The success of any ice fishing trip is just as dependent on the gear as it is your skills (or luck!). Whether you are a beginner or an expert on ice fishing, the gear you use is undeniably important, and you would be wise to seek the highest quality equipment that you can get your hands on.
Here Is The Ice Fishing Gear You Will Need
1. Ice Fishing Rods
First and foremost, you’re going to need a rod. But you shouldn’t make the mistake of choosing just any fishing rod and using it for ice fishing. This is because there are rods designed specifically for ice fishing, and these are the rods you want to go with.
For example, ice fishing rods tend to be built out of much more durable materials in contrast to other kinds of rods–usually industrial strength graphite or even stainless steel. The most important aspect to look for in an ice fishing rod is one that will be durable and hold your fish.
Most people, especially beginners, make the mistake of choosing a rod that is too flimsy – the worst thing that an ice fisher could imagine is having their rod be the reason they lose out on a great fish. Think about it: you put in all of that concentration, hard work, logistics to even get there, and finally get a fish on the line – then, your flimsy ice fishing rod snaps or breaks, and your adventure is over.
One example of a high quality ice rod that you can go with is the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2. The Ugly Stik Ice Rod is a stainless steel ice fishing rod that also comes with an EVA foam handle (also called a Duplon), as opposed to a cork handle.
EVA foam is dense and durable, while cork tends to be lighter and could be said to transmit vibrations more effectively. Cork is also much more sensitive than EVA foam material. But, if you wish to go for an EVA handle rod, the Shakespeare Ugly Stik is your tool. The best aspect of the Ugly Stik rod, however, is its affordability, as it only costs around twenty dollars at most retail stores.
Another great option for beginners or short-term users would be the 13 Fishing White Noise rod. This ice fishing rod is easy to use, and relatively simple to figure out. That being said, this does not take away from its ability to perform. The 13 Fishing White Noise rod is basic and lightweight, yet durable. Perhaps not as long-lasting as more expensive rods on the market, but this rod will certainly make you through the ice fishing season.
The 13 Fishing White Noise is outfitted with a cork handle. Yet, the rod is also extremely comfortable. The company offers a variety of different weights, raging from ultra light to medium. This allows you to “choose your own destiny” in terms of sensitivity, while not compromising comfort.
Better yet, the 13 Fishing White Noise is highly rated as a great value. Give this rod some serious consideration if you are new to ice fishing, looking for a temporary rod for a trip out of state, or if you like to keep it simple. This ice fishing rod might be basic in design, but there is nothing basic about the performance you will get out of the 13 Fishing White Noise rod.
2. Ice Reels
Next, you will need an ice fishing reel – one that is appropriate for your specialized ice fishing rod. Often, this means something lightweight and easy to control. In cold weather (which you can certainly expect during ice fishing), most people prefer or swear by a sensitive system – this way, you can bring awareness into your hands and arms, which you might lose from the cold.
There are three main types of ice fishing reels: 1) inline reels, 2) spinning reels and 3) baitcasting reels. The differences are described below:
Inline Reels: These reels are often compared to fly fishing reels – except, suited for ice fishing season and rods. Most fly fishers prefer to use this style of reel. The inline reel is positioned in line with the rod, on the underside of the rod, with a feeding spool.
Spinning Reels: Spinning reels are also positioned on the bottom of the rod, but they are open faced with a fixed spool.
Baitcasting Reels: Baitcasting reels are the heaviest of all three types, which means you should consider exploring another type if you have a lighter rod – again, you want to avoid snapping the rod, especially in the colder weather. These types of reels also are much more complex, making it difficult to use if you are a beginner.
All that aside, the baitcasting reel could make for an exceptional ice fishing experience if you are able to use one. Baitcasting reels are well known for aiding the catch of larger fish – which could make investing in one of these reels worth your while.
The Eagle Claw inline ice fishing reel is highly rated amongst ice fishers. This reel is affordable, coming in a variety of colors for less than $25.
