Best Ice Fishing Rods
If you are a winter enthusiast who can’t get enough of the chilly air wisping across your face, ice fishing may just be the perfect sport for you. It is actually the fourth most popular winter sport in the United States. It involves a great ice fishing rod, bait, bundles of clothing layers, and patience. While each of these items is incredibly important, having the right rod will enable you to catch specific fish. Whether you are new to the sport or a polar bear pro, knowing the ins and outs of a rod and what makes each one better for each situation is important. On this list, you’ll find poles to help you catch trout, walleye, perch, panfish, and more.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 12 hrs of research
Comfortable cork grip
Top 10 Picks
1. Berkley Cherrywood HD
Comfortable cork grip
Guides could be stronger
If you are new to the game, testing the waters, or just looking for another pole for the collection, the Cherrywood HD is an incredible choice. It boasts an impressive blend of flexibility and durability and retains a fast tip. Perhaps the best feature of all is the price of this rod.Read more
Ease of Use
This ultralight rod is flexible and hast a fast tip. You can attach your reel of choice with straps and head out the door. Additionally, the graphite sliding ring reel offers great versatility. Despite its bend and lightweight, this rod reels in impressively large fish. It is available in a 24” or 30” length.
The Cherrywood is much more durable than you may expect. While it is made from fiberglass, the integrity and use of the pole are not affected negatively. The guides and inserts are made from stainless steel. Many reviewers have been impressed by the overall strength, flexibility, and bend of this rod.
The 100% cork handle of this rod is incredibly comfortable. Even if the cold and icy weather, the cork stays warm. The sliding rings help you to get a great grip on the rod. Overall, the Berkley Cherrywood weighs less than half a pound, making it easy to carry and travel with as well.
That’s right, you read the price right. This rod is one of the most affordable options on our list! We are happy to report that the price of this item does not reflect its durability or usefulness. The Cherrywood is sensitive, yet durable, and is likely to reel in some bigger fish than you expected.
2. Master Fishing Tackle Brush
Flat tip helps hook fish easily
Stainless steel guides
Could be more durable
Some feel the rod is too rigid
If you’re looking for a fishing rod that’s got a sensitive tip and can help boost your performance while you fish, then you might want to consider the Master Fishing Tackle Brush. The unique tip design on this fishing rod helps this rod feel comfortable, and also makes it easier to catch fish.Read more
Ease of Use
The tip on the Master Fishing Tackle Brush is developed to be flat, which makes it easier to feel strikes and also makes the rod more rigid. Plus, the tip design helps to ensure that you’ll more easily hook a fish through the top of the fish’s mouth so it can’t get away.
The Master Fishing Tackle Brush features stainless steel Evolve Fare guides, and that helps prevent rust, making the rod quite durable. Also, this rod is made to be rigid and strong, so it will last for some time.
The way the tip is made flat help ensure an easy catch and makes the entire process of casting through reeling very easy. You get great feedback and responses from this rod, and the rod’s great hook placement when fish bite make it an efficient system.
The Master Fishing Tackle Brush runs in the average price range and offers a lot of innovative features for its cost. The rod is known to perform well, and also its durability ensures that it will last for a while.
3. Frabill Bros
Composite strike indicator
Additional options available
Durable, lightweight graphite rod
Rod could be stiffer
The Frabill Bros Rod is designed to give you over 13 different rod and reel selections so that you can find the perfect match for the type of fish you want to catch. Designed to be strong and lightweight, you’ll love how easy this rod is to use each time you ice fish.Read more
Ease of Use
The Frabill Bros Rod is made with a composite strike indicator, found on the tip of the rod, and titanium guides that make your line easy to control. You can also add other components and features to this rod to standardize it for your style of fishing.
Made of solid graphite and developed with titanium guides, this rod is made to be lightweight, but it is also very strong. This rod can handle a lot of abuse and is built to be long-lasting, so it should provide you with several seasons of fishing.
The Frabill Bros Rod offers so many different styles and selections so that you get the rod you really want to use, you should feel a good deal of comfort each time you use the rod. Since the rod is so lightweight, you won’t have to worry about arm fatigue or other annoying issues as you fish.
The Frabill Bros Rod runs on the expensive end, but for its quality, durability, and features, it’s certainly a worthwhile investment. This rod has a lot of options and excellent design features that make it well worth the price.
