There’s no doubt that ice fishing is a fun activity for winter that’s also not too expensive. An angler who’s ever got the taste of ice fishing adventures is almost guaranteed to choose that over summer and open water fishing any day. As you’re here, we’ll assume you’re looking for the best ice fishing reels in the market.
Fishing reels are an important part of the hobby and unlike freshwater fishing gears, ice fishing reels need to withstand freezing cold temperatures. They need to be particularly compatible with all your ice fishing gears too.
But how do you know if the reel you buy won’t fail on you with just a few uses? Are there different types of ice fishing reels? If so, what is the best ice fishing reel?
We have rounded up a number of products from the market to answer all your questions. We will be going through 9 of the best ice fishing reels in detail and explaining what makes them stand out from competitor products in the market. We have also prepared a buyer’s guide explaining the criteria we used to select them, so that you can make the best investment for yourself. There’s also a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section at the end to clear up any of your confusion.
So without further ado, let’s get down to business.
Top 9 Reels for Ice Fishing
- KastKing Centron Spinning Reels – Best Spinning Ice Fishing Reel
- Eagle Claw In-Line Ice Reel – Best In-Line Ice Fishing Reel
- SHIMANO Sienna FE Spinning Reel – Editor’s Choice
- 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061 – Premium Choice
- Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting Reel
- DAIWA QG Ultralight Spinning Reel
- Frabill Straight Line 371 Ice Fishing Reel
- Lew’s BB1 Pro Speed Spool Baitcast Reel
- 13 Fishing Black Betty Freefall Ghost Inline Ice Fishing Reel
9 best ice fishing reels – comparison
1. KastKing Centron Spinning Reels – Best Spinning Ice Fishing Reel
- Stylish design
- Graphite body for durability
- Left/Right hand interchangeable
- 9 quality ball bearings
- CNC machined aluminum spool
Don’t we all love products that both look good and perform well? Fortunately, the KastKing Centron Spinning reel checks all boxes for the best ice fishing reels.
This sleek-looking spinning reel has a compact graphite body and rotor. The graphite frame makes the reel very lightweight for long fishing sessions on ice. The anodized aluminum spool holds more lines than the competition. Corrosion is not an issue so you can use it in saltwater too.
It is available in different size options and you get up to 17.5 lbs of drag on the bigger models, so you can catch some monster fish with this fishing gear. The 9+1 quality ball bearing configuration packed in this reel helps ensure smoothness under heavy load.
You are really not sacrificing any features for money on this spinning reel. Just give it a quick rinse after each use and it will serve you well for your money.
- Value for money.
- Great for fishing in both freshwater and ice
- 17.5 lbs of maximum drag
- Lightweight graphite frame
- 9 ball bearings provide smooth operation
- Available in different sizes (500-5000)
- Might freeze in extremely cold conditions.
- Line twists might occur sometimes.
2. Eagle Claw In-Line Ice Reel – Best In-Line Ice Fishing Reel
- Nylon spool and frame.
- Spool tension adjustment.
- Smooth Teflon drag system.
- Lightweight design.
- Convenient free spool button.
If you are an angler interested in inline fishing reels, this is one of the best ice fishing reels you can get for your money. The Eagle Claw is a budget-friendly inline reel that has taken anglers by surprise for its performance and features.
It offers a smooth Teflon drag system and a star drag adjustment. The nylon frame is very lightweight to save you from fatigue. There’s a free spool button that works well even for the lightest jigs, so dropping a lure with this reel is a piece of cake and it’s paired with a line clicker to alarm you when a fish is pulling on your bait. Thankfully that can be turned off with a switch when needed.
The plastic handle and the small parts used in this reel make it a little hard to maintain. But it’s durable enough to withstand harsh ice conditions. Just take a bit of care when carrying it around with other equipment.
One thing we love about in-line reels is that you can hold them in pencil grip or pistol grip. So if you are a fan of the different grip styles, this fishing will serve your needs. Overall, it’s just a great piece of kit to have in your ice fishing gear bag.
