Best Ice Fishing Rods

Best Ice Fishing Rods in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

We all know that the wand chooses the wizard. Won’t it have been awesome if that was the case with fishing rods, too?

When it comes to ice angling, an ice fishing rod is a special case. Not only for being shorter than the standard ones, but also they combine the sturdiness and flexibility required to apply various jigging techniques without failing you.

There’s a rod for every angler, from the amateur who doesn’t know what he’s looking for to the pro who knows exactly where to place his hopes. Experienced ice anglers know your rod plays a serious role in your success. Hence, we’ve put together a list of some of the best ice fishing rods on the market today that won’t let you down. 

At a Glance:

  • St Croix Mojo Series Ice Fishing Rod – Our Top Choice
  • Fiblink Saltwater – Best for Vertical Jigging
  • Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 – Best for Beginners 
  • Berkley Cherrywood HD – Budget Choice
  • Fenwick Elite Tech – Best Value for The Price
  • Akataka Ice Fishing Rod – Best Lightweight Rod

Comparison Table:

RodMaterialPowerLength
St. Croix Mojo SeriesCarbon FiberFrom Ultralight to HeavyFrom 24” to 36”
Fiblink Saltwater Graphite & FiberglassMedium-heavy72”
Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 ComboGraphite & FiberglassMedium-heavy30”
Berkley Cherrywood HDFiberglassUltralight 24”
Fenwick Elite TechGraphiteMedium27”
Akataka Ice Fishing RodCarbon fiberMedium26”

The 6 Best Ice Fishing Rods in 2020

1. St Croix Mojo Series – Our Top Choice

St Croix Mojo Series

Sitting on the throne of our list is the St. Croix Mojo series that is chock-full of features designed specifically for ice anglers. No matter what your target species, there’s a suitable strength for you in this series since it provides ten different models ranging from ultralight to heavy in strength.

The lengths range from 24 to 36 inches, with the 28-inch medium-power rod being the most popular among walleye anglers who prefer fishing from the confinement of an ice hut. This size, together with the smaller ones, works only with a spinning reel. However, larger models can handle casting reels that are used for hunting jumbo perch and northern pike.

The rods have split-grip handles that complement its sturdy carbon-fiber backbone. With their comfortable grips, you won’t struggle to keep the handle in your hands or miss anything happening at the end of the line. They also work with 2-6 pound lines and are suitable for all kinds of vertical jigging techniques.

To complete these masterpieces, they’re provided with stainless steel guides that keep the line from tangling or slacking while being large enough to avoid being clogged with ice.

Pros:

  • Ten different models
  • Various lengths and strengths
  • Large stainless steel guides
  • Ergonomic handles
  • Sturdy carbon-fiber blank
  • High sensitivity

Cons: 

  • Complaints of unaligned eyelets upon delivery
  • Some users claim it’s a bit stiff

Bottom Line

What an excellent start to have with a rod from this global brand! The nice general overall look, together with the plenty of choices this series provides, made it a trustworthy candidate for the best ice fishing rod on our list. 

2. Fiblink Saltwater – Best for Vertical Jigging

Fiblink Saltwater

It doesn’t take a professional to tell how important vertical jigging is for success on the ice. For this reason, we put in your hands the best ice fishing rod for all kinds of vertical jigging and live-bait bottom-fishing techniques. 

This medium-heavy rod is capable of working 6-12 ounce lures with an 80-120 pound line. Have fun landing heavy amberjack and giant perk with this monster of a rod!  Also, this rod’s setup is a rocket launcher. The blank is constructed with graphite and fiberglass composite, which renders it strong enough to feel the subtlest nibbles, yet sensitive enough to hoist bottom-dwellers.

Who says ice fishing can’t be fancy? Fiblink’s slim blank comes with a blue and black eye-catching design with gold linings. Although 72 inches is too long for an ice fishing rod, it’s extremely lightweight and won’t put any strain on your wrists. However, don’t expect to be able to use it while fishing from an icy shanty. 

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The rod is equipped with 6+1 stainless-steel guides for smooth performance and a non-corrosive aluminum seal that holds the reel firmly in place. Moreover, for extra protection, it comes with a tip protector and an aluminum butt with rubber cap.

