10 Best Ice Fishing Reels: 2021 Buying Guide

Kenneth ReavesEdited by: Kenneth Reaves
Michael DarmontReviewed by: Michael Darmont

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: 13 Fishing Descent Inline Ice Reel (click to see)
“Offering a steel line guide, a cushioned reel seat, and a fiberglass construction, the 13 FISHING D2.7-LH Descent Reel is ideal for anglers looking for a high-tech ice fishing reel.”

Smoothest Performance: KastKing Summer and Centron (click to see)
“With a compact, lightweight design, robust 17.5 lb. drag system, and 9-ball bearings, the KastKing Summer and Centron is a quality ice fishing reel that operates smoothly.”

Most Versatile: Okuma Ceymar (click to see)
“Featuring a multi-disc drag system, a quick-set anti-reverse roller bearing, and it comes in various sizes, the Okuma Ceymar is for anglers searching for an ideally sized reel that suits a specific application.”

Ice fishing calls for heavy-duty gear that is specifically designed to withstand the icy cold weather and environment. Finding suitable reels for ice fishing is crucial since you do not want to spoil all the fun when your equipment fails in the middle of your fishing spree.

Top-tier ice fishing reels feature high-quality ball bearing assemblies, corrosion-resistant internal components, and robust drag systems. Additionally, they are typically designed to emit excess water to prevent freezing.

To help you decide, here are our top 10 picks for ice fishing reels in the market today.

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Best Ice Fishing Reels For The Money

Top 10 Picks

Best OVERALL

13 FISHING D2.7-LH Descent Ice Reel - 2.7: 1 Gear Ratio - Left Hand, Grey

13 Fishing Descent Inline Ice Reel

Best Overall Ice Fishing Reel

Fiberglass construction for superior corrosion resistance

New age innovation at an economical price

smoothest performance

KastKing Centron Spinning Reel,Size 500 Fishing Reel

KastKing Summer and Centron

Ice Fishing Reel with the Smoothest Performance

9-ball bearings for smooth, seamless operation

Silky smooth performance which you have to experience to believe

Most Versatile

okuma Ceymar Lightweight Spinning Reel- C-30

Okuma Ceymar

Most Versatile Ice Fishing Reel

Multi-disc, pre-oiled drag system for extensive fighting power

Comes in numerous models to meet the needs of every angler

Best Ice Fishing Combo

Shakespeare USGXICE28MCBO Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Combo, 28-Inches, Medium

Ugly Stik GX2 Rod & Reel

Best Ice Fishing Combo

Robust drag system for ample fighting power

A two for one package to assist anglers in maximizing their enjoyment on the water

Best Drag System

Diwa Spinning Fishing Reels for Saltwater Freshwater 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 Spools Ultra Smooth Ultralight Powerful Trout Bass Carp Gear Stainless Ball Bearings Metal Body Ice Fishing Reels(3000)

Diwa Spinning Reel

Ice Fishing Reel with the Best Drag System

55 pounds drag system for unparalleled fighting potential

Power you need when the fish of a lifetime is on the other end of the line

Most Lightweight

Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel

Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel

Most Lightweight Ice Fishing Reel

Lightweight design for increased angler comfort

Subdued in size but not in power

Best Budget

Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Fishing Reel - 5.2:1 Spinning Fishing Reel - 5+1 Sealed Ball Bearings- Ultra Smooth Powerful Light Weight Ice Reels (Black&Red

Piscifun ICX 5

Best Budget Ice Fishing Reel

Specialized spool for freeze prevention

Performance that fits every budget

Most Reliable

Pflueger MONICEB Monarch Ice Spinning Reel

Pflueger Monarch

Most Reliable Ice Fishing Reel

Graphite body for superior durability

Robust drag system for significant line control

Easiest To Use

Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel Right/Left Handed Fishing Raft Wheel Ice Reels (Left Handed)

