The Best Ice Fishing Rods You Can Buy In 2018 – The Handy Guide

Best Ice Fishing Rods

Fishing on a frozen lake in the winter is quite a unique experience. There’s really nothing like getting up early in the morning, going to the lake, drilling a hole and setting up for a nice, relaxing morning. Much better than staying cooped up in your house all winter.

However, that being said, it’s unique in other ways and requires different gear if you want actually to catch anything. The most important thing is your rod - without using the best ice fishing rods, you’ll just waste your time. So, I’m here to help.


*Below, you’ll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

What’s Unique About Ice Fishing?

What’s Unique About Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is not just fishing in the winter through ice; it’s much more than that. It differs significantly from open water fishing.

For starters, you need to make sure the ice is thick enough to step on it safely. This is usually when it is about 4 inches thick, so keep an eye on the weather reports about the lake or river where you intend to fish. Also, make sure you've dressed appropriately if you’re fishing in the open, and not in an ice shack.

To get through the ice you’ll probably need an ice auger – though you might be able to borrow one from someone already fishing there, or there might be some open holes left over from fishers who were there before. There are both manual and mechanical augers, but the former are less likely to scare fish off.

You also have to know what kind of fish you’re gunning for and at what depth it usually resides. Ice fishing is a bit more about finesse and patience. If you throw a line and don’t get a bite, you might just need to raise it or lower it a bit to get one. Typically, you start out by dropping the line to the bottom, lifting it a few feet than waiting and lifting it some more until you get a bite.

Of course, to successfully do all this, you’ll need the right gear as well. That mostly includes some bait (live and small, preferably), a small jig, maybe a rod holder if your hands get tired or cold and lastly something to sit on.

The most important part of your equipment, however, is the ice fishing rod.

How Do Ice Fishing Rods Differ From Other Fishing Rods?

How Do Ice Fishing Rods Differ From Other Fishing Rods

When most anglers first try going ice fishing, they think it’s going to be the same as any other type of fishing, just through a hole in the ice. It’s not long before they realize how wrong they were, as they return home with no catch or worse – a broken rod. Some swear off ice fishing right then and there.

The mistake they make is thinking their usual equipment is enough, and it’s not. Long rods, like the ones used for open water fishing are a great hindrance when jigging on the ice.

The first time you pick up an ice fishing rod, it might look like something flimsy, made for a child to hold. After all, most are only around 24 to 36 inches long, and even the longer ones rarely go past 48 inches in length. However, when you’re sitting next to an eight-inch hole in the ice for hours, you will realize why they’re so small.

Since you do not cast like when fishing in open water, you don’t need a long rod, and you need to be close to the action to pull your catch through the small hole successfully. They are also more sensitive than conventional rods, allowing you to detect a bite and start pulling the fish up easily. Palm rods, used for catching the smallest of fish, feature incredibly high levels of sensitivity.

Each rod usually comes with an ice fishing reel, which comes in multiple types. Spinning reels are usually used for small fish, spincasting reels for common fish and baitcasting reels are for big game fish and fishing in deeper waters.

How To Choose The Right Ice Fishing Rod For You

There’re plenty of choices when it comes to shopping for ice fishing rods, so you might not know what to buy at first. There are a few things you should look for when picking the best rod for your needs.

First up is the length. This depends on what type of fish you’re trying to catch when ice fishing. If you’re going for a larger catch, like trout or even salmon, you want one of the bigger rods, close to 40 inches in size.

However, a rod that long will only hinder your efforts in chasing smaller fish, like walleye for example. Here, a medium sized rod would do – 24 to 36 inches. For even smaller fish you want rods of 24 inches and under.

Next up is the speed, also called the action, measured by the point where the rod bends. Fast rods bend at the tip, medium at the midsection and slow ones bend through the entire length. What you’re chasing is important here too – you want fast rods for smaller fish, medium ones for larger species. Slow rods are only used for really large fish.

Lastly is the power. The amount of force needed for a rod to bend, in other words. The fish you’re going for is also important here. The larger the fish, the stronger the rod should be. For smaller fish, however, you want lighter rods as they are more sensitive.

Top 4 Best Ice Fishing Rod Reviews On The Market 2018

Here I’ve singled out some of the best ice fishing rods currently on the market, according to my experience. I haven’t tried everything that’s out there, but this still might help some of you decide on your purchase.

*Below, you’ll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Rod


This is a rod from Shakespeare a part of their long-running “Ugly Stik” line of products. It comes in three sizes – 26, 28 and 30 inches. Their weights are, respectively, light, medium light, and medium heavy, which is important for sensitivity. The power is light, medium, and medium heavy, respectively. It comes only in medium action, however, no light or heavy variants.

It features an EVA foam handle which fits pretty nicely in hand. It’s not difficult to hold, nor prone to slipping out even when tackling stronger fish. Both the handle and the blank are very sturdy, and I had no problems with them breaking or bending in any undesirable way. Despite that, it’s surprisingly sensitive.

