10 Best Ice Fishing Reels Reviewed In 2021

best ice fishing reels

All anglers know that the success of getting a catch depends on their experience, knowledge, reaction, and patience. Be as it may, a big chunk of their success also rides on the choice of a reel. See, ice fishing is quite challenging; this is because as the temperatures drop, so does the fish activity drop as well.

Therefore, to land a fish during the icy conditions, you need an ultra-sensitive and lightweight setup to detect the less-aggressive bites. And this is where the best ice fishing reels come into play.

However, the market is filled with plenty of ice fishing reels, and choosing the best one for your needs can spin your head into confusion. It’s for this reason we’ve created this massive guidepost, where we shall review the top 10 ice fishing reels in the market.

In the end, we’ve also provided you with a comprehensive buying guide, and hopefully, by the time you’re through with the review, you can make a more informed choice in your next ice fish reel purchase.

Top 10 Ice Fishing Reels

Product name Construction material Weight Price
13 FISHING Black Betty 2015 CNC machined aluminum construction 7.8 ounces $$-$$
Shimano Ultralight Reel Graphite & Aluminum 0.07 pounds $$-$$
DAIWA Crossfire Spinning Reel Aluminum & ABS material 6.0 oz $$-$$
PENN Pursuit II & III Spinning Reel Anodized aluminum & graphite 0.6 pounds $$-$$
Eagle Claw InLine Ice Reel Nylon 5.6 oz $$-$$
Frabill Straight Line 261 Ice Fishing Reel   8 oz $$-$$
Piscifun Spinning Reel Graphite and aluminum 5.7 oz $$-$$
Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel Graphite and Aluminium 5.8 ounces $$-$$
Shakespeare Glacier Ice Reel Aluminum 5.8 ounces $$-$$
Celsius Blizzard Flat Line IM6 Graphite handle with nylon 5.7 ounces $$-$$

Ice Fishing Reels Reviews

1. ​13 FISHING Black Betty 2015

13 FISHING Black Betty 2015

Topping on our list of the best ice fishing reels is the 13 fishing Black Betty 2015. This fishing reel checks on all the boxes for the best ice fishing line.

Durable

The Betty 2015 is machined from aluminum, and this makes it rugged enough for the winter conditions.

Further, this reel features a super free-spool that will let you drop even the lightest bats deep in the water, and while at the same time providing you with enough strength to reel back.

Comfort

The Betty sports an aluminum handle with EVA knobs.

The lightweight EVA knobs provide anglers with a comfy grip, and this gives them an overall greater control.

Performance

A highly flexible unit, Betty 2015, accommodates virtually everything, including the 2-pound monofilament and upwards.

Additionally, this reel is powerful and can hold a lot of line jigging.

The presence of a large spool, alongside an in-line design helps to eliminate line memory and twist. Though it’s not as efficient as the spinning reels, the drag on this reel is exceptional, even with the lighter lines.

Complete with a carbon drag and an anti-reverse system, this reel is easily adjustable and guarantees super-reliable performance.

Rating Criteria

Adjustability: 99

Durability: 99

Effectiveness: 99

Portability: 99

Style: 99

Average: 99

What We Love About It
  • Incredible for deep jigging
  • Smooth reeling
  • Lightweight
What We Didn’t Like
  • Tad expensive

2. Shimano Ultralight Reel

Shimano Ultralight Reel

Shimano Ultralight Reel is yet another incredible fishing reel that has users talking about. As its name suggests, this unit is ultra-lightweight and weighs less than a pound, but it has plenty to offer.

Comfort

This reel is encased in a new “m-compact body.”

The design on this reel moves the oscillation gear to the rod, consequently improving the overall balance, and at the same time, reducing angler fatigue.

Durability

Shimano Ultralight Reel is constructed from a blend of graphite and aluminum, and this makes it quite a durable product.

While its strength does match that of an all-metal reel, it’s strong enough to withstand the rugged chilly conditions.

Performance

The Shimano Ultralight Reel is a flexible unit, and it comes with a spool that can accommodate far more lines than you’ll ever need when going for ice fishing.

