While having an excellent line that stands up to the cold weather is essential, you need the right ice fishing reel to go along with. It will not only improve chances of a successful catch but also provide more control over the line and hold up to sub-zero temperatures.
You will find this post particularly helpful if shopping for a new ice fishing reel. We have reviewed the top options on the market. More importantly, we discuss important factors to consider during your search.
Last update on 2023-04-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Our Top Picks
Check out our top picks together with reviews of their properties and why they are the best choice for you:
Topping our list of favorites is the Frabill Straight Line 371, a reel fitted with a guarded spool. This allows an angler to use their palm to grip the outside of the fishing reel. It is constructed using a composite to minimize weight while ensuring durability and strength. The material doesn’t feel frigid in extremely low temperatures. This reel has a 3.7:1 gear ratio and super smooth drag system. You can also get the 2.7:1 gear ratio version for lighter tasks and at a lower price.
There are six bearings, one of which is an instant anti-reverse for engaging drag. The large spool is well balanced and does a good job of maximizing retrieval rate. In addition, it eliminates spinning of the tackle and line twist. The ambidextrous oversized handle offers ultimate control while the sub-zero lube optimizes smooth performance in cold weather. Other features include an audible/silent bait alarm switch and free spool.
- Free spool easily drops the smallest jigs
- Gear ratio allows for super smooth drag
- Built with composite to last a long time
- Bearings ensure quick casting and fast reeling
- Allows for tension adjustments
- Release has been known to get locked up or stop working entirely
The Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel is reasonably stylish and offers quality performance. It is one of the few models, at this price point, that comes with an aluminum spool. What’s even better is that the spool is constructed via a machine, a guarantee that the design is precise. The spool has a large line capacity and can be released at the push of a button.
The drag system is relatively powerful, smooth and you won’t need to rely on it too often. This is thanks to an instant anti-reverse switch, which makes it easier to wrangle larger fish without fear of losing them. The five bearings reduce friction further. Our main concern is that it lacks a fender and this makes it difficult to use the palming method.
- Quality reel built from CNC machined aluminum
- Oversized spool has large line capacity
- Comes with an anti-reverse switch
- Easy to adjust spool tension
- Reduced risk of line twist
- Not for anglers who use the palming method
The Eagle Claw In Line offers incredible value for the price, making it a good choice for those shopping within a budget. It boasts a simple design and a sturdy body made of nylon. It can take rugged challenges and is perfect for trolling or jigging. The Teflon star drag is smooth, with better performance compared to a lever drag. You will need to turn the star wheel in one direction when accelerating and vice versa when slowing down. This is because there are no presets or drag controls.
This ice fishing reel comes with 4+1 bearings that work together to provide stability, smoothness, and support. They make it easy to cast longer distances and reel in the fish quickly. The 2.6:1 gear ratio reduces the amount of effort needed for deep diving crankbaits.
- Designed for durability, strength, and versatility
- Excellent choice for experts and novice anglers
- Spool tension adjusts easily
- Reduced risk of line twists
- Drag is a little weak
The 13 Fishing 2015 Black Betty boasts a CNC machined aluminum body that can stand up to rigorous abuse. Its gear ratio allows for depth capabilities of 20 feet, making it an excellent option for shallow water. There is a spool tension on the side for adjusting how freely you want the spool to move. The EVA handle with a two-handle grip offers excellent comfort when spending long hours on the ice.
This reel has a wider spool for higher line capacity and a smooth carbon drag system. The 2.7:1 gear ratio allows for a retrieval rate of 19” per crank of the handle. Also notable is the frame design, which allows for a pencil or pistol grip without rubbing the spool rim. There is an anti-reverse bearing for preventing back play as well as a bait alarm.
- Ambidextrous version available
- Tough CNC machined aluminum body
- Smooth carbon drag system
- Allows anglers to use pencil or pistol grip
- High retrieval rate of 19” per crank
- Star drag may not stay at set point
The Celsius Blizzard CEL-310P/CP boasts a totally different look from some of the reels reviewed in this post. It comes with an extended yoke that provides all of the extra space required to comfortably use the reel while wearing gloves. The aluminum spool offers added durability and houses a smooth drag. Line retrieve is quite smooth thanks to the 3+1 bearing system.
Celsius coated the spool with freeze-resistant lubricated, ensuring consistent smooth action in sub-zero temperatures. The high gear ratio of 5.2:1 guarantees fast retrieval rates while the infinite anti-reverse prevents back play.
