The 10 Best Ice Fishing Reels For 2021 + Buyer’s Guide

Whether you are a casual angler or a competitive sports angler, your catch rate will be affected by the type of fishing reel you have.

Whether you are looking for a one that gives you more accuracy or a simple one that you can use to teach the kids fishing, you need to do some serious research to find the best ice fishing reel. 

We did all of that, so you don’t have to! Here are some of the best ice fishing reels and other reels you can replace your old ones with before you celebrate 2020 with a new fishing trip.

Top Ice Fishing Reels

sample-table__imageBest Ice Fishing ReelKastKing Centron Spinning Reel
  • Solid Drag
  • Graphite Frame
  • Low-Price
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sample-table__imageBest In Line Ice Fishing ReelEagle Claw In-Line Ice Reel
  • Smooth Teflon Drag
  • Nylon Body and Spool
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sample-table__imageStraightline ReelFrabil 690701 Reel
  • Works Sub-Zero
  • Works in Rough Conditions
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sample-table__imageBudget ReelPiscifun Spinning Reel
  • Graphite Body
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sample-table__image13 Fishing Black Betty
  • Micro-Click Drag Knob
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sample-table__imageAffordableAbu Garcia ICEMAX Ice Fishing Reel
  • 3 Ball Bearings
  • Cold Gear Lube
  • Light
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sample-table__imagePflueger MONICEB Monarch
  • 5 Ball Bearings
  • Graphite Body and Rotor
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sample-table__imageUltralightDaiwa D-Spin Ultralight
  • Composite Housing
  • Digigear Design
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sample-table__imageCelsius Blizzard Spinning Reel
  • Smooth Drag
  • 4 Ball Bearings
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sample-table__imageLow-CostShakespeare Glacier Ice Reel
  • Graphite Reel Frame
  • Aluminum Spool
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10 Best Ice Fishing Reels for 2020 Reviewed

1. KastKing Centron Spinning Reels

Best Ice Fishing Reel

KastKing Centron Spinning Reel,Size 500 Fishing Reel
  • GREAT VALUE - Loaded with features yet low on price....
  • LIGHTWEIGHT - narrow graphite frame design and computer...
  • HIGH POWERED - KastKing Summer/Centron spinning reel's...

Who said spinning reels have to look boring to be functional? As far as the best ice fishing reel goes, the gorgeous KastKing Summer and Centron Spinning Reels take the cake when it comes to performance. The reels are lightweight due to the narrow graphite frame design, and the superior drag system offers 17.5 lbs stopping power. 

Although this reel is great for bringing in fish if you’re not careful in extremely cold conditions it could freeze up on you. Also, do yourself a favor and be sure to rinse it off after each use.

Other than that, it comes with an anti-corrosion layer that protects it against saltwater damage and it holds more line than its competitors that cost more. This is a reel you should have in your gear bag!

2. Eagle Claw In-Line Ice Reel

Best Inline Ice Fishing Reel

Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel
  • Nylon body and spool
  • Smooth Teflon drag
  • Spool tension adjustment

The Eagle Claw In-Line Ice Reel is one of the best inline reels you can get if you are on a budget. The model is simple and smooth, but it packs enough power to delight expert anglers, especially those who fish in hard water. The nylon body and spool, as well as the aluminum handle, make this one of the best inlines on the market. 

The one thing we didn’t like is that some of the components are made of plastic and it has quite a few tiny parts that will require more service over time.

However, the smooth Teflon drag is easy to adjust and it does have a free spool release button for tension adjustments on the go. If you’re looking for an in-line reel, this is a good option.

3. Frabil 690701 Reel Straightline 371 Bro Clam Pack

Best Straightline Reel

Frabill Straight Line 371 Ice Fishing Reel in Clamshell Pack, Black, One Size
  • Spool guarded reel to allow palm grip
  • Lightweight composite construction for strength and...
  • Composite construction won't feel cold in frigid...

This high quality and performance-driven ice fishing reel is designed to be lightweight and will not freeze even in frigid temperatures. It offers a super smooth drag and immediate anti-reverse. This model also has a silent bait alarm switch and an oversized handle to maximize grip and control. 

You’ll need to be careful as the release can lock up and stop working. Also, the tension adjuster could run into issues if a piece of ice gets stuck on the line while reeling.

Since it has a 100% free spool switch, this allows you to drop the smallest jig to any depth without line twist. It also prevents line coiling and tackle spinning which is a plus.

4. Piscifun Spinning Reel

Piscifun Spinning Reel Lightweight Smooth Fishing Reel 10+1BB Carbon Fiber Drag Powerful Spin Reels
  • Braid Ready - CNC Machined aluminum braid ready spool allows...
  • Light Weight - Graphite body and rotor provides a...
  • Unparalleled STOPPING POWER - The spinning reel features a...

