Best Ice Fishing Rods Reviewed & Rated for Quality
If you’re anything like us, then you’re constantly looking for ways to reuse and repurpose items. But go ahead and toss out thinking that you can reuse your regular rod for ice fishing, cause it’s just not going to cut it--and we’ll tell you why.
As a specialized sport, ice fishing requires specialized gear. You’ll find yourself fishing over tiny holes or in small huts with limited space. That means you’ll have zero use for long casting rods so you’ll need a much more compact piece.
Plus, as the waters get colder, fish grow slower and more lethargic. This means you’ll need a more sensitive rod to feel those lazy little pulls which your regular rod isn’t going to do for you either.
But don’t worry! We’ve already found the best ice fishing rods for you and we promise it won’t break the bank.
This is the best product on our list that is currently in stock:
Ideal for jigging
Carbon blank is precision-tapered
Carbon handle is extremely sensitive
Handmade in the USA
10 Best Ice Fishing Rods
1. Fenwick AETOS
Can fish for a variety of species
Super compact at just 21 inches long
Split grip made from cork
Thicker grip for easier winter handling
Incredibly sensitive with nice, strong backbone
A little stiffer than some expected
The Fenwick AETOS Spinning Rod has tons of positive ice fishing rod reviews. Folks love this piece for its sturdy and reliable backbone as well as its incredible sensitivity. So if you’re looking to hit those hard waters this winter, you don’t want to find yourself without one of these.
The Fenwick AETOS Spinning Rod is noted for its incredible sensitivity. This is a huge factor when going fishing in the winter as the chilly fish's metabolisms slow way down. This means they move a lot more slowly and won’t make as obvious movements and triggers as they do in warmer waters.
This product is ideal for catching walleye, bluegill, bass, and other small panfish.
Super Strong Backbone
The Fenwick AETOS Spinning Rod is also praised for its strong backbone. In fact, reviewers have reported being able to hook fish at 140 feet deep in cold water--now that’s power you can count on.
This style of pole from Fenwick comes in a few different sizes, but the one we’re featuring today measures just 21 inches long. They offer products for ice fishing up to 30 inches long.
This pole has a split grip made from cork that is a bit larger than your average pole’s grip to make it easier to hold and wield while you are wearing heavy winter gloves.
This particular pole features a light power, though Fenwick makes similar models in ultra light power, medium light power, medium power, and medium heavy power.
Cost and Value
The Fenwick AETOS Spinning Rod rings up towards the top of our price range but we love its value because it has proven to be successful in fishing for a variety of different species and because it is a staple favorite among fisherman everywhere.
2. St. Croix Avid Jigging Series
Ideal for jigging
Carbon blank is precision-tapered
Carbon handle is extremely sensitive
Handmade in the USA
On the premium price end
The St. Croix Avid Jigging Series is another at the top of our list because of its shining reviews. Of course, St. Croix reigns king in the premium fishing gear game, and their ice fishing rods are of the best quality and performance. This pole is excellent for jigging and reeling in those bottom feeders.
All Carbon Everything
The St. Croix Avid Jigging Series is made using all carbon which is lightweight, sensitive, and strong.
The precision-tapered blank is comprised of carbon and is made to perform even in the harshest winter conditions. The carbon handle is also incredibly sensitive and will allow you to feel the tiny tugs and pulls of slow-moving winter water fish.
Kigan makes the lightweight and low profile guides on this option and they are the perfect compliment to this highly designed pole.
Meant for Jigging
The St. Croix Avid Jigging Series is made just for that--jigging. Jigging is a style of fishing where one uses a jigger to fish. A jigger is a type of lure with a weight, at least one hook, and a false bait attached to it to attract fish.
Jiggers move up and down on the water instead of horizontally and are typically used to catch fish that are hanging out on the bottom of the lake. Reviews love this guy for fishing walleye.
This particular model measures 27 inches long and has a medium-light power (but you can pick this buy up in medium power as well).
Cost and Value
The St. Croix Avid Jigging Series is the most premium item on our list, but you really get what you pay for. It comes with a 1-year warranty and was both handcrafted and designed right in the United States, which is quality you can rely on. With great customer service and attention to detail, this is a premium purchase you can feel good about.