Fiblink Inline Ice Reel

Easiest To Use Ice Fishing Reel

Aluminum star drag for ease of adjustment

Free-spool release for simple depth acquisition

Best High End

Frabill Straight Line 371 Ice Fishing Reel in Clamshell Pack, Black, One Size

Frabill Straight Line 371

Best High End Ice Fishing Reel

Anti-reverse bearing for unparalleled responsiveness

Limitless in both performance and features

Best Reels For Ice Fishing 2021

  1. Best Overall: 13 Fishing Descent Inline Ice Reel
  2. Smoothest Performance: KastKing Summer and Centron
  3. Most Versatile: Okuma Ceymar
  4. Best Ice Fishing Combo: Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel & Rod Combo
  5. Best Drag System: Diwa Spinning Reel
  6. Most Lightweight: Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel
  7. Best Budget Reel: Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Fishing Reel
  8. Most Reliable: Pflueger Monarch Ice Spinning Reel
  9. Easiest To Use: Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel
  10. Best High End Reel: Frabill Straight Line 371 Ice Reel

13 Fishing Descent Inline Ice Reel

Best Overall: New age innovation at an economical price

13 FISHING D2.7-LH Descent Ice Reel - 2.7: 1 Gear Ratio - Left Hand, Grey

KEY FEATURES

  • Steel line guides for improved line dispersal and retrieval
  • Fiberglass construction for superior corrosion resistance
  • Cushioned reel seat for enhanced durability

For those in search of a high-tech ice fishing reel, which is highly refined in every form, the 13 Fishing Descent Inline Ice Reel should make the perfect selection. This ice fishing reel features a cushioned reel seat, a solid fiberglass blank, and stainless steel guides. These features should be conducive to quality fishing under a wide array of circumstances.

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The 13 Fishing Descent Ice Reel features stainless steel guides, facilitating efficient line retrieval and dispersal and keeping an angler’s line free of twists and other time-consuming dilemmas. Additionally, the reel’s guides prevent the line from inadvertently becoming chaffed or damaged in any other way.

Most anglers are likely to find favor in the D2.7-LH’s fiberglass construction. Because fiberglass is not metallic, it is not prone to corrosion. This can be of immense value, as corrosion of any type is a death sentence for any reel.

KastKing Summer and Centron

Smoothest Performance: Silky smooth performance which you have to experience to believe

KastKing Centron Spinning Reel,Size 500 Fishing Reel

KEY FEATURES

  • Compact, lightweight design for enhanced angler comfort
  • Robust 17.5 lb. Drag System for improved fighting power
  • 9-ball bearings for smooth, seamless operation

If you are currently searching for a quality ice fishing reel that operates smoothly, then KastKing Summer and Centron series reels should be worthy of your consideration. This series of reels utilize a total of 9 heavy-duty ball bearings, which should provide a smooth, seamless operation, no matter the load imparted upon it.

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KastKing Summer and Centron Spinning Reels also feature a robust 17.5 lb. drag system, which should provide plenty of strength to pull even the most sizable of fish from below the ice. This system is complemented by using a hardened metal main shaft, perfect mesh drive gear, and precision machined pinion gear—the use of these rugged components further enhances reels’ durability within this series.

Anglers are also likely to appreciate the graphite frame construction of all reels within the KastKing Summer and Centron series. These frames are highly rigid yet lightweight enough to promote angler comfort.

Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel

Most Versatile: A reel that comes in numerous models to meet the needs of every angler

okuma Ceymar Lightweight Spinning Reel- C-30

KEY FEATURES

  • Multi-disc, pre-oiled drag system for extensive fighting power
  • Quick-set anti-reverse roller bearing for more efficient hook sets
  • Numerous available sizes for increased versatility

The Okuma Ceymar is available in various sizes, which should be of significant value to those searching for an ideally sized reel to suit a specific application. This reel includes numerous high-end features, such as a multi-disc, pre-oiled drag system, a quick-set anti-reverse roller bearing, and high-torque pinion gear.

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Most anglers should find significant favor in Okuma Ceymer’s multi-disc, pre-oiled drag system. This system utilizes felt-style drag washers, which are more than capable of providing sufficient resistance for smooth operation under any load.

The Okuma Ceymer spinning reels also feature an anti-corrosive anodized coating. This is of significant value, as corrosion of any type can quickly render an otherwise pristine reel inoperable. As a result, anglers are likely to find Okuma Ceymar spinning reels more durable than many alternative reels.

Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel & Rod Combo

Best Ice Fishing Combo: A two for one package to assist anglers in maximizing their enjoyment on the water

Shakespeare USGXICE28MCBO Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Combo, 28-Inches, Medium

KEY FEATURES

  • Aluminum spool for reduced weight
  • Robust drag system for ample fighting power
  • Comes with Ugly Stick Rod for added value

If you are looking for an ice fishing reel and rod combo to make your life a little simpler, then look no further than the Ugly Stik GX2 Combo. The reel in this set is of size 20 construction, features a single premium ball bearing, and is equipped with a relatively robust drag system, which provides plenty of power for pulling trophy-sized fish from below.

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The Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel & Rod Combo features a ported spool, which is exceptionally lightweight and can quickly dispel water that would otherwise lead to freezing issues. This eliminates several headaches and allows an angler to make more efficient use of their time on the water.

Anglers are also likely to find favor in the Ugly Stick reel’s durable aluminum composition. Again, this promotes angler comfort, as this best ice fishing reel is light enough in weight that hand, arm, and shoulder are of little to no issue.

Diwa Spinning Reel

Best Drag System: The power you need when the fish of a lifetime is on the other end of the line

Diwa Spinning Fishing Reels for Saltwater Freshwater 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 Spools Ultra Smooth Ultralight Powerful Trout Bass Carp Gear Stainless Ball Bearings Metal Body Ice Fishing Reels(3000)

KEY FEATURES

  • 55 LB drag system for unparalleled fighting potential
  • 14 stainless steel ball bearings for ultra-smooth operation
  • Compact, streamlined body for enhanced ease of use

The Diwa spinning reel is also of note for its first in class 55-pound maximum drag capacity. This capacity is double that of many similar reels available on today’s market and should be more than capable of powering trophy-size game fish up from beneath the ice. Additionally, the Diwa Spinning Reel’s drag is designed to operate ultra-smoothly, free of binding or dead spots.

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Most anglers should also appreciate the Diwa spinning reels lightweight, compact design. Diwa spinning reels utilize an aluminum-alloy body, which is exceptionally lightweight yet solid in construction. Weighing in at only 9.87 ounces, this best ice fishing reel should be perfect for any angler who intends to spend an extensive amount of time on the water and needs a reel that will not accelerate fatigue.

Diwa spinning reels also utilize 14 stainless steel ball bearings, which work together to provide anglers with noticeably smoother operation. This feature should favor those who frequently fish and expect the best out of their equipment.

Eagle Claw Inline Ice Fishing Reel

Most Lightweight: Subdued in size but not in power

Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel

KEY FEATURES

  • Teflon drag system for enhanced line metering capabilities
  • Lightweight design for increased angler comfort
  • Free-spool release button for more straightforward depth acquisition

The Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel should make the perfect selection for any die-hard ice fishing angler who lives, breathes, eats, and sleeps ice fishing. This reel is designed explicitly for ice fish and is outfitted with many helpful features, all of which provide duty-specific value for fishing in the coldest climates.

The most notable features include a smooth Teflon drag system, clicker, and free spool release button.

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The Eagle Claw Inline Ice Fishing Reel’s specialized Teflon drag system provides a significant degree of fish fighting power while still operating in a smooth, concise manner. This drag system also operates consistently, no matter the load that it is tasked with bearing. This can be especially helpful when battling trophy size fish that would otherwise present difficulty for less robust drag systems.

The Eagle Claw Inline Ice Reel is also extremely lightweight. This ice fishing reel weighs only .37-pounds, making it one of the lightest ice fishing reels currently available on today’s market. This should be appreciated by those that commonly jig when ice fishing, as hand and arm will be effectively minimized.

Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Fishing Reel

Best Budget Reel: Performance that fits every budget

Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Fishing Reel - 5.2:1 Spinning Fishing Reel - 5+1 Sealed Ball Bearings- Ultra Smooth Powerful Light Weight Ice Reels (Black&Red

KEY FEATURES

  • Specialized spool for freeze prevention
  • Lightweight design for improved angler comfort
  • Folding handle for ease of transport

The Piscifun ICX 5 is likely to favor anglers who have faced frustrating reel icing issues and wish to circumvent such difficulties in the future. The Piscifun ICX 5 features a specialized spool, which sheds water, thereby resisting freeze-up and corrosion of any type. This not only adds to the Piscifun ICX 5’s level of functionality but also enhances its durability.

