Best Ice Fishing Reels in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

Ice Fishing is becoming more and more popular by the day. A lot of people would prefer to pack up their things and head north to stay in freezing temperatures and relax as far from human interaction as possible. 

In order to achieve a successful fishing trip in such conditions, you will need specific gear and equipment that can withstand freezing wind and waters. You also need to remember that with ice fishing, you don’t cast, so you will need longer threads, stronger rods, and antifreeze reels with oversized handles on them. 

Throughout this article, we will show you the best ice fishing reels and why they gained their rightful place on our list.

List of the Best Ice Fishing Reels:

  • KastKing Summer- Best Overall
  • Eagle Claw InLine – Lightest Reel
  • Abu Garcia ICEMAX 4842-1331 – Best Portable Reel
  • Daiwa D-Spin Ultralight – Best Budget 
  • Pflueger MONICEB Monarch – Best Durable Reel
  • Frabill 690701 – The Most Versatile Reel
  • Goture Spinning Fishing Reel – Strongest Reel

Comparison Table:

Ice Fishing ReelWeightMaximum DragBall BearingsGear Ratio
KastKing Summer6.7 oz.17.5 lbs.9+15.2:1
Eagle Claw In Line5.6 oz.5 lbs.4+12.6:1
Abu Garcia ICEMAX 4842-13318.2 oz.6.6 lbs.3+15.2:1
Daiwa D-Spin Ultralight5.9 oz.4.414.9:1
Pflueger MONICEB Monarch8.3 oz.6 lbs.4+14.2:1
Frabill 6907018 oz.5+13.7:1
Goture Spinning Fishing Reel7.2 oz.116+15.1:1

The 7 Best Ice Fishing Reels for 2020

1. KastKing Summer – Best Overall

KastKing Summer

This reel by KastKing is simply one of the most attractive reels that you will ever see on the market. It boasts a stunning blue-white look. Nonetheless, design alone is not what we are looking for.

This reel is made entirely out of graphite, which gives it a lot of strength along with flexibility and lightweight as it weighs 6.7 oz. It posts the gear ratio of 5.2:1 and a maximum drag of 17.5 lbs; both these numbers are excellent. Still, it didn’t stop there; it has an impressive number of ball bearings, which is 9+1. 

KastKing hasn’t forgotten that you need a special spool for ice fishing and has designed this reel with a C.N.C spool. This spool boosts your practicality and precision quite a few notches. It also has specific grooves to keep your line where it should be. One more thing is that this spool is made entirely out of anodized aluminum, which allows it to withstand the freezing water.

Lastly, with this specific reel, it doesn’t matter if you are right-handed or left-handed as the handles are interchangeable and foldable so that you can set it up however you want.

Pros:

  • Lightweight 
  • Good drag 
  • Great spool 
  • Impressive design 
  • 9+1 ball bearings

Cons:

  • May not spool evenly 

Final Verdict

This reel is an excellent choice. It’s lightweight, strong, flexible, and can withstand the conditions that you’ll be in and is designed to give you as much comfort as possible. Besides, although it is not the cheapest on our list, it is still quite affordable and will not hurt your pocket too much. Hence, we would advise you to go for it, no regrets.

2. Eagle Claw InLine – Lightest Reel

Eagle Claw InLine

The first thing that this reel offers you is a smooth no tangle fishing experience, which is due to the fact that it is an inline reel. This is the first reel that we will encounter that is made out of Nylon, both the body and spool. Nylon has been gaining a lot of popularity with fishing equipment because it is strong, lightweight, flexible, and cost-effective. This reel weighs only 5.6 oz.

The spool itself is quite spacious, and has both an instant release button, which allows quick fall of your line, and is consequently perfect for ice fishing. It also has spool tension adjustment, which will enable you to adjust the characteristics of the descent of your line. Besides, the handle is made out of sturdy non-slip aluminum to maintain your grip.

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It boasts 4+1 impressive ball bearings and a gear ratio of 2.6:1. The drag system on this reel is Star-Teflon with Line clicker, which doesn’t get any better as it is also adjustable through a straightforward knob and has a maximum of 5 lbs. 

Furthermore, this reel is designed with attention to the comfort of anglers just like the KastKing Summer as the left-hand retrieve can be easily switched to right-hand retrieve at any time in order to suit each individual angler.

