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Welcome to our best ice fishing reels buying guide! We’ve run the numbers and come up with our four favorite ice fishing reels based on various criteria and what you may be looking for. Whether you’re hunting for lake trout on a frozen lake or going for walleye in an arctic setting, we’ve got the best ice fishing reels for you. These reels paired with a cordless drill work great for all types of ice fishing. With the right equipment, fishing in the winter can be just as good as in the summer!
We’ve spent loads of time researching and reviewing the different reel options and have put together the following buying guide. We take into consideration many aspects of the reel: durability, price, ease of maintenance, flexibility for other uses, what type of fishing line is best, and how intuitive it is. There’s a quick summary of our winners for best ice fishing reels below. Scroll further down for more in-depth reviews of each ice fishing reel.
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
Best Overall Ice Fishing Reel
Eagle Claw InLine Ice Reel
The Eagle Claw InLine Ice Reel is the perfect reel for starting your ice fishing career. It’s also great for experienced ice fishermen, which is why it’s the overall winner. It’s solidly built, has a smooth drag system, and doesn’t cost an exorbitant amount. It hits all the important features of a solid ice fishing reel, which is why it wins our overall best reel designation.
The Eagle Claw InLine Ice Reel comes with a nylon body and spool which keeps the overall weight down. The spool also has an easy tension adjuster for setting the rod drag up for various size fish. An excellent option that allows the Eagle Claw InLine Ice Reel to fish for both pike and smaller fish like crappie.
The spool also has a free release button. This is perfect for ice fishing, as it allows the fisherman to drop their line down through the ice quickly and efficiently.
The Eagle Claw InLine Ice Reel has a left-handed retrieve by default, but can be switched to right-handed by unscrewing the handle and flipping it to the other side. This added flexibility for a reel that’s under $30 is one of the reasons it won.
The Eagle Claw InLine Ice Reel frame is made out of nylon which keeps the overall weight down. This allows for agility when battling smaller fish on a lighter test line, and helps when traveling. The Eagle Claw InLine Ice Reel is listed at 190 yards of 4 lb test monofilament, but can definitely handle heavier test lines. We’ve seen users comfortably load 12 lb braided fishing line.
- The price can’t be beaten.
- Has everything you need to start ice fishing!
- Not as feature-rich as more expensive options.
The Eagle Claw InLine Ice Reel is a great fishing reel for ice fishermen looking to have it all. It’s an excellent reel to add to your collection – or start if you’re just getting into ice fishing and on a tighter budget.
Best High-End Ice Fishing Reel
13 Fishing Black Betty Ice Fishing Reel
13 Fishing Black Betty Fishing Reel is our high-end ice fishing reel of choice. It costs double or triple what some of the reels in our test are listed for, but comes with many features that a tournament ice fisherman would want. The components are beefier than other reels, and the reel motion is much smoother under tough situations. For harcore ice fishermen, the 13 Fishing Black Betty Ice Fishing Reel is a great option.
The 13 Fishing Black Betty Fishing Reel spool system has 4 stainless steel ball bearings that are time tested for anti-corrosion. They know that their reels are going to get wet, and they’ve ensured their components will be up to the task of lasting many years.
The 13 Fishing Black Betty Fishing Reel is built with an aluminum frame that includes a smooth cork drag system. The drag system is controlled with a Micro-Click drag knob that gives the angler precise control over how much drag they want on their line.
The retrieve can be switched from left to right hand easily, and the back of the reel comes with a protective fender to ensure the line loads smoothly.
There is only one model of the 13 Fishing Black Betty Fishing Reel. It has a 2.5:1 gear ratio that keeps retrieval metered and smooth. Its max drag is 7.7 lbs, and it has a line capacity of 350 yards at 2 lbs, 200 yards of 4 lbs, and 150 yards of lbs.
- Feature heavy with everything a professional ice fisherman needs.
- Strong components on a lightweight frame.
If the price is not an issue for you, we highly recommend the 13 Fishing Black Betty. It has all the features that professional ice fishermen need to land the most ferocious of ice fish. Going after tournament-sized northern pike? Get the 13 Fishing Black Betty.
Best Ice Fishing Reel for Flexibility
The KastKing Centron Spinning Reel
The KastKing Centron Spinning Reel is packed with everything you need to start your ice fishing hobby, and it has the added bonus of being a spinning reel. This means when the seasons change and you want to fish for something else, the KastKing Centron Spinning Reel will be willing and able. We also featured the KastKing Centron in our Best Bass Fishing Reels Buying Guide, because it’s that good!. The KastKing Centron Spinning Reel comes in five different versions, but the Centron 3000 and 4000 work perfectly for most ice fishing.
The KastKing Centron Spinning Reel is built with a lightweight graphite frame that’s been expertly balanced for smooth reel action. Its superior drag system offers incredible stopping power with up to 17.5 lbs of drag pull. It’s hardened metal shaft with mesh gear drive will withstand intense ice fishing battles and ensure your equipment won’t fail you when it matters most.
