Best Ice Fishing Rods and Reel Combo in 2021

Winter fishing is exciting but also challenging. So, you need special equipment and an ice rod fishing that can handle the challenge.

The market is packed with different models, but I found the 13 FISHING – Tickle Stick to be the best ice fishing rod. It has a strong blank with a comfortable handle and is suitable for catching all kinds of fish.

Take a few minutes to discover other best ice fishing rods and how to pick one.

Best Overall

13 FISHING – Tickle Stick – Ice Fishing Rods

4.9/5
Best for Beginners

Fenwick HMG Ice Fishing Spinning Rod

4.5/5
Best by Budget

Shakespeare Wild Series Ice Fishing Spinning Rod

4.4/5


Our Top 10 Ice Fishing Rods Reviewed

  1. 13 FISHING – Tickle Stick – Ice Fishing Rods
  2. Shakespeare Wild Series Ice Fishing Spinning Rod
  3. Fenwick HMG Ice Fishing Spinning Rod
  4. ST.CROIX Rod Mojo Split-Grip Eva Handle Lake
  5. Frabill 6986 Combo Spin Pnfsh Popper 30 Dead STK
  6. Berkley Cherrywood HD Ice Fishing Spinning Rod
  7. Shimano Convergence Ice Fishing Rods
  8. 13 FISHING Widow Maker 26″ Ice Fishing Rod
  9. Clam Jason Mitchell Meat Stick Rod
  10. Fiblink 2-Piece Portable Travel Ice Fishing Rod

13 FISHING – Tickle Stick – Ice Fishing Rods

The 13 Fishing Tickle Stick comes in many sizes and variations, but the 28”/71cm medium action is the best for trout. Trout usually demand a lighter line, so it might be best to go for a 4-6lb monofilament line with small hooks and jigs.

Since it bites very lightly, you need a rod that’ll allow you to feel this. This is where the Tickle Stick comes into play. It has a custom Evolve reel seat and larger tip guides to enable the line to run smoothly.

The graphite blank and its quality components make it worth your attention. Apart from trout, you can use it for catching channel catfish, bass, and other similar species with a light bite.

It has a perfect amount of backbone for the fish that bites lightly but fights hard once hooked.

Standout Features:

  • High-vis tip
  • 3A Portuguese cork handle
  • Strong graphite blank

Shakespeare Wild Series Ice Fishing Spinning Rod

This Shakespeare Wild Series fiberglass rod is ideal if you’re going to fish inside your ice shed. It has more guides than what you’d see on most spinning rods, which is precisely what makes it more suitable.

It has soft fiberglass blanks with moderate action and stainless steel guides. It’s a durable piece that can handle frequent use and all kinds of conditions.

What stands out the most is the perfect combination of flexibility and strength. It has plenty of backbone for you to fight different fish.

The light tip makes it easy to feel even the lightest bite, so you can catch pretty much anything with it. Plus, it has HTG – Hybrid Tech cork grips for maximum comfort.

Keep in mind that the grips do soak up water since they’re not waterproof.

  • Standout Features:
  • Stainless steel hardware
  • Solid fiberglass blank

Fenwick HMG Ice Fishing Spinning Rod

Fenwick HMG is meant for a variety of fish like perch, trout, walleye, and bass. It’s a high-quality option with sensitive carbon blanks.

This one has stainless steel guides that won’t rust as easily, especially thanks to the aluminum oxide inserts. It also comes with a durable reel seat to complete the package.

It’s easy to pull the fish from the ice as it has a comfortable cork handle. Plus, it has plenty of backbone that’s often the most critical factor to consider.

It’s sensitive, so you’ll notice even the most tender bites. You can choose between a few rod length and action options, although the 27” medium is best for ice fishing.

Standout Features:

  • Premium cork handle
  • Lightweight stainless steel guides
  • Ergonomic reel seat

ST.CROIX Rod Mojo Split-Grip Eva Handle Lake

St. Croix Mojo Split is one of the best ice fishing rods suitable for other fishing styles. It works for many techniques and species like trout, panfish, pike, lake trout, and walleye.

The precision-taper solid carbon blank gives you the right amount of action, strength, and sensitivity. But it’s lightweight, so you’ll get fact action at all times.

This ice fishing rod has Sea Guide stainless steel guides. These are durable and can withstand harsh conditions without showing signs of use.

