Best Ice Fishing Reels Complete Reviews with Comparisons
When you're heading out on the ice, you need an ice fishing reel that can keep up. Standard reels may be more prone to freezing up in the cold or just not working well overall. Because of that, you'll need a solid reel designed for use in the ice and snow to make sure you can catch fish easily.
Here, we're taking a look at several of the best ice fishing reels that can make your fishing trip complete. Make sure to take a close look at all of them, including the pros and cons to ensure you find the choice to suit your needs!
Best Ice Fishing Reels Comparison Chart
Best Ice Fishing Reel Reviews
The Pflueger Monarch is a prime choice to add to this list because it combines functionality and low cost in a very serious way. It sits somewhere right in the middle of the budget tier, meaning it's going to be less expensive than many options but a little more costly than those at the very bottom.
What's worth considering is that with a little bit of a higher price, you also get a bit more value. Most of us are looking for that perfect point where low cost meets great durability and power. The Pflueger is the perfect combination of the two. You'll be able to get a reliable ice fishing real without breaking the bank in any way.
Those looking for a high-quality ice fishing reel can often find reliability within the Pflueger Monarch. Made using graphite, this reel promises to be durable without adding a whole lot of weight to your pole. Furthermore, it comes at a price that many would find to be quite agreeable.
Additionally, this is a reel that uses a system of five bearings, allowing it to reel in as smoothly as possible. You also won't need to worry about fish taking off with your line because this reel is always in an anti-reverse setup. There are no switches to worry about, just know that you'll need a strong line to keep it from breaking when fish pull especially hard.
On top of that, those bearings used are made from stainless steel. They are designed to be tough, durable, and resistant to any kind of corrosion. As a result, you'll be able to enjoy the reel for longer before you have to worry about purchasing a new one.
If you're planning on taking this reel ice fishing, know that it will be an excellent tool. The long handle means that you'll be able to easily reel in even while wearing thick gloves to keep your hands from freezing over in the cold.
What I Like
The vast majority of us are on some kind of budget. Money doesn't come easily, and we often have to be careful about how we spend it. That's why it's nice to know that reliable budget options like this reel exist. It's something that will get the job done without destroying your savings.
Furthermore, the materials used in making this reel offer a lightweight design that also remains durable enough to reel in all the fish you could want. Budget may mean inexpensive, but it definitely doesn't mean cheap when it comes to this reel.
What I Don't Like
As you may expect to be more common with inexpensive materials, there can be some breakages that occur with this reel. Some have found that on the handle, there are some plastic teeth that are especially prone to damage. Furthermore, some may not like the material this reel is made from altogether.
Another issue some may find is the lack of an anti-reverse switch. This reel is always functioning in “anti-reverse” in order to make things less complicated, but it may not be ideal for those who want the line to be able to reverse at certain times.
- Fair pricing
- Materials avoid stickiness
- Smooth reeling action
- Plastic teeth can break
- Reel casing made from a plastic-like material
- Lack of anti-reverse switch
Sometimes, you just don't have much to spend on a new ice fishing real. Maybe the budget is tight, or maybe you just want to test the waters a bit before you dive in. The good news is, you won't have to sacrifice reliability for the sake of saving some money. The Daiwa D-Spin is an extremely budget-priced reel that is still relied on by many to get the job done.
While it's a device made with lightweight, inexpensive materials, this is a reel that is still capable of holding up in the toughest of situations. All you have to do is take a look at what others who use this reel have to say, and you'll know that in the majority of experiences, there are no problems catching or reeling in fish!
If you're shopping on a tight budget, then it's worth taking a look at the Daiwa D-Spin. This handy little reel brings you a whole lot of capability in a small package. Furthermore, the price is incredibly affordable, meaning that those who enjoy the reel can purchase more quite easily.
To begin with, this is a reel that is very lightweight. It's made to be perfect for those with smaller poles, who have to carry their supplies with them or people who just want to keep their pole as lightweight as possible.
This is also a reliable choice for those seeking smooth reeling, as the ball bearing is made to make reeling easy without creating too much friction. In addition to that, there is a specialized design using digital gears that allow the reel to be quicker, more powerful, and more durable than other options on the market.