4. St. Croix Mojo Series
Split grip EVA/cork handle
Ten different models available
Too stiff for some peoples liking
Available in ten different styles, the St Croix Mojo is making a splash on the scene of ice fishing. Each pole, ranging from 24" to 36", has a great blend of stiffness and sensitivity. In fact, even though the reel seat is fixed, there is a blank space for you to rest a finger, allowing you to feel each nibble.Read more
Ease of Use
No matter which of the ten styles you choose, you will be surprised by the light weight of the rod. The Mojo is available from a 24” ultra-light rod up to a 36” medium-heavy rod. It features a great blend between being stiff and sensitive, making it a great option for a wide array of fish ranging from panfish to lake trout.
The fixed reel seat is something turns away some fishermen from this rod. However, St Croix has positioned it so well that you can still rest a finger on the blank while you’re awaiting bites. This way, you’ll get ultimate sensitivity and a strong backbone at the same time.
I guess you don’t realize something isn’t durable until it breaks, right? This rod is made from carbon fiber and the guides are made from stainless steel. For the most part, there has only been praise about the durability and strength of this rod. Just be sure to have the appropriate length pole for the fish you are after.
The unique grip of the Mojo is a split grip made from cork and EVA foam. The cork section is on top with the reel seat. The foam grip is on the bottom allowing for great versatility.
The price of a Mojo is on average with other poles we have seen, if not slightly higher. However, this pole is fairly close to perfect and has many well thought out features. If you are already dedicated to this sport and looking to invest in something new, the Mojo would be a great option.
5. Fishing White Noise
Easy to use
Not as durable as other options on our list
Not many advanced features
If you are new to ice fishing, or simply want to purchase an affordable and easy to use fishing rod, then you’ll love the 13 Fishing White Noise. Made with a simple yet effective design that’s lightweight and won’t burn a hole in your pocketbook, this rod is also great for those shopping on a budget.Read more
Ease of Use
13 Fishing White Noise is designed to be simple and basic, so it’s very easy to use. It’s also lightweight, and although it doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that more expensive rods do, it gives you an effective, simple design that gets the job done.
13 Fishing White Noise is made to be lightweight and durable, but don’t tend to last as long as some of the other options on our list. While this rod delivers good performance for the price, it’s more affordable price means it doesn’t feature as many high-quality materials.
Because this rod is so easy to use, it is also very comfortable, and it is so lightweight you’ll never have to worry about arm fatigue. This rod has a comfortable grip system and is made with an anti-tangle reel.
13 Fishing White Noise is one of the most affordable options on our list, and although you don’t get many fancy features with it, you will get a rod that performs well. While it might not be as durable as some other rods on our list, it will still give you the performance boost you both need and want when you fish.
Not many bells and whistles
The Baitrunner is designed to perform so well, you’ll almost assume you are fishing with a custom rod each time you ice fish. This durable rod offers a lot of sensitivity and helps boost your performance easily each time you fish.Read more
Ease of Use
Baitrunner is designed with a secure hook setting that makes it easy to catch, hook, and hold onto your fish as you reel them in. Also, this rod features an interchangeable bait cup, so it’s very simple to get to your bait.
Designed with 28 inches of E-glass built into the pole, the Baitrunner is designed for sensitivity, but its materials also make it very strong and durable. So, this rod is built to last, and you should get a lot of use out of it for many years.
Designed with a comfortable ABS type handle, you’ll get a lot of sensitivity and a strong grip with this rod. Also, the rod can balance itself out easily, and because it is so lightweight, you won’t have to worry about arm fatigue.
Baitrunner is in the average priced range, so you do really get a very effective pole for the price. You’ll wind up with a great rod, and a solid investment.
7. Piscifun Storm Portable
Has a learning curve
Piscifun’s Storm Spinning Rod is designed to give you a well-balanced rod option for ice fishing to help increase your performance potential every time you fish. This fishing rod is designed from graphite to make it lightweight, and it’s very easy to use.Read more
Ease of Use
Made to be effective and easy to use, this rod’s graphite frame gives you the lightweight flexibility you need to fish well. Plus, the handle on this rod is very easy to grip onto and adds to the simplicity of using the rod.
