Picking the right ice fishing rod will make all the difference for your day on the ice. High-quality rods that are matched for your fishing style and for the catch of the day mean more fish landed and a more pleasant experience. Let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll want to look for to make sure you get one of the best ice fishing rods.
Our Picks for the Best Ice Fishing Rods in 2020
- Berkley Lightning Rod Ice Fishing Spinning Combo
- Shakespeare Ugly Stik
- Fenwick AETOS Ice Fishing Spinning Rod
- St. Croix Mojo Series Ice Fishing Rod
- Abu Garcia Venerate Ice Fishing Spinning Combos
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Ice Fishing Rod
According to Tackle Warehouse, graphite, fiberglass, and composites are the primary materials used to make ice fishing rods. While graphite is the most expensive, it is also the material of choice. It provides amazing strength in a smaller package, and therefore retains excellent action qualities.
The choice of material comes down to the individual fisherman. If you are looking for an extremely sensitive rod that will show nibbles and small strikes, graphite is the way to go. If you are using other strike indicators, fiberglass rods will do just fine.
Choosing the action of a rod is all about thinking about what species you are after. According to many experts, ultra-light rods are best for panfish. Mid-sized catches like perch would best be caught on light rods, while light to medium action rods are great for trout or walleye. For bigger catches like pike, consider a heavy rod.
Ice fishing rods have space constraints that other fishermen don’t. If you are fishing in an enclosure on the ice, you can’t swing around a six-foot rod inside your hut.
Because shorter rods provide less leverage, you will have to compensate with your arms and line drag. Fishing with small rods can be a lot of fun, however, and can make even the smallest catch a fight.
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Many fishing poles feature foam handles with may be less than ideal for ice fishing. The foam may absorb some water, which could freeze. Foam and plastic materials also insulate you from the action of the rod.
Look instead for cork handles or custom graphite handles. These materials do not absorb water, and they transfer action very well. Also look for rods that have the blank running completely through the handle all the way to the end for the best action transfer to handle and your hand.
Don’t overlook the line guides on the rod. The number and quality of eyes on the rod will dictate how well it bends, and more eyes will lead to smoother drops and retrievals. Favor a rod with more eyes, five or six being ideal.
For more information about choosing the right ice fishing rod, check out this video:
Best Ice Fishing Rods Reviews
1. Berkley Lightning Rod Ice Fishing Spinning Combo
This great little rod from Berkley comes equipped with a spinning reel, making the perfect ice fishing package. Built on a graphite blank, these rods are smooth and strong. They include cork grips, providing a great feel, and include up-locking reel seats. The rods have five guides for smooth retrievals, and the stainless steel guides are 20 times more robust and 55% lighter than traditional ones.
The Berkley Lightning ice fishing combos are available in 24-, 28-, or 32-inch versions, with actions of ultra-light, medium light, or medium-heavy respectively. The included Berkley reel features a basic 1 ball bearing system. The spool is aluminum. The foam handle on the reel is convertible to either left or right hand retrieve.
The Berkley Lightning combo is a great value. The reel balances perfectly with this all graphite rod for the ultimate ice fishing setup.
- Graphite construction
- Cork handle
- Five stainless guides
- Combo includes spinning reel
- Factory tested for dependability and quality
- No heavy action rods available
- Limited choices or size compared to other brands
2. Shakespeare Ugly Stik
Shakespeare’s Ugly Stik brand has been around for a while in the fishing world, and it hasn’t achieved such longevity without good reason. These Shakespeare rods are sturdy and reliable, made from a composite of graphite and fiberglass. The handle is EVA foam, and the clear rod tip is made for extra sensitivity and strength. The high-quality stainless guides are formed in one piece, and the rods include either four or five of them, depending on length.
The Ugly Stik Ice Fishing Spinning Rod comes in 26-inch light, 28-inch medium light, and 30-inch medium heavy versions. And, the rod comes with a spinning reel included in the package. The reel features 1 ball bearing system and has an aluminum spool for added durability and lighter weight.
Ugly Stik rods present an excellent value for fisherman looking to add a simple rod to their collection. They don’t have all the bells and whistles of other brands, but they get the job done.
- Great value overall
- Stainless guides
- Comes with spinning reel included
- Combination materials mean less strength and a solid graphite rod
- Foam grip insulated you from rod action
3. Fenwick AETOS Ice Fishing Spinning Rod
This Fenwick rod is available in pretty much any size and any action you could desire. They are made of high modulus solid graphite blanks and use high-quality cork handles and stainless guide inserts. The AETOS rods are built for maximum sensitivity and balance.
The AETOS comes in: 18-inch ultra-light, 21-inch light, 25-inch medium, 25-inch ultra light, 28-inch medium, 28-inch medium light, or 30-inch medium heavy versions.
The Fenwick AETOS is an attractive and well-built rod with all the right features. It’s available in the right range of sizes to suit any fisherman and any catch.
- Strong and sensitive
- Many size options
- Cork handle
- Graphite construction
- Manufacturer’s limited lifetime warranty
- Pricier than other options
4. St. Croix Mojo Series Ice Fishing Rod
The St. Croix Mojo rods feature a solid carbon blank with a precision taper for the maximum strength and sensitivity. They also have lightweight stainless guides and a custom reel seat that is great for all styles of fishing. Furthermore, the handle has a premium split-grip combination of cork and EVA foam.
The Mojo series rods come in 24-inch, 28-inch, 32-inch, 34-inch casting, and 36-inch versions. Multiple actions are available from ultra-light to heavy.
If you’re looking for a rod for open ice fishing, the St. Croix Mojo should be on your list. Available in 36-inch versions for bigger catches, this rod makes a versatile addition to any angler’s collection.
- Many sizes and action choices
- Solid carbon blanks
- Longer options available
- Combo cork/EVA split handle
- Expensive option
5. Abu Garcia Venerate Ice Fishing Spinning Combos
The Abu Garcia Venerate rods are a great choice if you’re looking for the fastest actions and light tip. These solid carbon rods are lightweight and super durable. The high-quality, comfortable all cork handle transfers action well and the five guides are high quality stainless with zirconium inserts.
The Venerate ice fishing rod comes in 23-inch ultra-light, 25-inch light, 27-inch medium-light, and 29-inch medium variants. The included Abu Garcia ICEMAX spinning reel is one of the best ice fishing reels available on the market. It features a 3 + 1 bearing system and low-temperature gear lube suitable for ice fishing. The extended reel stem provides excellent comfort even if fishing with ice fishing gloves. And, the collapsible reel handle makes the reel very compact and easy for storage.
The Abu Garcia Venerate is a well-made carbon rod that has all the right features. The combo comes with an ice reel that is balanced on the rod, making it a good value to add another size or action to your rod bucket.
- Solid carbon rod
- Five stainless steel guides with zirconium inserts
- Excellent value for high-quality rod and reel combo
- Receives overall excellent custom reviews
- More expensive than rods alone if you already own the reel