Another thing we should mention is the split grip handle. It gives it extra balance and sensitivity, so it’s comfortable to use even in the cold.

Overall, you can tell it’s handcrafted since it feels nice and comfortable to use for hours on end.

Standout Features:

  • Comfortable EVA handle
  • Customer reel seat
  • Stainless steel guides

Frabill 6986 Combo Spin Pnfsh Popper 30 Dead STK

Frabill has been around since 1938, so you’d assume they know what they’re talking about. And, it’s true. They do know, and it’s why we still trust them.

The 6986 Combo fiberglass rod is excellent if you’re looking for a rod to start ice fishing with.

The panfish system is made to enhance your casting, strike detection, and overall performance. It comes with an ultra-sensitive micro-spring bobber, a custom reel seat with cork, and micro ice guides.

Its reel is quite simple to work with, especially thanks to the anti-reverse function.

It has solid fiberglass composite blanks for maximum durability and resistance. We should also mention the ambidextrous handle, making this one suitable for right- and left-handed anglers.

Also, the pole is treated with Sub-Zero lube to enhance its water and cold resistance.

Standout Features:

  • Anti-reverse function
  • Micro guides
  • Chrome-plated ABS spool

Berkley Cherrywood HD Ice Fishing Spinning Rod

Berkley Cherrywood HD is a great ice fishing rod to start with. It’s affordable, so you won’t break the bank when you’re still not sure whether you like ice fishing in the first place.

It’s made from fiberglass and has a comfortable cork handle. This means it has the perfect amount of durability and flexibility for catching different fish.

Also, Berkley Cherrywood has three guides, which means better performance in freezing temperatures. It’s ultra-light and durable, so it’s unlikely to break even when fighting crappies up to 22”.

The only downside is that its guides aren’t as strong as on other ice fishing rods. But this one is significantly cheaper, so it’s somewhat understandable.

Standout Features:

  • Full cork handles
  • Strong fiberglass blank
  • Solid quality guides

Shimano Convergence Ice Fishing Rods

Shimano Convergence is a great ice fishing rod to use for trophy fish like pike and trout. It does a great job battling some of the biggest fish as it has a perfect strength-to-flexibility ratio.

It’s a one-piece rod with ultra-light power and fast action. But, Shimano offers other sizes and power varieties, depending on the fish you’re targeting.

This fast-action tip makes it easy to drop big baits in deep waters. On top of that, the heavy power allows you to throw different hooks and battle various fish.

It features an optimized guide placement with Zirconia and coil guides. Also, the seamless cork and carbon reel seat bring extra versatility and ease of use.

It feels nice in hands, thanks to its cork handle and lightweight rod blank.

Standout Features:

  • Sensitive tip
  • High-quality guides
  • Comfortable cork handle

13 FISHING Widow Maker 26″ Ice Fishing Rod

The Widow Maker is another ice fishing rod that’s both strong and sensitive. It’s meant for trout and other fish that have a soft nibble but fights hard once it’s hooked.

This ice fishing rod is up for the challenge as it has enough flexibility to bend without breaking. In addition, it can handle violent head shakes and heavy-duty fights.

Still, it’s delicate, which means you’ll still feel even the softest bite. This also allows you to use finesse baits.

Like most ice fishing rods, this one is made from high-quality materials. It has diamond-coated guides, a cork handle, and a Toray graphite rod blank for maximum durability and performance.

As always, the company offers many variations and sizes. However, I’d say the 26” medium light would work well for most people.

Standout Features:

  • High-grade materials
  • Ergonomically-designed cork handles
  • Maximum sensitivity

Clam Jason Mitchell Meat Stick Rod

Clam Jason Mitchell is one of the first rods with a sanded tip. This allowed it to produce rod action that goes from a light tip to a heavy backbone.

It’s among the best ice fishing rods due to its strength, flexibility, and versatility. As it works on nearly all fishing techniques and species, you’ll find it fitting for beginners and experienced anglers.

Back to the sanded tip. It allows you to feel the most delicate bites so that you can set the hook more often. But, it only performs like this on the tip. It keeps the strong backbone you need to fight the fish once it’s hooked.

It comes with premium Dynaflow guides to enable the line to run smoothly. Again, you have the option to pick between a few sizes, but the 24” might be best for ice fishing.