Piscifun’s Storm Spinning Rod is designed with a graphite frame that makes this rod very durable. The rod is strong and flexible, and you should be able to get a lot of use out of it.
Since Piscifun’s Storm Spinning Rod is made with graphite, it is very lightweight and flexible, making it comfortable and easy to use. Plus, its excellent, balanced feel will help boost your performance as you fish with ease.
This rod is priced in the average range, and for the number of features you get with it, it’s worth the price. Since the frame is made to be very durable, this rod will give you a lot of bang for your buck.
8. Berkley Lightning
Not a lot of bells and whistles
If you want a high-performing combination rod for your ice fishing, then you might want to consider the Berkley Lightning Rod. This rod is made to be both lightweight and comfortable, and you’ll be able to easily boost your performance whenever you use it.Read more
Ease of Use
The cork handle on the Berkley Lightning Rod is made to be very soft to grip and won’t rub or irritate your hands. You also get a lightweight fiberglass rod whose weight makes the rod both effective and easy to use.
Berkley’s Lightning Rod comes with very durable guides that also make it easy to thread your rod. However, the rod itself isn’t quite as durable as some of the other options we have on our list.
The cork grip that is featured on the handle of the Berkley Lightning Rod gives your hands a very comfortable feel. Also, since the rod is designed to be so lightweight, you won’t have to worry about arm fatigue.
Berkley’s Lightning Rod is affordably priced and is a great option for this who want to ice fish and need to shop on a budget. Although it’s not quite as durable as some other rods, it is still an effective piece of equipment for its low price.
9. Fiblink Graphite
Rod could have more flexibility
Fiblink’s Graphite Rod brings you a durable choice for your ice fishing needs, and also comes in a variety of sizes. Plus, this rod is designed to be comfortable to grip and also performs very well for all of your ice fishing needs.Read more
Ease of Use
This is designed with a graphite frame that is flexible and strong, and also provides a balanced feel. Plus, the fishing rod’s grip is very simple and effective and helps boost your efficiency.
The graphite frame featured in this rod brings a lot of strength and durability to your fishing game. You’ll be able to use this rod for many seasons with a lot of success.
The grip design is very comfortable and has a soft, great feeling cork grip. It’s also designed with a graphite frame that makes it very lightweight, so you won’t have to worry about arm fatigue.
Fiblink’s Graphite is affordably priced, giving you a great choice of ice rods if you are shopping on a budget. For the amount of quality you get with this rod, you’ll enjoy using it.
10. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2
Need to tighten the rod at times
If you want a fishing rod that’s designed to offer a lot of comforts, you’ll enjoy what the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Combo can bring you. Not only is this rod very comfortable to use, but it’s also designed with an EVA ergonomic grip that is extremely easy to use.Read more
Ease of Use
The grip on the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Combo makes the rod very efficient and effective. Plus, this rod is also very lightweight, so it will be easy to cast this rod often throughout the day.
Made with a stainless-steel body, this rod is designed to be very durable, and it is built to withstand very cold weather and harsh elements. You’ll get many years of use out of this very durable and strong rod.
The EVA grip designed into the handle of the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Combo makes this one comfortable rod to hold. Also, its lightweight body means you won’t have to worry about arm fatigue.
Priced very affordably, this is one of the lowest-priced and most durable rods on the market today. Since this rod is built to boost your performance and last many years, you’ll get a lot back from this investment.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Ease of Use
When you’re checking out the ease of use on the fishing rod you’re interested in, you’ll need to check out a couple of things about the rod. First, make sure you take a look at the rod guides and fishing line needed to make the rod function appropriately. The amount and quality of the guides (also known as eyes) on the rod will affect the rod’s capabilities.
As far as guides are concerned, the more guides on the rod, the smoother the bend in the rod will feel, and the better the rod will be able to absorb impacts. To make sure you get a rod with guides that will help your ease of use factor, make sure that you get rods that have no less than four guides, but for even better performance, look for rods with six guides. Also, when you examine the guides on the rod, make sure the guides taper off in size the closer they are to the tip area of the rod.
Also, make sure the guides on the rod are large. If your guides have an increased size to them, then it will be much easier to use your rod with ice-beaded lines. Ice-beaded lines can be very difficult to use on rods that have small guides, so those large guides will contribute a lot to your rod’s ease of use.