The Eagle Claw is also easy to use, and contains a free spool release button, while also allowing you to adjust the spool tension. This makes for a smooth and successful experience ice fishing. The downside, however, is that parts of this reel are made with plastic, which may affect the product’s durability.
Another affordable option is the Celsius Blizzard, coming in at less than $20. Do not let the price fool you, though – this reel is highly rated for its easy-to-use features. The spool is made from aluminum, making it a bit more durable than its counterparts. The spool also has a relatively large capacity.
The Celsius Blizzard is also reversible, allowing the user to switch if left-handed.
3. Ice Fishing Line
Now that you have your ice fishing rod and reel, you will need a fishing line. You will definitely need a specialized fishing line made for ice fishing, due to the colder temperatures you will find yourself in. It’s worth your investment, however, as the good news is that ice fishing lines are easier to manage than regular fishing lines in the cold weather.
There are many types, so depending on what situation you see yourself encountering, you will need to decide which one best fits your needs. Manufacturers offer a variety of options, including nylon, monofilament, brains, copolymers, and fluorocarbons. Let’s explore some of these options so you can be equipped for your next adventure:
The Suffix Ice Magic is a monofilament line, top-rated for its light buoyancy. This line is soft and allows for better technique in your cast. However, the downside is that some sensitivity is lost with its light weight, and it is not as durable in cold weather as other types of lines (such as braids or fluorocarbons).
The Berkley FireLine Micro Ice line is top-rated. It is a braided line, which gives you an advantage in strength. The line will be thin as hair, but withstand more weight due to the braided structure. The FireLine Micro Ice is highly recommended for deeper water ice fishing.
The last point piece of your fishing rig to think about are your ice fishing lures. This can be highly technical and nuanced, depending on the location, time of year, time of day, what fish you are targeting, and a million other things.
You can certainly find lures that are marketed as “ice fishing jigs” for instance, but as far as actual lure construction, there are not too many fundamental differences between regular lures, and lures for ice fishing.
The Northland Forage Minnow is top-rated for being long lasting. It is a jigging lure, mimicking a minnow. Most users also find that this design assists them in making more catches than without the Forage Minnow.
5. Ice Fishing Boots
It should go without saying that, in order to embark on an ice fishing adventure, you will also need the proper clothing. What use is all of the gear if you freeze to death? The importance of keeping your feet warm cannot be understated – this is the foundation to keeping the rest of your body warm from the snow and ice (and perhaps cold water) beneath you.
Cabela’s Predator Extreme Pac boots are pricey, coming in at nearly $190 – but the consensus is that they are worth every penny. They are equipped with 1,200 gram Thinsulate Ultra Insulation, 9mm Texel liner, and a Dry-Plus barrier – ensuring that the ice fishing athletes that wear these boots will be ready for the coldest temperatures. These boots also double as late-season hunting boots for colder weather.
These versatile boots are well-known to not only be warm and insulating, but also extremely comfortable. The design even affords space for a heat pack near the toes.
The Predator Extreme Pac Boots are specifically designed by Cabela’s to insulate your feet and avoid moisture from seeping in. However, if the boots do get wet, the moisture-wicking liner and removable Moisture Trap footbed inside the boot came be pulled out to dry.
One thing is certain, which is that Cabela’s really put a lot of thought into not only the boot design, but also the people who would wear them and the situations for which they would be used.
If Cabela’s Predator Extreme Pac Boots are out of your budget, you might opt for a cheaper, yet another high-quality option: the Sorel Men’s Caribou Boots.
These boots come in at $150.00, but again, worth the investment. When it comes to keeping your feet warm, and in turn, keeping your adventure going, the warmth is worth the price.
The Caribou boots are equipped with handcrafted waterproof rubber shells, waterproof full-grain leather uppers, ThermoPlus felt inner boots to provide warmth, and Aerotrac outsoles to deliver great traction. In other words, these boots are waterproof, warm, and great for walking through icy terrain to get to your catch.
These boots are well-known for keeping your feet warm in single digit or below zero temperatures. Like the other style by Cabela’s, the Caribou boots can be worn for late-season hiking as well.