3. Berkley Cherrywood
Can accommodate different reel types
Fiberglass blank will bend and not break
Cork handle is comfortable
Ultra-light power and responsiveness
Can fish for light and heavier species
Some think graphite rings get in way
The Berkley Cherrywood Spinning Rod is the most inexpensive option on our list and will cost you so little that the price tag will shock you. But just because it’s incredibly affordable doesn’t mean it will snap in two the first time you use it.
This product is meant to bend and will help you reel in those small jigs, jaw jackers, large northerns, walleyes, and other panfish.
Fiberglass Blank that Bends and Bends
The Berkley Cherrywood Spinning Rod is comprised of a blank made from 100% fiberglass. Many reviewers were skeptical about the potential quality of this pole because of its insane price point. But after extended use, folks report that this product will bend and bend and bend without snapping, and can even haul in some pretty heavy loads (over 20 inches long).
The blank is finished with a durable coating to help extend the life of your pole, and the blank also features stainless steel inserts and guides which are sturdy are also resist rust and corrosion from the harsh winter elements.
This product measures 24 inches long and features an ultra-light power.
The Berkley Cherrywood Spinning Rod has a unique handle that makes it a great versatile option. The handle itself is made from cork, and it features a reel seat with graphite rings that slide to accommodate different sizes and styles of reels. This is critical for anyone who’s gotten a pole only to find out their favorite reel won’t fit on it.
Cost and Value
The Berkley Cherrywood Spinning Rod rings up at the very bottom of our price range and we love its value because despite being inexpensive, it is still durable and can accommodate many different reel types and catch multiple different species so it’s a great buy for all.
4. Fenwick Elite Tech
Great for trout fishing
Great for hole hopping
Graphite blank (high-mod)
Premium cork split handle
Durable, weather resistant eyes
Not as sensitive as other premo options
The Fenwick Elite Tech Spinning Rod is a great option for anyone in need of ice fishing rods for lake trout. You can also use this guy to snag walleye. Users are overall super impressed with the construction and performance of this product which is why we put this second Fenwick on our list.
Blank Made from High-Mod Graphite
The Fenwick Elite Tech Spinning Rod features a blank that is made from high-mod graphite. These quality blanks bend two-thirds of the way down and will give and give without snapping. This particular model measures just 16 inches long and features light power.
You can pick up other similar models at 28 inches long and 36 inches long, and with medium light power, medium power, and medium-heavy power--depending on your hunt.
Reel Seat is Down Locking
The Fenwick Elite Tech Spinning Rod features smoked guides made from stainless steel with inserts of zirconium oxide. These work together to provide durability against harsh winter weather and won’t rust away from the blank in one season.
The premium corn split handle offers up sensitivity and comfort and features a down-locking reel seat. So this product is great for hole hopping and for snagging those slow-moving fish.
Cost and Value
The Fenwick Elite Tech Spinning Rod rings up in the middle of our price range and we love its value because it is made from premium materials and is expertly designed to give just the right amount of bend for winter fishing.
5. HT Enterprises
Orange tip to notice tugging
Ultra-light power and fast action
Nice setting power
Some report pole snapping in half
The HT Enterprises Ice Rod is another incredibly budget-friendly option that will come in handy if you’re looking to go pan fishing or jigging in the dead of winter. It has nice hook setting power and will deliver tasty results out on the ice.
Easy to See Tip
The HT Enterprises features a bit of flair in its design. The blank is mostly blue with a neon orange tip. With custom guide wrappings of dark blue, this pole has a fun and sort of playful look about it. But the orange tip serves a purpose! The color variation makes it easier to notice little tugs on the line from sleepy fishies.
The HT Enterprises features a Corkalon Handle. This is comfortable and easy to maneuver. It also has simple rings to mount your reel with.
This product is 18 inches long and features ultra-light power and fast action. We will warn you that some reviewers found this budget option to be less durable than the Berkley and mention that it can snap more easily under pressure.
Cost and Value
The HT Enterprises rings up at the bottom of our price range and we love its value because it boasts setting power and sensitivity without breaking the bank.