Large guides help make your rod easier to use because it helps make it easier to reel up and drop baits. Also, if you know you’ll be dealing with heavy baits and fishing for larger fish, think about looking for a rod that has double-footed guides. You’ll get the strength you need to perform well when using large baits or fishing for larger fish with double-footed guides.
Another thing you’ll need to look into when factoring in the ease of use for your rod is the rod length you’ll need. Depending on how you fish and what you are fishing for, your rod length can vary. If you need something that absorbs shock well and can provide you with more power, you might want to consider a longer rod. However, longer rods can decrease your ability to fish when things aren’t open.
That’s when it’s better to use a shorter fishing rod—when you have far less space. Shorter rods don’t absorb shock as well as longer rods, and that means you might have to deal with drag that forces your arms to fight harder.
But if you do know the fishing conditions you are likely to be in will be closed in, then a shorter rod would work better. If you do need to purchase a shorter rod, it’s almost always better to purchase a graphite rod over a fiberglass rod, since you’ll want that extra strength and durability.
Much about your rod’s durability will be determined by the materials you’ll find making up the rod. There are two standard types of materials you’ll find in most ice fishing rods, and those are graphite, fiberglass, or a mix of the two. Graphite typically costs more than fiberglass and is also more lightweight, flexible, and sensitive than fiberglass when you fish.
Many graphite rods also come with excellent tip systems and enough strength and power to help you catch larger fish and deal with larger bait. While graphite rods do offer flexibility, they still have enough stiffness and solid strength to allow for a lot of versatility as you ice fish. If you really want to feel the hits as they come in, then graphite provides you with an excellent option.
Fiberglass rods don’t usually bring you as much sensitivity when compared to graphite, but there are some very high-quality fiberglass rods that still do an excellent job. One advantage of fiberglass is that it is more flexible than graphite, which means it’s usually smoother and easier to use.
Also, fiberglass offers you a lot more durability and can handle the freezing weather conditions much better than graphite. If you do use a fiberglass rod, you’ll need to consider using a spring bobber or strike indicator so you are able to see the hits as they come in.
When assessing your fishing rod for its overall comfort, you will need to check out the materials that are built into the handle. Some grips come designed with foam or plastic materials, and these don’t offer anglers much sensitivity. Also, foam can hold water, weigh down your rod when it gets wet, and make your grip feel like it’s an ice cube when you are ice fishing. Luckily, there are other options for handles and many fishing rods are made with other materials built into their handles.
Some of the more expensive rods have graphite handles, which provides you with a lot of sensitivity but also makes the rod far more expensive to own. If you are shopping on a budget, it will probably be difficult to afford a rod with a graphite handle.
Another very popular material that’s a bit less expensive and often found in rod handles is cork. Cork is so popular among ice fishers because it does a great job of providing sensitivity while also feeling very comfortable and soft to the touch.
Also, remember that many handles have different types of mounting options. The most popular way to fasten reels to handles is using electrical tape because you’ll get a good balance and a lot of sensitivity when you use the rod. How heavy a rod is can also dictate a lot about your comfort level each time you use your rod. You don’t want a rod that’s going to make your arm feel fatigued and cause you to shorten your fun days outdoors fishing.
So, make sure you factor in how much weight you can handle and what you feel comfortable with each time you fish. A rod’s overall balance and line balance are important to your comfort experience as well. If your rod is not balanced well or not sensitive enough, it will be very difficult to catch a fish. So, make sure you get a rod that isn’t overly flexible and also has a strong tip to help boost the balance you’ll get from your rod.
Value is another important feature for you to consider, especially if you are shopping on a budget. We’ve noted in our product review list where we felt there was value in each rod we described, and obviously, some of the rods on our list cost more than others. While you often get what you pay for with fishing rods, that isn’t the golden rule for all of the products on our list.
We still featured a few affordable rods that are designed to be high-quality and offer you a good performance boost. So, however much you are willing to spend, just know that you can still get a great fishing rod even if you can’t spend a lot of money. The key is to know what you plan on doing with the rod, and then you should be able to make your decision and achieve your fishing goals.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Carbon fiber rods are expensive and very high-quality, and they are designed to be strong, lightweight, durable, and offer great performance. They are very high end and high in quality, meaning they aren’t good for those shopping on a budget. One thing to remember, though, is many affordable graphite and fiberglass rod options still offer excellent fishing rods built from high-quality materials that cost far less and still perform well.