- In-line reel on a budget.
- Left/Right hand interchangeable.
- Easy to use for beginners.
- Decent free-fall tension adjustment – works with light jigs.
- Construction quality is not the best
- Drag adjustment is not easy.
3. SHIMANO Sienna FE Spinning Reel – Editor’s Choice
- Lightweight design
- Premium look on a budget
- Superior drag system
- Great for freshwater and saltwater usage
The Japanese brand Shimano has been known for making great fishing equipment for a long time. The Sienna FE Spinning Reel is our favorite from Shimano. It comes with a versatile set of features that make it a great choice for hard water anglers.
The frame is made from composite graphite and aluminum, weighing only 9.2 ounces. It is resistant to corrosion from salt water, making it suitable for usage in all water bodies around the year. Equipped with a 5.0:1 gear ratio, it is great for deep fishing too.
This spinning reel is one of a kind when it comes to smoothness. It’s one of the smoothest among its competitors, thanks to the quality ball bearings from Shimano. The 2500 size sports enough capacity to tackle a wide range of lake-style fish species, all while being very suitable for every angler.
In a nutshell, the Sienna FE is a bargain for its quality. It will be a great addition to your gears, serving you in all seasons around the year.
- Gear ratio is good for deep fishing.
- Very low backlash.
- Good center of gravity for balance.
- Drag system works incredibly well.
- Suitable for all seasons.
- The bail arm might fail over time
4. 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061 – Premium Choice
- Lightweight design
- CNC machined aluminum spool
- EVA knobs for comfortable use
- Stainless steel ball bearings
- 2.7:1 gear ratio retrieves line at 19″ per crank
If you are willing to spend a bit of extra for all the bells and whistles you can get in ice fishing reels, the 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061 is just for you.
It has some of the best features you can get in the market today. Coming with 4+1 stainless steel bearings, this reel spins remarkably smooth. You can drop the lightest of your jigs with the convenient free-spool button and it will drop down like a charm. The drag system has a capacity of up to 5 Lbs, and being carbon drags, it’s really consistent too.
We absolutely love the large double wind handles on this reel. They come with EVA knobs that provide a comfortable grip while protecting your fingers from the freezing aluminum shaft. And the large-sized spool can hold more line than an angler can wish for. This product was surely made with convenience in mind.
Other than providing all these amazing features, this reel doesn’t sacrifice quality. The Black Betty 6061 is extremely durable and is made to last for years. Hence, it takes the cake for being the most premium piece of kit on our list today.
- Free spool button makes dropping jigs easier
- 2.7:1 gear ratio – good for power reeling
- Drag functions well, smooth control
- Allows you to use pistol grip
- Gear ratio is not adequate for reeling fast
- Carbon fiber drag to handle big fish.
- 7.1:1 gear ratio for quickly retrieving fish.
- Durable design with quality gears.
- Side plate oil port for easy maintenance.
- EVA foam shaft for comfort.
The Piscifun Torrent is an excellent baitcasting reel that comes packed with some really handy features.
Built with an aluminum body, Japanese Hamai gears, and shielded ball bearings, the Torrent is plenty tough. It stands out for its sleek look and the large double wind shafts, to make it convenient for fishing with gloves on.
Like all of its kind, this baitcasting reel has superior drag capability rated at up to 18 Lbs. So you can catch large fish like bass or lake trout without any issue. The gear ratio of 7.1:1 is also great for bringing your lures back to the ice quickly. That being said, you are sacrificing a little bit of power for the added speed.
It has 5+1 stainless steel bearings that offer really smooth operation. Their shielding ensures long life and makes them corrosion resistant. Maintenance is a piece of cake too, thanks to the conveniently placed oil port on the side plate. Just unscrew the port and drop in some cold gear lube to keep it fresh and smooth.
If you are a fan of baitcasting reels, this product will definitely suit your needs perfectly on hard water.