Pros:

  • Great value for the money
  • Resistant to saltwater
  • Suits plenty of techniques
  • Lightweight and sensitive
  • Hook keeper included
  • Classy design

Cons: 

  • Long for an ice fishing rod
  • The lure-holding ring on the shaft of the pole is off to the side
  • Poor quality control
  • Complaints about faulty guides

Bottom Line

Fiblink isn’t just a standard rod that happened to be suitable for jigging, which is an essential technique for ice fishing. It’s designed especially for this technique. If you have no problem fishing outdoors and won’t mind some extra inches on your rod, consider this beasty rod. 

3. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Combo – Best for Beginners 

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Combo

Ugly stick has gained a reputation for manufacturing fishing tackles that are suitable for novices and won’t require you to sell one of your kidneys to get them. We’re not joking when we tell you that this combo won’t cost you more than 30 bucks, which is way cheaper than other separate rods on our list.

The rod shines in being unbreakable. The graphite and fiberglass core, together with the EVA handles, deliver feel, strength, and sensitivity. Unlike Fiblink Saltwater, which requires a deft touch and experience, Ugly Stik is a lot more forgiving and user-friendly.

Not only that, but also the pole is 30 inches long and as flexible as a rubber band, which means that not even a 6-year old will find it difficult to handle. Still not convinced about this rod’s durability? The company is confident enough to offer a 7-year warranty knowing that they’ve done an outstanding job here.

The manufacturers also offer smaller models with lengths of 26 and 28 inches. These are suitable for lighter fishing tasks like panfish fishing. However, the 30-inch model is designed with a medium-heavy power for fishermen who’d like to hook a walleye using a 2-10 pound line.

The accompanied reel is size 20 and sits on a twist-lock reel seat. Nevertheless, it doesn’t receive as much praise as the rod since it’s built with only one ball bearing, which has an impact on the smoothness of its retrieves. 

Pros:

  • The perfect pole for beginners and kid
  • Comfortable handles
  • Soft yet firm tip
  • Robust hybrid construction
  • Bargain price
  • 7-year warranty

Cons: 

  • Not the best drag
  • Complaints about its casting capabilities
  • Quality control issues
  • Bad packaging
  • The quality of the reel is wanting

Bottom Line

This is the type of rod that can open a path for a lifelong fishing passion. We highly recommend Ugly Stik combo for ice anglers who aren’t looking for something extremely professional. It’s a good start for newbies and kids who still lack the needed hand-eye coordination. 

4. Berkley Cherrywood HD – Budget Choice

Berkley Cherrywood HD

For a rod that doesn’t cost more than $15, this one exceeded our expectations. To be honest, we thought it would be liable to snapping on its first use, but we got more than we bargained for at this price point. This is another budget choice for beginners and kids.

Cherrywood HD is constructed with a fiberglass blank and cork handles that provide both structural integrity and resistance to cold weather. What’s interesting about this pole is its flexibility. It’ll simply keep on bending and never breaks. The cork grips will keep your hands warm and transfer the slightest vibrations from the blank to your fingers.

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Its stainless steel guides along with the graphite reel seats enhance the rod’s durability and smooth performance. Pair it with a size 500 reel that can load a 2-4 pound line and have a good time working jigging minnows and ice fishing jigs.

Using this 24-inch pole, it’s easy to flick lures and baits to where you want and get some nice bites from crappies and bluefish. However, with its ultralight power, it’s quite challenging to reel in larger creatures. Moreover, we can’t promise you to get the best sensitivity out of this rod, so you might as well use a spring bobber. 

The rod can’t really bear heavy usage, but for this price, we can’t complain. It will suit you if you’re the type to go on a fishing trip once in a while.

Pros:

  • Low price
  • Best for Panfish fishing
  • Durable and flexible
  • Comfortable full-cork handles
  • lightweight

Cons: 

  • Not suitable for larger species
  • Not the most sensitive
  • Short warranty

Bottom Line

Cherrywood HD delivers lots of flash for light cash. Not all anglers are into tournament fishing. Some would like to start with something simple and upgrade later or just save their money for other pricier fishing tackles. If any of this is your case, we’re sure you’ll be satisfied with this option.

