The 10 Best Ice Fishing Rods for 2023 Winter Fishing

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The key to a successful fishing experience has the right gear. Choosing the best ice fishing rods can make all the difference when it comes to catching fish through the ice.

In this blog post, we’ll provide you with a list of our 10 favorite rods for winter fishing, so you can be ready to hit the ice when the time comes!

Top 10 Ice Fishing Rods

Tip! Check out our other ice fishing gear guides if you’re just getting started.

10 Best Ice Fishing Rods Reviewed

  • Abu Garcia Venerate
  • 13 Fishing Widow Maker Evolve
  • St. Croix Mojo Series Ice Fishing Rod
  • Fenwick Elite Tech
  • Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2
  • Frabill 6986 Combo
  • Atataka Ice Fishing Rod
  • Fiblink 2-Piece Portable Travel Ice Fishing Rod
  • Berkley Cherrywood HD Ice Fishing Rod
  • Shakespeare Wild Series Ice Fishing Spinning Rod

1. Abu Garcia Venerate

Best Ice Fishing Rod Combo

If you don’t already have an ice fishing reel that you love, it might be worth jumping and getting this solid ice fishing combo by Abu Garcia.

This is a solid carbon blank with stainless steel guides that have been upgraded with zirconium inserts.

The ultra-light is great for panfish and small trout. It’s well-balanced, and the reel has a smooth rotation. It’s comfortable to hold for long periods, and the rod is strong yet sensitive. This also makes a great ice fishing gift.

2. 13 Fishing Widow Maker Evolve

13 Fishing ice rods are stellar! If you’ve been ice fishing for some time and would like to move away from the budget rods, this would be the next best step up.

It’s a graphite blank that has great action. The cork handle is comfortable, and the guides are Alps thin wire double diamond guides, which are a nice step away from the generic stainless still guides found on cheaper ice rods.

3. St. Croix Mojo Series Ice Fishing Rod

We’re a huge fan of St Croix ice rods. St Croix continues to put out quality products year after year.

Consider using this rod if you’re looking to go after bigger fish like walleye, pike, whitefish, or lake trout. It’s sensitive enough to feel the slightest nibbles yet has enough backbone to hoist the big fish from the bottom. Walleyes ice fishing just got a lot more fun with this rod.

This is a popular rod and one you’d likely buy again throughout the years.

4. Fenwick Elite Tech

This is a very popular graphite ice fishing rod made by a company that knows a thing or two about catching fish. This rod is super sensitive and has a strong backbone with a quick tip. You might need a spring bobber if you’re going for small fish, but overall this is a great rod for your arsenal.

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Best of all, it was not expensive. It’s not every day you get a quality rod at a good price.

5. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2

Best Beginner Rod

If you’ve never tried an Ugly Stik, then you’re missing out. These rods are darn near indestructible and will stand up to multiple years of abuse. If for some reason, you are able to wear through or break it, they are so well priced that picking up another is not a problem.

What’s better is this rod comes with a reel that will also stand up to a beating. This is the best beginner rod, especially if you are looking for long-lasting gear selling at an affordable price.

6. Frabill 6986 Combo

Here’s another extremely reasonably priced ice fishing rod and reel combo made by Frabill. Even if you’re fishing in sub-zero conditions, you can rest assured this rod will deliver. It comes with an ultra-sensitive micro spring bobber to sense when you have the slightest activity on your line.

Best of all, it comes at a price that might have you buying two just because you love them so much!

7. Atataka Ice Fishing Rod

If you’re looking for a little more sensitivity for your panfish bite, then check out this Atataka rod. It has a sensitive tip that should help you sight fish as well.

It’s flexible and has a strong backbone. The reel seat is nice, and the cork handle is comfortable. The orange tip is a nice feature to see the tip moving against the snow.

This will be your rod if you’re looking to put a bunch of bluegills, crappie, and even some largemouths in the cooler.

8. Fiblink 2-Piece Portable Travel Ice Fishing Rod

Sometimes you need to travel to find a hot bite in the cold weather. If you’re not looking to lug your expensive gear, you should look at this new Fiblink travel ice fishing rod.

It’s a carbon composite rod that is light and sensitive. You’ll be able to catch everything from perch, walleye, trout, and panfish. Best of all, it has an old-school pistol grip vibe which is more unique than anything we’ve seen in a while. It’s definitely worth a look!