6. Schooleys Artic Blue
Bright pink tip to easily see nibbles
Spring bobber pole
Great for perch and other panfish
Family owned business for over 50 years
Very fragile pole, can break easily
The Schooleys Artic Blue is an ideal companion for pan fishing during the rough winter months. It is a spring bobber pole with insane sensitivity and is part of a line of products that have been tried and tested for over 50 years.
Spring Bobber Pole
The Schooleys Artic Blue is an excellently crafted spring bobber pole. This means it has a lot of flexibility and sensitivity in the tip of the pole which is important when fishing in the winter as the fish don’t tend to make movements that are as noticeable.
Users love this option for perch.
Colored Tip for Easy to See Twitching
The Schooleys Artic Blue is a 24-inch long pole. Most of the blank is mint green and the tip is bright pink. The bright pink tip assists in allowing you to easily see small movements on the pole from slow fish nibbling at your bait.
Cost and Value
The Schooleys Artic Blue also rings up at the bottom of our price range and we love its value because it has all of the sensitivity of a great bobber at an incredible price point.
Neon yellow tip
Super sensitive handle
Can store bait and jigs in handle
Reinforced backbone for setting power
E-Glass noodle blank
Tip not as sensitive as one hopes
The BaitRunner is another more premium product that is loaded with cool features to make your time on the ice easier and more enjoyable. An excellent jigging option for crappie, walleye, trout, and perch, you’ll be snagging dinner for sure with this pole.
Bait Cup Built Into Handle
The BaitRunner has one of the coolest handles that we’ve seen on the market. First of all, it features a bait cup that is built into the handle. You can remove the cap at the base of the handle to reveal a cavity in the handle where you can store tackle, baits, and jigs. But don’t worry. Storing these items won’t interfere with the sensitivity of the handle.
This handle is made from a specialized ABS material that is designed to not only pick up tiny movements but to actually magnify them as well. This means you’ll be able to feel the smallest of nibbles on your carefully selected bait. In fact, this material is about 5 times more sensitive than your average cork handle.
Sturdy Backbone with Tons of Sensitivity
The BaitRunner measures 28 inches long and features a medium-light power response that is great for cold water fishing. The noodle blank is made from E-Glass and is bolstered by a reinforced backbone to make this product both sensitive and sturdy.
The tip is colored neon yellow to make it easier to see tiny movements at the end. Stainless lightweight chrome eyes resist rust and are in it for the long haul while the single guides work to reduce the risk of built-up ice on the pole.
Cost and Value
The BaitRunner rings up towards the top of our price range and we like its value because it has all sort of premium features that you won’t find on other rods.
8. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2
Multiple power and size options
Clear tip for more sensitivity and power
Guides of 1-piece stainless steel
Combo fiberglass and graphite blank
Flimsy handle design
Issues with getting right poles in order
The Shakespeare Ugly Stik is a great name in quality yet budget-friendly poles. If you are looking for an affordable option to hit the ice with this winter, then this updated version could be just the right fit for you.
Fiberglass and Graphite Blank
The Shakespeare Ugly Stik features a blank that is comprised of a combination of fiberglass and graphite. It comes in 3 different lengths: 26 inches long, 28 inches long, and 30 inches long. The 26 incher features light power, the 28 incher features medium power, and the 30 incher features medium heavy power.
The tip of the blank is clear to offer up even more sensitivity and strength when trying to hook those sleeping ice fishies.
The Shakespeare Ugly Stik features guides made from stainless steel that are all one piece. This is an important feature as you won’t have to worry about inserts slipping out and your guides falling off even in the toughest of winter weather conditions.
With an EVA grip and reel seat, you’ll be able to feel small movements under the ice to let you know when to pull her in.
Cost and Value
The Shakespeare Ugly Stik rings up on the lower end of our price range and we like its value because it has some premium features at a not so premium price, and with multiple size and power options, you’ll be able to find the just-right fit for your winter fishing conditions.
9. Fiblink Graphite
Designed with winter conditions in mind
Thicker handle for more control
Different lengths and power options
Guides made from aluminum-oxide
Blank made from graphite
Some issues with consistency in craftsmanship
The Fiblink Graphite is yet another budget-friendly option to make our list. This is a great choice if you’re looking to hook crappie, pike, walleye, trout, or perch.