Standout Features:

  • Tack-Grip handle
  • Flexible, sanded tip
  • Comfortable, lightweight design

This Fiblink is a two-piece featuring solid E-glass carbon composite blanks. It’s strong yet sensitive, suitable for all kinds of fish like perch, walleye, crappie, sunfish, bluegill, and trout.

It has stainless steel guides and inserts so that the line goes smoothly at all times. On top of that, it looks excellent.

Right at first glance, you’ll notice how unique this one looks. It has an ergonomic grip that’s specially sized and shaped to provide maximum comfort.

Another thing worth mentioning is the twist-lock reel seat, featuring an aluminum alloy screw knob. It’s easy to use even if you’re a beginner.

Standout Features:

  • Unique, pistol-like handle
  • 1-year warranty
  • Stainless steel hardware

Considerations Before You Make a Purchase

Choosing among the best ice fishing rods can be complicated due to as many options available. Although any best ice fishing rod would work, you want to get as specific as possible to ensure it fits your needs and preferences.

Take a look below to learn what you should consider before buying.

Species

Although most ice fishing rods are versatile, you should think about what you’re looking to catch. Being this specific will help you narrow down your list of options.

For example, northern pike requires different features than what you’d need for catching panfish. Some rods might enable you to catch both, but not with as much accuracy as rods made specifically for one species.

Look for a rod that fits the fish you’re targeting. You’ll have other fish bite as well, that’s for sure.

Material

Ice fishing is challenging since most of this fish is quite big and heavy. So, you need a strong rod that can handle tough fights and rough conditions.

Its base material plays a significant role in how it performs. Therefore, it should be strong but sensitive and flexible so that you can set the hook the right way.

Ice fishing rods are typically made from graphite, fiberglass, or a blend of both materials. The best choice for many is graphite as it’s strong, lightweight, and sensitive.

Fiberglass is strong but not as lightweight or sensitive, which is why these rods usually have spring bobbers.

Size

The length goes from 16” to 42”, depending on the particular ice fishing situation. These are much shorter than fishing rods we use in warm, open water.

Why?

You know how ice fishing works. You’re dropping your lure and lift the fish through a relatively small opening in the ice.

In other words, there’s no distance to cast the lure, so you don’t need a long rod. Still, the specific size you’ll go for depends on the conditions and your target.

Power

The power of a rod is its resistance to bending when presented with a specific weight. So, we usually see ratings like heavy, medium, medium-heavy, and others.

You’re supposed to match its power with the line strength. In other words, a rod with heavy power can easily handle a heavy line.

But, once again, you want to think about the fish species you’re targeting. For example, ultra-light and light rods are good for light fish like perch and panfish. On the other hand, pike and lake trout need a heavier ice fishing rod.

Rod Action

The action refers to how fast the rod can bend once the fish is hooked. But, you should also think about where it bends and how quickly it recovers.

As you probably know, action is rated as slow, moderate, fast, and extra fast. Which one you’ll choose depends on the fish you’re trying to catch.

Reel Seat

You may have noticed this, but ice fishing rods don’t usually have built-in reel seats. Instead, you’ll have to go for reel attachment with bands or tape.

Think about what you prefer to make the best decision that’ll fit your fishing style.

Construction

You should always look for a durable construction because ice fishing is tough on rods. Makes sure your pole is made from strong materials we spoke about earlier.

But, it’s more than just what the pole itself is made from. Ensure other components are also made from high-quality materials because you’re fishing in freezing temperatures.

Sensitivity

Sensitivity is another crucial factor you should consider regardless of your skill level. As we know, many species, especially panfish, are less aggressive during the cold.

A sensitive rod will allow you to feel even the lightest bite. So, it’s good to have a sensitive one, more so if you’re targeting crappie or perch.

Handle/Grip

Ice fishing rods come with a variety of handle options. But, EVA foam and cork are what you’ll see the most.

Also, some have a glued-on grip, while others have a full-length one. Choosing between these options comes down to your preferences and needs.

Whatever you go for, make sure it’s comfortable and easy to grip on.

Spool

A spool on your rod is worth all the attention if you’re looking to actually catch some fish. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going for a ready-made rod or a reel combo.

It should be of the right size and have the right capacity to hold the length and weight of the line. It also has to run smoothly even when it’s cold.

Still, it wouldn’t hurt to have anti-freezing lubrication to help out.

Weight

It’s always best to go for a lightweight rod if you’re looking to spend hours fishing. A heavy one would probably be too tricky to handle, and you’ll likely experience fatigue early on.

