Top 7 Best Ice Fishing Rods 2020

Ice fishing is very different from any other kind of fishing and it’s these differences that impact the type of rod you need to use.

After considering all the options our top picks were…

There is no need to cast as you’re just dropping your bait through a hole. It’s freezing cold, and quite often you’re held up in a shelter sitting round a hole in the ice, instead of truly being outside.

The best rod for ice fishing is short, strong, and can handle the freezing temperatures. 

What Is Ice Fishing? 

Ice fishing is what it sounds like; fishing through a hole in the ice of a frozen lake.

You’ll either arrive at your chosen spot and cut a hole in the ice using dedicated tools or stay in a shelter built around a ready cut ice hole. 

Once your ice hole is set-up, you drop your bait or lure down through the ice hole and wait for a bite.

You can either use bait or work a lure by vertically jigging it up and down to attract a fish, like a lake trout. 

NOTE

Fish in icy waters are slow and lethargic, and the best fishing rods for feeling those timid bites are super sensitive ice fishing rods. 

What Is An Ice Fishing rod? 

Ice fishing rods are short ranging from 18-48 inches and the first time you hold one, it’ll be like holding a toddler’s fishing rod.

But, they are short for a good reason.

You don’t need to cast when ice fishing and therefore the length of ice fishing poles is more about being close to your ice hole, fitting inside your shelter, and being able to fish your lure or bait properly. 

Limited Space

Ice Fishing Hole
Ice Fishing Hole

Trying to work a lure through a small hole 8 feet away is not easy, you’ll probably end up cutting your line on the ice.

Plus an 8ft rod might not even fit in your shelter.

It’s much more effective and fun being 2-4 feet away, warm and cozy in your little ice hut, fishing as effectively as possible.

While being short, ice fish rods are also tough and sensitive.

Handle The Cold

They have to be able to handle freezing temperatures, haul a big lake trout or pike out of a small hole, and feel the subtlest of bites.

Hauling a large fish out of a small hole puts a lot of strain on a rod, and you might find a normal rod snapping in that situation.

Ice fishing rods also come with an extra-sensitive tip that can be brightly colored, so you feel and see every bite.

Some even include a spring bobber, which is a little spring similar to what you’d find in a biro.

It attaches to your tip and lets you see the tiniest bites of smaller fish. 

Do You Need A Special Ice Fishing Rod? 

The answer is no. You most certainly can ice fish with a normal rod, but it will be much harder than if you were using an ice fishing pole.

Ice fishing rods have their distinct advantages and have been designed to ensure ice fishing is easier, more productive, and far more successful.

What’s The Difference?

Ice Fishing
Ice Fishing

With a normal rod, it’s difficult to fight fish properly, harder to work your lure correctly, and you’ll find yourself missing bites and cutting the line on the edge of the hole,. 

TIP

It’s worth trying it out with your shortest, most sensitive normal rod to see if you like it. And once you’re hooked, you can invest in a special ice fishing rod. 

How To Choose The Best Ice Fishing Rod 

What Are You Fishing For?

Finding the right ice fishing rod for you depends on several different factors, but the main ones to consider are species you’re after and the fishing methods you choose.

Below, I’ll go through how the size of the fish and the way you fish will impact the rod you need to use. 

Length 

Ice fishing rods come in a range of lengths from 18-48 inches, but which length is right for you?

If you’re fishing for small panfish like bluegill, crappies and perch, then a rod between 18-24 inches is ideal.

It’s long enough to fight the fish while making it fun, and it’ll be able to pull them out of the ice hole with ease. 

For Big Fish

If you’re going for big fish like pike or lake trout, then a 36-48 inch rod is best.

The extra length will fight these larger fish much more effectively.

You’ll be able to tire them out much more easily and ensure the line doesn’t get cut on the hole, as the extra length will give you better angles to play with.

Two Men Ice Fishing with a Dog

All-Rounder

If you’re looking for one ice fishing rod to do it all with, then bat for a 28-34 inch rod.