You can also use a variety of line weights on this reel, from around 4lbs to about 8lbs. That way, you'll be prepared for whatever kind of fish you may be searching for.
What I Like
The lightweight style allows for this reel to be incredibly easy to travel with. It's ideal for those who need to backpack or hike to their favorite fishing spots. Additionally, it's going to make holding your pole all day much easier than it would be with a heavier reel.
Additionally, you can use a variety of line sizes on this reel. As a result, you can easily adjust the line to be better suited for certain kinds of fishing. Just make sure that you use the correct line for the fish you're after, and you'll surely catch more than you can eat!
What I Don't Like
Some do find that this reel may feel somewhat flimsy. Keep in mind that it is a lower-cost option, so it may not be quite as durable as some of the more expensive choices. Additionally, the bail can sometimes require quite a bit of force to close, which can make it difficult for some fisherfolk to use.
Another factor worth considering is that it may not be the smoothest of options. This is where understanding the ball bearings is important. Make sure that the number of ball bearings in your reel are suitable for the size of fish you're catching.
- Lightweight design
- Great for backpacking
- Line size variety
- Less smooth than other options
- Cheap feel
- Difficult to close the bail
It can be tough to find a budget ice fishing reel that isn't made of graphite or some other plastic-like material. Naturally, there is a need to save money on budget products that lead manufacturers to look for options that can provide similar durability at a lower cost. However, that's not something you have to worry about with the Gorture reel.
Made from metal, this mid-tier budget reel looks and feels solid, durable, and fully capable of reeling in large fish. Although it's made from heavier materials, you can still expect this compact reel to fit easily into your pack. Just keep in mind that it may get pretty cold if you're taking it out ice fishing!
This reel is perfect for those who are looking for a reel that can offer plenty of durability. There are many who love fishing who prefer a reel with a higher-quality feel to it. As it is made from metal, this reel is a suitable option for those who aren't a fan of plastic or graphite designs.
However, there's something worth keeping in mind when it comes to ice fishing with this reel. Metal is going to be a bit less friendly in the cold than other kinds of materials. As a result, the reel may become extremely cold. In some cases, skin may stick to the metal uncomfortably. Make sure to wear a pair of thick, durable gloves if you're going to use a metal reel while ice fishing.
Aside from that, the Gorture reel is a prime choice all year long. It offers a compact design that can work well on just about any pole. Additionally, the spool is designed to be able to handle a lot of tensile strength, so you won't need to worry about the durability.
Finally, you can't go wrong with the versatility offered on this reel. It's great for newcomers and children alike, and is perfectly functional whether you're fishing on the ice, in a boat or on the rocks. Make sure to check it out alongside any others that interest you!
What I Like
This is a reel that is perfect for those who are looking for something very compact. It's a very small reel, which can be a benefit or a downfall, depending on what you're looking for. Those who prefer to use very small, lightweight rods will find this to be the perfect addition to their fishing adventures.
Additionally, it's designed to keep the drag as smooth as possible. That way, you can reel in your fish with fewer problems than you might experience with other rods. Just make sure you're choosing the correct number of ball bearings for your situation.
What I Don't Like
While the smaller size of this reel can work well in many situations, it might not be suited to those with larger hands. The smaller handle might make reeling in more difficult and less comfortable than it should be, so make sure you keep that in mind if you're considering this option.
Some may also find that it doesn't reel in as smoothly as they would like. Depending on the design, the drag on each reel is likely to be a little bit different, so it's important to find one that works for you. Finally, the materials may not be of the quality you'd expect from a more costly reel.
- Compact design
- Ideal for small rods
- Smooth drag
- Not ideal for larger hands
- May have a cheap feel
- Less smooth than other choices
Abu Garcia ICEMAX
If you don't mind something a little bit more expensive than other options on this list, the Abu Garcia is a fantastic solution. It's still something that fits within the budget range, but it rests somewhere on the high end of the center rather than at the bottom.
While it might not be the cheapest of the cheap, that also means you can expect a higher level of overall quality. In addition to that quality, this reel is made specifically for ice fishing, so it's going to be more capable in that kind of setting. Thanks to a special lube, the reel and line will be less likely to freeze up.