There have been some complaints about this reel. However, they are not major, such as the fact that some parts on the inside of the rail are made out of plastic, which worries a lot of fishermen. Some people are also worried about the durability of Nylon since it is relatively new to the market, while others have reported that it might expose you to harmful substances such as TDI.

Pros:

  • Excellent Teflon drag system 
  • Nylon body and spool 
  • Aluminum handle 
  • Instant spool release and spool adjustment 
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Exposure to TDI
  • Some plastic parts on the inside

Final Verdict

This reel is extremely versatile; it can help you on countless fishing trips as it is quite advanced with an excellent drag system and a beautifully designed spore. It is also quite affordable.

3. Abu Garcia ICEMAX 4842-1331 – Best Portable Reel 

Abu Garcia ICEMAX 4842 1331

This reel by Abu Garcia is the epitome of practicality. It’s made out of lightweight graphite, and that includes both the body and the rotor. Furthermore, the stem is quite long so that it can accommodate your thick gloved hands quite comfortably. 

The spool is made out of machined aluminum and boasts an Ever-Last bail system, which allows for durability and tolerance for extreme weather conditions. It also has a line management system that allows for the usage of various lines and threads. Furthermore, this reel offers a lot of precision due to the rocket spool lip design, which allows for control of the multiple lines that we have spoken about.

Another reason why this is designed for ice fishing is that it includes cold gear lube, which eliminates the need for you to thaw your equipment continuously. This reel is designed with a weight of 8.2 oz., 3+1 ball bearings, the gear ratio of 5.2:1, and a drag maximum of 6.6 lbs. 

All of these previous characteristics have allowed it to strike the perfect balance between strength and sensitivity, which makes it capable of going after any fish species no matter how big or small it is. It is strong enough to catch those large preys and sensitive enough to catch the small ones. 

Another reason why this reel is efficient is that the press of a button can fold the hand; no screws, just press the button. Moreover, it is suitable for both right-handed and left-handed people. 

The only downside to this reel is that sometimes the anti-reverse is activated by itself, and it can get stuck in that mode for some time.

Pros:

  • Foldable hand 
  • Durable 
  • Flexible 
  • Sensitive 
  • Fit for extreme weather 
  • Ever-Last bail system

Cons:

  • Gets stuck in the anti-reverse mood.

Final Verdict

This reel is designed for extreme weather; it’s lightweight, durable, and still affordable. However, the anti-reverse problem might need more of an experienced angler to be able to deal with it if the situation arises.

4. Daiwa D-Spin Ultralight – Best Budget 

Daiwa D Spin Ultralight

This reel is a box of revolution combined in a sleek black-silver package. It weighs only 5.9 oz. putting it amongst the lightest reels that you could find. Besides, it allows you to put lighter threads into usage, and these threads have better sensitivity for smaller fish.

Moreover, the gear ratio here is 4.9:1, and it has a single stainless steel ball bearings, which might be too little. However, it’s made up for through the unique system that has been designed by Daiwa. This gear system is known as the Digigear digital gear; what it does is that it boosts the power, strength, and speed of the reel significantly. 

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The drag system here has a maximum of 4.4 lbs., which, along with the longer stroke oscillation, allows for smooth retrieval of your catch. Other than being quite fashionable, the housing of the gears is made out of composite, which makes this reel perfect for extreme weather. The composite housing does not allow the reel to freeze on the inside. 

The most attractive thing about this reel is the price, it is incredibly affordable, and you get a lot for your investment. Besides, it is suitable for right-handed and left handed people alike. 

Pros:

  • Digigear gear system
  • Low weight
  • Sensitive 
  • No-freeze gear

Cons:

  • A little frail

Final Verdict

This reel gives you an impressive package for a few pennies. The price here is fantastic, and it is perfect for anyone who is still experimenting with ice fishing and does not want to spend a million bucks on a reel.

5. Pflueger MONICEB Monarch – Best Durable Reel 

Pflueger MONICEB Monarch

This reel by Pflueger is made out of graphite for the gears and rotor and a stainless steel outer construction. All of this is anti-corrosive and offers anglers extreme durability. This reel will weather the trails of time and will go through considerable wear and tear.

It boasts 4+1 steel ball bearings, which can withstand harsh weather, no sweat whatsoever. The bail wire is made out of thick aluminum, which will keep your line from tangling or bending in any way. The bail is also designed with angles that minimize pulsing, which can be quite annoying. 

