Here’s an ice fishing gear guide sure to help you this season.
Before you even approach the ice with any intent to fish, put safety in your mind.
Make SURE you have good ice and make sure your safety is of utmost importance. The smallest thickness to support human weight is around two inches.
If you have any doubts about the ice you are getting onto, DON’T!The Coach
There is a phrase among ice fishermen, “there is no such thing as safe ice, only good ice”. There are tons of great videos and other information out there about ice safety.
Be sure to pay attention to safety any and every time.
Ice Fishing Gear Overview
Augers are recommended for getting the hole in the ice to fish through. Other methods are available to get through the ice, but most (like a hatchet, bar, or even a shovel) tend to leave the ice weak around the hole, potentially.
Not using an auger can make your fishing experience a disaster!
Hand Powered Auger
You don’t need to burn a hole in your wallet just to put a hole through the ice. If you have the muscle power, then grab yourself a simple hand power auger. This makes a great ice fishing gift.
Power Ice Augers
Power augers can be used when the ice is too thick to get through easily by hand.
Cordless Ice Auger
If you already have a heavy-duty cordless drill, then you’re halfway to a beefy auger that will penetrate almost any ice. Here’s a good one to check out.
Self-Powered Ice Auger
Sometimes you just want the best of the best. That’s when you should splurge and grab yourself an ice auger with a built-in motor. These have wide and sturdy handles that help you hold it vertical while it drills downward.
Plus it has added heft from the motor to make the teeth grab ice more efficiently…without you needing to push down.
No matter what auger you choose, you need to make sure you keep the blades as sharp as possible. You should take them to a professional sharpener for carbide or difficult-to-sharpen blades.
Of course, new blades are always an option and are available from almost every manufacturer.
Also check out: In-depth guides on the Best Ice Fishing Shelters or Ice Fishing Chisels.
Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Combinations
The general rule of thumb for ice fishing is:
- Use a longer rod for open water
- Use a shorter rod for operating in a shelter
- A light-action rod is great for panfish
- Medium or Medium-heavy for bass and walleye (check out our list of the best walleye fishing rods)
- Medium-heavy or heavy for pike or other large fish
With that being said, there is one rod and reel combo that will stand up to whatever you throw at it while being light on your pocket.
Ice Fishing Line
As you scale up in size of gear, your fishing line will follow. Use as light as 4-6lb monofilament line for live bait on a jighead. Jump up to 20# braid or more for a big live shiner on rod and reel.
Start with Monofilament
High-visibility monofilament is well-loved by winter fishing anglers who prefer to watch the line over registering a bite.
Frost High Visibility mono seems to be well regarded in the ‘hard water’ fishing community. At least by some professional anglers, however, it is expensive.
If you’re looking for a more affordable option, you might want to consider the Stren orange color monofilaments.
When to Use Fluorocarbon
Fluoro leaders are recommended by top walleye anglers. Here’s a good option if that’s what you’re targeting.
Ice Fishing Terminal Tackle
It varies a lot depending on the intended target and use of bait/plastics. A selection of 1/64th (or even smaller) to 1/16th ounce jigheads is a must.
Depending on what you intend to target, for smaller fish, the lighter-weight heads baited with waxworms or tiny plastics is a perennial favorite.
Here are some winter fishing lures we recommend:
- Sougayilang Ice Fishing Jigs
- Bay de Noc Swedish Pimples Ice
- Rapala Jigging Rap 03 Fishing lure
The Swedish pimple is a classic jigging spoon, often tipped with a whole minnow or minnow head. Get yourself a whole minnow bucket. While the jigging Rapala has a wide following for predatory fish as well.
Both of these lures have cheap variants made overseas, such as the:
- Sougayilang Fishing Spinner Spoon Lures
- Sougayilang Ice Fishing Lures with 3 Sharp Hooks
Soft Plastic Recommendations
Soft plastic imitators are often used in some areas. Check out the Berkley maggot and honey worm style baits for tipping ice fishing jigs, or even cheaper foreign-made counterparts.
Here are some soft plastic lures we recommend:
- Powerbait Power Honey Worm
- Toasis Soft Plastic Fishing Wax Worms
One method of winter fishing involves a piece of equipment called a ‘tip-up’. This simple to use, the highly
effective tool can be great for catching large pike, walleye, bass, huge lake trout, or even giant catfish.
Set the depth of your tip-up from two feet off the bottom to just underneath the ice. Target drop-offs, main lake points, or creek channel edges with live or dead minnows, strip baits, or live nightcrawlers on heavy line on your tip-up, possibly with wire if large toothy fish are present in your waters like pike, muskie fish, or large pickerel. Try to hook the bait so it has a horizontal presentation when possible.
A well-regarded, easy-to-set tip-up:
But if you’re on a budget, check out the reasonably priced Celsius tip-up line.
Ice Fishing Electronics
Ice fishing electronics can be critical (not to mention fun, as you can often watch the fish come up and
take your bait or lure like a game) part of what anglers do out on the ice, they can be as primitive as a
bobber type transducer linked to your smartphone, up to standard fishfinders with a ‘flasher option’
Here are a few items worth considering:
- ReelSonar Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder
- Humminbird 410050-1 Fishin’ Buddy MAX Fishfinder
- Garmin Striker 4 with Portable Kit
Staying Out of the Water
An ice fishing sled or bucket can be a critical addition to your winter fishing gear, this can range from a
simple bucket with a seat you carry onto the ice-filled with your gear and catch, to a sled for trekking long distances to far reaches of the lake.
From fitting a cheap seat on a five-gallon bucket of your choice to a full sled for hauling all your gear too far reaches of the lake or Ice fishing shacks, many options are available.
You can even add a pole holder easily to this bucket with little hassle.
Ice fishing sleds are also fairly cheap and can help you lug all of your gear to your favorite spot.
Ice Fishing Shelter
Ok, so now you have all of year fishing gear ready…one last thing to tie it all together.
A comfortable popup ice fishing shed!
Most likely you will be sitting in the cold, so it’s important to have a solid structure around you to block the wind. Windchill is only fun for so long between bites.
If you’re looking for a fairly cheap ice fishing shelter, then check out this one:
However, if you need one with a bit more room, check out this larger insulated version.
The choice is really up to you and your budget. You can get started for just a few bucks, or take it all the
No matter what route you decide to get on the hard water, a basic safety kit (at least) is a good idea.
The ice can be a great place to hang out, and even make some great eats (fish from cold water are some of the best eating, as well) in the winter.
Stay safe and have a good time out in the cold!