The KastKing Centron Spinning Reel has nine ball bearings for smooth spinning. It also has an instant one-way stop for anti-reversing. The casing also comes in a brilliant anodized red or blue colorway that looks good with many different rod setups.
The five different models of the KastKing Centron Spinning Reel have varying specifications. We’ll cover the 3000 and 4000 since they make the most sense for ice fishing. The 3000 can hold up to 330 yards of 8 lb test or 270 yards of 10 lb test. The 4000 can hold up to 310 yards of 10 lb test or 260 yards of 12 lb test. Lastly, the 3000 weighs 9.1 oz while the 4000 weighs 12.1 oz. Both have a max drag of 17.5 lbs.
- Works great for spin casting as well as ice fishing.
- Doesn’t cost much more than the Eagle Claw.
- Not as well built as more expensive options.
The KastKing Centron Spinning Reel has everything you need to start ice fishing, and will also work excellently as a spinning reel! Both the 3000 and 4000 sizes are the most appropriate for ice fishing and come with everything you need to get started. The KastKing Centron Spinning Reel is a great option for ice fishermen on a budget that also wants a spinning reel.
Best Balanced Ice Fishing Reel
Pflueger President Ice Fishing Reel
The Pflueger President Fishing Reel is our balanced winner for 2020. It has a few more features than the most economical ice fishing reels but keeps price low by focusing on simple components. The Pflueger President Fishing Reel also has the added flexibility of being a spinning reel; you’ll be able to use it for spin casting as well as ice fishing.
The Pflueger President Ice Fishing Reel comes with all the essential components of an ice fishing reel. It features 5 stainless steel ball bearings that are resistant to rust and other forms of corrosion.
The Pflueger President Fishing Reel’s body is built out of graphite and is lightweight compared to other reels. The bail is made out of thick aluminum wire which adds strength while keeping weight down. The reel’s rotor is also made from graphite, which ensures endurance without adding bulkiness.
The Pflueger President Fishing Reel is rated at 180 yards of 2 lb test monofilament, 110 yards of 4 lb test monofilament, and 85 yards of 6 lb monofilament. We’ve also seen fisherman load the reel with 50 yards of 10 lb monofilament if they’re going for larger fish such as lake trout or musky. The reel only has an anti-reverse function and doesn’t allow you to back reel.
- Flexibility of spin casting.
- Quality components with a lightweight design.
- A little pricier than the most economical options.
The Pflueger President is another great option for ice fishermen that are just starting out or want to add another spinning reel to their collection. The Pflueger President has all the features you look for in an ice reel but doesn’t cost much more than cheap options. The reel also has the capability of handling a higher test line that some of the other reels don’t.
Best Basic Spinning & Ice Fishing Reel
Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Fishing Reel
The Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Reel is the last reel to make our list – it features a high strength graphite body and rotor which adds toughness and durability for long ice fishing sessions. It also has a quick folding handle so when you want to store it in your ice fishing tent or trailer, you’ll be able to fit it without difficulty. The Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Reel is CNC machined out of an aluminum block with precision design.
The Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Reel has 5+1 sealed ball bearings to prevent corrosion and help you reel in a trophy walleye or lake trout efficiently. It also has a zinc alloy drive train that provides smooth winding and retrieval of lures if you decide to take it out casting. The Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Fishing Reel also has an extended stem that helps you reel in faster while you’re wearing gloves.
The Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Reel comes in one size perfect for most ice fish. You can choose between two colors, black and red as well as black and blue. Both look great and are an excellent addition to a trout rod or other ultralight setups.
- Very affordable.
- Can be used as a spinning reel.
- Low line capacity.
- Components could be higher quality.
The Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Reel is a great budget ice fishing reel. It may not have as many features and components as the other reels on our guide, but it will get the job done. Its price is also hard to beat!
We wanted to highlight a few of the major features we looked for when picking these reels for our buying guide.
Gear Ratio/Speed of Retrieval
Don’t let the cold temperatures fool you, the fish you’ll catch while ice fishing are hungry and ready to put up a fight. This means you’ll need a reel that can handle a small but feisty fish – like walleye. The rate of retrieval doesn’t matter as much as other types of fishing (like bass fishing) because the fish often don’t have anywhere to hide. Having a ratio of around 3:1 is fine for starting out. The faster speed will decrease the time it takes to catch fish and help with staying warm (even if you have a good ice fishing suit).
The drag system is responsible for putting pressure on the fish when it tries to run from your boat. A good ice fishing reel should have a max dag pressure of at least 5 lbs. This will help keep a stronger musky in check while not bullying smaller fish out of the water. A smooth clicking adjustable drag is also very useful, as you often need to feel the most sensitive of bites when ice fishing. If you use a bell setup to let you know when a fish bites, the drag system needs to be able to pick up the bite and ring the bell.
An anti-reverse switch is important for ice fishing as you want the hook to set even if you aren’t holding the rod. If a fish takes your bait and you aren’t paying attention, you want the reel to put pressure on the fish so the hook sets anyways. A solid anti-reverse switch will make sure you’re covered.
And remember, ice fishing can be dangerous – so always plan ahead and be prepared.