Larger Grip for Winter
The Fiblink Graphite features a nice cork handle that is a little larger in size than warmer weather options to allow for a greater grip and control when wearing larger winter gloves. This grip won’t slip from your fingers when you’re finessing a fish out of the ice.
Guides of Aluminum Oxide
The Fiblink Graphite features a blank, as you might have guessed, made from graphite. You can choose between a few different blank lengths depending on the kind of fish you’re hunting. Pick up this product in a 24-inch long blank, and 30-inch long blank, or a 32-inch long blank.
The 24-inch long blank features ultra light power while the 30-inch long blank and 32-inch long blank feature medium light power.
With guides made from aluminum oxide, your line will flow seamlessly through. And you won’t have to worry about quick rust and wear and tear on the guides as they are designed to be resilient to the harsh winter weather elements.
Cost and Value
The Fiblink Graphite rings up at the bottom of our price range and we like its value because it comes in different power options and is designed specifically for winter conditions.
10. Frabill Jiggler Long
Comes with its own reel
Longer than other options on the list
Durable and sensitive
Reel is less durable/quality than pole
The Frabill Jiggler Long Rod is, as the name suggests, longer than any of the other poles on our list. It is another option that’s great for those who are looking for an inexpensively priced investment, and this puppy also comes complete with its own reel.
Comes With Its Own Reel
The Frabill Jiggler Long Rod, unlike another product on our list, comes with its own reel. The reel has a 1 to 1 ratio to the body of the pole and features a super slick design. The reel is a standard one.
Longer than Others
The Frabill Jiggler Long Rod is longer than other products on our list and is just about the maximum length that you would want your ice pole to be. It measures 48 inches long. This product is durable and sensitive.
Cost and Value
The Frabill Jiggler Long Rod rings up on the lower end of our price range and we like its value because it's a budget buy that fits a niche need.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
When making this Ten Best List, we highly considered the materials that each product is made out of. Materials matter when it comes to durability, responsiveness, power, and sensitivity.
The poles on this list are made of a few different materials.
First, and most commonly, we feature carbon fiber poles which are typically referred to as graphite. These poles are ideal when fishing for bottom feeders and when using heavier bottom lures. Plus, these poles are more sensitive as well which makes them a great companion for feeling the tiny nibbles of lethargic winter fish.
The poles made from fiberglass that we feature are ideal for larger fish where less sensitivity is needed.
Most of the products on our list have stainless steel guides which are important as they resist weathering from winter elements.
Products typically feature cork handles which are soft and comfortable, and many of these are larger to make gripping them with thick winter gloves easier. Some handles are made of special plastics to increase sensitivity on the handle so you can feel tiny tugs.
Features that we love on our products are larger grips, specialized grips (with more sensitivity and storage cavities), grips with adjustable reel holders, and poles with colorized tips so that you can more easily see when a fish is hanging around your line.
As we discuss in our FAQ below, you will need different pole lengths depending on the fish you are trying to catch. For larger fish, you’ll want to go with a rod from 28-48 inches long. For smaller fish, 18-30 inches is the ideal length. 30 inches is a good middle ground for catching both types.
Here we consider the materials that each product is made out of to determine its durability. Stainless steel guides are more durable because they resist the elements. Also, using the right pole for the right fish increases the pole’s durability as well.
Most of the poles on our list are wildly affordable. Some are bit pricier but are made from more quality materials and will last longer. We’ve worked to provide a good mix of premium quality and standard quality poles. So if you’re an experienced ice fisher, you may want to go with one of the more premium options, but someone new to ice fishing can go with a more inexpensive option at first.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Ice fishing can be an amazing outdoor activity during the cold winter months, but it can also be a dangerous one as well. Here are some must-follow tips to keep you safe on the ice.
1. Don’t go alone. You may be tempted to find some solitude, but there is safety in numbers especially when an emergency situation arises.
2. Ask an experienced local fisherman first. Don’t assume you can survey an area once and know the ins and outs of it. Water is not a static element and the ice that develops out of it has its own quirks as well. Ask someone who knows is super familiar with the area first.
3. Know the ice. Avoid ice near moving water, ice with snow on top of it, and ice that is white. Moving water and snow work to prevent freezing so ice closest to these sources may not be as strong. Also, bunches of snow can be heavy and can compromise the strength of the ice underneath. White ice is new and hasn’t frozen to its maximum strength yet. And know full well that just because an area of ice is safely frozen on one part of the lake doesn’t mean it’s frozen in all parts.