This will be short enough for small fish and long enough for larger fish while being sensitive enough too, especially if you add a spring bobber. 

Power 

Power ratings are used to describe how stiff a rod is and range from ultra-light, light, medium, medium-heavy, to heavy power.

The stiffer it is, the more power it has, and the higher the rating. 

Picking the right power rating for your ice fishing rod again comes down to the size of the fish and bait you plan on using.

For Small Fish

For small panfish, an ultra-light ice fishing rod is ideal. It’ll be sensitive enough to feel every bite and because it’ll bend a lot, you’ll feel and enjoy the fight a lot more. 

Catching Lunkers

The best ice fishing rods for going after trophies is an ice fishing rod with medium-heavy to heavy power. This will give the rod enough backbone to fight those larger species and get them out the hole easily. 

All-Around

The best ice fishing rods for doing it all will have a medium-light or medium power rating.

This gives the ice fishing rod enough power for larger species, while still being soft enough for sensing the bites of smaller species.

Tip Sensitivity

Tip sensitivity is key to being successful when ice fishing and this is because the fish are so cold, that they bite with minimum energy meaning you’ll need an extra-sensitive tip to notice them.

All ice fishing rods come with medium action, fast action, or extra fast action tips to ensure you feel or see every bite.

Person Holding a Fish
Person Holding a Fish

Depends on your Target

If you plan on only targeting small panfish like crappie or bluegill, then you’ll need the extra sensitivity and want to go for extra fast.

If you plan on targeting big pike, you can drop down to medium or fast, as their bites will be far more noticeable and aggressive. 

Weight & Handle Material 

The weight of your rod plays a large part in how much you enjoy your fishing.

Heavy rods make for tiring days when you have to cast a lot. 

Some may think this doesn’t apply when ice fishing, however, when ice fishing you’re holding your rod above the ice hole all day long, and you’re most likely lifting and dropping the rod to give your lure the right action to tempt a bite.

This would be tiring on a normal day, now add all the layers and the freezing temperatures, it only gets harder. 

Weight doesn’t need to be your first consideration when browsing for rods, but it should be one of the last.

TIP

My advice is to pick your top three rods based on the other features first and then start looking at the weights. 

It’s also worth considering what the handle is made of, as this is where you’ll be gripping the rod all day long on the ice.

Ergonomic cork or EVA handles provide the most comfort while ice angling and are worth looking out for in your chosen rods. 

Price

That age old question of does a higher price give you a better quality product? In the angling world this is certainly the case. 

More expensive equipment uses better materials that last longer and perform much better too.

This doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive rod however, as some manufacturers have based their entire market offering on providing quality products that are still affordable.

High End Gear

But, if you’re looking for the most technical and top performing rod around, then you’re going to have to spend the money to get it.

This choice is worthwhile in my opinion if you’re addicted and will be angling as much as possible for the rest of your life. 

RECOMMENDATION

My advice if you’re not a pro is to set a budget around the middle but look out for those gems that somehow manage to provide long lasting quality and performance at a smaller price point. 

The Best Three From The Review

Top Pick

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel and Rod Combo

This rod is one of the best around and is about as durable as an ice rod can get. They’re tough, light, and super sensitive to give you the best chances.

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel and Rod Combo

The all-around best ice fishing rods in the review are the Ugly Stik.

These rods are well priced, exceptionally durable, and sensitive.

They are awesome to fish with, and you’ll most likely have the rods for life and continue buying them in every other category too. 

Best Value

HT Enterprises Ice Rod

If you want to get a dedicated panfish rod to add to your gear, this is a good choice. The specs stack up to make it ideal for small panfish ice fishing

HT Enterprises Ice Rod

The best ice fishing rods if you’re on a budget are the HT Enterprises Ice Rod.

This is an ideal rod for catching small pan size fish at an incredible price.

The combination of length, power, and medium action makes this the perfect set up to feel every bite and enjoy the fight of every fish no matter the size.

If you’re looking for a dedicated ultra-light rod, this is it.