5. Fenwick Elite Tech – Best Value for the Price

Fenwick Elite Tech

Ice anglers are simple; they’re just asking for strong and sensitive rods without declaring bankruptcy. That’s what Fenwick is offering here. Whether you like fishing from warm shanties or in the open air, you have the freedom to pick any of the lengths ranging from 24 inches and up to 30 inches. 

We choose the 27-inch model because of its middle-ground length and medium fighting strength, which leaves our options open to go after monsters or baitfish. The rod is built with a sturdy graphite blank that’s praised for its fast tip.

Although the rod’s tip may not be as soft as Ugly Stik’s, the blank has flex throughout its body. This renders the pole more suitable for experienced anglers who know how to deal with heavy fish without snapping the blank. The cork handles are warm and sensitive to the slightest vibrations in the line. They won’t slip from your hands even in wet conditions.

Furthermore, the guides are made of smoked stainless steel, and the insides are covered with zirconium oxide. They do a good job keeping the line straight without adding much tension. Nevertheless, they’re so small that ice can block them easily.

All Elite Tech models are compatible with spinning reels that can load a 6-10 pound line, but the 30-inch model has a baitcasting reel seat as well. One final advice is to examine your rod’s eyelets after receiving the package as some users have complained about their rod’s guides being twisted.

Pros:

  • Quality rod for an affordable price
  • Various size and power options
  • Lightweight
  • Incredible sensitivity
  • For spinning and baitcasting reels
  • Easy-to-grip handles

Cons: 

  • Some models come with twisted eyelets
  • Complaints about the packaging
  • Smaller guides than other rods

Bottom Line

In short, Elite Tech is well-built, sensitive, and comes at a very reasonable price. It’s medium-action, which means it has enough backbone to support bass as well as lake trouts. If you choose to buy this rod, you’ll be investing in a rod that guarantees you a fruitful fishing experience for many years to come.

6. Akataka Ice Fishing Rod – Best Lightweight Rod

Akataka Ice Fishing Rod

Since ice fishing is all about moving around from one ice hole to another and holding onto the rod all day long, Akataka ice fishing rod is exceptionally lightweight. Its carbon-fiber core helps in reducing its weight and adds to its sensitivity.

It comes in two sizes; the first being 24 inches with medium-light power and the second being 26 inches with medium power. Both are great middle of the road poles that are light enough to hook crappies and heavy enough to drag up medium-sized perch without complaining.

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The pole’s backbone flexes with minimum pressure, so it’s sensitive to the point that you’ll detect even the subtlest strikes. We personally like that its tip is colored in orange as it’s clearly visible on the white sheet of ice. Its 3A cork handle is comfortable and has a spot-on balance. Thus, it sits nicely in the hands of kids as well as adults.

Also, it’s equipped with nice and intact stainless steel guides. Compared to the Elite Tech rod, you won’t have to worry about receiving faulty eyelets because this rod’s guides are solid and aren’t easy to fall off or get bent.

Pros:

  • Featherweight 
  • Comes in good packaging
  • Two available sizes
  • Sturdy reel seats
  • Ergonomic handles for kids and adults
  • Sensitive

Cons: 

  • Not the best for big-game fish
  • Pricier than the other options
  • Doesn’t work with baitcasting reels

Bottom Line

The trump card of this rod is its lightness. Many anglers would trade their rod for a much lighter one considering the fact that ice fishing isn’t a delicate task in itself. You may not be able to hook largemouths with Akataka, but we’re sure it’ll be one of your favorite ice fishing rods in your collection.

Factors to Consider When Looking for an Ice Fishing Rod

Now that we’ve thrown some light upon the specifications of various ice fishing rods, we’re going to point out the most important considerations that should be in the back of your mind when you’re making your decision. 

1. Length

Ice fishing rods tend to be a lot shorter than those used in open waters since you don’t need to cast further than a few inches in front of your feet. These dwarves vary from 16 to 42 inches in length. Anglers who fish from closed quarters as in shanties, tend to lean toward shorter ones. 

On the other hand, if you’re going to sit outside, you have the freedom to pick a longer one, though not longer than 42 inches or it’ll be awkward maneuvering it from a small distance.

Another factor to base your choice on is the size of species you’re targeting. If you intend to reel in big fish, consider rods longer than 30 inches, given that they’ll give you leverage when fighting fish and absorb the shock of hooking them.