One more reason why this reel is ideally suited for ice fishing is that the graphite body made it extremely lightweight; it weighs only 8.3 oz. Moreover, it boasts a gear ratio of 4.2:1 and a drag maximum of 6 lbs, which all contribute towards a smooth, secure retrieval process. 

Lastly, Pflueger has not forgotten about your gloves and, like many other companies, have opted for oversized rubber handles, which allow for a much better grip for fishermen.

A few mishaps that have been found with this reel include a complicated screwing mechanism for the bail, which can be annoying, especially for beginners as well as the absence of a back-reel.

Pros:

  • Graphite body
  • Stainless steel ball bearings
  • Durable
  • Thick aluminum bail wire

Cons:

  • Complicated bail unscrewing 
  • No back-reel

Final Verdict

This reel will go through countless fishing trips with you; it is versatile and extremely robust, so whatever money that you will invest in it, you would get years of usage. Consequently, it is an excellent choice for an avid fisherman.

6. Frabill 690701 – The Most Versatile Reel 

Frabill 690701

This reel by Frabill is also made out of composite, which is great for ice fishing conditions. It is robust, durable, and can withstand the freezing temperatures without the need for you to thaw your equipment continually. It’s also lightweight at only 8 oz. 

The stem here is quite nice as it has two positions; long and short. This option makes the reel the most versatile on our list, as it can be used for different fishing styles. 

This reel boasts a gear ratio of 3.7:1, which is excellent as it opts for strength more than speed. Plus, it has 5+1ball bearings with an integrated and anti-reverse system that prevents bird nests. It also comes with a smooth drag. 

This reel also features a silent bait alarm switch, which can come in quite handy. Moreover, it has a guarded spool, which allows for the usage of a palm grip. Another feature that has been added for the comfort of ice fishermen is an oversized handle. It is mainly set for right-handed people; however, you can switch it to suit the left-handed.

The only deficit with this reel is that the release pin might lock up and stop working mid retrieval, which can prove to be quite a problem.

Pros:

  • 5+1 ball bearings
  • Silent bait alarm
  • Instant anti-reverse
  • Guarded spool
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Cons:

  • Release might lock-up

Final Verdict

This reel is also great for ice fishing; the composite structure will prevent your equipment from freezing. You will be shocked by the strength of the fish that you’ll be able to catch with this reel as it does opt for power more than any other feature.

7. Goture GT1000S Spinning Fishing Reel – Strongest Reel

Our last but certainly not least reel is made by Goture. This reel is made out of phenomenal materials. The main shaft is made out of reinforced steel while the housing and the handle are made out of machine constructed zinc alloy.

These materials allow this rather heavy reel, 7.2 oz, to withstand the harsh conditions of ice fishing. This reel would not freeze on you. The spool is also made out of high tensile aluminum. 

This reel boasts 6+1 ball bearings, which provide smooth retrieval plus a multi-disc drag system with Japanese oil field drag washers and a maximum of 11 lbs.

Other features include three disc carbon resistant washers, precision brass gears, and a gear ratio of 5.1:1.

Whether you are right or left handed, you will love this reel. You will also appreciate its comfortable and foldable massage handle knob. 

As you can see, every material that has been invested into the construction of this reel is as robust as it gets. However, this has led to this reel being quite heavy.

Pros:

  • Strong 
  • Durable
  • Precision brass gears
  • Three-disc carbon resistant washers
  • Multi-Disc drag system

Cons:

  • Heavy

Final Verdict

If you want to sacrifice a lightweight reel for one that will last you a lifetime and will take you through countless fishing trips, then this is perfect for you.

What to Look For When Buying an Ice Fishing Reel

If you are a beginner and you’re trying to reach a conclusion regarding which reel would suit the beginning of your ice fishing adventures, you are surely going to conduct your own research both online and offline. 

Hence, we have compiled a list of characteristics that will help you in this search. The following list is composed of the most important options that you will have to look at when buying an ice fishing reel.

1. Spool

The spool in any ice fishing reel has to be made out of robust materials that can fight off the cold and water and withstand long hours of fishing. Furthermore, it has to be quite spacious. 

When you’re ice fishing, you’re going deep down the lake, so you will certainly need a much longer line, and that line will need a bigger spool to contain it.

