Ice fishing Rod

Ice Fishing Rods: 10 Top Picks That Will Help You Catch Your Limit

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It's nearly time for ice fishing season to begin once again. Time to take stock of your fishing gear and upgrade your ice fishing rods in anticipation of hard water returning. Finding the right ice fishing rod with the correct sensitivity for the style of angling or the species you are targeting can make the difference between bringing home a mess of panfish or walleye and getting skunked completely. Don't worry, we're here to help you select the best ice fishing rod for the job. Today we're recommending a variety of rods to fit different scenarios and species. There's something here for every budget, too, so everyone can get out on the ice and land the big one this winter.

How To Choose an Ice Fishing Rod

Ice Fishing Rod

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Selecting the best ice fishing rod for the job is something many anglers overlook. Choosing the right one makes a huge difference in detecting strikes and solid hooksets. Most anglers prefer to select a rod action based on the species of fish. Most of these are rather obvious. Use a light action or ultra light action for panfish, species like yellow perch, crappies, bluegills, and sunfish. For walleye, bass, and other mid-size species, you're probably going to want the extra stiffness of a medium light or medium heavy action. Most anglers prefer a heavy action rod for larger predators like lake trout or northern pike. Those rods have the extra backbone to help tire those fighters fast and wrestle them to the hole.

Strike detection and budget can also play a part in your decision. Fiberglass rods are the most affordable and durable options available. However, they are not sensitive rods. If you prefer to visually watch for light strikes, you'll find fiberglass lacking. Fiberglass rods are also mostly only made in light to medium light action—at most, so they're not great for larger fish species. They're best used with a spring bobber, or another strike indicator, so you don't miss those light bites.

Graphite rods are the most expensive. However, they are also the most powerful and sensitive rods on the market. Rods made with a graphite blank usually include an overly sensitive tip making detecting even those lighter strikes easy. The downside is they are much more expensive and often not as rugged.

Then there are composite rods that use elements of both fiberglass and graphite. They're about the middle of the road as far as price and features go—a sort of sweet spot, if you will, between graphite and fiberglass. They do lose a little bit in sensitivity when compared to a graphite rod. The flip side is they offer increased durability. You'll also want to consider rod length when making your decision if you're using an ice shelter. Longer rods obviously become less wieldy in an enclosed space, so keep the shelters dimensions in mind when deciding what rod will be best. This obviously becomes less of a concern if you prefer to fish in the open air.

The Most Versatile Multi-Species Option

Ice Fishing Rod

Ugly Stik

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 - Amazon, $34.99 - $41.98

Many anglers know and love Ugly Stik because these rods can take a serious beating and keep on fishing. The GX2 spinning rod is a construction with one-piece stainless steel guides. Shakespeare builds this one in 26, 28, and 30-inch lengths. These lengths correspond to light, medium, and medium heavy actions, so there's something here for nearly every style of angling. We also appreciate that EVA rod handle. It makes it rather easy to grip in colder conditions. The rod is sold either alone, or as a spinning reel combo with a size 20 reel. Either way, you can't go wrong. At $35 to $42, this an extremely affordable options that's great for everything from fishing live baits for panfish to jigging for larger species.

The Most Sensitive Rod For Panfish

13 Fishing Tickle Stick - Amazon, $29 - $74

Okay, the name Tickle Stick is silly but thousands of satisfied anglers can't be wrong. This is a composite-rod available in lengths from 23 to 38 inches, and actions from super ultra light to medium. Most anglers praise the high visibility tip 13 Fishing added to this rod. It makes detecting even the lightest of strikes very easy. The only real downside, the guides are made of wire and may not hold up as well as stainless. Still, the rod has a PC2 flat tip blank construction and a custom evolve reel seat. Combine that with the Portuguese cork handle, and you've got a very ergonomic rod that makes fighting fish a lot of fun—no matter how large they are. There's a reason this is one of the most highly-reviewed rods available today.

The Best Graphite Option

Fenwick HMG - Amazon, $44.95 - $51.98

If you're looking for the power and sensitivity of carbon, the Fenwick HMG is a great choice. We like this setup for fishing jigs for walleye and salmon. This fast action rod is available in 26, 27, 28, and 30-inch lengths with medium light, medium, and medium heavy actions. Fenwick builds these rods with a solid carbon blank and stainless steel guides. This gives this rod the perfect combination of strength and lightness. At the same time, the cork handle is incredibly ergonomic for long days on the ice. For about $40 more, Fenwick sells this rod as a spinning combo, packaging it with a Pflueger Trion ice fishing reel. Simply spool it up and head out fishing.

