9 Best Ice Fishing Rods: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

Last Updated on

Ice fishing requires a different performance from fishing equipment and has difficulties of its own compared to regular angling. From the electronics to the reels, ice fishing requires high-performance gear to make time out in the cold worthwhile. Check out this guide for a comprehensive look at rods for ice and cold water fishing.

Preview

Product

Line Weight

Primary Material

Check Price

St. Croix Mojo Series Ice Rod (28',...

St. Croix Mojo Series

2 - 6 Lbs.

Carbon fiber

13 Fishing Tickle Stick 23' Light Hardwater...

13 Fishing Tickle Stick

2 - 6, max 10 Lbs.

Composite

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel &...

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2

2 - 6 Lbs.

Graphite & Fiberglass

Tailored Tackle Ice Fishing Rod Reel Combo 28...

Tailored Tackle

3 - 6 Lbs.

Carbon

Akataka Ice Fishing Rod Ultralight Fishing...

Akataka

2 - 6 Lbs.

Carbon fiber

fenwick HMG Ice Spinning Rod - HMGICE28MHM

Fenwick HMG

6 - 10 Lbs.

Graphite

fenwick ETICE28MH Elite Tech Ice Spinning Rod

Fenwick Elite Tech

6-10 Lbs.

Graphite

Abu Garcia Veritas 3.0 Ice Fishing Spinning...

Abu Garcia Veritas 3.0

1-6 Lbs.

Carbon, Steel, Graphite, Fiberglass, etc.

Fiblink Saltwater Graphite Jig Jigging...

Fiblink Saltwater

80 - 120 lbs.

Graphite, fiberglass


Reasons Why You Need a Rod Specific to Ice Fishing

The main reason ice fishing rods are usually so much smaller and have to be specifically tailored to their purpose is that fishing through a hole in the ice is entirely different than fishing in open water. There's not any casting. Rather, jigs and hard lures are used to troll near the bottom. This is for catching species like crappie, walleye, lake trout, panfish, perch, and bluegill, to name a few.

To catch these fish, a hole will have to be drilled with an augur in the right place. The lure is dropped in the hole, usually paired with some kind of ice fish finder, and jigged or jerked to get the attention of the target fish. Ice fishing rods are held in a kind of pencil grip. The whole process is too particular to be done with a regular fishing rod.


Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose an Ice Fishing Rod

Rod Material Composition

Rods are almost always made out of either graphite or fiberglass, although carbon and carbon fiber are also used. Graphite is a sturdy material and usually makes for a more powerful blank. Fiberglass is really lightweight. Carbon fiber is a form of graphite where the cells are closer together, offering the toughness of graphite and the lightness of fiberglass. These materials can be constructed to varying degrees of success, with more durability or more flexibility in different rod models.

Rod Length & Weight

Ice fishing rods are almost always shorter than standard rods. While they were maxing out around 28 inches a couple of decades ago, improvements in fish huts and a higher propensity for fishing outside them in recent years has caused a trend of longer ice fishing rods being used, nowadays frequently forty inches longer or more. Longer ice fishing rods do tend to feel more like the typical expectation of fishing. They can make fighting fish more fun, enabling lighter lines for an added challenge.

Rod Action

Just like other models, ice fishing rods bend at certain places, depending on their actions. Slow rods bend all the way down to the lower third, nearer to the handle. Fast rods only bend near the tip. So an extra fast rod will bend very close to the tip, and a fast rod will bend a little closer to the handle, moderate rods will bend near the middle and slow rods further toward the handle. A faster rod is better for a clean hook set but may snap due to less flexibility.

Rod Power

Rod action dictates where the rod will bend, and rod power lets you know how much pressure it will take to make it bend there. Often the two work in tandem. A heavy rod, in terms of its power, takes lots of pressure to bend, a medium-heavy rod less so, medium even less, and light and ultralight rods requiring very little pressure to bend. The heavier-power rods are better for larger fish. Ultralights and lights are great for finesse lures and small targets like panfish.

Line Weight & Guides

Ice fishing calls for much lower line weights in general. With the heaviest power rods, a 10- or 12-pound test might be used sometimes, but generally, something closer to six pounds is more common. 10-pound mono with a 12-pound fluoro leader is a typical setup for larger targets.

Line guides are important for preventing line twists. They are the part of the rod most commonly bent on cheaper models. Inserts made of different metals or ceramic help increase durability and reduce friction and wearing down on the line going through the guides.