4. Listen to your surroundings. If you hear cracking ice, it’s a sign the ice is losing its strength and that you should move. Avoid this by spreading your fishing crew out. Too many people in one area can compromise the strength of the ice.
This is another safety tip. If the unthinkable should happen, having a pair of ice spikes could save your life. These are relatively lightweight and can be worn around your neck. If you fall through the ice, you can use these to dig into the ice and pull yourself out. You can also use them to punch holes in the ice allowing you to escape from underneath it as well.
Other Factors to Consider
Here we rank products on whether they are just good for small fish, just good for large fish, or good for both. Products that can be used for both rank highly in this category.
Here we think about where a product can be used. Products that can be used both in huts and on the open ice score highly in this category.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Do I really need to get an ice fishing rod?
In short, Yes. We mentioned briefly why this is the case in the introduction to this article, but we’ll go into a little bit more detail here.
Think about what you learned in your elementary science class. There are 3 forms of matter: solids, liquids, and gasses. Gases move wildly, liquids move freely, and the molecules in solids move very little. That’s what happens when water freezes, after all. But a similar effect can be noted on the fish that swim in icy waters.
Colder temperatures in the water actually slow down the metabolisms of the fish that swim there. While trout and walleyes may be feisty fish in the spring and summer, they become super lethargic and very slow moving in frozen capped waters.
What does this mean to you? It means that their movements, nips, and bites make minimal impact on your lures and lines. That’s why it’s so critical to have a pole that is incredibly sensitive. Your standard fishing pole, while providing some sensitivity for sure, is not going to provide nearly enough for you to successfully feel and reel cold water fish.
On another note, your fishing conditions are totally different on ice. For one, you’ll be fishing over a very small opening in the ice. That means you won’t be casting long reels and that you don’t need a super long pole. Or you may be fishing from a tiny hut on the ice which won’t have enough room to accommodate a larger and longer pole.
So basically having a regular fishing pole is both underkill and overkill. It will not be as sensitive as you need it to be for successfully catching those slow-moving fishies, and it will also be way too big for your small and limited ice fishing spaces.
q: Some of these products mention they are ideal for jigging. What is jigging?
When you go jigging, you are fishing with a jig. A jig is a type of fishing lure. And if you’re totally new to fishing, a lure is exactly what it sounds like--an item with one or more hooks that entices fish to bite it and get stuck.
Jigs are designed to sort of jerk up and down rather than being pulled horizontally across the water. Typically, the fish that you’re hunting when using a jig spend most of their time on the bottom of the lake that you’re fishing on.
When using a jig, you are going to want to pair it with a super sensitive pole. Why? Because you are going to want to yank that puppy up with a ton of force to make sure you secure the hook into the fish’s mouth. And you have the best chance of doing so if you can feel the fish right away.
Logically, jigging is a natural option when you are ice fishing. Because you will be wrestling with your prey in a more vertical fashion, these lures are ideal in such conditions.
q: What size pole should I get for each kind of fish?
This isn’t a simple or a one-size-fits-all answer, but there are some general guidelines to abide by here.
First of all, let’s talk space. If you are going to be in an enclosed hut on the ice, you are going to want to go with a shorter pole, period. If you are on the open ice fishing over a hole, you have a bit more liberty in the total length of your pole.
As for pole size according to species, here are our suggestions.
If you are looking to catch smaller fish like your bluegill or perch, you’re going to want to go with a smaller and lighter pole because these are going to be more sensitive. The smaller the fish, the harder it will be to feel them on a larger pole. So if these are the fish you’re after, select a product that measures between 18 inches and 30 inches long.
If you are looking to catch larger fish like your trout and walleye, then you’re going to want to go with a longer pole. These poles typically have more backbone and will help you wrestle with a fish without snapping your line. For larger fish, select a product between 28 inches long and 48 inches long.
If you are looking to catch fish both large and small, then go with a pole that is around 30 inches long. This is a good medium length that will give you both the sensitivity and backbone that you need. Of course, for the best success on the ice, you will probably want to get a shorter and longer pole.