When winter comes, it can be harder to find fun activities. If you’re feeling cooped up and enjoy fishing, ice fishing is a great hobby to pick up. It offers a unique fishing experience that even beginner anglers can get into! As long as you make sure the ice is thick enough and you follow all safety recommendations, you’ll be in for a blast.
If you go by yourself, ice fishing lets you reflect quietly, while bringing friends and family makes it a fun social outing. You’ll need the right gear to get the best experience. In this article, we’re focusing on the best ice fishing rods. We’ll go over the top ten picks, buying considerations, and frequently asked questions.
Top 10 Best Ice Fishing Rods
BEST OVERALL - 13 Fishing Tickle Stick Ice Fishing Rod
Affordable, lightweight, and well-made, we picked this ice fishing rod for the best overall. It’s made with a 3A Portuguese cork handle, which is great for freezing temperatures. It also has a PC2 (Parallel Composite Construction) with linear fibers, giving you a flat tip. Why does a flat tip matter? It increases your ability to feel ascending and descending bites.
It also gives the blank great rigidity for hook-sets. To keep the reel in place, there’s an Evolve reel seat. The last feature we like is the ALPS thin wire guides. These collect less ice than conventional rod guides. The 13 Fishing brand offers a variety of Tickle Stick rods all good for hard water conditions, including a super ultralight rod, medium light, and more. The rod length starts at 23 inches and goes up to 38 inches.
BEST VALUE - PLUSINNO Ultralight Winter Spinning Rod
This ultra-light rod is a great value because it comes with a reel. You can easily switch from right or left-hand retrieve without the need for special tools. The reel seat is made from sturdy plastic and offers double-locking that’s easy to disassemble and reassemble.
As for the rod itself, it boasts a fast-action tip and fiberglass construction. The blank is a durable combination of fiberglass and graphite. It’s lightweight at just 65 grams. What about the length? There are two rod sizes available: a 27-inch ML power or 28-inch M power. Whichever you choose, you can expect smoothness thanks to the stainless steel guides with ceramic inserts.
This helps minimize friction, increase sensitivity, and keep the lines from sticking into the rod guides. If it’s very cold or the handle gets wet, you’ll appreciate the soft EVA and cork handle. No matter the conditions, your grip stays strong and comfortable.
BEST PREMIUM - 13 Fishing Archangel Ice Fishing Rod
If you’re willing to pay $100+ for an ice fishing rod, this option from 13 Fishing ticks a lot of boxes. The blank and handle are joined thanks to the Evolve Carbon Forging process.
This gives you a single-piece rod made from a custom CNC mold. Because of this design, you’ll enjoy fantastic blank sensitivity that’s perfect for ice fishing. The High-Vis flat tip is also very useful. You’ll be able to see more positive and negative strikes. The guides are ALPS double diamond coated. For quick access, there’s the Fox Hole hook keeper.
The Archangel comes in a few length and power options. If you’re looking for ultralight or light power, get the 25-inch or the 27-inch, respectively. For medium light, there’s a 26-inch rod, while the medium power rod comes in 29-inches.
St. Croix Avid Ice Fishing Rod
This ice fishing jig rod was designed for walleye jigs. It’s also great with other freshwater species, like panfish, perch, and trout. It features a very sensitive carbon handle, precision-taper solid carbon blank, and Kigan stripper guides.
The guides are low-profile and lightweight. These features make this rod a great choice for jigging spoons, ice jigs, and other walleye jigs. The rod gives you the control, sensitivity, and durability you need.
The grips are comfortable, too. What kind of reel works best with this rod? The product page recommends spinning reels or inline ice reels. Length options include 27, 30, and 36-inches.
Shakespeare Wild Series Spinning Rod
If you’re looking for a cheap ice rod to get started or to add to your collection, this one from Shakespeare is worth a look. It’s made a solid fiberglass blank with moderate action.
This makes it versatile, so you can use it for a variety of fish species. The guides are made of lightweight stainless steel. The inserts work well in cold weather, so even in freezing temps, they won’t ice up too quickly. The cork handle is also nice in especially cold weather.
The Shakespeare Wild Series ice spin rod is available in a variety of lengths and powers. The shortest rod is 23-inches while the longest one is 36-inches. For power, the range goes from ultra-light to medium-heavy.
ST. CROIX Legend Black Ice Fishing Rod
If you’re fishing for species like bluegill, perch, and crappie, an ultralight rod is the best choice. The ultra-light model from St. Croix Legend Black Ice is our favorite. It’s got features like a precision-taper solid carbon blank and Pac Bay Minima stainless-steel guides.
The frames and rings are black anodized, as well. The reel seat has a secure lock and EVA trim. We’re also big fans of the built-in strike indicator, which is black anodized, high-tension stainless steel.
The coil spring provides fantastic sensitivity, so you can see every subtle bump or strike even before you feel it. The ultra-light model is 24-inches long. There are other rod lengths and powers available in the Legend Black Ice series.