Further, the spool on this reel is extremely smooth, and the adjustable drag is simply amazing.

The propulsion line management system, in particular, will let you cast for longer distances without worrying about backlashes or wind knots forming.

Further, the Super Stopper II technology offers an instant anti-reverse mechanism without back pay.

The Dyna-Balance is yet another incredible feature that eliminates wobble while enhancing sensitivity and smoothness.

Rating Criteria

Adjustability: 99

Durability: 99

Effectiveness: 99

Portability: 99

Style: 98

Average: 99

What We Love About It
  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Does not wobble
  • Smooth reeling
What We Didn’t Like
  • Line twist is a problem

​3. DAIWA Crossfire Spinning Reel

DAIWA Crossfire Spinning Reel

A value-packed fishing reel, the Daiwa will provide you with incredible performance without a high price tag.

Comfort

Sporting an ultra-light design, the Daiwa feels comfortable to work with.

A highly versatile unit, the Daiwa is an ideal reeling option for both the winter and the summer conditions.

Durability

Weighing less than a pound, Daiwa is constructed from a blend of aluminum and ABS material.

Though lightweight, this reel is sturdy and does not compromise on structural integrity or performance.

Performance

Unlike the Black Betty, we reviewed above; you’ll not have to worry about the lines twisting on the Daiwa.

This is because the reel comes with a twist buster system that prevents the lines from twisting.

Regarding the drag, the front-mounted drag is incredibly smooth and easily adjustable.

The gyro spin, in particular, ensures there’s correct alignment within the internal components, regardless of the conditions you’re working on.

The ball bearings, on the other hand, will ensure that all the internal componentry keeps running smoothly.

Contrary to a majority of the reel systems, the Daiwa is not over-stuffed with bearings. The four marked bearings on give the Daiwa greater smoothness, while allowing easy balancing.

Rating Criteria

Adjustability: 99

Durability: 98

Effectiveness: 99

Portability: 99

Style: 98

Average: 98

What We Love About It
  • Lightweight
  • Superb for deep jigging
  • Budget option
What We Didn’t Like
  • Drag is not smooth

4. PENN Pursuit II & III Spinning Reel

PENN Pursuit II & III Spinning Reel

The PENN Pursuit II & III Spinning Reel features a durable construction alongside a seamless gear system.

Offering an ultra-lightweight design plus a corrosion-resistant graphite body, this reel is an excellent value for money for the ice fishing anglers.

Comfort

The PENN Pursuit II & III Spinning Reel feature a stable design that promotes comfort and utility.

The presence of a tough graphite body serves more than lightening this reel, but it has repelled corrosion better than typical aluminum reels.

The knobs on this reel are further upgraded while the ergonomic handle promotes comfortable reeling. Being a pretty lightweight reel, the PENN Pursuit II & III Spinning Reel is easy to work with for long durations.

Durability

The presence of anodized aluminum spool with line capacity rings means that durability on the Penn reel should not be a significant concern since this unit is rugged and will provide you with long-lasting services.

Performance

The line capacity rings on this unit are positioned at specific intervals, and this greatly enhances the performance of this reel by giving the spool the right amount of line.

Another performance-enhancing feature on this unit is the oiled felt drag system. This system keeps the drag lubricated and offers a considerable drag pressure without sacrificing smoothness.

Contrary to the old racket-style systems, the instant anti-reverse system on this unit will stop back play

Rating Criteria

Adjustability: 99

Durability: 98

Effectiveness: 99

Portability: 98

Style: 98

Average: 98

What We Love About It
  • Ergonomic handle
  • Great value
  • Smooth reeling
What We Didn’t Like
  • The oil might dry

5. Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel

Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel

The Eagle Claw is a product of the infamous Wright & McGill Co., a household name in the fishing domain.

Comfort

The firm-grip no-slip aluminum handle is ergonomic, and it delivers a fine incline ice fishing reel.

Further, this reel allows for quick and east hands change, meaning you can use it either with your right or left side.

The entire reeling process on this unit is smooth and happens literally in no time.

Durability

The handle on the Eagle Claw is constructed from aluminum, while the rest of the body is nylon.