Editor’s Choice

St Croix Mojo Series Ice Fishing Rod

Each rod is made from a precision-taper solid carbon fiber blank giving you the durability you want from your gear.

St Croix Mojo Series Ice Fishing Rod

The best ice fishing rods, in my opinion, are the St Croix Mojo rod series.

There is a model for every type of ice fishing and all species too.

Each rod is made to last, great to fish with, and designed with more thought than the rest.

They are hard to beat in terms of performance and longevity, and if I had to make a bet, my money would be on these every time. 

Our Best Ice Fishing Rods

13 FISHING Widow Maker Evolve Reel Seat

Built light to make sure you don’t get tired between bites and made from an excellent rod blank for great durability.

13 FISHING Widow Maker Evolve Reel Seat

The 13 Fishing Widow Maker series are some of the best ice fishing rods around.

They are light to make sure you don’t get tired between bites and made from an excellent rod blank for great durability. 

Available Options

The range covers lengths from 24-32” and power ratings from ultra-light to medium-heavy.

This allows you to pick a rod from the range with the exact power and length you want from an ice fishing rod.

The lower end of the range, short and ultra-light, are great for small panfish, while the long and medium-heavy rods are suitable for larger fish. 

Build

The rod is made from a 37-ton graphite blank and comes with an evolve reel seat with a cork handle.

The reel seat is ideal for all types of ice fishing reels, and the handle performs well in cold conditions.

The tips are super sensitive and the guides are diamond coated for extra strength. 

Overall an awesome ice fishing rod at an affordable price.

The only thing lacking is a longer, heavier rod in the series for hunting for trophy fish. 

Specs

  • Model: WMDS28M
  • Power: Medium
  • Length: 28”
  • Tip Action: Fast

Pros

  • The ice fishing rod comes in a solid range of lengths and power ratings to match most ice fishing needs
  • It’s really light to make long waits for bites a bit easier and less tiring
  • This ice-fishing rod is really sensitive to bites
  • It’s made with from an excellent rod blank for great durability

Cons

  • The max length is 32” which isn’t long enough to go after trophy fish with

Tailored Tackle Ice Fishing Rod and Fishing Reel Combo

The rod in this combo is designed by fishing guides and has been built to the specifications of an all-rounder.

Tailored Tackle Ice Fishing Rod and Fishing Reel Combo

The great thing about a combo is you get a well-balanced rod and reel that’s ready to go fishing as soon as it arrives. 

Versatile

The rod in this combo is designed by fishing guides and has been built to the specifications of an all-rounder.

This means it has the sensitivity to go after small fish with the power to handle some big ones too.

You can fish pretty much any weight lure with whichever style you want. It’s an ideal set-up for anyone just starting out ice fishing. 

Build

The rod is made from a carbon fiber blank that gives it excellent durability and enough backbone for handling walleye and trout. It features an extra-fast action tip that’ll make sure you notice every bite that comes along, helping your hook-up ratios no end. 

The cork handle is good quality and ergonomically made to ensure you are comfortable using it in ice-cold conditions. 

The reel in the combo is pretty good overall, but some have had issues with the drag failing. This is rare but I’d advise upgrading the reel once you’ve gotten your fun out of it. 

Specs

  • Model: TT 28 Combo
  • Power: Medium-light
  • Length: 28”
  • Tip Action: Extra-Fast

Pros

  • Comes with a pretty good spinning reel
  • The ice fishing rod’s power and length are ideal for an all-around rod for most species and lures
  • Great all-around rod for anyone just starting out ice fishing
  • A good rod and reel combo that balances really nicely
  • Well-made from quality materials and designed by guides

Cons

  • The drag on the fishing reel isn’t very reliable

Best Value

HT Enterprises Ice Rod

If you want to get a dedicated panfish rod to add to your gear, this is a good choice. The specs stack up to make it ideal for small panfish ice fishing

HT Enterprises Ice Rod

HT Enterprises Ice Rod

The HT Ice Rod is one of the most affordable rods, it’s hard to believe that there is such quality behind it.