2. Materials

Your entire reel and rod have to be made out of solid materials, so we would advise stainless steel for the spool and the ball bearings, and graphite or aluminum for the reel itself so it could be strong, lightweight, and flexible.  

Interestingly enough, some people are experimenting with Nylon as it offers strength and lightweight while being a lot more cost effective.

3. Handle

Surely you know that when you are ice fishing, you will probably be present in environments that boast temperatures well below zero. Therefore, you will be dressed heavily in order to ward off the cold. This outfit will definitely include thick gloves to keep your fingers where they are. 

The said gloves will cost you most of the feeling in your hand and fingertips. Companies are aware of that, which is why the handle on your reel has to be a lot bigger and ergonomically designed with excellent grip in order to accommodate the beastly size of your gloved hands and not lose your catch mid-retrieval.

4. Anti-Ice System

This is probably one of the essential aspects to check thoroughly while purchasing an ice fishing reel because having your reel freeze on you every minute will ruin your fishing trip. So, you might as well invest in a good anti-ice system, or some cold-gear lube treated reels. The very worst-case scenario is that you will have to carry some anti-freeze spray on you, although that will prove to be a tiresome task to thaw your equipment every now and then.

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5. Target Fish

This is something that a lot of people miss, which is knowing what kind of fish you are going after because you will have to choose your equipment accordingly. Some reels are not fit for certain fish species.

6. Target Fishing Spot

Always know the conditions of your target fishing spot so as to pack the right gear and make sure that no mishaps will befall you on your fishing trip due to miss-matched equipment.

7. Weight

With ice fishing, you will be standing in your spot for long periods holding your equipment and waiting for your catch to swallow the bait. Hence, it’s pretty logical to go for lightweight ice fishing reels to lighten the blow of all this effort on your arms, shoulders, and back.

8. Drag

Drag is a crucial part of any fishing reel; it decides how much power your equipment will put up against the catch. So, always try to go for the maximum drag capacity that you can find and, if possible, try to go for adjustable drag so that you can tailor it according to your target fish and present conditions. 

One more thing is that especially when ice fishing, the front drag system is preferable as it allows for smoother retrieval, which is precisely what you will need when pulling out your prey from the depths of the frozen lake.

9. Gear Ratio

Gear ratio is the number of whole spins that your spool does per one crank of the handle. Consequently, you will need to go for a high number in order to have fast retrieval of your line so that you don’t risk losing your precious prey.

10. Ball Bearings

The rule with ball bearings is that the more, the merrier. First things first, always try to go for high-quality ball bearings that are made out of stainless steel so that they last. Their job is to lessen the friction inside of the reel and allow for smooth casts and smooth retrievals. 

An anti-reverse bearing is also quite advantageous as it prevents the collision that can happen between the ball bearings and the drag system as the drag puts up resistance against the escaping prey.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Now that we have gone through the products and how to pick them, we will answer some questions that might very well pop into your mind whilst reading this article.

Which Reel Would Be More Suitable for Ice Fishing?

The majority of people would go for spinning reels as they are easier to use for any level of expertise. However, Inline reels are gaining popularity due to their advanced designs and revolutionary techniques. Bait-casting reels will only help you if you are going for large catches such as lake trout.

Which Inline Fishing Reel Would Work Best When Ice Fishing?

Eagle Claw In-Line Ice Reel is definitely an excellent Inline ice fishing reel.

Which Line Would Complement Ice Fishing Best?

We have found two lines that work perfectly with ice fishing. The first one is by KastKing, and it is a super braided line, which means that it will withstand the havoc that freezing air and freezing water will wreak on it. It is the KastKing SuperPower Braided Fishing Line.

The second one is a monofilament line, which is the Berkley Trilene Micro Ice 100m Monofilament. This line has garnered rave reviews from countless experienced and non-experienced fishermen.

Final Thoughts 

Now that we have shown you our top seven ice fishing reels and explained how we have reached this list, we will end by saying that ice fishing is a great pastime. It is beneficial for your body, mind, and soul. 

We have strived to choose for you a collection of ice fishing reels that are the closest to perfection with our best ice fishing reel, KastKing Summer, as it presents an impressive package of features. Our second in line will be the Eagle Claw InLine, which is the lightest on our list and one of the lightest in the market.

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