Plus, these boots are well known to be long-lasting, and some people have said the boots last from 25 to 35 years! This alone makes the Sorel Caribou Boots worth every penny.
If you are going to be in cold weather, especially fishing, you are going to want to invest in a good quality ice fishing bib for the snow and cold. Some things you want to look for in an ice fishing bib are insulation and waterproofing – keeping you warm and dry.
If possible, try to get a floating ice fishing suit – anything can happen, especially if you are walking on thin ice. This alone can help to save your life if a serious situation submerges you under cold water.
The Frabill I3 Bib is top-rated for its durability and warmth. The bib is made from 500 denier nylon, with a 300 denier nylon exterior. It’s adjustable, like most bibs, but what stands out is that the I3 bib is made with extra padding around the knees and seat.
In terms of safety, this bib contains rescue features, such as a drainage mesh, ice pick hoslter, and safety labeling. This bib hits all the marks – insolation, waterproofing, and safety features – making it a great option for all ice fishers.
7. Fish Finders and Ice Fishing Flashers
While a fish finder could easily be the most expensive investment in an ice fishing expedition, a fish finder is essential. It takes a lot of effort to go out in the cold weather, trekking through icy and snowy conditions, lugging all your gear, wearing heavy clothing, to sit and fish for however long it takes. A fish finder makes the experience more pleasant, and easier.
At the end of the day, you want to catch a fish! A fish finder is an electronic unit to help alleviate the problem of finding exactly where you should fish through ice. It’s important to get a unit that has ice fishing sonar, so that the ice doesn’t interfere.
Although there are tons of options on the market, one of the best in our opinion is the Garmin Striker 4. Weighing in at 8.1 ounces, and right at 100 dollars, this fish finder is worth the hype.
First, it is easy to use, which is always a plus when your time is valuable. It can be adjusted and is quiet versatile – it can be used not only in the ice, but also on a boat. The LCD display offers no glare, which is nice on sunny days (either with reflection off the ice or in warmer weather).
Ice fishing flashers serve the same purpose and are similar in many ways to fish finders. To use a flasher, you first drop the transducer into the hole, ideally so that it is sitting lower than the ice. In order to get the most clear and accurate picture, you will need to adjust the range and the gain, until you can see your bait (but barely). Once you have these settings fine-tuned, you will be able to easily tell when a fish is near (or taking your bait). Many units also have an easy to use zoom feature, for even better visibility.
Some people swear that fish flashers give you a faster read than an LCD model fish finder, but honestly, the difference is negligible. Fish finders also have the advantage of being usable in the summer, and they are quite a bit cheaper (plus they don’t make a continuous noise like the flashers do).
Unless you’re a die hard with too much money, get an LCD fish finder and get on with life.
Now that you’ve found the perfect spot to set up (thanks to your fish finder), you will need an auger to drill holes through the ice and gain access to the depths below.
The Eskimo Hand Ice Auger is the best ice auger for a budget. It’s hand-operated and simple, yet effective. The auger comes in three blade sizes, ranging from 6 to 8 inches.
The Nils Master UR600C cordless drill auger is popular for its ability to hook onto virtually any hand drill. That makes the auger relatively light weight, but keep in mind you must also bring your drill. It also makes this auger faster than others. The performance is also on-point – Nils Cordless Drill auger can cut deep. The downside? This auger is upwards of $200.
As opposed to running on gas, the Jiffy 44PRO propane auger is powered by propane. This specific auger is quiet, and its handle design allows you to use the auger even with gloves on.
The Ion 40V electric ice auger is also relatively quiet – and it’s lighter than alternatives. The Ion electric auger does not require trips to fill up propane – instead it features a 40V lithium-ion battery, which is said to last up to 1,000 inches of ice. The only downside is that this auger will not be as effective as others for digging through ice that thick.
9. Ice Fishing Sleds
So, you’ve got your rod and equipment, your warm waterproof clothing, and your technical gear. How do you haul it all out to your fishing spot across the ice or in the snow?