Made For Small Fish

The specs stack up to make it ideal for small panfish ice fishing thanks to the ultra-light power, medium action, and short 18’ length.

You’ll have a ton of fun catching small fish with this ice fishing rods build. 

Build

The blank is made from high-performance translucent fiberglass which makes it super bendy.

It is blue in color until you reach the tip where it turns luminous orange.

The fast action bright tip makes it easy for you to see bites, while the action gives enough sensitivity to help feel them too. 

Handle

The handle is comfortable but the reel seat is lacking and you could end up with your reel by your feet, so make sure to do it up tightly and keep checking it. 

Overall this is a solid rod at an amazing price.

If you want to get a dedicated panfish rod to add to your gear, this is a good choice. It’s not made for large fish and, therefore, quite delicate, make sure you’re careful with it as it’s easy to break. 

Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ytwuImfr4g

Specs

  • Model: HT IB-18
  • Power: Ultra-light
  • Length: 18”
  • Tip Action: Fast

Pros

  • Good length and power for small pan size fish
  • Extremely affordable option

Cons

  • The power is too small for anything but small pan size fish
  • This ice-fishing rod can break easily, be careful with it
  • Not the best reel seat quality

Fiblink Graphite Ice Fishing Rod

These rods cover some of the best ice fishing specs needed from the light to middle ground area.

Fiblink Graphite Ice Fishing Rod

Some of the best ice rods around are found in the Fiblink series.

These rods cover some of the best ice fishing specs needed from the light to middle ground area. 

Available Options

Their range covers lengths from 24-32” and power ratings from ultra-light to light-medium, ideal for small panfish, trout, and walleye.

Unfortunately, the range doesn’t include any dedicated rods for panfish or big pike, which would need to be shorter or longer with more power. 

Build

The blank is made from graphite, it’s top quality and can handle a lot of punishment. You won’t have to worry when you’re bent double fighting a nice walleye.

The rods come with stainless steel guides and with an aluminum oxide inner to ensure high-performance and minimal friction too. 

Overall a great rod for ice fishing, however it is a shame that there aren’t any ultralight or heavy options too. 

Specs

  • Model: Fiblink Ice Fishing Rod
  • Power: Medium
  • Length: 30”
  • Tip Action: Fast

Pros

  • Great range of power and length in the series to cover the light and middle ground of ice fishing
  • Well made ice fishing rods that stand up to a lot of abuse
  • Great quality ice fishing rod for the price

Cons

  • No dedicated ultralight or heavy models for small panfish or big trophies

Akataka Ice Fishing Rod 24"

The rod is made from a solid carbon fiber blank making it durable, light, and super sensitive. Ideal for seeing every bite and putting a hurt on some stubborn fish.

Akataka Ice Fishing Rod 24"

The Akataka Ice Fishing rods only come in two sizes and are designed primarily for catching small to medium-sized fish.

Like a lot of other rod manufacturers, there isn’t a short ultra-light or longer heavy model, which is the gear you want to get for small or big fish. 

Two Options

The rods come as either 24” light-medium or 26” medium with sensitive tips.

They are both perfect for all-around ice fishing, the 24” is better for smaller fish while the 26” is good for larger fish. 

Build

The rod is made from a solid carbon fiber blank making it durable, light, and super sensitive. Ideal for seeing every bite and putting a hurt on some stubborn fish.

The reel seat is tough and takes almost any reel, while the guides reduce friction and are made from stainless steel for durability. 

Overall these will be a great addition to your fishing gear if you want a mid-level ice fishing rod. You get every feature you could possibly want for a great price too. 

Specs

  • Model: Akataka Ice Fishing Rod
  • Power: light-medium
  • Length: 24”
  • Tip Action: Fast

Pros

  • The two ice fishing rods in the range cover good power and length options for small-medium sized fish
  • Light, sensitive and durable to ensure you don’t get tired and the rod stays strong
  • Tough enough to handle some big fish
  • Great blank to give you some extra backbone when you need it

Cons

  • The limited range doesn’t include rods for panfish or large fish

Editor’s Choice

St Croix Mojo Series Ice Fishing Rod

Each rod is made from a precision-taper solid carbon fiber blank giving you the durability you want from your gear.