9. Berkley Cherrywood HD Ice Fishing Rod

If you’re looking to start ice fishing and don’t want to spend a lot of money on gear, you need to check out this Berkley Cherrywood HD. Pair it up with a small 500-size reel with some light monofilament, and you’ll be all set to catch some small panfish on the water.

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This rod is made from a 100% fiberglass ice fishing rod blank and comes with a comfortable cork handle. It has three guides, so it’ll be a bit better against freezing if you’re fishing outside.

This ultra-light can bring in crappies up to 22 inches. It’s also affordable, so if you break it, you won’t break your bank by replacing it.

10. Shakespeare Wild Series Ice Fishing Spinning Rod

If you’re looking for a comparable rod to the Berkley Cherrywood HD, but want more guides because you’ll be fishing inside your ice shed, then this is worth your consideration.

It’s made from fiberglass and comes with stainless steel guides for added durability. It has a light tip and a strong backbone.

This rod will have no problem bringing in walleye up to 27 inches on the medium power model. It’s a great walleye rod!

How to Choose the Best Ice Fishing Rods

There are some general rules of thumb to decide what type of setup you’ll need for ice fishing. We’ve listened to experts to see what they like to use so that you can determine what to get prior to hitting up your local shop or buying online.

Note: just FYI, it’s an ice fishing rod, not an ice fishing pole.

Generally, we’ll bucket our setups between panfish and larger fish. There are many ways to catch fish, but follow these guidelines if you have to start from scratch.

Ultralight Fiberglass Rod Setup

If you’re looking to catch panfish, including perch or bluegill, and want to use micro baits, you should get an ultralight ice fishing rod 18-24 inches in length.

You’ll want to pair that rod with the following:

  • 500-size ice fishing reel
  • 2-6lb mono/fluoro or
  • 5 lb braid

Ultralight Ice Fishing Graphite Rod Setup

Sometimes fiberglass just won’t cut it in terms of sensitivity. Therefore, if you’re planning on going jigging for small walleye, crappie, bluegill, or rock bass, you should get an 18-24 inch rod fishing in your ice hut or 28-30 inches you’re fishing outside.

You’ll want to pair that rod with the following:

  • 1000 size reel
  • 2-6lb mono/fluoro
  • 5-8 lb braid
  • ML with fast action
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This setup will be super sensitive, so we like it for jigging. For an even more feel, try using a 5-pound braid with a four-foot fluorocarbon leader.

Bigger Fish Ice Rod Setup

If you’re in an area where you can go for bigger fish, you’ll need another setup entirely. If you plan to go for whitefish, walleye, lake trout, or other monsters, then you should look at a medium to medium-heavy rod.

You’ll want to pair that rod with the following:

  • 2500-size reel or
  • Baitcaster 150-200 size
  • 4-10lb mono/fluoro
  • 5-10lb braid
  • 28-36inch length when fishing outside
  • 18-24 inside the tent

Again, feel free to use a braid with a fluorocarbon leader if you want a bit more sensitivity. Your way to select the right rod stiffness for the size fish you’re going after. Problems happen when you don’t dial this in properly.

Fiberglass vs. Graphite Ice Rods

When you’re choosing your ice fishing rod blank, you’ll likely be deciding between fiberglass and carbon fiber.

Fiberglass blanks are:

  • super soft
  • great for live bait and micro presentations

Graphite blanks are:

  • a little stiffer
  • great for working baits

Ultralight vs. Medium vs. Medium-Heavy

Make sure you match rod power to the size of the fish you’re targeting.

  • Ultralight to light: target panfish
  • Medium to Medium-Heavy: target walleye, lake trout, pike, white fish

Walleye Ice Fishing Rig

Walleyes are a fun fish to target and are a bit special. They need a good rod and reel to bring these fish to the surface.

They should have a solid backbone rod with a quality reel and drag. This will allow you to achieve a good hookset and to be able to play a fish properly. Make sure you drill a proper size hole in the ice or use an ice chisel to make an opening to get out your catch!

Guides

The worst thing that can happen when fishing is your guide freezing up. This can be quite frustrating and can damage your line if you’re not careful.

Usually, when guides are too small and it’s super cold outside, they’ll freeze up. The opposite of small guides are big guides, which can be nice, but tend to be clunky and take away from the balance of the ice rod.

You’ll also find that the bigger the guides, the less there are on the rod.

When possible, go with more guides for a better rod bend. If it’s freezing and you’re fishing outside, go with bigger guides.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>