- Can be used comfortably while wearing gloves
- Durable and sturdy build with aluminum
- Lubricated with anti-freeze to prevent damage in cold weather
- Fast and smooth retrieve
- Line may get wrapped around the axis instead of the spool
The One 3 Descent Ice Reel from 13 Fishing boasts a sleek design that emulates everything you’d want in a fish slaying machine. Its feature combination is worth every penny. Highlights include a graphite soft touch frame that allows anglers to feel the slightest bites. The drop speed control feature lets you sink light baits with precision and minimal risk of line twist.
This reel uses five stainless steel bearings to deliver smooth operation. The star drag makes it easy to apply consistent pressure on large fish, and your job is made easier by an aluminum handle. Instant anti-reverse does a good job of providing solid hook sets while the dead stick bait alarm lets you know when a fish runs with the bait. The 2.7:1 gear ratio guarantees fast line retrieve.
- Comes with built-in fender
- Drop speed control is pretty good even with light jigs
- Dead stick bait alarm offers more convenience
- Allows for left or right-handed retrieve
- Instructions for use aren’t include
While it is not specifically designed for ice fishing, the Daiwa D-Spin performs exceptionally in such conditions. Its main advantage is a low weight, which helps reduce fatigue and allow you to fish for longer. It is designed for use with lighter line, making it easy for anglers to feel fish bites. The drag system is relatively powerful and smooth.
The body is made from composite and works smoothly in icy weather. Unlike metal, composite material does a better job of preventing the reel from freezing up too quickly. It uses Digigear Digital Gear Design for increased power, durability and speed. At just 5.9 ounces, this ultralight reel is optimized for maximum casting distance.
- Comes with composite housing
- Smooth and powerful drag system
- Uses Digigear Digital Gear Design
- Ultra lightweight design reduces fatigue
- Reel doesn’t freeze up
- Some resistance when jigging
Available in multiple sizes, the Piscifun NEW Spinning Reel boasts a braid ready spool made from CNC machined aluminum. The graphite body and rotor are evidence of a lightweight design that doesn’t compromise durability or strength. Butter smooth performance is delivered by 11 stainless steel bearings, a stainless steel shaft reinforced alloy drive gear as well as strong precision gears.
Another notable feature is the THREE carbon fiber system. It has a stopping power of up to 26.5 lbs, hence an excellent choice for freshwater and saltwater angling. The sealed rubber ring inside the drag stops moisture and reduces the risk of corrosion. It also makes the drag more durable and smoother. The high impact knobs offer lasting comfort, which is particularly handy when dealing with large and stubborn fish.
- Carbon fiber drag has a high stopping power
- High-end impact rubber knobs provide all-day comfort
- Comes in multiple sizes to fit different fishing needs
- Triple bearing supported pinion gears
- Bottom body cover wiggles slightly
Choosing the Best Ice Fishing Reel
Types of reels used for ice fishing
The main types of ice fishing reels are inline, spinning and bait casters. Inline fishing reels are round and hang well below in line with the rod. This allows the line to run on/off parallel to the reel, thus minimizing the risk of line twists. Most anglers opt for spinning reels when fishing on the ice because they are ultra lightweight and offer the best balance. Baitcasting reels are only used for large species or deep water fishing, hence why they are the least popular.
Inline vs. Spinning reels
- No line twists
- Better performance in low temperatures
- Free spool system
- Excellent option for jigging baits
- Great line speed control on lure drop
- Fewer choices available
- Pricier than other reels
- Requires a higher learning curve
- Less drag performance
- Best for live bait
- More affordable
- Requires less skill to use
- Improved drag adjustments
- More versatile applications
- Higher risk of line twists
- Takes longer to thaw and stop locking up
- Poor control of lure drop speed
The materials used in construction are extremely important. They will determine a reel’s ability to hold up and perform well in extreme weather. Graphite is a great choice since it strong and lightweight. Other good options include aluminum and stainless steel. Whatever material you decide to choose, make sure it is durable and freeze-resistant.
Bearings reduce friction created in fishing reels, thus ensuring free and smooth operation regardless of the drag load. Go for the highest number of ball bearings you can afford for best performance. Look out for reels with an anti-reverse bearing as it prevents playback and engages the drag.
Over the past few years, manufacturers have taken to using new materials to reduce lockup when components freeze. Inline reels have better recovery time in this regard. If your reel doesn’t have an anti-ice system, consider purchasing some kind of anti-freeze paste to minimize freezing of guides and rods.
Lighter reels are easier to carry around and store. They minimize fatigue when fishing for hours, making it easier to enjoy the experience.
The clear winner for the best ice fishing reel is the Frabill Straight Line 371 Ice Fishing Reel. It has one of the best reputations online and customers had good things to say about it. Boasting lightweight composite construction, this is a reel that stands up to any tough environments. It offers a great feature combination including ultra-fine free spooling, instant anti-reverse, super smooth drag and guarded spool.