This Piscifun spinning reel boasts a graphite body and rotor, resulting in a design that is lightweight and durable at the same time. The braid-ready spool allows anglers to tie braid directly to the spool without slipping, and the three carbon fiber drag system offers about 26.5 lbs of power that can stop a large fish in its tracks.

What we weren’t happy with is that the screws seemed a bit soft, which could lead to stripping over time and it also has a bad habit of feeling greasy with heavy use.

However, this reel is suitable for fresh and saltwater fishing and comes at a good price, so it’s worth considering.

5. 13 Fishing Black Betty Freefall Ice Reel

13 FISHING Black Betty Freefall Right Hand Hardwater Inline Ice Fishing Reel
  • FREEFALL TRIGGER - The revolutionary FreeFall trigger allows...
  • DURABLE & LIGHTWEIGHT - The 13 Fishing Black Betty FreeFall...
  • PERFECT FUNCTIONALITY - The Ultra-Functional system...

The Black Betty Ice Reel has some of the best features out of the lineup. The reel allows hard water anglers to hit accurate depths and increase their chances of hookups exponentially as the system re-engages automatically to maximize the size to hookup ratio.

You can also alter the fall rate as well to ensure you remain in control during the drop. Be careful though because the spool is aluminum it can ice up quickly when used in cold weather outside. We also noticed a few backlash issues with this reel.

We did like the ability to control bait depth easily with one hand and how our jigs dropped quickly without twisting our line.

6. Abu Garcia ICEMAX Ice Fishing Reel

Best Budget Ice Fishing Reel

Abu Garcia ICEMAX 4842-1331 Ice MAX Spinning Fishing Reel
  • 3 ball bearings + 1 roller bearing provides smooth Operation
  • Cold gear lube for top performance in extreme cold weather...
  • Lightweight graphite body and rotor

There is more to this ice-fishing reel than its sleek design. It has a light, graphite body and rotor and machined aluminum spool that provides the required strength without adding to the weight. Storage is easy courtesy of the collapsible reel handle, and the cold gear lube enhances performance even in frigid conditions.  

With any budget reel issues can arise. For example, this reel switch has a tendency to only turn in anti-reverse on occasion.

The best part of this reel is the long stem which allows for an easy grip for gloved hands.

7. Pflueger MONICEB Monarch Ice Spinning Reel

Pflueger MONICEB Monarch Ice Spinning Reel
  • 5 bearing system: Corrosion resistant stainless steel ball...
  • Graphite body and rotor: Lightweight graphite reel...
  • Aluminum bail: Thick aluminum bail wire design, rigid to...

This ice-fishing reel can be used to fish in the harshest freezing conditions without worry. The reel is outfitted with five stainless steel ball bearings, which can stand adverse weather conditions without getting stuck.

Additionally, the lightweight graphite body and the rotor keep the weight of the reel comfortable. An important feature is the thick aluminum ball wire, which prevents bending. 

A few things we wished were changed was a back-reel switch and having it be a little lighter. Not deal breaks by any means, just observations.

We did like the five ball bearing systems which ensures instant anti-revers and how their insertion system keeps away tangles.

8. Daiwa D-Spin Ultralight Spinning Fishing Reel

Daiwa D-SPIN1000-B D-Spin Ultralight Spinning Reel, 1000,Black
  • New mold design
  • Smooth, ball bearing drive
  • Digigear Digital Gear Design for Speed, Power and Durability

To many, it’s one of the lightest ice fishing reels on the market, the Daiwa D-Spin is a mere 5 ounces in weight, making it ideal for smaller fish. It offers a max drag of about 4.4 pounds and a 4:9:1 gear ratio, which is perfect for high resistance lures.

It comes with a single stainless steel ball-bearing for smooth line retrieval. These features may not make it the best ice fishing reel for expert anglers, though.

We did wish the drag was a bit stronger in certain scenarios and that the handle knob felt a bit more robust. However, it is an ultralight which makes it great for all skill levels and it’s not expensive.

9. Celsius Blizzard Spinning Reel

Celsius Blizzard Spinning CEL-310P/CP Reel 4 ball Bearings/Anti-Reverse
  • Features 4 ball bearings and infinite anti-reverse
  • High quality aluminum spool with anti-freeze lubrication
  • Extended reel yoke to allow room for gloves

This high-end fishing reel is for serious ice anglers who are looking for great features. The Celcius Blizzard reel comes with an extended yoke that allows fishermen to use the reel with gloves on. It also boasts a nice and smooth drag in an aluminum spool for max durability as well as four stainless steel ball bearings for smooth retrieval. 

If you’re not careful, you can have some spooling issues such as the line wrapping around the axis instead of the spool itself.

However, the insides of this reel are treated with antifreeze so you can rest assured it won’t seize-up on you.

10. Shakespeare Glacier Ice Reel

Shakespeare 1323311 Glacier Ice Reel, Blue
  • Full body graphite reel frame
  • Aluminum spool
  • Extended stem for more Clearance

This is a great cheap fishing reel you can get for icy conditions on amazon com, which comes with reliable features. The Shakespeare reel boasts a 15 degree tilted orientation to maximize line flow and a weight-saving aluminum spool that resists corrosion.

