How to Care for an Ice Fishing Rod and Reel: The Complete Guide

January 30, 2021

How to Care for an Ice Fishing Rod and Reel: The Complete Guide

Proper maintenance for your ice fishing rod and reel is essential. Caring for your ice rod and reel may seem tedious, but it is necessary if you want to prolong the life expectancy of your equipment. Regular maintenance also helps to make sure you are ready for the next season. But do you know how to care for an ice fishing rod and reel?

Keeping your equipment in top condition is imperative for successful fishing expeditions. Here are some tips for keeping your ice fishing rod and reel in pristine condition:

Before you even think of disassembling the reel or rod, you should have a diagram on hand. The diagram can keep you on track when you’re trying to piece it back together. The diagram will also help you disassemble before you clean and then reassemble once you’re done. 

But, cleaning starts with the surface you will use. It doesn’t help cleaning your equipment on a dirty surface! 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Nose pliers
  • Wipe rag
  • Reel tools
  • Reel lube
  • Screwdrivers

A Note on Lubricants

If you are serious about prolonging your rods and reels’ lives, you should use premium lubricants. Using a proper lubricant is the first step in learning know how to care for an ice fishing rod and reel. A quality lubricant can add years to your equipment’s lifespan. Use lubricants made specifically for fishing reels.

But more doesn’t always mean better. Overusing the lubricant can also be harmful to the reel. 

There are two lubricant options. The first is an oil-based lubricant, and the other is grease based lubricant. If you are unsure which to use, check the manufacturer’s details as they usually recommend which one you should use. 

An all-purpose reel oil should be the perfect solution. Lubricants that are too thick will have trouble coating into the tiny spaces in the reel. A Lower thickness oil is ideal as it can get into all the nooks and crannies. 

Basics of Rod Maintenance

Always handle your equipment with care. Be precise but gentle. If you want the maintenance to go smoothly, you must handle the reels and rods with care. This is generally true, but particularly so when you are disassembling or reassembling. 

When you are cleaning your rod, do not bend any section of your rod. Clean your rod section by section, and work on one part at a time. 

Storing your rod is a major part of maintenance as well as longevity. Use a case to store your rod if you are not going to clean it immediately. 

When the rod is not in use, you should store it away from harsh temperatures (whether hot or cold). If a rod is exposed to extreme heat or cold, you could risk damaging the guides and the cork handles. If you do not store your rods properly, you could end up with brittle pieces and a rod rendered incompetent. 

On that note- never leave a rod without cleaning it after ice fishing. Always clean your rod and reel before you put your rod into storage. You will thank yourself later for cleaning it first. 

To clean the rod, you can use warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Have one soft cloth to use with the water to remove the dirt and another to dry the rod once it is clean. 

After using the rod for ice fishing, remember to clean it before storage. Use a soft cloth to remove all the dirt and wipe it dry also. Use warm water combined with soap to soak the dirt, making it easy to remove any stubborn dirt. Do not put oil or lubricant on the cork handle. Cork handles do not require oil. 

Ice Fishing Reel Maintenance

If you want your ice fishing reel to last as long as possible, then you need to ensure it gets the maintenance it deserves. 

What is Proper Reel Maintenance?

The very basics start with regular testing. You should always test the reel’s action and drag before you venture into the icy territory. This will also help you to make all the adjustments that you need to make. Much better than fumbling in the cold!

After you have returned home from the fishing trip, the work is not done. It’s best to get some of the cleaning out of the way. Take the arbor off the frame, and clean it gently. Ensure it is properly dried before you store it again. 

Another practice that you can adopt is to clean the cylinder regularly. Make inspecting the cylinder akin to a natural reflex before you go fishing. This promotes the reel’s longevity and ensures that each time you’re sure the reel is in perfect working condition. The last thing you want to do is find yourself out on the ice with a jammed reel. 

It is not advised for the reel to be greased with a high oil grease. The reels are usually not designed with a surface that requires any grease or lubrication. If you apply grease to a reel, you might find that the drag function is damaged. 

How to Properly Store Reels

Storing your equipment is one key element of proper maintenance. Use a moisture absorbent pack to keep the reels safe and help to ward off mold. 