What sets the ICEMAX apart from a number of other reels is that it's designed to be able to continue functioning well even in the most extreme of weather conditions. This is largely due to the specialized lube designed to keep everything running smoothly rather than freezing over.
On top of that, this is an option that is sure to be friendly to your wallet. That way, if you need a new reel but you're in a budget pinch, the ICEMAX is there to make sure you can keep catching fix regardless.
Additionally, the Abu Garcia seeks to provide all the strength and durability you need in a compact package. The majority of the reel is made from graphite, which is considered to be quite strong. It's also a material that avoids problems that can occur with metal reels in the cold. This reel also includes an aluminum spool so that you can rely on the durability despite the small size.
From the casing to the bail system, just about everything included in this reel is designed to provide durability, power, and the ability to reel in as many fish as you want.
What I Like
This is a versatile reel that you can use for a wider variety of fish sizes than many other options out there. As a result, you won't have to worry about changing out your reel as often. It's a great all-in-one tool for those who just want to fish without making a lot of adjustments.
On top of that, this is a reel with a lot of durability. Consequently, you'll be able to rely on it to work with you throughout the seasons. For those who want something specifically for ice fishing, the long stem on this rod is suitable for using with thick gloves easily.
What I Don't Like
While overall, this is a great reel, some may find that they experience some problems with the anti-reverse switch. Furthermore, it's an option that is a bit pricier than others on this list. It's still well within the range of a budget item, but it may not be ideal for those on a highly strict budget.
There are also some who aren't a fan of graphite, as it may feel less durable than metal options. This is a feature that may be a benefit or a downfall, depending on the situation.
- Good for a variety of fish sizes
- Highly durable
- Long stem
- Anti-reverse switch issues
- More expensive than some other options
- Made from graphite
There are many who swear by the Eagle Claw brand, and they do so for good reason! These reels are known to be reliable, powerful, and lightweight, making them great fishing companions. Furthermore, you won't have to worry about emptying out your wallet to get one.
While this might not be the least expensive option, it's one that will definitely balance out the variables of cost and effectiveness. As you shop for the ideal ice fishing reel, make sure that you add this one to your considerations as well.
The Eagle Claw is a great little reel designed to make fishing of all kinds easier. It's designed with an aluminum handle, which offers more durability than some other options on the market. However, keep in mind that it may get colder more easily if you're fishing out on the ice. It may be worthwhile to bring a pair of reliable, warm gloves!
Furthermore, this is a reel that provides you with a lot of control. You can adjust the tension in the spool, or use the poundage of line you need in order to catch a variety of fish. Depending on the size and nature of the fish, you may need to make some changes to allow for the perfect catch.
What many fishing-fans look for is a reel that allows them to reel in smoothly. Jerking the fish around isn't going to make for an easy process on either end. The Eagle Claw is designed to allow for smooth reeling so that you can get the fish into your boat (or container) more easily.
As you may expect from a quality reel, the Eagle Claw also includes the switch required to keep the line from moving in reverse. That way, the fish can't take off with your line. You'll only be reeling inward, no matter how hard the fish tries to fight back.
What I Like
Those who try out this reel are often big fans. They find it to be easier to control than others, making it easier to get your fish onto land. There are a few things that are more important than control when it comes to making sure you're able to get your catch every time.
Whether you're right-handed or left-handed, this reel can adjust to fit your needs. You can easily move the reel from one side to the other with little effort. Finally, this is a reel that you can rely on to reel in smoothly, adding to the ease of use!
What I Don't Like
Overall, there are many people who enjoy these reels. That said, even the best reels can have some problems here and there. This one tends to be prone to slipping in some cases. As a result, you'll want to make sure that the reel you receive doesn't experience this problem or that you're able to resolve it.
Some may also find that it has a rough drag compared to some other options on the market. It may also seem to have a lower quality feel if you're used to reels that are typically more costly.
- Easy to control
- Left-hand/Right-hand adjustments are simple
- Functions smoothly
- Reel slippage
- Low-quality feel
- Drag is less smooth than desired
When you're shopping for the perfect ice fishing reel, there are a number of variables you may want to consider. For example, do you prefer inline reels or spinning reels? What really is the difference? Are you looking for the smoothest possible reeling? Do you want the reel to fight back against the cold in any way?