The long-stemmed design also allows a comfortable fishing experience even if you have thick gloves on. 

Some things to be aware of, the backstop for preventing backward freewheeling has a tendency to not work properly and the graphite construction might not hold up as well as other materials.

However, the reel does provide smoother line flow compared to other reels and it can withstand icy conditions due to its cold gear lube treatment.

How to Pick the Best Ice Fishing Reel

The look of an ice fishing reel does not have much to do with performance as much as its features do. Here are some specifications you should focus on when you are in the market for a new ice fishing reel. 

Reel Features

Body Design

Ice fishing reels have a different design compared to other reels because you have to wear gloves while using them, and fishing is static rather than animated. The reel body is more robust/thicker so that it can prevent the line from freezing, so don’t go for its look.


Since you don’t have to throw casts during ice fishing, the spools are inline i.e. there is no twist. In other words, the line remains on the spool. Plus, it can also hold more line than other fishing reels since you will be fishing in deeper water. 


The handles of ice fishing reels are quite thick to make them glove-friendly. How else can you prevent your fingers from freezing off? Plus, the large handle also improves torque.

Best ice fishing reel for catching fish
The right gear is crucial for landing fish. Source: Public Affairs Office Fort Wainwright

Reel Construction


Ice fishing reels are lightweight because they offer more flexibility to anglers without limiting movement. They also prevent fatigue from setting in prematurely. 

Durability and Material

Ice fishing reels take quite a beating from the freezing elements, so naturally, the material they are made from has to be durable. Look for ones that are made from stainless steel or aluminum. These are rust-proof and light enough for your needs. 

Reduced Friction (Ball Bearings)

Ball bearings in an ice fishing reel play an important role when it comes to reducing friction in these reels. These can oppose drag load, so the more ball bearings, the better, but the material matters as well. For instance, if you want to use the reel for surf or ocean fishing, use a reel that has shielded bearings to protect the line from the saltwater. 

Anti-Ice System

A frozen reel is a useless ice fishing reel. Since you will be using these reels in sub-zero conditions, make sure you get one that has a layer of antifreeze protecting it from the chill. Or you will spend more time thawing your line than fishing. 

Drag Capacity

The drag aims to moderate how much force can be placed on the line before the spool slips out. This is in the form of frictionless plates. Spinning fishing reels have a front or rear system or a combination. Rear drags can be easier to adjust than the front variety. 

Spinning vs. Inline Ice Fishing Reels – Comparison

There are several important things you need to consider when you are trying to decide between spinning and inline fishing reels such as the following:

  • Inline reels do not work well for large fish compared to the spinning variety because the latter offers better drag adjustments in comparison.
  • Inline reels work like a charm when they are jigged because these allow the line to remain on the spool without twisting. Spinning reels, on the other hand, are better for live bait.
  • Inline reels can be quite pricey because they promise high-quality performance and features. Spinning reels can be found at cheaper price points in comparison. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the best inline ice fishing reel?

A: The answer is subjective because inline ice reels are ones that can suit the environment you are fishing in. An important rule of thumb is to ensure that the one you get is durable, versatile, and capable of withstanding freezing conditions without sustaining damage. Options that have a 7 1 gear ratio offer faster retrieves, which makes them ideal for competitive anglers. The Fiblink Inline ice fishing reel is considered to be the right choice as well. 

Q: Can you use a baitcasting reel for ice fishing?

A: Yes, you can. These work on ice just as well as they work on open water. 

Q: What is an inline reel?

A: An inline reel is a fishing reel that allows the line to lay on the spool without twisting, thus allowing anglers to jig bait, which do not spin. 

Q: How to put a line on ice fishing reel?

A: Mount the reel on the rod and take the line from the spool through the guides that start at the top. You’ll want to open the bail on the spinning reel and then affix the line to the spool arbor using an improved clinch knot. Close the bail by cutting off the tag end. Remove the hood from the spin-casting reel and run the line through the hole of the hood before tying it to the arbor and cutting off the excess line. Then re-attach the hook. If you are using a baitcasting reel, run the fishing line through the line-winding guide before tying it around the arbor and cutting off the excess. 

Insider Advice

Make sure that you match your reel to the rod you will be using. Like reels, rods are rated according to different line tests, so if you use a higher test line that it is not made to withstand, you may end up breaking it.

Rods that are used for baitcasting are stiffer compared to more flexible spinning rods. You can either mix and match yourself to get the perfect rod and reel combo or purchase ready-made combos depending on the type of fishing you are doing. If you want to be an active participant in the activity, experiment with different combos. 

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Jon Stenstrom

Johanes Godoy

Sushmita Lo

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Articles » Gear Reviews » Fishing Reels » The 10 Best Ice Fishing Reels For 2021 + Buyer’s Guide