Ice Fishing Reels Reviewed

Nothing is more fun outdoor activity than ice fishing in freezing winters. However, ice fishing is slightly different from your normal lake water or offshore fishing experience and thus requires specially designed ice fishing reels in your fishing gear. 

Normally, in ice fishing, anglers have to dig a bore hole in ice with an ice auger. The line is then dropped in the hole to fish by jigging a lure. This makes the function of an ice fishing reel somewhat different from a typical reel used for fishing in normal water.

An ice fishing reel must be ultralight in weight, equally durable and sensitive to the harsh freezing conditions of the surrounding area. Thus it is important for you to choose a high quality, reliable reel to make your experience productive and enjoyable. 

What can be the ideal ice fishing reel for your trip up north this winter ? To help you out, we have reviewed multiple ice fishing reels based on the opinions and experiences of expert anglers. The recommendations below would be a great help whether you are a casual angler or an addict of sport fishing.

The most widely used and popular types of ice fishing reels are In-line ice fishing reels and spinning ice fishing reels. Additionally, baitcasting and closed face reels are also available in the market but they are not recommended for ice fishing for their in-built limitations which we will discuss later in this article. For now, we will be talking about In-line reels and spinning reels

In-line Ice Fishing Reels

The defining feature of in-line reels, as the name suggests, is that they enable the line to run smoothly without causing any twist or bend in the reel. They are also called straight-line reels for the same reason.

If you are aiming for fishing with a jig then an in-line reel must be your way to go. With less twisting and spinning, they are able to attract more fish as more spinning of the bait scares them away. 

In-line reels are consistent, smooth and simply designed. They are highly suitable for ice fishing. Some of the in-line reel models provide pistol shaped grip thus making the jigging more easier by causing less fatigue to your arm and wrist.

In-line or straight reels provide many features that are suitable for ice fishing. However, these features come with a high price tag. Also new anglers can also find it a bit difficult to operate these reels due to their modern and sophisticated build-up.

Our top picks from In-line Ice Fishing Reels

Eagle Claw In-line Ice Fishing Reel

Eagle claw is one of the finest ice fishing reels available out there. Its large handle is made up of aluminium and its nylon body is highly durable.The reel also features a spool release button and it has a reasonably good line capacity. The tension of the spool is adjustable according to the requirement. 

Another brilliant feature of this reel is its Teflon drag system which gives you smooth functioning. With a gear ratio of 2.6:1, the retrieval function is also smooth. The reel is budget friendly and can be employed to catch larger fish.


Gear Ratio: 2.6:1

Ball bearings: 5

Drag System: Star Drag 

Max Drag: N/A

Retrieve rate per crank: 16.5 

Retrieve Side: Left/Right

Line Weights and Capacity (lbs/yards) : 2/270, 4/190,  6/120 


  • Budget friendly 
  • Desirable gear ratio
  • Lightweight 
  • Nylon body and spool
  • Reliable Teflon drag system 
  • Spool tension adjustment
  • Smooth functioning 
  • Less line twist and great line control
  • Can be used to catch big fish


  •  Sometimes problematic in drag adjustment 

13 Fishing Black Betty Freefall Ghost In-line Hardwater Fishing Reel

13 Fishing Black Betty is an ultimate feast in the world of in-line ice fishing reels. Designed with graphite, this reel boasts a high profile among the ice anglers for its instant anti-reverse carbon drag, stainless steel ball bearings, high gear ratio, zero line twist and a trigger button to control spool tension. Its impressive ball bearing system provides smooth and reliable retrieve. The graphite body also makes it highly durable and helps smooth functioning of the reel in cold conditions without any trouble.

One of the unique features of this reel is the Freefall trigger that gives you ultimate control over the line. The trigger can easily engage or disengage the spool and allows you to drop the lure at specific depths. With its easy one-hand operation and overall smooth functioning, this Freefall Ghost is a delight to use and is one of the most cheered ice fishing reels in the angler community. 