Handle/Grip

It’s critical to have a comfortable grip that won’t cause hand fatigue after a few hours on the ice. Cork is a common material for ice fishing rod handles. Foam is more often used on alloy rods. You should be able to feel a bite on the line through the handle. Split-grip handles leave a part of the blank exposed in the handle so the proper grip can be used to feel what's going on at the end of the line. Other rods have the blank running through the handle so the user can feel nibbles.

Included Extras

Many brands sell cases, holders, and lures, but it's exceptionally rare to find them included with the purchase of an ice fishing rod. It's also possible to build DIY versions of holders and carry bags. Designs are available across the internet. A typical DIY material to use for this purpose is electrical wire sleeving. The most important part of most ice fishing rods to protect is the tip. It’s the part most frequently broken off in transfer.

Price & Warranty

Protection from manufacturing defects for one or more years is quite common with most of the major brands. Smaller companies will have a money-back guarantee or nothing at all. Ice fishing rods are usually pretty inexpensive due to their smaller sizes, and even high-quality rods from top brands can be had very inexpensively.  It's important to be wary when shopping around because there aren't many features on most ice fishing rods, so it can be challenging to know which model is best if you're not familiar with comparisons.


9 Best Ice Fishing Rods Reviewed

1. St. Croix Mojo Series

Our Top Pick!

Rod Length

24”, 28”, 32”, 34”, 36”

Line Weight

2 - 6 Lbs.

Primary Material

Carbon fiber

Power

Ultralight, Light, Medium-Light, Medium, Medium-Heavy, Heavy

Warranty

1-year upgradable limited

Precision-built carbon fiber blanks form the center of this line of St. Croix ice fishing rods, and its strength comes through in the action and the power. The medium-power model is one of the best all-around ice fishing rods on the market, suitable for working baits like minnow spoons and crisp vertical or horizontal presentations on the bottom of the lake. While the Mojo rods are built for spinning reels, they do offer a 34-inch ice fishing rod in either medium-heavy or heavy power models that can handle casting reels and get that clean hook set in big fish like lake trout.

The medium-power Mojo rod comes in either 24” or 28” models. That size is perfect for smaller fish huts, and it can still support blades or jigs. When you do attract those larger targets, there's plenty of backbone to get them hooked as well as plenty of flex to keep hold of them if they decide to go on a run. Stainless steel guides keep the line where you want it, and they're built large enough to reduce freezing in really cold temperatures or exposed conditions.

The split-grip cork handle is comfortable and enables anglers to keep their finger on an exposed section of the rod to feel exactly what's happening on the line. The reel seats on these rods are stable, which can reduce sensitivity, but it's not the case with Mojo rods thanks to the handle design.

Pros
  • Variety of lengths and strengths
  • Added handle sensitivity
  • Freeze-resistant line guides
  • Strong carbon fiber blank
  • Sturdy reel seat
Cons
  • Almost exclusively for spinning reels

2. 13 Fishing Tickle Stick

Best Ice Fishing Rod for Crappie

Rod Length

23”, 27”, 38”

Line Weight

2 - 6, max 10 Lbs.

Primary Material

Composite

Power

Super ultralight, ultralight, light, medium-light

Warranty

Minimum 1-year

The standout feature of this ice fishing rod is the flat tip constructed by designers to make the blank extremely rigid for clean hooksets every time. You won’t need a spring bobber attachment with this rod, although you can fix one on if you want. The tip is already sensitive enough with the flat tip to detect light bites, which makes it perfect for fishing crappie, where finesse might be the name of the game. This rod can also handle aggressive jigs and spoon rigs or even tungsten and plastics for larger targets.

One drawback to the flat tip is that it does tend to make the end of the rod more fragile and more prone to breaking. That can call for attentive storage and transportation, but it won’t stop this rod from reeling in crappie if you can pair it with a 500 size spinning reel and less stretchy  4 or 6-pound fluoro or a strong braid with a fluoro leader. The reel seat and the comfortable handle both provide comfortable hand placement options and give the feeling of some torque against the fish without ruining the fun of the fight.

This rod can handle plenty of line weight and send down lures that will create a flash like crappies' main food sources, such as minnow. Crappie have wider mouths, so they tend to attack larger lures. This rod has all the power and sensitivity needed to fish any ultralight, light, or mid-range lure for crappie.

Pros
  • Handle any light to medium lure
  • Great action for a hookset
  • Sturdy hook seat
  • Sensitive blank
  • Comfortable handle
Cons
  • Fragile rod tip

3. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2

Best Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Combo for Walleye

Rod Length

26”, 28”, 30”

Line Weight

2 - 6 Lbs.