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Anglers are also likely to be pleased with the Piscifun ICX’s graphite composition. Graphite is a superior choice for reel manufacturing, as it is incredibly lightweight yet tough beyond compare. Graphite is also naturally corrosion-resistant, thereby extending the durability of reels that utilize it in their design.

The Piscifun ICX 5 Ice Fishing Reel also features a deluxe quick folding handle, which you can fold inward in preparation for transport. As a result, anglers can travel about with little restriction as they make their way to the lake.

Pflueger Monarch Ice Spinning Reel

Most Reliable: A reel that can be counted on in any circumstances

Pflueger MONICEB Monarch Ice Spinning Reel

KEY FEATURES

  • Graphite body for superior durability
  • Quality ball-bearing arrangement for smooth operation
  • Robust drag system for significant line control

If you are currently searching for a reliable workhorse of a reel, which can be depended upon from day to day and week to week, then the Pflueger Monarch ice spinning reel should be worthy of a closer look. This ice fishing reel features a high-quality stainless steel ball bearing system, a corrosion-resistant aluminum bail, and a graphite frame. Together, these features provide anglers with a reel that they can use successfully without fear of untimely failure.

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The Pflueger Monarch’s corrosion-resistant ball bearing system is ideal for moderate to heavy use and effectively reduces rolling friction to streamline operation. As a result, Monarch spinning reels operate smoothly, free of any rough spots or periods of hesitation.

Additionally, many anglers are likely to be pleased with the Monarch’s reliable drag system. This system is designed to adequately meter line dispersal rates while under a load, which is encountered when fighting a fish of epic size.

Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel Right/Left Handed Fishing Raft Wheel Ice Reels (Left Handed)

KEY FEATURES

  • CNC machined spool for enhanced durability
  • Aluminum star drag for ease of adjustment
  • Free-spool release for simple depth acquisition

The Fiblink Inline should be the perfect selection for any angler searching for a classic-style ice fishing reel designed to incorporate numerous modern features. This reel features a premium CNC spool, an aluminum star drag, and a solid one-piece foot. Together, these features culminate to provide anglers with a top-notch ice fishing reel for the ages.

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Many anglers should find significant favor in the Fiblink Inline’s specialty CNC machined spool. This spool promotes superior line lay, thereby minimizing the risk of time consumptive line twists and tangles. In turn, this prevents several efficiency-robbing headaches.

The Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel also features a free-spool release button, which allows an angler to drop their lure to whatever depth they desire in a matter of only seconds. This gets your bait in the strike zone sooner, thereby increasing your odds of success.

Frabill Straight Line 371 Ice Reel

Best High-End Reel: A reel that is limitless in both performance and features

Frabill Straight Line 371 Ice Fishing Reel in Clamshell Pack, Black, One Size

KEY FEATURES

  • Ultra-lightweight design for superior angler comfort
  • High-quality bearing assembly for smooth operation
  • Anti-reverse bearing for unparalleled responsiveness

If you are an experienced ice fisherman looking to upgrade to one of the best ice fishing reels currently available, look no further than the Frabill Straight Line 371. This reel is of a lightweight composite design, durable and comfortable for anglers as it only weighs ½ pounds in total.

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The Frabill Straight Line 371 Reel also features a 5+1 ball bearing assembly, which promotes ultra-smooth operation. Additionally, using a high-quality anti-reverse bearing prevents unintentional line backfeed, thereby enhancing hook set efficiency.

Most anglers should be happy to know that the Frabill Straight Line 371 also comes pre-lubed from the factory. This lube provides superior wear protection without freezing. In addition, this lube is viable until temperatures drop well below zero.

What Should I Look For When Buying The Best Ice Fishing Reel

Body Design

A reel’s body serves as its attachment point with an angler’s rod and should therefore be extremely strong and resilient.

The body of an ice fishing reel is as essential as a tree’s root. Without a solid foundation, even the highest quality components will be of little use. A reel’s body must be rigid and durable, as it is forced to endure a significant amount of abuse throughout its service life.