A durable unit, these components will stand up to the harsh icy conditions, and users like the way it works, regardless of the cold outside.

Performance

The Eagle Claw boasts of a patented drag system, and this makes the unit an unbeatable choice.

The Eagle Claw is Teflon, and so, the reel is extremely convenient. More particularly, it’s highly adjustable, and this ensures that your ice fishing is smooth and unforgettable.

Rating Criteria

Adjustability: 99

Durability: 98

Effectiveness: 97

Portability: 97

Style: 98

Average: 98

What We Love About It
  • Smooth drag, thanks to the Teflon
  • Free spool
  • No more memory issues
What We Didn’t Like
  • Material construction, not a premium

6. Frabill Straight Line 261 Ice Fishing Reel

Frabill Straight Line 261 Ice Fishing Reel

Frabill has been manufacturing premium products since 1938, and the Frabill 261 is no different.

Comfort

For starters, this reel will attract lots of eyes thanks to the stylish and aesthetic design.

Regarding comfort, this unit comes with an ergonomic handle, which makes it a cinch to use.

Ease of use on this unit is further bolstered by a 0.8-ounce weight that will not weigh you down and allow you to use the reel for extended periods without getting fatigued.

Durability

The manufacturer has not indicated the type of metal used in constructing this unit.

What we know is that the unit is constructed from robust and super quality materials to extend the sturdiness, performance, and durability of this unit.

Performance

A functional unit, the Frabill, features an innovative spool adjustment.

This component significantly contributes to a smooth drag experience and an incredible anti-reverse performance.

In a nutshell, this makes your ice fishing expedition more exciting and fulfilling, regardless of whether you’re a seasoned or novice angler.

Rating Criteria

Adjustability: 97

Durability: 97

Effectiveness: 99

Portability: 97

Style: 98

Average: 97

What We Love About It
  • Over the top material construction
  • Extra smooth action
  • Ideal for the icy and rugged conditions
What We Didn’t Like
  • Requires plenty of adjustment

 

7. Piscifun Spinning Reel

Piscifun Spinning Reel

The Piscifun spinning reel is an excellent choice that comes with fantastic features that enhance the reputation of this reel among seasoned anglers.

This unit is lightweight, strong, and durable, making it a great pick among ice anglers.

Comfort

The Piscifun Spinning reel is designed with a graphite body that makes this unit a long-lasting fishing reel that anglers can operate efficiently for extended fishing periods without worrying about wrist fatigue.

Also, the reel comes with an alloy reinforced gear that works silently, limiting the chance of spooking a fish.

Durability

This unit is corrosion resistant thanks to the sealed rubber ring in the drag that prevents moisture entry making the drag smoother and more durable.

The anti-corrosion stainless steel bearings, firm precision brass gears and the stainless main shaft of this reel ensures that you can use this unit smoothly for more extended fishing periods.

Performance

This model is constructed with the assistance of a CNC machine, for more precision and can be tied to the spool directly without any slip.

Moreover, this reel model comes with a three-carbon drag system with a stopping power measuring 26.5lb, making it an excellent choice for both freshwater and saltwater anglers.

Rating criteria

Adjustability: 98

Durability: 97

Effectiveness: 97

Portability: 98

Style: 97

Average: 97

What We Love About It
  • Lightweight and operates silently.
  • Strong and durable.
  • Flexible for freshwater and saltwater fishing.
What We Didn’t Like
  • The unit may expose you to dangerous elements according to Proposition 65 of California Law

8. Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel

Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel

The Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel is one of the more outstanding ice fishing reels in the market.

It comes with a black body and a large orange spool that makes it stand out among ice fishing reels in terms of looks.

Comfort

The Fiblink inline ice fishing reel comes with an oversized handle with extra-grippy knobs to enhance firm grips whenever you are using this unit. Also, you can easily adjust the spool tension with a simple button.

Durability

The unit’s body is built using graphite material, enhancing the firmness as well as the durability of this ice fishing reel.

Moreover, the gears are constructed using durable brass materials, which will ensure that you will be able to use this unit for a more extended period.

