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6 Best Ice Fishing Rods for Catching Panfish, Pike, Walleye, and More!

When it comes to ice fishing, there are no single best ice fishing rods that you can have in your arsenal. Be sure to check out our other ice fishing gear guides if you’re just getting started.

You’ll likely have a few different ones depending on what type of fish you’re going after, bait or lures you plan to use, and the environmental conditions you’re subjected to.

Quick Answer: 6 Top Ice Fishing Rods

Therefore, we’ve put together a list of the best ice rods based on some of the scenarios you might find yourself this season.

best ice fishing rod stuck in snow
Are you reading for the ice fishing season? Source: Timo

Let’s take a closer look at your options.

Best Ice Fishing Rods Reviewed

Best Budget Ice Fishing Rod

Berkley Cherrywood HD Ice Fishing Rod

Berkley Cherrywood HD Ultralite Spinning Ice Rod, 24" - 1323297
  • 100% fiberglass blanks
  • Durable rod finish
  • Full cork handles

If you’re looking to get started ice fishing and don’t want to spend a lot of money on gear, then you need to check out this Berkley Cherrywood HD. Pair it up with a small 500 size reel with some light monofilament and you’ll be all set to catch some small panfish on the water.

This rod is made from a 100% fiberglass ice fishing rod blank and comes with a comfortable cork handle. It has three guides so it’ll be a bit better against freezing if you’re fishing outside.

This ultra-light is able to bring in crappies up to 22 inches. It’s cheap so if you break it, you won’t break your bank.

Best Panfish Budget Ice Fishing Rod

Shakespeare Wild Series Ice Fishing Spinning Rod

SHAKESPEARE SWSICE27M Wild Series Ice Spinning Rod
  • Solid fiberglass moderate action blanks
  • Lightweight stainless steel guides
  • Comfortable HTG - Hybrid Tech grips

If you’re looking for a comparable rod to the Berkley Cherrywood HD, but want more guides because you’ll be fishing inside your ice shed, then this is worth your consideration.

It’s made from fiberglass and comes with stainless steel guides for added durability. It has a light tip and a strong backbone.

This rod will have no problem bringing in walleye up to 27 inches on the medium power model.

Best Panfish Carbon Fiber Ice Fishing Rod

Atataka Ice Fishing Rod

Akataka Ice Fishing Rod Ultralight Fishing Pole,Carbon Fiber Constructions Sensitive Tip 3A Cork Handle for Kids and Adults 26"
  • CARBON FIBER ROD BODY:Akataka ice fishing rods are...
  • STAINLESS STEEL GUIDES:The stainless steel guides...

If you’re looking for a little more sensitivity for your panfish bite, then check out this Atataka rod. It has a sensitive tip that should help you sight fish as well.

It’s flexible and has a strong backbone. The reel seat is nice and the cork handle is comfortable. The orange tip is a nice feature to see tip moving against the snow.

If you’re looking to put a bunch of bluegills, crappie, and even some largemouths in the cooler, this would be your rod.

Best Ultralight Ice Fishing Rod

13 Fishing Widow Maker Evolve

13 Fishing Widow Maker Evolve Engaged Reel Seat Ice Fishing Rod, 27" Ultra-Light,Black
  • High performance 36Ton solid body Toray graphite...
  • Hand selected 5a Portuguese cork handle
  • Alps thin wire double diamond coated guides

13 Fishing ice rods are stellar! If you’ve been ice fishing for some time and would like to move away from the budget rods, then this would be the next best step up.

It’s a graphite blank that has great action. The cork handle is comfortable and the guides are Alps thin wire double diamond guides, which are a nice step away from the generic stainless still guides found on cheaper ice rods.

Best Ice Fishing Combo

Abu Garcia Venerate 

Abu Garcia AVNRTICE29MCBO Venerate Ice Combo
  • 3+1 bearing System
  • Low temperature gear lube
  • Extended reel stem

If you don’t already have a reel that you love, then it might be worth just jumping and getting this solid ice fishing combo by Abu Garcia.

This is a solid carbon blank with stainless steel guides that have been upgraded with zirconium inserts.

The ultra-light is great for panfish and small trout. It’s well balanced and the reel has a smooth rotation. It’s comfortable to hold for long periods of time and the rod is strong yet sensitive.

Best Walleye Ice Fishing Rod

St. Croix Mojo Series Ice Fishing Rod

St. Croix Mojo Series Ice Rod (28", Medium-Light)
  • Precision-taper solid carbon blank
  • Premium split-grip cork/EVA handle
  • Custom reel seat ideal for all techniques

We’re a huge fan of St Croix ice rods. St Croix continues to put out quality products year after year.

If you’re looking to go after bigger fish like walleye, pike, whitefish, or lake trout, then check out this rod. It’s sensitive enough to feel the slightest nibbles, yet has enough backbone to hoist the big fish from the bottom. Walleyes ice fishing just got a lot more fun with this rod.