Keep in mind that even too light isn’t the best. Instead, you might want a medium weight that performs well in different conditions and is easy to match with the line and lure.

Bearing Number

It’s essential to think about the bearing number on the reel if you’re looking to use one with your rod. Reels come with ball bearings to reduce friction and provide smooth performance at all times.

The higher the quality, the better it will perform and function in various conditions. So, more bearings equal better performance.

Durability

Best ice fishing rods are typically durable because they’re made for cold weather. Still, you should double-check this before purchasing any particular model.

Durability depends on the materials used but also the manufacturing quality. Therefore, you should think about all its parts, including the guides and reel seats.

Type

As you noticed, there are baitcasting and spinning rods. Spinning rods are meant for catching small fish with a lighter line.

These are typically best for beginners because they’re easy to use. The spinning reel goes underneath the rod, whereas the seat and guides are on the underside.

Comfort

Fishing in the winter already sounds uncomfortable enough, and the last thing you want is a rod making things worse. So, make sure it provides the highest possible level of comfort.

Think about its weight and whether you can handle it for hours at a time. Also, it should have a comfortable grip that’s soft, warm, and cozy.

Cork is usually the warmest, but some people prefer an EVA foam handle because it’s softer.

Ease of Use

Ease of use is difficult to define because it depends on many factors. And, it even depends on your skill level and preference. So, what’s easy for you to use might be tricky for other people.

Generally speaking, the best ice fishing rods are easy to use. All you have to do is drop the hook and wait for the nibble. But, make sure all the rod features and specifications work to your advantage; otherwise, the experience won’t be as simple.

Value

The value of an ice fishing rod is determined by how efficiently it performs and how much use you get out of it. So, the most durable and resistant ones are often the most valuable.

But, this might once again be a matter of preference. It depends on what matters to you the most and how much money you paid in the first place.

Look for a durable, high-quality ice fishing rod, and I’m sure you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth.


FAQ

Is ice fishing better than regular fishing?

Ice fishing is not necessarily better, but some people like it better for various reasons. Ice fishing allows you to catch fish you otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

And, it’s different than regular fishing, so it can be a challenge.

What are the benefits of ice fishing?

Many people find ice fishing to be therapeutic and relaxing. And, you can catch fish that is otherwise found in deeper waters.

It’s different from regular fishing, but the benefits are somewhat the same. It’s fun, relaxing, and challenging in its way.

Is ice fishing easy?

In theory, ice fishing is easy since all you have to do is sink the lure. But, in practice, you’ll learn that the conditions in which you do this are dangerous.

You should have the proper equipment, warm clothes, snacks, water, and patience.

Which is the best spot for ice fishing on a lake?

Finding the right spot is probably the most crucial thing. Take it seriously because you can easily put yourself in more danger than you need to.

The best way to figure this out is to check with a local bait shop. If not, check the state agency website to see the map of the lake.

How do I know what kind of rod should I use with what type of fish?

The best way to determine the kind of rod you should use is to think about the fish you’re targeting. Consider the size of the fish, as this can help figure out the right power rating and length.

Different fish act differently when hooked, so you need a rod that can handle the fight.

How can I handle and test my fishing rod?

Handling and testing are easier to do when you’re in a store. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy when shopping for one online because you don’t actually have the rod in your hands.

What you can do is read customer reviews to see what other anglers think of the rod you’re interested in. And, many brands offer several days for you to test the rod.

Which is the best drill to use, between the hand drill and the power drill?

A hand drill is typically used early, whereas a power drill is meant for thicker ice. However, both work well, so you won’t make a mistake regardless of what you choose.

However, a hand drill is unlikely to scare the fish because it’s quieter.

Can I use ice fishing rods in summer?

Best ice fishing rods are shorter than the rods we use in the summer. But, people use them in warmer weather nonetheless.

It all depends on the technique you’re using and the fish you’re targeting.


Final Thoughts

Although I think 13 FISHING Tickle Stick is the best ice fishing rod, you can definitely try another one of these. These ice rods are high-quality, efficient, and durable, standing up to harsh winter conditions and fighting fish.

The 13 FISHING Tickle Stick gathers everything you need in an ice fishing pole. It has a sensitive tip and rod features that help you catch larger fish.

Still, you’re unlikely to go wrong with either one of these.