The Best Budget Option

Eagle Claw Brave - Sportsman's Warehouse, $12.99

In terms of affordability, it's hard to beat the Brave rod. It's a fiberglass option, so it's not going to have the sensitivity of other options. However, it's also a medium action rod, and we like this one for pike and lake trout. Odds are you won't have difficulty detecting strikes with either of those fish. At only $12.99, it's a nice option to pick up if you want several rigs ready to go with different lures to quickly change things up. Eagle Claw gave this rod stainless steel guides and a contoured EVA handle, making it quite comfortable during those long days on the ice.

The Top Graphite Ice Fishing Combo

Ice Fishing Rod

Abu Garcia

Abu Garcia Veritas Ice Spinning Combo - Bass Pro Shops, $64

It was only natural for Abu Garcia to adapt their stellar Veritas rods into an ice fishing platform. This graphite rod is made from a 24-ton graphite rod blank, which is going to give it excellent sensitivity for lighter bites. For better bite-detection this rod features stainless steel guides fitted with Zirconium inserts and a high-density EVA. This rod is offered in ultra light, light, medium light, and medium powers, and rod lengths include: 26, 27, 28, and 30 inches. They also include a four-bearing reel with a 3.0:1 gear ratio, an aluminum spool, and an 80-yard capacity. We like the lighter options for finesse jigging inside a shelter and the heavier options for pike and other larger fish.

The Best Strike Indicator System

St. Croix Legend Black Ice - Bass Pro Shops, $74 to $84

The stainless steel strike indicator at the tip of this rod gives ice anglers a unique edge in detecting those lighter strikes. This system can be adjusted for different species. St. Croix includes stainless steel Pac Bay Minima guides. The rod itself is made from a solid carbon blank. The Sea Guide PNPS reel seat will keep everything solid while fighting big fish. This rod is available in 17, 24, 30, and 48-inch lengths. Rod power options include: ultra light, light, medium light, medium, and medium heavy. So, there's an option for every angling style. This rod gets high marks from users for being extremely reliable and for its sensitivity.

The Most Affordable Option For Ice Shanties

HT Enterprises Ice Blue - Sportsman's Warehouse, $14.99

These rods are specially designed for fishing from an ice shack. HT Enterprises makes several variants of this rod, from ultra light to medium action. The rod is made from a translucent fiberglass and comes with an EVA Korkalon handle. The trigger makes it extremely ergonomic for jigging for long sits on the ice. These rods are specifically for use with inline reels. These rods start at around $14.99, making them affordable for nearly any budget. We recommend picking up a couple and keeping them setup with different rigs so you can change things up on the fly.

The Best Option For Larger Fish

Calm Outdoors Genz Split-Handle Ice Rod - Bass Pro Shops, $39.99

Noted ice fisherman Dave Genz gave Clam Outdoors several pointers on how to improve its ice rods, and the company listened, producing this graphite/fiberglass composite rod. The rod is available in lengths from 28 to 40 inches and actions from medium light to heavy. We'd consider it for the biggest pike and muskie from northern lakes. These rods are fitted with stainless steel guides and a fast action tip. The uplocking reel seat helps hold the reel firmly in place for those longer fights with larger fish. This is slightly more expensive than most composite rods, but you're getting a well-balanced rod perfect for larger fish.

The Best Multi-Use Reel Seat

St. Croix Mojo Ice - Amazon, $54 - $65

This rod has a custom reel seat that St. Croix says makes it ideal for a variety of ice fishing styles and situations. The Mojo is available in ultra light, light, medium light, medium, medium heavy, and heavy powers. St. Croix covered the spectrum of ice fishing styles with this option. Also, the guides are stainless steel and extremely light. The grip is the popular spilt-grip style, cork covered with EVA foam for comfort while jigging big spoons, Rapalas, and other lures. The rod is made from a solid carbon blank that has been precision-tapered. The Mojo Ice is expensive, but most users rave about how well these rods perform during hardwater adventures.

The Rod With the Most Variants

13 Fishing Widow Maker - Amazon, $75 - $95

These graphite blank rods are on the pricey end, but 13 Fishing makes a ton of variants on the Widow Maker to suit nearly every angling style. They offer a deadstick with a reel seat handle, a Tennessee handle, and a Tennessee handle with that Tickle Stick ultra-visible tip we mentioned earlier. There is also an option with a premium Japanese EVA split grip. These rods are available in powers ranging from ultra light to medium and include thin wire guides finished with a double diamond coat. The different styles of Widow Maker make it ideal for everything from panfish to muskie. We like it for highly pressured lakes as it is going to have excellent bite detection for fish that are more cautious about taking the bait or lure.

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