St. Croix Mojo Ice Fishing Rod
If you’re looking for a lake trout fishing rod, this St. Croix Mojo rod is a great fit. It’s a great fit for a lot of other species, as well, like panfish, walleye, and pike. It features a precision-taper carbon dust blank and flat-finish reel seat. Like the older models of this rod, there’s a split-grip cork and EVA handle.
As for the guides, they’re manufactured from lightweight stainless steel. We picked the Mojo for its versatility because you can use a variety of fishing techniques and styles. St. Croix sells the rod in different tensions, ranging from ultralight to heavy. The shortest rod length is 24-inches, while the longest is 36-inches.
13 Fishing Radioactive Pickle Ice Fishing Rod
With a distinct green color, this rod features a 3+1 ball bearing inline reel. The gear ratio is 2.5:1. It has instant anti-reverse and drop-speed control. There’s also a new performance line window and soft-touch handle knobs. With the FreeFall trigger, you can easily drop to the depth you want.
As for the rod itself, it got a PC2 flat tip blank construction, Hi-Vis tip, and ALPS thin wire guides. The Japanese split-grip handle is high density. The bright green color isn’t just for looks - it actually makes it easier to see subtle bites. If you want a rod and reel set, this is a great choice. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but you can expect quality.
Abu Garcia Veritas Ice Fishing Rod
Abu Garcia is a well-known brand, so it stands to reason they would make an appearance on this list. This Veritas ice fishing rod upgrades previous models with an improved design and some other features. It’s better balanced now, as well as more lightweight.
It has a micro-click reel hood, which gives you a solid connection and a better fit with the reel you attach. The 24-ton graphite blank offers good sensitivity, while the split-grip, high-density EVA handle design keeps things comfortable.
We also liked the smoked SS guide frames, complete with aluminum-oxide inserts that reduce friction. You can get the Veritas ice rod in three lengths (25, 27, or 29-inches) and three powers (ultra-light, medium light, or medium). Not all powers are available for every length.
Fenwick Eagle Ice Fishing Rod
A solid rod all around, the Fenwick Eagle features a carbon blank, burled cork handle, and ergonomic reel seat. It’s also got stainless steel guides designed to handle harsh conditions.
The aluminum-oxide inserts are also very durable, so you can brave harsh winter weather. Those inserts also help reduce friction, while the moderate action blank provides good sensitivity.
When ice fishing, you want to be sure your rod is both sensitive and durable. The Fenwick Eagle holds up and should fit into just about any budget.
Things To Consider When Buying Ice Fishing Rods
What are the most important features for ice rods? Here’s what we believe you should consider while shopping:
Power refers to a rod’s resistance to bending when faced with a certain amount of weight. Ratings are usually listed as heavy, medium-heavy, medium, etc.
A rod’s power closely aligns with the fishing line strength, meaning that a rod with heavy power will be able to handle heavy line weights. When shopping for an ice rod, consider the fish species you want to target.
For light fish like panfish and perch, ultra-light or light rods will work best. If you're trying to catch walleye or fishing for trout or whitefish, you should be good with a light to medium rod, while you’ll need a heavier rod for pike and lake trout.
Action is a very important rod feature. It describes how much the rod bends when there’s pressure on the tip. If a rod has fast action, it will bend at the top third of less of the blank (the pole).
Slow action starts bending in the lower third of the rod. Action is important because it affects lures and how you “play” a fish. With ice fishing, you’ll want a fast to medium action rod. This is because of their strength and sensitivity. When you’re fishing through an ice hole, a sensitive tip is important.
Fast action also gives you the strength needed for larger fish. Medium action (also known as light action) is not ideal for big fish like bass, trout, and walleye.
Rod blank material
The material of your ice fishing pole matters. There are a few options. Solid graphite is lighter and more sensitive than other materials, but it’s more expensive.
If you don’t want to spend too much, fiberglass or composite blends are your best bet. You lose some sensitivity with fiberglass, but if you get one that’s good quality, you’ll most likely be happy.
Fiberglass bends more and it’s more durable. In very cold temperatures, fiberglass is actually the better choice. If sensitivity is your main priority, go with graphite.
Rod handle material
Handle materials can affect sensitivity. Plastic and foam are the least sensitive. The other downside of foam is that it holds water. This is a big problem if you’re fishing in freezing temps.
Most ice anglers like cork. It gives you good sensitivity and stays warm in your hands. You can also find graphite handles on some rods, which increases the sensitivity even more. Look for rods where the blank goes through the handle if sensitivity is really important to you.
When shopping for a rod, you’ll want to consider the lures you plan on using. The rod and lure need to be balanced. If they’re not, you lose sensitivity and you won’t know when a fish is at your line.
You choose lures based on the kind of fish species you’re targeting, so all these factors should be included in your decision. As an example, if you’re fishing for bluegills, a jig lure is a good choice.
If you plan on aggressive jigging, you want very little flex in your rod tip. If the tip is too flimsy, however, you’ll get tired out quickly. If you’re fishing for bass using jigs, you’ll want a heavy power, fast-action ice fishing jig rod.