Understanding the answers to these questions can guide you towards what you're looking for. As a result, you'll have a better chance of ending up with the reel that suits your unique needs. Let's take a look at the buyer's guide variables to think about while shopping for a reel!
Type Of Reel (Spinning Vs Inline)
When it comes it ice fishing, there are a couple of reel types that are more abundant than those you might see for other kinds of fishing. These include spinning reels and inline reels. Let's take a look at both!
Spinning reels are among those most of us are familiar with. They include a simple little reel with your line wrapped around it. Often the reel is off to the side of the pole, and there is only a thick wire keeping the line tight around the core. When you need to cast the line, you simply flip that wire over.
Those who enjoy fishing are often a fan of this kind of reel because it's very versatile. It works well for a huge variety of fish and in a number of different settings, including ice fishing.
Inline reels can appear similar to spinning reels in the sense that you can see the reel and where the line wraps around it. One major difference you're likely to notice is that inline reels are often placed on the bottom of the pole rather than on the side. This setup keeps the line from spinning as it is reeled back in.
These are very popular in the ice fishing market because many feel that they allow you to get more value from the line. While a line is spinning, it may not be able to hold as much weight. Additionally, the way your bait is presented may be much more natural than what a spinning line can offer.
If you're fishing out on the ice, you can bet that you're not the only one suffering from the cold. Freezing temperatures can be rough on your fishing pole and reel, as well. In many cases, you can't expect to just take any untreated pole and reel out there and expect to be able to catch anything. It can take only a few moments for your pole to begin to ice over and become unable to reel in a catch.
Because of that, something you'll want to pay extra attention to when shopping for an ice fishing reel is the anti-freeze features. Some reels will come with these features included, while in other cases, you can add a product, later on, to help with keeping your reel from freezing over.
Often, anti-freeze for fishing reels can come in the form of lubes, sprays, or a paste that is placed on the reel. Some options, like the ICEMAX reel, include lube in their design when you first purchase them. While this is a convenient way to get started, it can also be a good idea to have an anti-freeze product on hand just in case the original wears off.
Even if your reel doesn't come with anti-freeze features, you can spend some time adding a specialized spray or lubrication yourself before heading out onto the ice. When you're in need of something in a pinch, even chapstick can be a huge help!
Another factor that is extremely important when it comes to choosing the right ice fishing reel is the friction it generates. Essentially, this is based on the number of ball bearings that are located within the reel itself.
You can think about these ball bearings in connection with the size of the fish you're trying to catch. If you're aiming for smaller fish, then you won't need to worry too much about how many ball bearings a reel offers. Meanwhile, those looking for larger fish are going to want to seek out a higher number of ball bearings.
In situations with smaller fish, somewhere between one and three ball bearings is typically plenty. However, larger fish will typically need three or more in order to function better. More ball bearings result in less line friction and an easier time pulling in a large fish.
In short, just remember that more ball bearings means a greater amount of smoothness as you reel in a fish. If you're unsure what size of fish you're after, it's often a good idea to get something with around three ball bearings and size up if you plan to go after a really huge fish.
No matter where you're fishing, you're going to want to think about the weight going into your pole. While a heavy-duty reel might seem more durable and powerful, it's actually going to end up being more of a pain than you might expect.
Imagine yourself fishing. You may be holding the rod in your hands for hours at a time, which can get tedious even with the lightest of poles. However, add in a heavy reel, and you'll likely end up begging to set it down. However, that may mean that you miss out on fish bites!
Generally speaking, the best way to resolve this issue is to aim for a fishing reel that is both durable and lightweight. More and more, manufacturers are looking for ways to get the best of both worlds so that holding your pole for long periods of time doesn't become a problem.
Additionally, not everyone can drive up to where they are fishing. In some cases, you may need to hike a way in order to reach your super-secret fishing spot. In those instances, it's best to have a reel that won't weigh you down while you're walking. You don't want to be too tired before you even start!
Depending on where and when you fish, your fishing pole and reel could be exposed to any number of situations. If there's one thing you can bet on for certain, it's that your reel will definitely experience water at some point. Because of that, you'll want to make sure it's not made of something that will be rusted or corroded by regular water presence.