2. Power

When it comes to a rod’s power, your target species should determine its level. Basically, it’s the amount of force needed to bend the blank or lift a certain weight.

Ranging from ultralight to heavy, panfish anglers would favor ultralight rods while those who are after bass and perch will go for light-action ones. Fish like walleye, trout, and pickerel can be landed by medium-action rods. Finally, heavy rods are best for larger creatures like pike and muskies.

In general, don’t overestimate the power your rod needs. It won’t do you any good to go after small catches with a heavy rod and lose the sensitivity you can have in a lighter one.

3. Action

A rod’s action is an indication of how quickly you’ll be able to detect fish nibbles on your bait. Ultra-fast and fast-action rods are stiffer, so they bend only at the tip. These are the best for ice fishing since they alert you about every single bite along with having enough strength to pull trophy fish. 

Medium-action rods tend to bend to the middle of the blank. They are a good go-to choice for anglers who depend on techniques like finesse jigging and deadsticking since the middle bend facilitates working their baits vertically. Lastly, most ice anglers won’t use slow-action blanks due to their little sensitivity.

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4. Material

Commonly, you’ll find rods made of graphite or fiberglass or a hybrid of them both. Carbon-fiber is also common in rods, but you can say it’s the same as graphite. It’s just a matter of the element’s purity, so it isn’t relevant to the rod’s function.

When ice fishing, fiberglass excels in being resistant to extremely low temperatures. It’s sturdy enough to withstand the clumsy hands of beginners, and it won’t cost them as much as graphite rods would. 

On the contrary, graphite rods are more sensitive and flexible. Hence, they perform better at jigging and setting the hooks. However, they’re brittle and can be broken if you don’t take extra care of them.

Composite rods, as you have already guessed, are the best since they provide a sturdy backbone for the pole while maintaining its sensitivity.

5. Line rating

Your line choice depends on your target species and ice fishing techniques you’ll be doing. Just like with reels, before purchasing an ice pole, it’s important to check its line rating. Although it’s a matter of personal preference, most ice anglers would prefer a rod that works with a 2-10 pound line.

6. Guides and Eyes

Rod guides are the eyelets that the line passes through to be kept in control. Their number has a direct effect on the rod’s performance on the ice. Opt for at least four guides with large diameters so the line would pass through smoothly. Stainless steel guides are strong enough to guide your line without breakage and provide the least friction.  

7. Handles

There are handles made of foam, plastic, or cork. Since we’re on the ice, cork is superior to the others. For one thing, it’s lighter, which makes up for the fatigue you’re getting from the cold and gives you a better sense of the blank’s vibrations. For another, it gets warm quickly when held as it tends to maintain the residual heat. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can You Ice Fish with a Normal Rod?

The general answer would be yes! However, why use a giant when a dwarf can do a better job! 

If you’re going to use it to test the waters and see if you’re going to love the sport, then it’s okay. Nonetheless, it’d be better if you switch to an ice specific one once you’re sure since they are made of materials that withstand freezing temperatures and tailored to be more ergonomic in smaller spaces.

Why are Ice Fishing Rods Short?

That’s because long casting isn’t necessary. Ice fishing involves throwing your bait through a small opening in the ice that doesn’t sit far from you. Also, ice fishing requires a lot of wandering around in search of a honey hole, so shorter ones are easier to carry out there. Finally, if you choose to fish from a warm and confined ice hut, a short pole won’t hinder your movements.

What are the Best Ice Fishing Rod Brands?

St. Croix is one of the most popular brands among ice anglers because their poles are known for their efficiency and long lives. Fenwick and Ugly Stick are favored by entry-level anglers, thanks to their reasonable prices and strong backbones. Other brands like Frabill and Abu Garcia tend to be more directed to pro anglers with advanced skills.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this list helps you zero in on what best suits your needs when choosing an ice fishing rod. If still in doubt, it would be hard to go wrong with any rod from the St. Croix series. The manufacturers are well-known in the field, and they provide various options to suit different techniques and target species.

Next on our final recommendations is Fiblink saltwater. It’s optimum in everything it does and when the snow melts, and winter blossoms into spring, you’ll be able to use it from a boat or a kayak for a different type of fishing. 

Finally, we have more than one affordable choice, yet our favorite is Ugly Stik GX2 since it comes with a reel and is suitable for both children and adults. 

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