearings.

Cons

  • Some users report early reel failure.
  • Spool may have some play in it.

Conclusion

Whether sitting on a lake, pond, or creek, ice fishing can be just as much of a social event as fishing during the warmer seasons.

The temperature may be less forgiving during ice fishing season, but that certainly doesn't stop us.

Whether you choose online or spinning reels, make sure you tailor your gear correctly.

The species and locations you're targeting can have an impact on the gear you choose.

Don't forget to check out our other ice fishing reviews. Reechase.com Ice Fishing.

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Best Ice Fishing Reels
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