Primary Material

Graphite & Fiberglass

Power

Light, medium, medium-heavy

Warranty

5- to 7-year limited

This all-in-one package is one of the best ice fishing jigging rods because it has enough flex to give the presentation lifelike movement and the right action to display visible movement if you want to use it as a dead rod with a bobber. It's both robust and versatile, standing up to pretty much anything thanks to the graphite in its construction.

Fiberglass mixed into the composite also makes this rod really lightweight and ideal for fishing microbaits. Most importantly for walleye, the blank goes all the way down through the handle, meaning anglers will be able to feel everything on the line, even slight nibbles.

The size 20 spinning reel that comes with this combo pairs with the rod well, and the whole outfit has great balance. A twist-lock reel seat allows anglers to keep a grip and switch reels easily. It's also simple to use this rod right- or left-handed.

The smaller 26" rod is great for panfish and indoor fishing from a fish hut, but there are also 28” and 30” models for sale that might be more suitable for big walleye. These longer rods are also better to use with heavy line and braid in colder temperatures when mono and fluoro line can stiffen.

This walleye ice fishing rod performs exceptionally well in late winter when walleye are already starting to think about spawning and make their way to the mouths of rivers and into the structure created by pressure ridges where the baitfish are.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Flexible
  • Through-handle blank
  • Snug reel seat
  • Left- and right-hand friendly
Cons
  • Light for dead sticking

4. Tailored Tackle

Best Combo for Perch and Panfish

Rod Length

28”

Line Weight

3 - 6 Lbs.

Primary Material

Carbon

Power

Medium-light

Warranty

None

Anglers out for quick trips or planning on a fish fry love to catch perch and other panfish, so-called because they fit whole inside a frying pan. This ice fishing rod and reel combo from Tailored Tackle is perfect for catching a wide variety of panfish because it has the tip sensitivity of a fast action rod and the stiffness of a moderate action rod.

It’s also great for beginning ice anglers and not just for the convenient how-to guide included with this combo. Since it performs so well with such a variety of targets, beginners can concentrate on learning new information and honing their skills without being thrown off by malfunctioning or ineffective gear.

It has some backbone in case a big fish attacks, but don’t expect it to haul in any record breakers. The light weight of the rod and reel make it easy to transport for hopping around to different holes, or if you prefer to stay inside a hut, the short length of the rod makes it easy to do so.

It's a comfortable rod to hold thanks to the cork handles. Best of all, it's been designed to work with all sorts of jigs and lures. For ice fishing perch, live bait like maggots works great on a jig, and that's precisely what this rod and reel were designed to do.

Pros
  • Ample tip sensitivity
  • How-to guide included
  • Comfortable handle
  • Lightweight
  • Versatile
Cons
  • Not great for ultralight lures

5. Akataka

Most Strongly-Built Model

Rod Length

24”, 26”

Line Weight

2 - 6 Lbs.

Primary Material

Carbon fiber

Power

Medium, medium-light

Warranty

60-day Money Back Guarantee

Perfectly balanced and comfortable to hold, this Akataka rod has a carbon fiber blank that is pretty sensitive but really tough. Even the guide inserts are strong, unlikely to come out or get lost since they wrap around the guides. You can lift a surprising amount of weight with this rod, although you’re most likely to get fish in the 3-pound range at the heavier end.

The slow action gives this rod plenty of bend to avoid breaking if a fish tries to fight, but larger fish like bass might be pretty tricky to hook with such a flexible rod. A cork handle and the light weight of the rod make it easy to carry the rod all day and hold onto it for long periods at a time.

Most bites can be felt pretty quickly through the tip of the rod, although it's wise not to overload it with a heavy lure that can make it harder to feel a soft bite. One nice design feature of this rod is the reel seat, which can accommodate reels with seats between 1.6 and 2.3 inches.

That’s only for spinning reels and spincasters, though, since a baitcaster would likely throw off the balance, and the rod doesn't have enough power to set the hook in larger species that would call for a baitcaster.

Pros
  • Comfortable & lightweight
  • Sturdily built
  • Variable reel seat
  • Solid line guides
  • Long-lasting
Cons
  •  Too flexible for larger targets

6. Fenwick HMG

Best Value Ice Fishing Rod

Rod Length

23”, 25”, 26”, 27”, 28”

Line Weight

6 - 10 Lbs.

Primary Material

Graphite

Power

Ultralight, light, medium-light, medium, medium-heavy

Warranty

Limited Lifetime

The medium-heavy Fenwick HMG rod has tons of features and use-value packed into it. It's hard to find this kind of power in a rod that's shorter than 34 inches long, but this rod has it, and that makes it perfect for seeking out walleye or pike from the comfort of a fish hut.