Line weight and Capacity (lbs/yards) : 4/100

Gear ratio: 2.5:1

Ball bearings: 4

Drag System: Star drag 

Max Drag: N/A

Retrieve Side: Left/Right


  • Freefall trigger for jigging 
  • Quick dropping of jigs
  • Zero line twist 
  • Reasonably good gear ratio
  • Anti-reverse carbon drag system 
  • High durability with graphite build-up 
  • Lightweight 
  • Easy to operate ( can be operated using one hand only)


  • Expensive 
  • Backlash issues reported by some users

Frabill Straight Line 371 Ice Fishing Reel

Frabill straight line 371 is another top notch reel. Its strong and durable construction enables it to function smoothly in rugged terrain and frigid temperatures. Like Eagle Claw, it also offers a spool switch to descend the jig to desirable depths without any line twisting. The reel has a smooth drag and instant anti-reverse system. Its large handle is customly built to provide strong grip and greater control.

The Straight Line 371 has a high gear ratio of 3.7:1. Also a retrieval rate of 22 inches per turn makes it a quick functioning reel. Its 5 stainless steel ball bearings help provide resistance to corrosion in harsh weather conditions and also make it suitable for saltwater fishing. An extra feature of the reel is its bait alarm switch which adds more suspense and joy to your fights with the fish. All in all, Frabill 371 easily makes it to the list of great ice fishing reels available out there.


Gear ratio: 3.7:1

Retrieval rate: 22 inches/turn

Total ball bearings: 5+1

Drag system: Anti-reverse

Retrieve Side: Left/Right


  • Lightweight and durable 
  • High gear ratio 
  • Quick and smooth retrieve 
  • Less line twisting 
  • Instant Anti-reverse drag system 
  • Bait alarm switch 
  • Spool switch for line control 
  • Reasonable price range


  • Tension adjuster can cause trouble if gets clogged by ice while reeling

Spinning Ice Fishing Reels

Spinning reels differ from in line reels in various ways and it would not be wrong to say that most anglers prefer these reels because they can be put to work in a variety of situations and seasons. They are a desirable choice if you are fishing with live bait. However, they come with a disadvantage of line twisting and tangling which is not the case with in-line reels.

Spinning reels provide better drag adjustment in comparison to straight line reels. They are easier to tackle especially if you are a novice in fish hunting. They are also a better option if you are aiming to jiggle some heavyweights down there. 

As compared to in-line reels,  spinning reels are more budget friendly, lightweight, flexible and preferable for ice fishing. All these attributes certainly give them a competitive edge over other ice fishing reels and they are considered equally good for ice, freshwater and saltwater fishing. 

Our top picks from Spinning Ice Fishing Reels

Kastking Centron 500 Ice Fishing Reel

The Kastking Centron 500 has it all that you typically look for in a fishing reel : affordable price range, ultralight, durable, a smooth drag and a good gear ratio.

Undoubtedly, Kastking Centron 500 is one of the high quality, performance driven reels among the other spinning ice fishing reels. Its graphite body makes it an ultralight and imparts durability. The gear ratio of 5.2:1 is suitable enough for in depth jigging. The 11 lbs smooth front drag greatly helps you when you are wrestling with larger fish. 

In contrast to in-line reels, spinning reels do have a shortcoming of line twisting. However, Kastking Centron 500 performs much better than other reels when it comes to the problem of line tangling. It also offers more line capacity than its other costly competitors in the market. Cutting short, for a quality fishing experience, you need to get 1 Kastking Centron 500 in your gear bag. 


Gear ratio: 5.2:1

Drag system: Front drag

Maximum Drag: 11 lbs

Line weights and Capacity (lbs/yards) : 4/240, 6/155 


  • Inexpensive, provides great value even on low cost
  • Lightweight
  • Powered enough to catch large fish
  • Smooth drag system
  • Excellent gear ratio of 5.2:1 for deep fishing experience 


  • Line twisting 
  • A bit large as compared to other ice fishing reels

Daiwa Crossfire 500 Ultralight Spinning Ice Fishing Reel 

Daiwa has earned its reputation for producing some best ultralight spinning reels for anglers. Daiwa D spin comes in multiple models. We have chosen  CF 500 for its compact design, lightweight, and all weather suitability. 

Daiwa’s Crossfire 500 model comes with a gear ratio of 4.9:1 and a maximum drag of 4.4 lbs. The front drag system is somewhat smooth and easily adjustable and the gear ratio is good enough to provide you with sufficient line capacity to dig your lure deeper into the ice. Its lighter weight ( 6 ounces) makes it comfortable enough to keep fishing for a longer time. 