Furthermore, if you're someone who likes to fish on the ice, then keep in mind that your reel is going to be exposed to extremely cold temperatures.
Knowing that, it's wise to choose something that won't be affected too harshly by those temperatures. While some may believe that heavy-duty metals are more durable, something like aluminum or graphite will really make things easier when you're ice fishing.
Regardless of the reel you choose, you'll also want to ensure that your hands stay warm. Make sure to wear thick gloves. If you do go with a metal reel, then be aware that skin can get stuck to the frozen metal quite easily, and it can be a pain to get it off. Generally speaking, it's better to avoid that situation altogether, to begin with.
As previously mentioned, the number of ball bearings in your reel will greatly affect the size of fish you can bring in. When there are more ball bearings, the function of the reel is more smooth. This makes it easier to reel in larger fish that may fight back, and it can help to keep the line from breaking.
If you're new to ice fishing, then think about where you're going and what kind of fish you're looking for. If you have a summer favorite, then it's worth considering that you can catch that same kind of fish in the colder months.
Once you've decided what kind of fish you want to catch, think about the size of that fish. Is it something small and easy to catch, or something larger that is more likely to fight? This is going to be important to know when you're selecting your ice fishing reel.
Generally, more ball bearings are ideal for larger fish. However, you can also do some research to find out exactly how many ball bearings are suited to the kind of fish you're after. You may be surprised by just how many ball bearings are suited to the kind of fish you want to catch!
Ice Fishing Reel FAQs
What Are The Different Types Of Ice Fishing Reels?
There are a variety of ice fishing reels on the market, but some tend to be more popular than others. Typically speaking, the most popular options include the inline reel and the spinning real. As mentioned earlier, these reels are quite similar. However, one results in a spinning line while the other does not.
Another option is the baitcasting reel, which is an option that tends to be the ideal for those who are more advanced in their fishing techniques. This is a reel that does require more practice for getting a good cast than other options, but that doesn't tend to be as much of a concern for those who are ice fishing. That said, it's worth keeping in mind if you want something you can use for other kinds of fishing as well.
How Does An Ice Fishing Reel Work?
An ice fishing reel can work in a variety of ways, depending on the kind of reel you get. Because the spinning reel and the inline reel are among the most popular, we'll take a look at how those work to help you with making a decision.
To begin with, spinning reels are among the most popular. In order to cast one of these reels, you simply have to flip over the metal or graphite wire covering the line. Then you'll cast your line and flip the wire back over to keep it from letting out more line. An inline reel is similar, but it's designed to avoid spinning the line as you're reeling it back in.
Is Gear Ratio Important When Selecting An Ice Fishing Reel?
If you're new to shopping for ice fishing reels, then you may notice various reels discussing something called the “gear ratio”. While this might seem like a complicated concept, it really isn't. The most important aspect to understand is that the greater the ratio, the quicker the reel gathers line.
When you're choosing the ideal ratio for your needs, it's important to think about your experience level. If you're new to ice fishing or fishing of any kind, then a lower speed is the ideal choice. Once you've gained more experience, then you can aim for a higher ratio. Over time, it may be worth trying a few different ratios in order to determine which one you like the best.
What Is The Anti-Reverse Bearing Of An Ice Fishing Reel?
Imagine you've dropped your line and bait into the water. You begin to feel a bite, and then suddenly, the fish grabs onto your hook. In some cases, the fish can take the line and swim with it, while in other cases, it won't be able to. This all depends on the anti-reverse bearing in your reel.
Many reels offer an anti-reverse switch that you can select when you want to stop allowing the line to leave your reel. Sometimes, letting the fish take off with your line for a bit can be useful in helping to tire them out.
In other cases, you may decide that you only want the fish to be able to get closer, not farther away. When you want to avoid letting the line out any more, you select the anti-reverse switch, which activates the bearing that keeps the line in place.
The Pflueger Monarch is the top choice when it comes to this list. It's a reliable, durable device that comes at a price most people would be happy to pay. Additionally, it's had a wonderful reputation with others who have tried out the same reel. You really can't go wrong with this option!
That said, the others in this list are also well-suited to a number of different situations. It's worth considering what your individual needs are, what kind of fish you're going for, and what results you're looking for as you shop for a reel.