To get that hook into a larger fish, the action on this rod is ideal. Of course, for smaller panfish and crappies, there's also the ultralight and light Fenwick ice fishing rods. The medium-heavy has a more moderate action that makes it fantastic for fishing horizontal hard baits with multiple hooks, including blade baits and jigging minnows.

Additional details that are sometimes forgotten on competing models, like a hook keeper, are included on the Fenwick. Aluminum oxide inserts make the line guides strong and reduces friction on the line. The handle, which is made out of AAA cork, is really agreeable, seeming to suit the angler’s hand no matter what kind of grip is required for a given style of fishing.

Folks love using this rod as a go-to crappie rod or to use fishing for northerns and even lake trout. For all the strength in the rod blank, the sensitivity is still off the charts and lets the user feel small bites on the line.

Pros
  • Really strong rod
  • Comfy cork handle
  • Ideal for multi-hook lures
  • Hook keeper included
  • Superior sensitivity
Cons
  • Shorter lengths overall

7. Fenwick Elite Tech

Best Medium-Heavy Ice Fishing Rod

Rod Length

24”, 25”, 27”, 28”, 30”, 36”, 42”

Line Weight

6-10 Lbs.

Primary Material

Graphite

Power

Ultralight, Medium-light, Medium, Medium-heavy

Warranty

Limited Lifetime

Anything you could want for targeting larger fish with a medium-heavy rod you’ll find in this lineup of Fenwick Elites. It has a fast tip and a strong backbone to get clean hook sets on lake trout and walleye, plus it functions well with spoons and jigs. Most of the line of ice fishing rods are meant to be paired with a spinning reel, but they do offer a thirty-inch rod with a baitcaster handle too.

The eyes on the line guides are straight and don’t put much friction tension on the line, but they are smaller than on some other rods, which can lead to them freezing up if you're fishing outside a hut in icy conditions. As long as you're on the lookout for that, though, it shouldn't be a huge problem.

It's sensitive enough at the tip to feel activity on the line, but it doesn't quite match costly ice fishing rods in that category. That being said, it has really stiff, high-quality graphite in the blank that keeps this rod reasonably light considering its longer length. To get all the fighting strength you need for larger targets, the power in this rod is great, and with one of the longer length options, you’ll be keeping up with the times in the world of ice fishing, where longer rods are the current trend.

Pros
  • Longer lengths available
  • Strong graphite construction
  • Baitcaster option
  •  Light for its size
  • Great for jigging
Cons
  • Small line guides

8. Abu Garcia Veritas 3.0

Best Ice Fishing Rod for Walleye

Rod Length

25”, 27”, 29”

Line Weight

1-6 Lbs.

Primary Material

Carbon, Steel, Graphite, Fiberglass, etc.

Power

Ultralight, Medium-Light, Medium

Warranty

none

This ultralight rod option has a ton of flex. So much flex, in fact, that you can get a hit on your bait without your hands being pulled forward at all. Fortunately, it's also sensitive enough to feel what's going on, so you don't miss out on any action. If you’re fishing in high-pressure water, having this rod to drop in some ultralight finesse lures can be the difference between a dull afternoon and a personal best.

Of course, if you want a lifelike presentation with creature lures and other light baits, you’ll need a rod that transfers jerks and jig motions from the angler to the end of the line well. The 24-ton graphite in this rod is stiff enough to create movement in the lure from movement on the handle.

Even without a reel on it, this rod is very well balanced. That makes it easier to handle for long periods and makes it more effective overall. For larger targets like walleye, this rod has a surprising amount of hook-setting power considering its ultralight weight.

The way it handles finesse fishing and trucks through fights with fish, it's definitely the best walleye ice fishing rod on the market. The guides can get knocked out of alignment if it's not packed away carefully, but other than that, it does a great job getting fish out of the water.

Pros
  • Powerful
  • Well-balanced
  • Flexible
  • Sensitive rod tip
  • Great with finesse lures
Cons
  • Fragile line guides

9. Fiblink Saltwater

Best Ice Fishing Jigging Rod

Rod Length

Six feet

Line Weight

80 - 120 lbs.

Primary Material

Graphite, fiberglass

Power

Heavy, medium-heavy

Warranty

1-year limited

Unlike other rods that are built for general ice fishing and just happen to be suitable for jigging, this rod has been specifically geared and constructed to that purpose. Graphite in the blank gives it sizable power while fiberglass mixed into the blank keeps the whole thing lightweight, even with its much longer length compared to other rods in this guide.

This rod is also uniquely crafted to work for a variety of saltwater fishing methods. Line guide inserts made of ceramic are tough and reduce friction on the line. Aluminum alloy in critical parts of the rod increases strength, reducing flex in the reel seat to almost nothing.

