Outdoors Winter Sports The 11 Best Ice Fishing Rods of 2023 By Nathan Borchelt Nathan Borchelt LinkedIn American University Nathan Borchelt has been working in the travel industry for more than 15 years as a writer, photographer, editor, and product manager. He covers everything from trail cameras to ski equipment. TripSavvy's editorial guidelines Updated on 10/26/22 Share Pin Email We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. TripSavvy's Pick With a fluorescent-orange tip and EVA grip at the butt, the Eagle Claw EC2.5 Incline Ice Rod will level up your ice fishing experience. If you are just getting started or looking for a cost-effective option, reach for the Berkley Cherrywood HD Ice Fishing Spinning Rod. Ice fishing attracts a rare breed of anglers. They have to have the patience endemic to the sport in any circumstance, but they also need to be able to embrace (or at least endure) the cold and sometimes harsh weather that comes with frozen lakes. That’s why the perfect rod is essential—it provides a much-needed advantage to make ice fishing easier and more productive. The right rod should cater to the size of your target fish species and provide enough sensitivity to notice the hint of a strike and the strength you need to land that catch. From ultralight rods to those that can handle 10-pound monsters, these are the best ice fishing rods and rod-and-reel combos. The Rundown Best Overall: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Ice Rod at Amazon Jump to Review Best Budget: Berkley Ice Fishing Rod at Amazon Jump to Review Best Rod and Reel Combo: 13 Fishing MIcrotech Walleye at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Panfish: Frabill Bro Series Straight Line Combo-28 Noodle at Brownoutdoors.com Jump to Review Best for Larger Fish: Fenwick HMG Ice Spinning Rod at Cabelas.com Jump to Review Best for Trout: Fiblink Graphite Ice Fishing Rod at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Walleye: Abu Garcia Vendetta Ice Spinning Rod at Amazon Jump to Review Best Custom: Thorne Bros. Custom Ice Rod at Thornebros.com Jump to Review Best Ultralight: Shimano Sienna Ice Combo at Cabelas.com Jump to Review Best Medium Action: Clam Jason Mitchell Dead Meat Rod at Cabelas.com Jump to Review Table of contents Expand Our Picks What to Look For FAQ Why Trust TripSavvy Best Overall Eagle Claw EC2.5 Inline Ice Rod Eagle Claw View On Amazon View On Dick's View On Cabelas.com What We Like Versatile Well-balanced Very sensitive What We Don't Like Not available in ultralight action Built with a lightweight, strong carbon ice blank and a graphite body, the EC2.5 Ice Rod from Eagle Claw employs an extremely sensitive feel to make even the faintest of strikes noticeable. It's reinforced by a fluorescent-orange tip to help you notice slight rod movement. That carbon extends to the handle and partners with a comfortable EVA butt grip. Tangle-free guides come with hard aluminum inserts to ensure smooth reeling, and a mix of different power/action options makes it easy to find the perfect model for your target fish species. Price at time of publish: $54.99 Rod Sizes: 24 and 28 Inches | Action/Power: Medium-Light, Medium, Medium-Heavy Best Budget Berkley Cherrywood HD Ice Fishing Spinning Rod View On Amazon What We Like Affordable and ultralight High quality cork handle What We Don't Like Not particularly sensitive Get started fishing without breaking the bank with this ultralight rod from Berkley. The blank is 100% fiberglass and it has a comfortable cork handle. Pair it with a small 500 reel and light monofilament to catch smaller panfish and crappies up to 22 inches. It also features two stainless steel guides plus the tip guide to help resist freezing if you fish outside. Price at time of publish: $14.99 Rod Sizes: 27 inches | Action/Power: Ultralight Best Rod and Reel Combo 13 Fishing Microtech Walleye Ice Fishing Combo View On Amazon What We Like 3BB Reel included Easy to handle What We Don't Like Some reviews mention quality issues The Microtech Walleye Combo is the latest model from 13 Fishing. Its super flexible rod comes with 4 stainless steel guides with polished inserts. A fiberglass blank and cork handle support a high-quality build. The accompanying aluminum reel has three stainless steel ball bearings with an instant anti-reverse gear and a soft touch handle knob. The rod is available in several sizes and your choice of regular or deadstick. Price at time of publish: $39.99 for 