- Great for large fish.
- High drag capacity.
- Easy to oil and clean.
- Flexible for freshwater and saltwater.
- Might rarely have backlashes
- Ultra-lightweight frame – prevents hand fatigue
- Versatile 750 size
- Ambidextrous design
- Aluminum Folding Arm
- Suited for 4/6 pound mono and 6/8 pound braided line
A good ice fishing reel should be lightweight and compact for the long hours of fishing in frigid temperatures. The DAIWA QG Spinning Reel offers you both without breaking the bank.
Coming at a size of 750, it feels like a 500 sized compact reel with the capacity of a 1000. You won’t even notice the 6.2-ounce of added weight on your fishing rod. It provides a smooth drag with a maximum capacity of 7 lbs, which is excellent for catching different species of game fish.
This reel offers 4 aluminum ball bearings along with an instant anti-reverse system. They won’t freeze on you in cold temperatures and ensure low friction to save you from fatigue. Besides, the 5.1:1 gear ratio provides a line retrieve of 22.8″, meaning deep fishing will be a pleasure.
Pair it with your ultralight rod and this might be the best ultralight ice fishing setup you can have for your money.
- Size is suitable for many applications.
- True ultralight at only 6.2 ounces.
- Wide spool can hold a large amount of line.
- Quiet operation.
- Bail is a little fragile – use with care.
- Not as smooth as some of the higher-end Daiwa reels.
- Highly comfortable
- Guarded spool to allow palm grip.
- Smooth drag and instant anti-reverse.
- Audible/silent bait alarm switch.
- Composite material – does not feel cold even in frigid temperatures.
The Frabill 371 is a great in-line ice fishing reel for both beginners and experienced anglers.
The whole body has a robust composite construction making it durable against the weather. The ergonomic EVA handle makes sure you don’t freeze your fingers and the long stem pushes the line further away from the rod for gripping clearance. The spinning spool has a guard to make it easy to hold with a palm grip or a pistol grip.
This ice fishing reel is built to be lightweight. It offers a gear ratio of 3.7:1, and features an ultrasmooth 5+1 ball bearing system. Paired with a smooth drag, it’s a breeze to use everyone from beginner to experienced. You also get a silent bait alarm switch with it, to stop the clicking sound when it gets too noisy.
Packed with all these features, the Frabill 371 is an affordable ice fishing reel that’s really worth your investment.
- Can be used both left and right-handed.
- Bait alarm switch.
- EVA foam shaft – won’t feel cold at freezing temperature.
- Sub-zero lube for smooth operation on ice.
- Free spool button.
- Construction is not up to quality.
- High gear ratio of 7.1:1 for quick reeling.
- 10 premium quality ball bearings with shielding.
- 35mm high capacity spool.
- Aluminum frame with graphite side plates.
- External dial to choose from 27 variable cast control settings.
This high-end, USA-made reel for ice fishing is built like a tank. The Lew’s BB1 Pro is a professional baitcasting reel – our favorite for use in ice fishing.
It has an aluminum frame with graphite side plates, providing the reel with a weight of only 6.2 ounces. That’s roughly the weight of 6 wooden pencils! The graphite plates can conveniently be taken off for easy maintenance.
The reel sports 10 premium quality ball bearings with double shielding, meaning it will run extremely smooth while protecting the bearings from ice and dust. They also have a remarkable braking system with 27 different positions, so you can really fine-tune it for your needs.
The drag system on this piece of gear is incredibly smooth coming with an audible clicking feature commonly seen on spinning reels. And it gets better, the BB1 Pro Speed Spool also comes with 20 pounds of max drag, so it has plenty of power to handle massive catches.
To describe it in one word, it’s simply a beast. Yes, this bit of equipment is really on the expensive part of the spectrum, but it’s just worth every penny.
- 9+1 bearing provides excellent smoothness.
- 20 Lbs of maximum drag
- Low chances of line twist.
- Highly durable construction.