A bucket is an ice fisherman's best friend. It’s a way to carry your bait to the lake, something to sit on, and something to carry your fish home in at the end of the day. It often takes a long time to reel in a decent amount of fish and the option of sitting your rear end on the bare ice makes a bucket seat as desirable as a La-Z-Boy recliner.
If you find that you just don’t seem to be getting any nibbles, there are a few tricks you can try. First things first, make sure your bait is still on the hook. If not, replace it and try again. If you still aren’t getting bites, try moving your line in different rotations. Many fishermen just go up and down which seems to be less and less intriguing to the fish over time. Another trick you can attempt is to lightly cover your fishing hole with ice or snow. This will make the water underneath darker and avoid reflections. This makes the environment seem more natural for the fish, increasing their chances of biting.
Other Factors to Consider
When you’re selecting the ice fishing rod that’s right for you, there are a few other important factors you’ll want to consider before you make your decision. First, you’ll want to make sure you select your rod based on the fish species that you plan to focus on and match your rod power to that.
If you know what species of fish you want, then you’ll need to take a close look at the rod power offered by the fishing rods to get an effective match between the two and get everything you’ll really need to do what you want with your rod. How do you know what rod power to use for what species of fish? We’ve got a breakdown of some of the more popular species of fish below.
If you’re fishing for panfish, then you’ll want an ultra-light rod.
If you’re fishing for perch, you’ll want a rod that is light.
If you’re fishing for walleye, whitefish, or trout, you’ll want to use a light or medium rod.
If you’re fishing for pike or lake trout, then you’ll want to use a heavy rod.
Also, while it might sound like a good idea to get a fishing rod with a lot of power so you can fish for all types of fish, if you go above the power level you really need, your fishing pole might be too stiff or too heavy for you to use appropriately and catch the fish you desire. So, you want to make sure you do pay attention to this and only go for the weight you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: How do I know what type of rod to use with what type of fish?
Really, that all depends on the weight of the fish and how much rod power you need. If you’re shopping for small fish, like panfish, a short light or ultra-light rod will do the job. Now, walleye would require a medium rod since they are larger, and lake trout are so large, you’ll need a heavy power rod to catch those. Just remember, how much rod power you need will depend on how large your fish are.
q: Why is it important to pick a well-balanced rod?
A rod’s overall balance and line balance are important to your comfort experience as well. If your rod is not balanced well or not sensitive enough, it will be very difficult to catch a fish. So, make sure you get a rod that isn’t overly flexible and also has a strong tip to help boost the balance you’ll get from your rod.
q: What does rod power mean?
Rod power defines how large the fish and the bait on a rod should be, and ice fishing rods are broken up into several different power ratings. These power ratings tell you how strong the rod will be, and also help dictate what type of fish you’ll be catching. The categories we usually see when defining rod power are ultra-light, light, medium, and heavy.
So, how much power do you need your rod to have—or how much weight do you need it to be able to handle? Again, this will all depend on the size and the type of fish you are after. If you are interested in catching larger fish like pike or lake trout, then you will need to consider purchasing a rod with a heavy rod power. However, if you are looking for smaller fish that weigh under ten pounds, then you’ll be fine with one of the lighter rods.
q: How can I handle and test my rod?
If you want to know a few ways to test how smooth and durable your fishing rod is going to be, make sure you go to a store and try it out. Check out the bail and play with it to see if it works smoothly. Also, check to see if the bail snaps close easily, and see if it sticks. Play with the drag knob and see how it feels when you touch it. Play with the reel handle, and also practice holding the reel. Make sure everything feels smooth and check out if you hear any noises the reel or rod should not be making.
q: What does it mean to get the right sized fishing reel?
Once you’ve got your fishing rod, you want to make sure you wind up purchasing a reel that’s the right size to match that rod so that you’ve got the most effective you can have when you fish. Remember that most ice fishing reels aren’t meant to handle large amounts of line.
Because of this, some ice fishers prefer to use ultralights because they are very easy to use, handle, and fish with and don’t typically cause fatigue. However, again, if an ultralight rod is right for you can depend a lot on what type of fish you are going after. Whatever size of fishing rod you get, make sure you match up the rod with the right reel.
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