This is a popular rod and one you’d likely buy again throughout the years.

How to Choose the Best Ice Fishing Rods

man ice fishing with a rod and reel
Stay warm out there! Source: Mitch Carriere

There are some general rules of thumb to decide what type of setup you’ll need for ice fishing. We’ve listened to experts to see what they like to use so that you can determine what to get prior to hitting up your local shop or buying online.

Note: just FYI, it’s ice fishing rod, not ice fishing pole.

Generally, we’ll bucket our setups between panfish and larger fish. There are many ways to catch fish, but if you had to start from scratch, follow these guidelines.


Ultralight Fiberglass Rod Setup

If you’re looking to catch panfish including perch or bluegill and want to use micro baits, then you should look at getting an ultralight ice fishing rod 18-24 inches in length.

You’ll want to pair that rod with:

  • 500 size ice fishing reel
  • 2-6lb mono/fluoro or
  • 5 lb braid

Ultralight Ice Fishing Graphite Rod Setup

Sometimes fiberglass just won’t cut it in terms of sensitivity. Therefore, if you’re planning on going jigging for small walleye, crappie, bluegill, or rock bass, then you should look at getting an 18-24 inch rod if fishing in your ice hut, or 28-30 inches if you’re fishing outside.

You’ll want to pair that rod with:

This setup will be super sensitive, which is why we like it for jigging. For even more feel, try using 5-pound braid with a four-foot fluorocarbon leader.

best ice rod on a beer box holder
Who else likes to be innovative on the ice? Source: GSankary

Bigger Fish Ice Rod Setup

Now if you’re in an area where you can go for bigger fish, then you’ll need another setup entirely. If you plan to go for whitefish, walleye, lake trout or other monsters, then you should look at a medium to a medium-heavy rod.

You’ll want to pair that rod with:

  • 2500 size reel or
  • Baitcaster 150-200 size
  • 4-10lb mono/fluoro
  • 5-10lb braid
  • 28-36inch length when fishing outside
  • 18-24 in inside the tent

Again, feel free to use braid with a fluorocarbon leader if you want a bit more sensitivity. You way to select the right rod stiffness to the size fish you’re going after. Problems happen when you don’t dial this in properly.

Fiberglass vs Graphite Ice Rods

When you’re choosing your ice fishing rod blank, you’ll likely be deciding between fiberglass and carbon fiber.

Fiberglass blanks are:

  • super soft
  • great for live bait and micro presentations 

Graphite blanks are: 

  • a little stiffer
  • great for working baits

Ultralight vs Medium vs Medium-Heavy

Make sure you match rod power to the size of the fish you’re targeting.

  • Ultralight to light: target panfish
  • Medium to Medium-Heavy: target walleye, lake trout, pike, white fish

Walleye Ice Fishing Rig

Walleyes are a fun fish to target and are a bit special. They need a good rod and reel to be able to bring these fish to the surface. 

That means they should have a solid backbone rod with a quality reel and drag. This will allow you to achieve a good hookset and to be able to play a fish properly. Make sure you drill a proper size hole in the ice or use an ice chisel to make an opening to get out your catch!

For more information on How to Catch Walleye.


The worst thing that can happen is that you’re fishing and your guides freeze up. This causes annoyance and can damage your line if you’re not careful.

Usually, when guides are too small and it’s super cold outside, they’ll freeze up. The opposite of small guides are big guides, which can be nice, but tend to be clunky and take away from the balance of the ice rod. 

You’ll also find that the bigger the guides, the less there are on the rod.

When possible go more guides for a better rod bend. If it’s freezing and you’re fishing outside, go with bigger guides.


Q: What does it mean to choose the right size of a fishing rod?

A: You want to pick the right length, power, and sensitivity of rod depending on what type of fish you’re going after. For ice fishing, if you’re fishing in a hut, it’s more convenient to fish a shorter rod.

Q: How can I handle and test my rod?

A: The best way is to visit your local fishing shop. Another option is to buy a few online and get a sense of their weight, power, and sensitivity by attaching quality ice fishing reels and using your hand to pull the line.

Q; What are carbon fiber rods?

A: Carbon fiber rods are made from carbon fiber blanks. Carbon fiber is generally more sensitive compared to fiberglass in fishing rods.

Q: Why it’s important to pick a well-balanced rod?

A: A well-balanced rod is helpful for improving the sensitivity of the rod tip. This will allow you to detect fish striking your bait easier.

Q: How do you know what type of rod to use with what type of fish?

A: When picking your rod it’s best to understand the type of fish you’re going after. If the fish grows big then you’ll want a more powerful rod. If they are tiny fish and nibble bait which requires sensitivity to hook them, you’ll likely want a lighter rod. Pair your rod to the type of fish you’re targeting.

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Jon Stenstrom

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