- Very lightweight at only 6.5 ounces.
- Line twists rarely happen.
- More on the expensive side.
- Stylish design.
- Drop speed control.
- Graphite Body.
- 3+1 stainless steel ball bearings.
- Tangle-free spool cap.
We have once again, a 13 fishing product on our list. It’s the Black Betty FreeFall Ghost series of inline fishing reels.
It has a fancy-looking black and white graphite frame inline reel, with a star drag right under the large glove-friendly handles. The quality stainless steel ball bearings provide this reel with excellent smoothness, and the anti-reverse bearing helps its stop instantly. You get a free spool release button with drop speed control and a 2.5:1 gear ratio which is great for pulling with power rather than speed.
However, in spite of being incredibly smooth, you may rarely face some backlash on this reel. And in spite of its anti-ice system. the spool has been reported to slowly ice up in some extreme frigid conditions
If you’re planning on buying a new inline ice fishing reel, the Black Betty FreeFall Ghost is worth a second look.
- Easy free-fall control.
- Smooth drag system.
- Handle is gloves-friendly
- Durable construction.
- Backlash issue.
Buyer’s guide: How to Pick The Best Ice Fishing Reel
When it comes to picking an ice fishing reel, there are a lot of factors you need to look out for. Aside from the specs on the papers like maximum drag and gear ratio, it is really important to understand the type of reel, temperature resistance in cold weather, antifreeze technology, and more. Quite overwhelming, isn’t it?
While it sure is a bit complicated, we are here to help. You only need to understand a few important aspects to pick the most suitable one for yourself. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Ice fishing reels need to take quite a bit of beating in the freezing temperatures, so it’s important to buy one made with good materials for longevity and durability. The most common materials include composite graphite, fiberglass, nylon, CNC machined and/or anodized aluminum, and stainless steel.
A decent ice fishing reel should be corrosion resistant and use lightweight materials for the frame. That brings us to the next factor to look our for, weight.
Ice fishing is generally done for long periods next to an augured hole out on the hard water, or occasionally in a cold-weather shelter. No casting involved. Hence, you need ultralight fishing reels and rods to prevent fatigue and stress in extreme temperature conditions.
When buying an ice fishing reel, try to get one that uses lightweight materials and has a center of gravity shifted towards the back. This is going to help you have a pleasant time on ice and storing the reel easier. We have listed the weight for each product in our review for your convenience.
There are many types of reels in the market and it’s really important to understand the advantages and weaknesses of each type to pick the best one for yourself. The most common types of reels used for ice fishing are spinning reels and inline reels.
Spinning reels are the most prevalent fishing reel among anglers. They are easy to use, widely available, and work pretty much in all seasons.
They are generally fairly compact but are available in a wide range of sizes. They are particularly known for having a much better drag system than other reel types while being quite lightweight and smooth. Don’t worry about the price though, they are quite modestly priced.
Simply put, they check all the boxes for ice fishing.
In-line reels, also known as straight-line reels, are now quite common in the fishing world. They stand out for their ability to avoid line twists, providing better control over your lure when jigging.
Unlike spinning reels, inline reels are mounted parallelly to the fishing rod. While it may not seem like a huge advantage, it actually makes quite the difference. The line on spinning reels tends to “remember” the twisting motion on the spool, and might get twisted or “corkscrewed” when you drop your lure. In-line reels prevent that by winding the line in the same direction as the line is dropped, preventing wind knots and twisting.
Besides that, they are especially beneficial in ice fishing thanks to their ability to withstand lower temperatures and decent speed control. Although can sometimes be quite pricey, many experienced anglers swear by in-line reels as the best type of reel for ice fishing.
We highly recommend giving them a try for ice fishing.
Other than the aforementioned spinning reels and in-line reels, there’s a third type of reel often used by hard water anglers, the baitcasting reels.