CF 500 makes an ideal model for catching small fish species. It is simply designed with a single stainless steel ball bearing that ensures smooth retrievals. The casting with this model is easier, and as it is designed for a light line, the problem of line twisting is also limited to a certain extent. All in all, it is a handsome package with class and quality intact. 


Gear ratio: 4.9:1

Drag: Front drag system 

Maximum drag: 4.4 lbs

Weight: 6 ounces

Line weights and capacity (lbs/yards) : 2/190, 4/100, 6/60


  • Lightweight and durable 
  • Decent gear ratio
  • Cost efficient machine
  • Low line twist
  • Good casting and retrieving


  • Only suitable for catching small fish
  • Drag is relatively rough 
  • No anti-reverse

Pflueger MONICEB Monarch Ice Spinning Reel  

Pflueger MONICEB can easily withstand harsh temperatures thanks to its sealed ball bearing system which would prevent the reel from freezing in cold. The 5 stainless steel ball bearings also make its working smooth and protect it from corrosion, thus making it an ideal spinning ice fishing reel.

As far as the body of the reel is concerned, graphite has been employed to make it both light and durable. A unique feature of the reel is its aluminum made bail wire, which keeps the rigidity of reel intact and prevents twisting and tangling in extreme temperatures. Also, the handle of the reel is large enough to give your gloved hands a strong and sturdy grip. 

The drag of Pflueger is pretty much smooth offering a maximum resistance of 6 lbs. It may make catching large fish a challenging task but you will surely enjoy the battle. The gear ratio of 4.2:1 provides a good retrieval rate of 19.7 inches per turn of the crank. To sum up, Pflueger would make a great deal for your upcoming trip of ice fishing anywhere in the world. 


Gear ratio: 4.2:1

Maximum drag: 6 lbs

Ball bearings: 5

Line weights and Capacity (lbs/yards) : 2/180, 6/110, 8/95

Retrieval rate per turn of the handle: 19.7 inches

Retrieve Side: Left/Right 


  • Lightweight 
  • Highly suitable for cold conditions 
  • Stainless, protected ball bearings 
  • Aluminum bail wire
  • Quick and smooth retrieve 


  • Less powerful drag
  • No in-built anti reverse system 

Shimano Sienna SN1000FE Ice Fishing Reel

Shimano have produced some of the best fishing reels over the years and their Sienna model is truly a jack of all trades. If you are looking for an all-inclusive fishing reel, then Shimano Sienna must be on your target list for its multi-seasonal capabilities.

The spool of Sienna provides greater line length that comes handy while deep fishing in ice. However, the line twisting can result in fast revolving of your jig and to correct this fault, you will need to straighten the line manually or to use live baits.

With a gear ratio of 5.0:1, the retrieve of this reel is quick which is always a plus point given the harsh atmosphere of ice fishing. Additionally, the 9 lbs front drag system is amazingly smooth and adjustable. The higher drag also makes it worth your consideration for catching some large fish. The topping on the cake is that this model adds value to your fishing gear without burdening your wallet. 


Gear ratio: 5.0:1

Drag system: Front

Maximum Drag: 9 lbs

Line weights and Capacity (lbs/yards) : 2/270, 4/140, 6/110


  • Ultralight 
  • Inexpensive 
  • Amazing gear ratio
  • Quality drag system
  • Trustworthy for catching some large fish


  • Problem of line twisting 

Abu Garcia ICEMAX 4842-1331 Spinning Ice Fishing Reel 

Abu Garcia Icemax is a special delight for ice fishing lovers. The whole build up of the reel has been designed keeping in mind the cold conditions and the requirements of ice anglers. It has a cold gear lube to prevent freezing of the rod in winters.

The body is made of graphite to make the reel ultralight and easy to carry. The machined aluminum spool comes with a large line capacity and a smooth retrieve. 4 stainless steel ball bearings and a drag of 6 lbs furnishes corrosion resistance and adjustability respectively. Another feature is its long and slim stem which provides strong grip for gloved hands. 

Abu Garcia ICEMAX has a great scope among other ice fishing reels as it can get you through multiple ice fishing seasons without much wear and tear. This makes it a worthwhile asset for professional anglers. 