Spool

A reel’s spool serves as the single point of connection between a reel and its line.

The vast majority of today’s reels feature spools of aluminum construction. These spools are lightweight yet extremely hearty by design and are more than capable of standing the test of time, even under the most demanding circumstances.

Handle

A reel’s handle serves as the point of input for any force asserted by an angler.

The exact style and form of a reel’s handle vary from one particular model to the next. However, a handle needs to be easy to manipulate and offer comfortable grips.

Bearing Number

The number and quality of ball bearings used in a reel’s construction directly affect the unit’s ability to operate in a smooth, seamless fashion.

A reel’s bearings facilitate its rotational movement while preventing excess free-play and wobble. Assuming that all bearings are of premium quality and absolute uniformity, a reel with a higher bearing count will operate more smoothly than a similar reel with fewer bearings.

Drag Capacity

A reel’s drag capacity dictates its ability to battle fish of sizable proportions without line slip or other problematic conditions.

A reel’s drag system uses a series of drag washers to create resistance, which meters outward line dispersal. The resistance associated with these washers is controlled through a reel’s drag adjustment and can be manipulated by an angler at any time.

Anti-Ice System

If a reel’s spool freezes solid while waiting for the next bite, a world of frustration will result.

Many of the best ice fishing reels prevent freeze-up by using a specialty-designed spool, which allows water to drain instead of collecting and freezing. However, many anglers also choose to use various non-toxic chemical treatments on their lines to further assist in these efforts.

Durability

If a reel lacks durability, it is improbable to stand up to the rigors of ice fishing for any lengthy period.

Much of a reel’s durability lies in the quality of its internal drivetrain components, bearings, and drag system. A reel will likely last for decades if all such features are built to a high degree of structural integrity. If not, there is a good chance that you will find yourself searching for a replacement reel soon.

Material

A reel is only as strong as the base material used to construct it.

The material used in the design of ice fishing reels varies from one model to the next. However, some materials are far more popular than others. Today, graphite is among the top materials used in reel design because of its durable yet lightweight characteristics.

Design

The overall design of any ice fishing reel is vital, as the quality plays a crucial role in operational efficiency, or a lack thereof.

A reel’s design should be laid out in a conducive manner to smooth, seamless operation. In addition, a reel’s frame must be rugged, and all components attached to this frame should be of the utmost quality for the unit to function optimally.

Questions & Answers

What type of reel should I use for ice fishing?

In the majority of cases, small spinning reels are used for ice fishing. These reels are most commonly within the 1000-3000 size range. This tends to be the perfect size range for wrangling fish of varying sizes, as small fish can be landed quickly, while you can play out sizable fish through strategic frag adjustment.

Additionally, many anglers choose to use ice fishing-specific reels. These reels are very similar to standard fishing reels. However, many ice fishing reels are designed to shed water that would otherwise lead to freezing and poor performance.

Can I use a regular reel for ice fishing?

You can undoubtedly use a regular reel for ice fishing. Most reels used for this purpose are of the spinning type and are somewhat subdued in size. Most commonly, these reels fall within the 1000-3000 range in size. However, larger reels can be used when specifically pursuing sizable fish such as pike.

The technical differences between ice fishing reels and regular spinning reels are relatively few and far between. However, ice fishing reels are typically built to allow water to shed from their spool, thereby preventing spool freeze-up in extremely cold conditions. This can be of immense benefit in far northern climates where winter temperatures can dip into the negatives.

Can I combine an ice fishing reel with a regular rod, or do I need a new one?

You can use ice fishing reels with standard rods. However, there are also many advantages when using an ice fishing rod that you should consider. While standard rods are most often 5-7 feet in length, ice rods are much shorter. These rods are designed in this fashion to provide greater sensitivity and control, especially considering the relative size of any hole that you will be fishing through.

In most instances, it can be challenging to control your line when standing a full 6-7 feet away from your hole in the ice. This not only complicates lure and bait presentation, but it also becomes more tedious of a chore to keep your line from skimming the rough edges of your ice hole. In turn, line damage can result.  On the other hand, shorter ice fishing rods place an angler within 1-2 feet of their hole, where sufficient line control can be achieved much easier.