They are generally the best option for catching large fish. They have much higher drag capabilities and gear ratio compared to spinning and in-line reels, making them good for deep water. Line twist is also less of an issue compared to spinning reels, but don’t expect them to perform as well as in-line reels in that regard.
Some anglers discourage getting baitcasting reels for ice fishing. But if you are into catching monster fish, nothing can beat baitcasting reels. Just buy one designed to withstand icy conditions and it will serve you well.
When it comes to selecting ice fishing reels, it’s really important to get one with proper handles. Ice fishing takes place in extreme conditions and you will most likely be wearing thick gloves. How else would you protect your fingers?
So it is important to get an ice fishing reel with large handles. Some of them come with EVA foam covers, to isolate your skin from the chilly metal shaft. Ice fishing reel handles should also have an ergonomic shape, to provide the best grip and torque possible.
Good drag systems are critical for ice fishing reels. You want your reel to have a drag system that allows you to fine-adjust the setting to match your line weight and your target fish. Fine adjustment is key.
The common drag adjustments include front drag and star drag.
Front drag systems sit at the front of the spool, letting you loosen or tighten the drag by spinning a dial. They are commonly seen on spinning reels.
These drag systems are adjusted with a star-shaped wheel, typically situated right under the reel handle. Most in-line and baitcasting reels use the drag system and they can be extremely precise on the high-end models.
A reel with poor drag adjustment can really ruin your day on ice fishing trips. So be sure to buy one with smooth adjustment and go for one that has enough drag capacity for your target fish sizes.
While most ice fishing reels from reputable companies have fairly low friction, it is important to buy one that won’t lose its smoothness with use over time.
To ensure smoothness, some of the ice fishing reels come with cold gear lubes to withstand extreme temperature conditions. The number of bearings and their quality also ensure low friction. Just make sure to buy one with shielded bearings for durability with use in different water bodies.
Last but not least, it’s important to check the gear ratio when buying a reel for ice fishing. The gear ratio represents how many times the spool spins for each turn on the handle. So a higher ratio generally means you can pull your fish out of the water faster and vice versa.
Note that a higher gear ratio might help bring your fish out of the ice quicker, but they need more force to pull the same weight than that a reel with a lower gear ratio would.
A closely related factor to the gear ratio is the line retrieve length. Simply put, it’s the length of line each turn of the handle retrieves. Ice fishing reels with higher line retrieve lengths are good for deep fishing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best ice fishing reel for the money?
The best ice fishing reel for your money is one that suits your fishing setup, target fish, fishing style the best. Read our buyer’s guide on picking the best ice fishing reels to learn more.
What size reel should I use for ice fishing?
Ice fishing reels come in all sorts of sizes, ranging from the 250s to even 5000s. Try to get one that’s lightweight but has enough spool and drag capacity for your target fish.
What’s the difference between inline reels and spinning reels?
Spinning reels are the most common type of ice fishing reels, but inline reels are getting more prevalent these days. Spinning reels perform well in most water bodies but inline reels outperform them in catching smaller fish on ice. They are also better for jigging and ensure fewer line twists.
Can you use a regular fishing reel for ice fishing?
The only thing that sets ice fishing reels apart from regular reels is their durability in extreme ice conditions and ultralight frames. Many regular reels meet these criteria and can be used for ice fishing.
Are inline ice fishing reels worth it?
Inline ice fishing reels tend to be a little pricey but they really shine when catching smaller fish in ice. Their design prevents line twists, presenting baits to fish better than other reels, while also being more durable in ice. As long as you are not aiming for trophy fish, inline reels will be a great choice.
Wrapping it Up
Ice fishing is a joyous activity in winter and some good fishing gear can make your trips to the hard water really pleasant. We believe that the best ice fishing reel is one that suits your needs the best. So consider all the factors yourself and choose what’s right for your style of fishing.
As a last piece of advice, rinse off your reels once in a while and do some maintenance with proper cold-weather lubes to ensure they last long. We hope our comprehensive review and buyer’s guide help you make the right purchase for yourself. Happy ice fishing!