Gear ratio: 5.2:1

Maximum Drag: 6.6 lbs

Ball Bearings: 4

Retrieve Rate per turn: 22.5 inches

Retrieve Side: Left/Right 

Line Weights and Capacity (lbs/yards) : 2/190, 4/100, 6/80


  • High resistance to cold ( Cold gear lube )
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Decent gear ratio
  • Good retrieval rate
  • Awesome control and accuracy 


  • Small drag
  • Low bearing count

In-Line Ice Fishing Reels vs Spinning Ice Fishing Reels

We can not pinpoint any obvious winner as both in-line and spinning reels have their own pros and cons. Certainly, the liking factor is purely subjective and variable among anglers. Despite that, we will try to summarize the positives and negatives of both these kinds to make it easier for you to compare and choose among the variety of ice fishing reels available out there. 

Spinning Reel Pros

  • Better drag systems 
  • Easy to use and handle
  • A good choice if you are using live baits
  • Less expensive 
  • Usable in multiple conditions 

Spinning Reels Cons

  • Issue of line twisting while retrieving or relieving the lure
  • Spinning of the jig 
  • Less resistant to colder temperatures 

In-line Reel Pros

  • Less line twisting is the main plus point of these reels
  • A good option for jigging lure
  • More line control on the bait
  • Best option for smaller fish
  • High performance in harsh freezing temperatures 

In-line Reel Cons

  • Expensive
  • Difficult to handle for beginners 
  • Lower drag performance 

Baitcasting and Closed Face Reels

Baitcasting and Closed Face reels are mostly used in warm weather conditions. They have a smooth system of casting and retrieving. There is no harm in using them for ice fishing once in a while, however they are not manufactured for cold temperatures and experts usually avoid taking them for ice fishing as they are likely to freeze and choke in tough conditions. Therefore, we would not recommend these reels when better alternatives are available. 

Selecting the best option available in the Market

Apart from your personal likes and dislikes, there are a few factors to be kept in mind when buying your weapon for ice fishing. These include but not limited to :


The weight of the reel is a crucial factor and this is true for all kinds of reels, but for ice fishing , this factor needs more attention.

In cold weather, you are likely wearing and carrying some heavy stuff to protect yourself. In these conditions, the reel must be light in weight so that it does not exhaust you early. An ultralight ice fishing reel will be easy on your arm and wrist and makes a comfortable holding for a longer period of time. 


The last thing that you would want in a rugged terrain and freezing temperature is the wearing of your gear. If the material of your reel is not durable, ice will tear it soon. Stainless steel, aluminum, graphite can ensure better protection and performance in a challenging environment. 

Anti-freeze System

Reel freezing can be worrisome as stucked ice can take some time to thaw and melt. It will deteriorate the performance and durability of your reel. It would be wise to look for the reel which comes with an anti-ice/anti-freezing coating.

The anti-freeze feature usually comes with inline ice fishing reels. Make sure to look for this feature if you want to avoid freezing trouble.

Drag System of the Reels

Drag plays an integral part in your fishing experience. A good reel always carries an adjustable drag system which you can set according to your own conditions and experience. Drag helps you to synchronize your line weight and reel tension in accordance with the bad boy that you are fighting underneath. 

Spinning reels have better drag systems and more drag capacity as compared to in-line reels. The drag capacity determines the size of the fish that you would be able to reel in. On most spinning ice fishing reels, the system adjusts on the front of the spool and is called front drag. Star drag system is mostly mounted on baitcasting and in-line ice fishing reels.

Gear Ratio

Gear ratio is directly linked to the retrieval rate of your reel. The higher the gear ratio, the more quick the reel will be able to set back the line as you turn the handle. 

In ice fishing, you need a decent gear ratio especially if you are fishing in deep water with baits that require quick retrievals.

Ball Bearings 

When it comes to reducing friction in the reel, ball bearings have an important role to play. They reduce friction by opposing the drag weight. 

Anglers prefer reel with more ball bearings as it will make the reel function smoothly. While quantity of the bearings is important, due consideration must be given to the quality as well. Stainless steel bearings ensure prevention from corrosion while fishing in salty water.

The Bottom Line

I hope that I have summarized enough details for you and detailed review of various reels will surely help you choose the best reel for your fun filled ice fishing trip. The quality of your fishing experience completely depends on the quality of your reel. Having the best fishing gear guarantees a productive day and a healthy meal. 

Happy ice fishing!






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