Performance

The Fiblink inline Ice fishing reel weighs 5.8 ounces, making it one of the lightest ice fishing reel you can work well with.

The spool tension is easily regulated by a simple button that is unbuilt with the unit.

Besides, the unit is sturdy rather than quick, as evidenced by its gear ration of 2.6:1.

Rating criteria

Adjustability: 96

Durability: 96

Effectiveness: 96

Portability: 95

Style: 96

Average: 96

What We Love About It
  • Powerful gear ratio
  • Flashy design
  • Right or left-handed options
What We Didn’t Like
  • It lacks Fender

9. Shakespeare Glacier Ice Reel

Shakespeare Glacier Ice Reel

The brand Shakespeare has one of the best ice reels in their collection.

Shakespeare Glacier Ice Reel boasts of magnificent and durable features that are popular with most seasoned ice anglers.

Comfort

This reel is constructed with a much bigger handle that ensures it is glove-friendly, enhancing a firm grip when you will be handling it.

Besides, the manufacturer has constructed built the reel with the angled rotor to enable you to fish without extra hassle.

Durability

The body of this unit is built using graphite material, a feature that serves to add more strength to the reel.

Despite the spool being built using aluminum products, this unit has proven to be very strong, therefore alleviation the concerns of the durability of this product.

Performance

The Shakespeare Glacier Ice Reel provides a smoother line flow than most reels.

This model comes with an angled rotor that serves to reduce the hassle levels when you are fishing.

Also, the gears are coated with cold gear lubrication to prevent them from freezing out in the extreme conditions.

Rating criteria

Adjustability: 95

Comfort: 95

Durability: 96

Effectiveness: 95

Portability: 95

Average: 95

What We Love About It
  • Oversized handle making it glove-friendly
  • Freezing resistant
  • Strong material construction
What We Didn’t Like
  • The backstop for hindering free-wheeling backward might not function.

10. Celsius Blizzard Flat Line

Celsius Blizzard Flat Line

An excellent feature of this ice reel is its spool, which is aluminum coated and has anti-freezing features.

Comfort

The steam of this reel is extended to provide room to fit gloves, which will, in turn, enhance you a firm grip of the handle for easier fishing. The drag system, which is made up of nylon, boosts the performance levels of the Celsius Blizzard Flatline even more.

Also, it ensures that you will not experience any wrist fatigue that may make you cut short your fishing trip.

Durability

The spool of this unit is engineered from aluminum, ensuring that it will be able to withstand the cold temperatures and serve you for a long time.

To enhance the strength of this ice reel, the manufacturers have added a robust bail wire to ensure your reel does not get misshapen or bent.

Performance

The Celsius Blizzard Flat Line offers excellent versatility. You can adjust it from Left to right and vice versa.

Also, the reel is constructed using anti-freezing lubrication materials to ensure that it will not freeze up in the cold weather when you are fishing.

The graphite material also used enables this model to be lightweight, making it easy to carry around and use it stress-free.

Rating criteria

Adjustability: 96

Durability: 95

Comfort: 95

Effectiveness: 95

Portability: 95

Average: 95

What We Love About It
  • Smooth drag system
  • Anti-freeze lubrication
  • Easy to set up
What We Didn’t Like
  • The handle is not that durable

Criteria used for evaluation

Durability and material

A fishing reel is exposed to water regularly; therefore, the icy conditions and moisture will significantly influence its durability and performance. For this reason, you should always opt for ice fishing reels constructed using high-quality materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, and graphite. Ice fishing reels created using these materials are resistant to rust, strong and durable

Moreover, ice fishing reels built using aluminum are lightweight, a feature that explains why the majority of the seasoned anglers prefer fishing reels made from aluminum.

Spool

Ice fishing needs such a spool that will not get snarled up or tangled when being spooled. Hence, ice fishing reels are expected to be inline, meaning the line will remain steadfast in the spool with no twisting occurring when you spool more deeply.

Spooling is dependent on the measurement of the line’s weight and length. Additionally, the analysis of the weight is based on the total number of a pound that the spool can withstand. Implying that, if you have a bigger spool, a higher number is required

Typically, an ice fishing spool holds more line than a regular line because, with an ice fishing reel, you will be fishing at more depth.