If you need a quick and easy solution for storing your reels, you can use a flannel bag. You can easily find a flannel bag and, if you’re lucky, the reel you purchase will come with a flannel bag. 

How Long Should a Reel and Rod Last?

If you take care of your rod and reel, then it should last for years. Rinsing both the reels and rods after each use will go a long way towards the equipment’s longevity. Most new rods and reels for ice fishing will come with a maintenance guide. If you want to get years out of your equipment, then you should follow their provided guides. 

Ice fishing is a thrilling sport. Although not always considered the safest type of fishing, it is definitely one of the most rewarding. 

What Makes Ice Fishing so Attractive?

What makes a frozen pond in the middle of winter so attractive to some fishermen? There could be many reasons, but none so apt as the romantic ones. Think of the silence just before the day cracks through the dawn.

The singing of the ice in the changing light. Or the gathering of friends in nature’s harsh but beautiful conditions. Whatever the reasons, those who love ice fishing are hooked on the sport. 

If you’ve never gone ice fishing before, it’ll be difficult to know why those who do consider it fun. For fishermen living in cold climates where it is either ice fishing or nothing, ice fishing is a welcome reprieve from winter bores. 

Ice fishing is a rewarding sport. It may not be easy, but for all the effort, it can reward with high bounties. Freshwater fish in ice fishing locations do not typically go into hibernation, which means they will be foraging for food throughout the winter.

While the fish may be able to feed on a couple of crayfish or insects, they will still be hungry. You may find that the fish will take plenty more chances on your bait with a lot less to choose from in winter times. 

According to the laws of the state you’re in, you can set as many as five traps. Just being able to set more than one trap increases your chance of success. 

What Gear Do You Need to Go Ice Fishing?

There are two ways to go ice fishing. The first way is to keep it simple. The second is to make it complicated. This is true for most hobbies, and both options have their own benefits and drawbacks. 

As for ice fishing, the foundational gear has remained largely unchanged over the years. While technological devices are a new introduction, the basic elements are still the same.  You should make sure you have a proper ice fishing suit as well in order to stay safe while ice fishing.

Here are two different techniques for your next ice fishing expedition. 

The first is an ice trap, also called “tip-ups.” The second is called a jigging rod. The jigging rod is used with bait and set into a hole. Some ice fishermen recommend using the traps at the holes to scope out the activity. If the traps show high activity, you can set up your jigging rod in the hole. 

What is a Tip-Up?

At first glance, the tip-up might seem like a prehistoric tool. It works similar to a rodent trap and is quite simple to use. The tip-up is made with the following:

  • Mechanical trigger mechanism
  • Flag (this flag pops up when you have action on your hook)
  • Spool with ice fishing line

Here’s how to use the tip-up (it’s really simple!):

Firstly, get your bait on the hook. Lower the hook into the water and make sure that the trap is set. When you see the flag pop up, that’s when you need to get into action.

Once that flag has popped up, you need to act fast. Remove the trap and grab the mainline with your hands. Once you can feel that the fish is on, give the line a hard and sharp tug. This snap will ensure the fish gets hooked properly.

Now, here comes the interesting part. Instead of using a spool and typical reel to bring in the fish, you use your hands. 

Using tip-ups isn’t for everyone, but they sure can be an interesting experience. 

Additional Tools Needed

Aside from an ice trap, there are few other items that you will need to have. A tool for cutting the ice is essential (such as a chisel or an ice auger with a cordless drill). A chisel is a more economical option, and you can pick up a decent ice chisel for a good price.

If you are serious about your ice fishing, you might be interested in investing in a gas-powered auger. These make cutting through the ice a piece of cake. 

Other items you may need include a sled for schlepping your gear, a depth sounder, traction cleats, ice picks, and a whole skimmer. 


Whatever equipment you arm yourself with, take good care of it, and you’ll reap the rewards for years to come. We hope you enjoyed this article on how to care for an ice fishing rod and reel. If you’re going ice fishing, check out our guide on the best auger bit for ice drilling.

Happy Hunting!

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