There are both medium-heavy and heavy options available. Suffice it to say that this rod is definitely for larger targets and lures and situations where maximum power will be needed. It should be paired with a larger reel.

It has a slower action than some of the competition, but that’s the tradeoff for the vastly superior strength in this rod. Although it’s rated for saltwater, don’t expect to use it on fish larger than about 5 or 6 pounds. You may well be able to hook a fish that size, but it won’t be the norm with this rod.

Pros
  • Saltwater-rated
  • Aluminum alloy reel seat
  • Hook keeper included
  • Super strong
  • Ceramic line guide inserts
Cons
  • Slower action

Baitcasting vs. Spincasting Rods for Ice Fishing

Baitcasting rods have different mounts and should be able to accommodate a heavier line. Spinning reels are the most common for ice fishing because the target fish and the angling methods used for ice fishing are not best suited to baitcasters. Since there’s no casting involved in ice fishing, both baitcasters, and spin casters are rare to see employed. Closed face reels also tend to freeze up in the cold, while baitcasters are just plain overkill.


Rod Sizing Guide

Fishing in an ice hut usually limits rod lengths to about 26 or 28 inches. Outdoor fishing and hole hopping can be done with rods 36 to 42 inches long, or even longer. If you're chasing big fish, a short rod with slow action isn't going to cut it. You'll want lots of strength, and that means a longer rod. For example, the best ice fishing rod length for walleye is about 27 inches, but a longer rod can be set up with a lighter test line for an extra challenge to the angler.


How to Set Up an Ice Fishing Rod

One of the best ways to use an ice fishing rod is to set up a jig. Once you've determined the rod length, you can decide on what sort of line. 2- or 3-pound test for smaller rods and 6- or 8-pound test on mid-range, 10- to 12- pound on the larger rods, should do fine. Spoons and jigs can be set up the same way you would do it on a normal rod.


Ice Fishing Guide for Beginners

An ice fishing trip can be safe and successful if you follow these tips:

  1. 1
    Mix up your lures. Bring swimbaits, minnows, and tiny jigs. For larger fish, use spoons and other lures with multiple hooks. Lazier cold water fish won't bother with the same type of lure over and over; they'll want to stay as still as possible. 
  2. 2
    For safety, make sure you have at least four inches of solid ice—drill holes to measure if you aren't sure. 
  3. 3
    Holding the rod is very similar to holding a pencil, but you’ll work out your own preferred method.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What is a noodle ice fishing rod?

A noodle rod is one specifically made for ice fishing. They usually have brightly-colored tips and are best used for catching smaller ice fishing targets like walleye, panfish, and trout. The specialty of a noodle rod is detecting very small bites, making them perfect for ice fishing.

What are the best ice fishing rod brands?

St. Croix is one of the most trusted brands because their rods always work and always last. Ugly Stik has become the go-to entry-level rod while other brands like Frabill and Frostbite make heavy-duty rods and reels for ice fishing that are probably a bit overkill for anglers just getting into ice fishing.

Can you use a regular fishing rod for ice fishing?

While it’s absolutely possible, it doesn’t make much sense to forego the more convenient length and specifically tailored features of an ice fishing rod to use a larger, more awkward open water set up in a tiny fishing hole. Things can get especially complicated if you bring a six foot rod into a small fish hut. If you just want to give it a try without investing in new equipment, you certainly may, but bear in mind that cold water might have adverse effects on your regular gear.

Is it possible to build an ice fishing rod on my own?

DIY fishing rods are hugely popular with avid anglers who want to get even more involved with the sport. It can be complicated, but if you’re handy or have lots of patience, it’s doable. Figuring out how to build an ice fishing rod can be tough, but there are designs for all skill levels using parts ranging from old CDs to top-of-the-line machined metal pieces.

How do I know what type of rod to use for what type of fish?

There's no hard and fast rule, but it's helpful to research the general size ranges of your target fish and then match that with a length of the rod and then go from there. Knowing other things about your target, like how difficult a hook set can be and what lures they like, can also help a great deal.

Are there any special care and maintenance steps for ice fishing rods?

The tips of ice fishing rods are sometimes prone to breaking, but a simple rod case will fix that problem. DIY solutions abound, but the best ice fishing rod case will resolve the issue for a longer time. Make sure the rods are dry before storing them and keep them in a relatively temperate dry place.


Conclusion

Ice fishing is a ton of fun and presents a whole new perspective on sport fishing. All you need is a strong, flexible rod that can handle just about any wintertime fish. That’s just what you get with the St. Croix Mojo Series, easily the best ice fishing rod around.