26 inch regular Rod Sizes: 26, 28, and 36 inches | Action/Power: Medium Light, Medium, Medium Heavy Best for Panfish Frabill Bro Series Straight Line Combo-28 Noodle Frabill View On Brownoutdoors.com View On Frabill.com What We Like Lots of options in terms of both action and lengths Quick-tip option perfect for jigging What We Don't Like Kind of expensive Panfish refers to smaller fish species like sunfish, crappie, and perch, so you want a rod that will provide the highest degree of sensitivity to notice the feignest of nibbles from these light fish. Enter the Bro Series Straight Line Combo-28 Noodle from Frabill. Crafted with ice pro Brian “Bro” Brosdahl, it comes with a solid cork handle, a durable, light graphite reel seat, and a sensitive blank through-handle construction to provide the optimal feel. But this combo excels at the variety of action options to help you narrow the rod to a specific type of panfish, ranging from ultralight to medium light, along with a quick-tip option that makes jigging intuitive and easy. The highly responsive 3.7:1-geared reel includes a spool guard to accommodate a palm grip and long and short stems to handle heavier gloves. The line feeds off the free spool to eliminate coiling, and the durable reel itself won’t feel cold in frigid temps, making it easy to rig. Price at time of publish: $99.99 Gear Ratio: 3.7:1 | Rod Sizes: 18, 25, 30, 32, and 35 Inches | Action/Power: Microlight, Ultralight, Light, Medium-Light, and Quick Tip Best for Larger Fish Fenwick HMG Ice Spinning Rod Pure Fishing View On Cabelas.com View On Purefishing.com What We Like Fast action Rod tapers at the tip for jigging What We Don't Like Not suitable for smaller fish Those who like shorter rods need not apply Bigger fish require more rod power, and the Fenwick HMG Ice Spinning Rod delivers with action options that start at medium and lengths that reach up to 38 inches. The solid graphite rod tapers at the tip to generate more action when using lighter jigs, while the premium cork handle with TAC trim makes it easy to land a strike, even when wearing thick gloves. And the lightweight stainless steel guides come with aluminum oxide inserts to let the line flow smoothly during casting and retrieval. Price at time of publish: $44.95 Rod Sizes: 26, 27, 28, 30, 38 Inches | Action/Power: Medium-Light, Medium, and Medium-Heavy The 7 Best Walleye Lures of 2023 Best for Trout Fiblink Graphite Ice Fishing Rod Amazon View On Amazon View On Fiblink.com What We Like Inexpensive Very specifically targeted to trout and similar-sized fish What We Don't Like Not a one-quiver solution for all fishing options Fiblink ran a lightweight, durable graphite rod blank through the handle of their Graphite Ice Fishing Rod, making it one of the best to use when hunting trout. The ergonomic solid cork handle provides a sure grip (even when wearing gloves) and has been shaped for comfort, feel, and performance. Offered in two sizes, when hunting trout, go with the medium-powered 30-inch length, which is still sensitive enough to notice subtle strikes and powerful enough to haul in every catch. Rod Sizes: 24 and 30 Inches | Action/Power: Ultralight, Medium-Light, and Medium Best for Walleye Abu Garcia Vendetta Ice Spinning Rod Amazon View On Amazon View On Abugarcia.com View On Purefishing.com What We Like Solid strength-to-weight ratio Glove-friendly design What We Don't Like A touch expensive The latest from Abu Garcia, the Vendetta Ice Spinning Rod, employs a light, highly durable carbon last for optimal sensitivity without sacrificing the strength you need. Rated with a moderate action, it also uses high-density EVA in the handles (rather than cork) that will provide hours of comfort, with an ergonomic, glove-friendly design built to last season after season. Stainless steel guides use stainless steel inserts to provide easy line flow, and the wide loops make it easy to set up. Price at time of publish: $34.99 Rod Sizes: 25, 27, and 30 Inches | Action/Power: Light, Medium-Light, Medium, and Medium-Heavy Best Custom Thorne Bros. Custom Ice Rod Thorne Bros. View On Thornebros.com What We Like Truly customizable rod options that cover the gamut of needs Quick turn-around for a custom rod What We Don't Like As with most custom rods, expect to spend more than a standard rod Off-the-shelf rods are great for when you’re learning the sport. But once you’ve mastered the basics—and understand what type of ice fishing you most love, it’s time to upgrade to a rod configuration that matches your particular needs. Thorne Bros.’ Custom Ice Rod lets you select everything—the rod blank material, lights, guide options, guide wrap, and trim band colors—even the option to have a name or saying transcribed onto the rod if you so desire. Turn-around is two to three weeks, and if you don’t see everything you want in their easy-to-use online ordering form, you can reach out to them directly. As they proclaim, “If you can dream it, we can build it!” Rod Sizes: 20 to 32 Inches, in Inch Increments | Action/Power: Choose from 12 Thorne Bros. Rod Options, Including Panfish and Medium-Heavy Walleye Rods The 11 Best Fishing Rod and Reel Combos of 2023 Best Ultralight Shimano Sienna Ice Combo Cabela's View On Cabelas.com What We Like Inexpensive Power ratings come in a variety of lengths The rod can be purchased solo What We Don't Like If you go with ultralight power, it’s only suitable for panfish and other small species When Shimano designed their Sienna Ice Combo rod and reel, they streamlined the grip and added a rear seat to cut down on excess materials, making the rod feel more comfortable and more balanced to enhance sensitivity—an essential feature in an ultralight rod. EVA wraps around the handle for durability and glove-friendly control, and an elongated high-visibility section at the tip helps you notice subtle bites. Aluminum oxide coil guides cut the weight further, which is ideal for fishing with lighter lines. The combo also comes with the brand's Sienna Spinning Reel, which boasts a graphite frame and rotor with a three-in-one bearing system outfitted with Super Stopper II instant anti-reverse tech to make it easy to land the most stubborn of fish. Do note that the Sienna does come in a wide range of power options; go with one of the ultralight options. Gear Ratio: 5.6:1 | Rod Sizes: 24, 28, 32, 36, and 40 Inches | Action/Power: Ultralight, Light, Medium-Light, Medium, Medium-Heavy Best Medium Action Clam Jason Mitchell Dead Meat Rod Cabela's View On Cabelas.com What We Like Strong Durable What We Don't Like This longer-than-average rod is suitable for fishing while standing, and might prove restrictive if fishing in a hut or shelter The cold-weather equivalent of Clam’s Jason Mitchell Meat Stick Rod, the Jason Mitchell Dead Meat Rod comes with wider guides to keep the line from freezing while ice fishing. The fiberglass blanks provide solid strength without sacrificing sensitivity, and high-visibility graphics make it easy to notice the slightest of strikes, while the split handle comes with P-cork and an EVA butt for hours of comfortable fishing and seasons-long durability. Price at time of publish: $44.99 Rod Sizes: 40 and 48 Inches | Action/Power: Medium Best Medium Heavy Berkley Lightning Rod Ice Combo Cabela's View On Cabelas.com What We Like Four-bearing ice-specific reel Glove-friendly reel system What We Don't Like No light action The Lightning Ice Combo from Berkley comes with an ice-specific reel that boasts a smooth, four-bearing system, an extended, glove-friendly reel stem, and a one-touch folding handle for easy transport. Fiberglass blanks add strength and sensitivity, and a full-cork handle works with a down-locking reel seat to amplify comfort. Available in four power ratings, for big fish, go with the medium-heavy model, which can support a line rating of up to ten pounds. Price at time of publish: $44.99 Gear Ratio: 5.2:1 | Rod Sizes: 24, 28, and 32 Inches | Action/Power: Ultralight, Medium-Light, Medium, and Medium-Heavy What to Look for in an Ice Fishing Rod Size Shorter than average fishing rods, ice fishing rods typically measure around 25 to 28 inches, making them easy to use while seated or fishing inside a shelter or hut. Shorter rods provide less shock absorption than longer rods, meaning the effort to reel in the fish will fall to your arms rather than the rod itself. But if you plan on fishing on the ice while standing, a longer road is more forgiving, absorbing head shakes and hard hook sets. Longer options are also more forgiving and help you land bigger fish with less physical effort. Rods in this category can be as long as 40 inches. Price As with all outdoor gear, you can spend a lot in perfecting the ideal ice fishing set-up, but—thankfully—entry-level rods are very affordable, starting as low as $20 for a rod-and-reel combo. Just make sure the action aligns with your target fish species. Higher-cost rods come