Anti-freeze feature

Freezing is a major challenge when it comes to the maintenance and durability of your ice fishing gear. During your winter fishing, your reel will be exposed to freezing conditions, which may hinder the performance of your equipment. The anti-freezing feature is a specific feature to ice fishing gears meant to ensure the reel performs efficiently regardless of the low temperatures.

The inline fishing reel type excels in this regard. Therefore ensure you purchase a reel whose spool is shielded with an anti-freezing layer for you to enjoy more success out there when fishing.

Bearing number

Find out the number of bearings your reel is fitted with. The number of bearing in your reel will determine how smooth your reel will perform. The greater the bearing number, the flusher your reel will perform. Always make sure the bearings are built using high-quality materials.

Mostly, bearings sit inside the reel to properly assist your gear in achieving high performance. Despite the drag weight, the bearing will strive to ensure your fishing is a success without much hassle.

Ensure you don’t purchase a reel with less number of bearings because it might snap or allow your fish to escape as a result of excessive pressure on the line.

Drag capacity

Drag capacity is also another crucial feature you should pay close attention to before deciding to get an ice fishing reel. Drag capacity will directly affect the amount of effort you will apply when reeling your catch from the water.

The drag capacity identifies the capacity and tension of the reel you are purchasing. We recommend you go for a reel having adjustable drag capacity, which will allow you to catch a variety of fish species.

Expert tip

Make use of electronic gears

As an ice angler, learn to use the brilliant fishfinder technology available. Having a combo unit with a homing device/sonar and a smooth running GPS mapping will greatly prove to be beneficial during your ice angling trips.

Make use of the GPS to locate the most likely areas holding fish, especially with curled lake maps. With your sonar, try locating the reefs, break lines, weed edges, and weed beds. By relating yourself well on how to employ both your flasher and sonar, you stand a greater chance of having your tip holes above the spots on the fabric.

Other factors to consider

Type of fishing ice fishing reel

Note that there are various types of ice fishing reels and some of them are more preferred than the others. You might be asking yourself why this is the case. It is straightforward because some have features that are well suited for most anglers.

Ice fishing reels mostly come in three different types, namely, the inline, the spinning, and the baitcasting reel. To help you gain a better understanding of these ice fishing reels, we will dive into the specifics of each reel briefly and decipher what they entail.

  1. Ice fishing spinning reel

The ice fishing spinning reel is the most used type of reel among most anglers. Its standout attribute is that it is tiny and lightweight.

Also, the spinning reel has excellent drag adjustment levels and flexible to use in various types of fishing. Besides, they are budget-friendly as compared to other kinds of fishing reels. The ice fishing spinning reel can also be used for live baits.

  1. Ice fishing inline reel

Ice fishing inline reels are rapidly becoming a darling to the majority of ice anglers. They resemble the fly fishing line but with a few upgraded features.

The reel is stationed below but in line with the rod. This ensures it maintains a straight line with no curves.

The greatest advantage is that they lack line twists, can withstand harsh weather conditions, no reel lock up, and they have superb speed control.

The ice fishing inline reel is well suited for shallow angling and catching small fish.

  1. Ice fishing baitcasting reel

This type of reel is not so popular with anglers despite being around for quite some time.

Significant features include larger baskets and flexible spools. Their larger baskets make them heavier, thus suitable for catching big sized fish.

Handle

Ice fishing takes place in icy conditions implying that you will most likely be fishing wearing thicker gloves. For this reason, the handle will need to be slightly different from the regular fishing handles.

Manufacturers are aware of this and have come up with oversized handles that have rigid material to ensure you have a firm handle during prolonged fishing periods.

Reduced friction

Reduced temperatures can have severe destructive effects on the ice fishing reel gears. To curb this, manufacturers make use of cold gear lube so that the gear can survive the extremely icy conditions.

Also, the number of ball bearings plays a crucial part when reducing the amount of friction on your gear. The ball bearings reduce friction by opposing the drag weight. Seasoned anglers prefer reel models with several ball bearings.