The guides are made of stainless steel and able to take lines up to a size of 2000 without any apparent issues. The rod also comes with a twist-lock reel seat.

The only real downside I have had to this pole is that it doesn’t come in any other sizes. I would love to have a 32 or a 34-inch version of this rod, but it is not available.

The price might also be a little steep for some.

Things I Liked

  • Good construction, very sturdy and well made.
  • More sensitive than I expected.
  • Good grip, very easy to hold.
  • Take most lines, even larger sized ones.

Things I Didn’t Like

  • Only comes in medium action.
  • Have no sizes larger than 30 inches.
  • Might be a tad expensive.

Fiblink Graphite Ice Fishing Rod (24-30 Inches Medium and Medium Light Power)


This is a rather simple but effective medium sized rod, with medium light power and medium action. It features a pretty strong and durable graphite rod blank that goes through the handle. The handle itself is a cork one, feeling pretty comfortable to hold even with cold hands in the winter. Both are very durable and not prone to breaking.

It also comes in two sizes – first, there’s the 24-inch one, weighing 2.2 ounces, and also the 30-inch one, weighing 2.3 ounces. Both are pretty good, but the smaller one is more suitable for catching both panfish and walleye.

Works well with most reels, especially a spinning reel, though the baitcasting one is not suited for it. The stainless steel guides on it are magnificent and work well with both lighter and thicker lines.

The only real, noticeable problem with the rod is that it’s a bit too stiff, not sensitive enough. If you intend on fishing for something smaller, you might not even register the bite on it, which is a big minus. However, for catching medium fish, it’s really good.

The asking price is also quite affordable to boot. Nice quality rod overall.

Things I Liked

  • Very durable and well built.
  • Comfortable handle.
  • Comes in two different sizes.
  • Lightweight.
  • Works well with most reels and lines.
  • Good, affordable price.

Things I Didn’t Like

  • Bit too stiff for the size.
  • Not sensitive enough.



This is an extra large ice fishing rod from HT Enterprises, best used for larger fish, as well as fishing while standing on the ice. It features an EVA corkalon handle with rings, a long fiberglass light action rod, with a sensitive fluorescent orange tip.

For the most part, this is a rather well built and sturdy stick, capable of helping you tackle some of the bigger catch while ice fishing. However, it might be a bit too sensitive for that as you can unintentionally pull up smaller fish or nothing at all without intending to. That might be just because I’m used to bigger rods being less sensitive than this.

The guides are made of stainless steel as per usual – however, I have had a few problems with the line slipping out of them when tackling larger game, as they are not well spaced and are non-adjustable on the model I have. That doesn’t happen too often but is still annoying. No apparent way to fix it exists, either.

Other than that, it is a perfectly serviceable rod for the price. Decent for beginners used to bigger rods.

Things I Liked

  • Not too pricey.
  • Sturdy and well built, not prone to breaking.
  • Very sensitive to its size.

Things I Didn’t Like

  • Might be a bit too sensitive for its size and intended use.
  • The guides are not well spaced so the line keeps slipping out.

Clam 9167 Genz Split Handle Medium Action Rod, 30-Inch


Here we have a rod by Clam, 30 inches in length featuring medium action, and a really peculiar design. Namely, the graphite-wrapped fiberglass rod blank extends from the tip to the butt of the stick, and the handle is designed in such a way that it “splits” near the bottom, revealing a part of the blank. This allows for some greater sensitivity, as you can hold onto the exposed part of the blank in order to better feel when a fish bites. The grip is also well made and comfortable for longer fishing sessions, as well as rather tough - allowing you to tackle larger catch.

The stick also features a stainless steel guide framed with chrome rings, capable of holding most lines in place without a hitch, even the thicker ones. It also works with any type of reels really.

The only real issues I have with it are the unorthodox handle design that takes some getting used to and is not good for beginners and the price. It’s a really expensive rod for what it offers, and I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Things I Liked

  • Increased sensitivity with the split handle design.
  • Sturdy and durable.
  • Works well with most lines and reels.

Things I Didn’t Like

  • The handle design takes some getting used to.
  • Really expensive for what it offers.
  • Only comes in medium action.

My Pick

In the end, one of these rods came through for me more times than the others, and that is undoubtedly the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2. It offers the best quality for the price and is the most reliable of any rod listed here – I rarely, if ever, had a line slip out while using it or had a missed fish bite. Sure, that means I sometimes catch smaller fish than intended, but that’s better than getting nothing at all.

Overall, I’d say it’s one of the better fishing rods I’ve used and I keep coming back to it. I only wish it came in larger sizes so I could use it for getting some larger game, but alas.

Anyway, I hope this helped you in making your choice and getting into ice fishing, as it’s a great activity. Just stay safely on the ice, and good luck.


I'm Brenda. I have a great love with fishing and the wonderful fish species. I created the website - Fall For Fishing - as an outlet for my love of Fishing and I hope that you may find some enjoyment learning from my Fishing articles.

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