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Articles » Gear Reviews » Fishing Rods » 10 Best Ice Fishing Rods for Winter Fishing

10 Best Ice Fishing Rods for Winter Fishing

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.

Top Ice Fishing Rods

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__imageBest ComboAbu Garcia Venerate
  • Quality Rod + Reel
  • Low-Temperature Ready
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sample-table__image13 Fishing Widow Make
  • Toray Graphite Blank
  • Quality Handle
  • Tiny Guides
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sample-table__imageEditor's ChoiceSt. Croix Mojo Series
  • Tapered Carbon Blank
  • Solid Grip
  • Unique Reel Seat
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sample-table__imageFenwick ETICE Elite Tech
  • High Modulus Graphite
  • Zirconium Oxide Inserts
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sample-table__imageBest Beginner RodShakespeare Ugly Stik GX2
  • Bulletproof
  • Durable
  • Affordable
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sample-table__imageFrabill 6986 Combo
  • Weather-Proof
  • Sub-Zero Operation
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sample-table__imageAkataka Ultralight Rod
  • Carbon Fiber Rod
  • Stainless Steel Guides
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sample-table__imageFiblink Travel Rod
  • Carbon Composite
  • Unique Handle
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sample-table__imageBest Budget RodBerkley Cherrywood HD
  • Fiberglass
  • Cork Handle
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sample-table__imageShakespeare Wild Series
  • Fiberglass
  • Stainless Steel Guides
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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 for 2020 Reviewed

1. Abu Garcia Venerate 

Best Ice Fishing Rod Combo

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

If you don’t already have an ice fishing 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.


2. 13 Fishing Widow Maker Evolve

13 FISHING Widow Maker 27" Ultra-Light Hardwater Evolve Reel Seat Ice Fishing Rod
  • CORK HANDLE - 13 Fishing Widow Maker Ice Rods are made with...
  • DIAMOND COATED GUIDES - ALPS thin wire double diamond coated...
  • MAXIMUM SENSITIVITY - Lightweight and balanced for maximum...

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.


3. 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.


4. Fenwick Elite Tech

fenwick ETICE27M Elite Tech Ice Spinning Rod
  • 100% high modulus graphite blanks
  • Smoked stainless steel guides with Zirconium oxide inserts
  • Down locking reel seat

This is a very popular graphite ice fishing rod made by a company that knows a thing or two about catching fish. This rod is super sensitive and has a strong backbone with a quick tip. You might need a spring bobber if you’re going for small fish, but overall this is a great rod for your arsenal.

Best of all it’s not expensive. It’s not every day you get a quality rod at a good price.


5. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2

Best Beginner Rod

Sale
Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel & Rod Combo, 26” Light Action Rod, USGXICE26LCBO
  • Size 20 spinning reel suited for ice applications
  • Ported aluminum spool
  • Genuine ugly Stik blank with clear tip design

If you’ve never tried an Ugly Stik then you’re missing out. These rods are darn near indestructible and will stand up to multiple years of abuse. If for some reason you are able to wear through or break it, they are so well priced that picking up another is not a problem.

What’s even crazier is this rod comes with a reel that will also stand up to a beating. We’re not sure how Shakespeare can stay in business offering such long-lasting gear for an affordable price.


6. Frabill 6986 Combo

Sale
Frabill 6986 Combo Spin Pnfsh Popper 30 Dead STK
  • Dead sticking live bait
  • Length: 30-inches
  • Equipped with and ultra-sensitive spring bobber

Here’s another extremely reasonably priced ice fishing rod and reel combo made by Frabill. Even if you’re fishing in sub-zero conditions you can rest assured this rod will deliver. It comes with an ultra-sensitive micro spring bobber to sense when you have the slightest activity on your line.

Best of all it comes at a price that might have you buying two just because you love them so much!


7. 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 made of...
  • COMFORTABLE HANDLE AND STURDY REEL BASES:The 3A cork handles...
  • STAINLESS STEEL GUIDES:The stainless steel guides on this...

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.


8. Fiblink 2-Piece Portable Travel Ice Fishing Rod

Sale
Fiblink 2-Piece Portable Travel Ice Fishing Rod 21 Inches Light Power Spinning/Casting Ice Pole (Spinning-21-Light)
  • Solid E-glass carbon composite blanks; Light, strong and...
  • Stainless steel frames with stainless steel inserts, line...
  • Twist-lock reel seat with aluminum alloy screw knob;...

Sometimes you need to travel to find the hot bite in the cold weather. If you’re not looking to lug your expensive gear then you should take a look at this new Fiblink travel ice fishing rod.

It’s a carbon composite rod that is light and sensitive. You’ll be able to catch everything from perch, walleye, trout, and panfish. Best of all it has an old-school pistol grip vibe which is more unique than anything we’ve seen in a while. It’s definitely worth a look!


9. Berkley Cherrywood HD Ice Fishing Rod

Best Budget 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.


10. 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.


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.

Guides

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.

FAQs

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
Founder

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