To put it, the higher the number of ball bearings, the lower the friction rate of your gear.

Weight

When it comes to selecting the best ice fishing reel for your fishing trip, we strongly recommend you opt for a lightweight unit. A light reel is flexible, comfortable, and easy on your wrist.

Most importantly, it will not tire you even when you fish for extended periods. Besides, a lightweight reel is easier to store.

Gear ratio

As a rule of thumb, the higher the gear ratio of your reel, the faster it will perform. You can match up gear ratio with the speed at which the reel will be able to set back up the line as you twist the handle.

However, your preferred gear ratio will still rely on your choice as well as the depth of the ice water you are planning to fish on.

Frequently asked questions

Q: What is the best type of reel to use for ice fishing?

A: Typically, there are three types of reels used for ice fishing. They are; the ice fishing spinning reel, the inline reel, and the baitcasting reel. The spinning reel and the inline reel are the most popular reels employed by ice anglers.

Baitcasting reels are mostly used for deep water fishing or when catching bigger fish. Ice fishing spinning reels are the best reel type to select. These rods are small in size and lightweight hence possessing a great balance

The inline reel functions the same as a fly fishing reel. It also resembles the fly fishing reel in structure. Though a popular reel among fly fishers, it is quickly gaining recognition among ice anglers too.

Q: Why should I use an inline ice fishing reel

A: Inline reels do have several advantages that come with them. For starters, you can be sure that the line will not get tangled. This reel is perceived to be the best choice when it comes to jigging the bait. Moreover, the inline reel comes with an excellent speed control of the line on the bait drop, enabling you to fish without straining with the reel.

Additionally, all the inline reel models possess a free spool mechanism, which allows the spool to spin freely with much less effort.

Q: Should I prefer using live baits over artificial lures when fishing?

A: Normally, live baits tend to outdo artificial baits when fishing. Get used to starting with a few maggots then adjust the number of maggots from a single to a full hook depending on the preference of the fish.

Keep in mind that you do not want your maggots to freeze, so ensure you keep them in a tightly enclosed container in a bag or near your body to prevent them from freezing up.

Q: Can I use my regular rod for ice fishing, or should I purchase a new rod?

A: You can try ice fishing using your regular fishing rod, but it will not serve you for a longer period. Ice fishing rods have been exclusively assembled to withstand harsh weather conditions. Because during ice fishing, the temperatures are likely to fall below zero degrees Celsius, the fishing gear must, therefore, use special cold lubricants to prevent it from freezing up. Also, ice fishing reels are built with bigger handles to enhance a firm grip when being handled using gloves.

The lack of the above features on regular lines is the reason why you need to purchase a new rod for ice fishing to enjoy the experience.

Q: What are some of the indicators above the ice that will help you to know there are fish underneath?

A: If the ice is littered in snow, check for holes that have already been drilled. This will tell you that probably there had been some good fishing activity that took place. In a shack town of fished holes, you should check the ones that seem to have been fished the highest.

Q: How do I do away with line tangles on ice fishing spinning reel?

A: First, change the line each ice fishing season and then spool on a new line for the entire winter season for above-average work. The line should rightly come off the spool and onto the reel while being tight. Always ensure to use the line which is suited for ice angling.

Ensure you avoid reeling fish with a slipping drag at all times. Lift the line from the hole and let it whirl continually.

Finally, make the line tensile by securing the tag limit to a firm object and move away several yards.

Q: What other equipment should I take when ice fishing other than the basic tip up and rod?

A: Other necessities that you will require when going ice fishing include; a fishing pole with a spring bobber, bucket to sit on, small jigs, bait, and warm clothes. You will also need an auger to drill holes on the ice to suspend your bait. But in case you are planning to go fishing in a community spot or shantytown, perhaps carrying an auger is not necessary. You can always ask to lend one or have an angler drill a hole for you.

Sources

  1. https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=119
  2. https://www.iowadnr.gov/fishing/fishing-tips-how-tos/ice-fishing
  3. https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7733.html
  4. https://www.reddit.com/r/IceFishing/comments/2rb90k/what_makes_an_ice_reel_different/

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