St Croix Mojo Series Ice Fishing Rod

St Croix are well known in the rod’s world and I’m sure you’ve heard of them.

If you haven’t, they get their name from the top quality gear they make.

Many fishermen trust their rods more than any other rod, and the only rod they’ll choose is a St Croix. 

The Mojo rod series has it all, as you might expect.

There is a dedicated rod for everything from ultra-light, medium-heavy to heavy in range of lengths to match.

You could buy three different mojo rods and be set for life for ice fishing. 

Build

Each rod is made from a precision-taper solid carbon fiber blank giving you the durability you want from your gear.

You can treat this rod mean, and it’ll still be smiling after it. The rod comes with stainless steel guides that add to the durability and comfy cork candle. 

Reel Seat

The rod also features a custom reel seat that fits a spinning reel and any other types. It’s light too, in order to bring the overall weight of the rod down, ensuring you stay comfortable when fishing. 

Overall an excellent rod, the only negative being the rods tip. Some say it could be a bit more sensitive but this opinion of this rod is pretty rare. 

Specs

  • Model: MIR34H
  • Power: Heavy
  • Length: 34”
  • Tip Action: Fast

Pros

  • There is an ice fishing rod model to suit every type of ice fishing from small panfish and all-rounders to heavy trophy fishing
  • The custom reel seat on the rod suits every type of ice fishing reel
  • Great balance of sensitivity and backbone, it’ll be easy to feel every bite and hook up
  • Excellent blank makes the rod very durable and awesome to fish with

Cons

  • The tip could be a bit more sensitive

Top Pick

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel and Rod Combo

This rod is one of the best around and is about as durable as an ice rod can get. They’re tough, light, and super sensitive to give you the best chances.

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel and Rod Combo

The Ugly Stik rod has a history of being awesome and unbreakable.

Shakespeare has taken this feature into their best ice fishing rod too.

This rod is one of the best around and is about as durable as an ice rod can get. 

It comes in a series that’s suited for small-medium size fish.

Available Options

The rods range from the 26’ light power rod to the 30’ medium heavy rod.

Each rod is priced very well too, and if you’re just starting out this might be the rod for you.

They’re tough, light, and super sensitive to give you the best chances. 

Build

The rod is made from a reinforced graphite blank, like every ugly stik rod, which is what gives it so much strength and durability.

The rod also features stainless steel guides, a comfy EVA handle, and a solid reel seat.

All the components are what you want in a solid piece of gear. 

Comes with a Reel

You also get a reel with this rod, which is a nice addition.

The reel doesn’t just have to be used for ice fishing; it can be used for a lot of other spinning applications too. It’s not the best reel, however, and you may want to upgrade. 

Specs

  • Model: USGXICE26LCBO
  • Power: Light
  • Length: 26”
  • Tip Action: Fast

Pros

  • Comes with a spinning reel that can be used for multiple applications
  • The spinning reel and fishing rod are well balanced
  • An exceptionally strong range of ice fishing rods that are very hard to break
  • Tough for catching large fish

Cons

  • The reel is not the best quality and can break after a short while

Top Pick

If you’re just starting out and looking for an all-rounder with durability, you can’t go wrong with Shakespeare’s GX2.

These rods are tough as nails, perform well and you can target most species with every tactic too.

I think it’s the ideal rod to start your ice fishing career with. 

Best Value

If budget is your primary concern then the HT ice rod could be right up your street.

For an amazing price, you get a rod that’s perfect for hauling crappie and perch out the lake all day long.

Super light and sensitive, you’ll feel every bite and be able to get your numbers higher than ever. 

Editor’s Choice

Where money is no object, I recommend the St C Mojo rod.

The well thought out and tough design, plus all the extras of the solid seat, comfy handle, and great guides make this the most reliable and high performing rod in the review. I would buy 3, and call it a day.

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