with more performant, lightweight, and durable materials. And custom rods, hand-made models that cater to every variable, hover at the highest price. Note also that some rods come without reels, so if it’s not a combo, expect to also shell out for an ice reel. Action/Power This stat refers to the force needed to bend the rod and range from ultralight to medium-heavy. The desired action should be dictated by the fish you’re targeting—go light for smaller fish like panfish, and then upgrade the power for larger species like trout or wall-eye. That said, experts agree that the most common mistake is going for a rod that’s too stiff; it might help land a monster fish, but it’s overkill (and a struggle) when you consider the average fish species targeted while ice fishing. Rods with more action (read: bend) also makes it easier to jig and will help you catch light strikes by witnessing the tip bending as the fish makes contact with the lure. Frequently Asked Questions Can I use my regular fishing rod and reel for ice fishing? If you have a shorter overall rod with a lightweight to medium-heavy action, you could probably get away with your existing setup. But there are drawbacks. Ice fishing reels tend to be smaller than conventional fishing because the line is presented vertically—the reels don’t need to hold as much line. Lighter rigs also make it easier to jig for hours on end, so if your kit is heavy, expect fatigue. The cold weather endemic to ice fishing also means that you’re be wearing gloves, so before you head out, be sure you can easily operate the rod and reel with gloves on. A rod and reel that’s easy to rig and control on a warm summer’s day may be impossible with 100 grams of Primaloft insulation between your hands and the controls. And be sure your guides aren’t particularly narrow in diameter—cold temps mean that the line could freeze on the rod if there’s insufficient space between the line and the guides. What other gear do I need? If you go with a solo rod, you’ll need to outfit your kit with an ice-specific reel and the other gear for ice fishing—the lure and the line, for starters. A net is also a no-brainer. Given the cold environs, you’ll also need a solid clothes layering system to keep you warm, including a wicking upper and lower base layers, additional mid-level insulation, and ideally waterproof/breathable insulated pants and jackets with a hood and a warm hat. Gloves are essential; look for three-in-one models with an outer insulated waterproof layer and a lighter-weight glove liner that can be worn solo, which will provide you with a bit of protection while executing more dexterous moves like setting up the rig. Warm, winter-ready boots or shoes are also essential, ideally with aggressive treads to handle navigating on snow and ice. After-market strap-on spikes are also great for providing sure footing on slick surfaces. Beyond that, we vote for a high-quality insulated bottle to carry warm liquids. And if you want to get fancy, you can also buy a portable shelter that will protect you from the elements and add a bit of warmth when out on the ice. Why are ice fishing rods so short? Compared to regular fishing, ice fishing rods are indeed smaller, in large part to cater to the particulars of the sport. Unlike warm-weather angling, chances are good that you’ll be seated while ice fishing, so a medium- to short-length pole (an average of 25 to 28 inches) is easier to handle since you’re not standing and are thus closer to the hole. You’ll also probably be fishing inside a hut or shelter, and shorter rods are easier to maneuver in confined spaces. But a longer rod may be more comfortable if you don’t plan on fishing in a shelter or while seated. Why Trust TripSavvy Nathan Borchelt is a freelance contributor to TripSavvy. He has worked in the travel and outdoor industry for more than 15 years as a writer, photographer, editor, and product manager. His passions gravitate toward skiing, scuba diving, hiking, backpacking, trail running, biking, and perfecting the après adventures that follow such exploits. He co-authored a guidebook to his hometown of Washington, D.C. His travels have taken him to South and Central America, Canada, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, and all over the continental United States. The 7 Best Ice Augers of 2023 Was this page helpful? Thanks for letting us know! Share Pin Email Tell us why! Submit Continue to 5 of 11 below. Continue to 9 of 11 below.