How long should your ice rod be? Because you aren’t casting, longer rods aren’t necessary. Rods designed for ice fishing are shorter. Standard length depends on the power and action of the rod.
For an ultralight rod, you can expect about 28-inches with a fast-action tip. While shorter rods can tire your arms out more and offer less shock absorption, they’re convenient if you’re fishing in an ice shelter and don’t have a ton of space. Short rods are also great for kids.
For medium-action rods good for walleye and pike, look for something around 28-30 inches. To extend your rod and get more sensitivity, a spring bobber is a great little device.
If you aren’t sure how much you want to spend on an ice fishing rod, ask yourself a few questions. How often are you planning on ice fishing? How serious are you about catching fish? Better rods will cost a bit more, but you can still find great options at a variety of price points.
At the end of the day, your knowledge of fishing techniques, what works for you, and your expectations matter a lot, too. You could buy the most expensive fishing rod on the market, but if you don’t know how to use it or don’t use it very often, is it worth it? Maybe, maybe not.
Just know that you don’t need to get the priciest rod to have a great ice fishing experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need a special rod for ice fishing?
Ice fishing is very different from regular fishing. It isn’t impossible to go ice fishing with a regular rod, but there are many advantages to using a rod designed specifically for ice fishing.
The most obvious one is that ice fishing rods are shorter. This is important because you need to be close to the hole you’re fishing in. A short rod is also good because if you’re fishing in a shelter, you won’t have a lot of room. Another reason to go with a special ice rod is because of sensitivity.
Fish move slower in the cold of winter, so you need an extra-sensitive tip to catch their bites. While fish are slower, they still fight, and that’s easier to do with an ice rod. It takes some practice, but using an ice rod helps a lot.
How are fishing rods different from each other? Here’s an article explaining the different fishing rod types.
Can you cast with an ice fishing rod?
Ice fishing rods aren’t designed for casting. This is because, with ice fishing, you’re just dropping your bait in a hole in the ice.
There’s no need for casting. The big reason you might want an ice fishing rod to cast is if you’re using it for other techniques or during the summer. In a pinch, an ice rod can cast, but it’s harder to set the hook. It also won’t cast very far.
Is ice fishing better than regular fishing?
Whether ice fishing is “better” than regular fishing is a personal preference. There are some benefits to ice fishing, however. For one, ice fishing can give you access to areas that aren’t usually accessible except by boat or in especially weedy areas.
You can also fish for different species since some fish that usually swim in deep waters start moving to the shallows during winter. If you’re looking for a change of pace, ice fishing can offer different techniques and equipment than regular fishing.
There’s also a strong sense of community among ice anglers, so if that’s something you’ve been missing from regular fishing, ice fishing could be the perfect fit.
Can you use ice fishing rods in the summer?
Ice fishing rods are different from rods you use in the summer, but can they be used in the warmer months? It’s possible! Some people actually prefer ice fishing rods in the summer for certain techniques and fish.
They work really well when you’re looking for really good sensitivity and don’t care about casting length. If you’re fishing off the side of a boat or dock, an ice fishing rod is just fine. If you’re fishing for crappies and bluegills, ice fishing techniques (like ice jigs) should give good results.
Is ice fishing easy?
Compared to regular fishing, ice fishing is more dangerous. Because of the risks, there is more preparation required, but ice fishing isn’t off-limits to beginners.
You just need to be thoughtful about your gear and keep your expectations low for the first few trips. Be sure to bring everything you need such as an auger, warm clothes, water, snacks, and the right tackle.
For the best ice fishing suits, check out our article on our four favorites. Once you have the right equipment and a bit of know-how, you’ll most likely find that ice fishing isn’t as hard as you might have anticipated.
Is ice fishing safe?
Safety should always be your top priority. Before heading out to a frozen lake or pond, research how thick the ice should be and other ice facts.
As an example, ice doesn’t freeze uniformly. It can be very thick in one area, and then very thin just a few feet away. For new, clear, solid ice, it’s safe to go ice fishing when the ice is at least 4-inches thick.
If you plan on driving your car or truck, the ice needs to be thicker at 8-15 inches, depending on the kind of vehicle. Bear in mind that other factors - not just thickness - affect whether ice is safe or not.
If you’re looking for an outdoor experience like no other, ice fishing is a great activity. It’s different from regular fishing in open water and requires different equipment. With the right know-how and some practice, you’ll be enjoying cold weather in a brand-new way.
As you learned in this article, your fishing rod matters. Shorter than a regular fishing rod, ice rods are more sensitive and. They come in a variety of actions and powers, so be aware of what you’ll need based on techniques and fish species. Whether you choose a rod on this list (like our favorite overall pick, the 13 Fishing Pickle Stick) or expand your search, keep in mind considerations like power, action, material, length, and price.
When ice fishing, always be careful and do your research beforehand. There’s the cold to be concerned about, so bundle up accordingly, as well as the safety of the ice. If you know anyone who goes ice fishing, see if they’ll give you any pointers. The ice fishing community is usually welcome and helpful, so getting into ice angling is a great way to make some friends!