An ice fishing sled obviously! A sled is relatively simple, but essential. If you’re getting an ice fishing tent (see below), then many of them will actually come with their own sleds.
If not, the Shappell 54” Jet Sled is an affordable sled that people love. It rings in at less than $50 gets the job done. ‘Nuff said.
If you’ve got the right gear, you’re going to love ice fishing in addition to your other seasonal recreation activities. Like others who appreciate the outdoors, you might want – or need – to camp out in order to reach your prime fishing position. In this case, you’ll need a weather-appropriate tent. Some folks will opt for a slightly more substantial ice fishing house or shanty, but these cost more, and can be tougher to transport. For these reasons, we like the ice tents.
The Eskimo QuickFish 2 is the best budget item on the market for ice fishing. Ringing in at roughly $140, this tent does not compromise on quality. It is heavy-duty and stable, even in high winds – but only adds 18 pounds in weight to your pack. The downside? Getting this tent back in its pack after a day of ice fishing.
If you have a bit more to spend, you might consider investing in a thicker, warmer, more insulated tent like the Eskimo Quickfish 3i. The tent is made with 300 denier Icetight fabric, is insulated, and occupies larger dimensions than the Quickfish 2. The downside here? It weighs in at 34 pounds versus lighter, perhaps also sufficient, options.
11. Tip Ups
If you want to be able to increase the action of ice fishing a little bit by being in more than one place, “tip ups” are a great way to do it. Simply put, tip ups are flag indicators that literally tip up when you have a fish on the line. As a fish takes the bait, the flag snaps up, and you know you have a fish at that hole.
If this sounds like it’s up your alley, then just think that instead of drilling 1 hole with your auger, you drill several different holes in different spots, and then set a tip up over the top of each. Each tip up has its own spool of line, hook, and bait, so obviously there is a little more cost involved if you will be fishing tip ups (plus the cost of the tip up itself).
Another pretty cool benefit is that in addition to helping you cover more ice, tip ups also let you experiment with different bait. Spread your holes over an area, and then choose a handful of different baits to see what the fish are eating. You can always use a jig (or other lure) for the hole that you’re actually going to fish.
What’s the best tip up? There are a bunch out there these days–some fancier than others. Honestly though, we like to keep it real and just use the old school wooden Beaver Dams. They’re made well and work great. Get yourself a few of these, and get ready to multiply the action.
Ok the concept here is pretty simple right? It’s frickin’ freezing in the winter, even if you’re not standing over ice and water! And to top it off, if you’re having any action at all, your hands will be getting wet when you pull fish out of the water and take the hooks out.
Ice fishing gloves keep your hands warm….or at least not quite as freezing as they would be. They are usually made of neoprene (think wetsuit material). They also usually have a couple of the fingers cut, so that you can slip your fingers out to more easily tie a lure or otherwise work with your line.
Any beginner who has been a couple of times with regular gloves will tell you that getting a good set of actual ice fishing gloves is critical to enjoying yourself on fishing trips. If you’re looking for a solid, all-around ice fishing glove, it’s hard to go wrong with Glacier Glove’s “Perfect Curve.” These gloves are inexpensive, waterproof, and allow a fantastic range of motion (hence the name “Perfect Curve”).
As we discussed previously, the gear that you select for ice fishing is very critical in determining the success of your trip. Ice fishing is no joke – without the proper gear, clothing or equipment, made specifically for colder weather, you could risk a terrible time or even a serious incident.
On the other hand however, there is such a thing as too much technology. Some of the thrill of the outdoors is the unpredictability and the possibility of failure. Fish finders, tip ups, and other specialized gear definitely make ice fishing easier and more action packed, but they can also suck out the soul. Just something to keep in mind as you enjoy this wintertime addiction!
Fortunately, in reading this article, you now not only know the basic types of gear that you are going to need for your ice fishing trip, but you also know the specific makes and models of each of those pieces of gear that you would be wise to consider as well.
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