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5 Best Ice Fishing Reels

5 Best Ice Fishing Reels | Life of Fishing

Written by

Daniel Wade

/

October 29, 2020

While many reels may serve you just as well out on the ice as they would in more traditional waters, having a reel optimized for ice fishing is generally considered the way to go for ice fishermen of all caliber.

However, the wide range of ice fishing reels available can oftentimes make choosing the ideal ice fishing reel an unnerving prospect for the practicing ice fisherman.

Ice fishing reels, like any other piece of sporting equipment, come in a very wide variety. There are many different ice fishing reels available at different price points, allowing the fishermen who purchase them greatly varying degrees of comfort, functionality, and durability.

As well, different reels may serve totally different needs, with various reels featuring various styles of spooling, as well as various strengths and line capacities.

The reason that it's important to have a reel that is optimized for ice fishing is that ice fishing requires a different handling of your line than traditional fishing does.

While most traditional reels are favored for casting out into open waters, ice fishing reels have to be tailored for simply dropping your line vertically, letting it drag and letting your jig dance through the waters.

As well, proper jigging can require some extreme technical finesse, meaning your ice fishing reel will have to allow you both a good deal of control and a good deal of slack at different times.

Depending on what type of fish you are going after, you may require a reel that is more or less heavy-duty than a majority of the competition.

If you're going after trophy fish, you will need a high-end reel that will allow you to do battle with fish of both excessive size and weight.

This can entail both a stronger and more durable build, as well as effortlessly functional and error-free drag.

For those who aren't sure what they're looking for in an ice fishing reel, we've tried our best to compile a list of what we consider to be the 5 best ice fishing reels currently available.

These reels showcase a wide variety of quality and affordability, as well as a few different options that some specific fishermen might favor depending on their own personal circumstances.

Regardless of what your personal needs are, this list should help educate you on the wide variety of features and options available when it comes to ice fishing reels, and may even lead you directly to your ideal match.

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The 5 Best Ice Fishing Reels

13 Fishing Black Betty 6061

At $70,00, this high-end inline reel from 13 Fishing comes at a pretty hefty price point in comparison to a good deal of it's competition. However, with that increase in price, you are getting one of the best ice fishing reels on the market. In terms of both durability and functionality, you would be hard-pressed to find a more impressive reel at any price point.

The reel itself is constructed from durable yet lightweight 6061 aluminum alloy. This material makes the reel tough and easy-to-use without adding too much unnecessary weight to your rod. The reel is framed in such a way that you can use either a pistol or pencil grip-style and still have plenty of room for your cranks.

The spool is set with a gear ratio of 2.7:1, which means huge traction with each crankshaft. With every turn of the crank, 19" of line can be brought through the spool, meaning you can bring your line up from the deep before your catch gets away. It spools using a multiplier fly-style system that helps prevent tangles, knots, and twists, allowing for freer and more effortless maneuvering of your line.

To justify it's higher price, this reel is constructed using a plethora of high-quality components. It features an internal gear cover to prevent rust and corrosion, a smooth carbon drag for effortless weight, and instant anti-reverse to prevent any untimely mistakes on the ice. All bearings are made from durable stainless steel.

The reel size is 100, with a maximum drag of 5 pounds and a weight of 7 ounces. It can hold 350 yards of 2-pound line, 200 yards of 4-pound line, or 150 yards of 6-pound line. It comes in both right-handed and left-handed styles, with the left-handed variant being a whole penny cheaper on Amazon. Anyway you look at it, this reel has a lot to offer.

While the high price point may put a lot of prospective buyers off, the plethora of features and high-quality construction make this a great option for the experienced ice fisherman who needs a heavy-duty inline reel. With it's durable yet lightweight construction, easy reeling, and smooth and fast handling of your line, this reel stands high amongst the rest of the competition. If you want an ice fishing reel that's top-of-the-line and don't mind spending a few extra bucks to get it, this may be the ideal reel for you.

 

Eagle Claw Inline Ice Fishing Reel

On the other side of the spectrum, we have this ice fishing reel from Eagle Claw. While this reel is a great deal less impressive than it's immediate predecessor on this list, the 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061, it still provides a baseline level of functionality and durability that should hold up on a good deal of ice fishing excursions for those who don't want to break the bank. With the greatly reduced price, you get slightly reduced functionality and durability in all aspects, but this might be all that many ice fishermen are requiring for the moment.

This reel features a teflon drag and allowance for spool tension adjustment. There is an easy to use free spool release button that drops the line fast and smooth, even without much weight attached to the end. The frame itself is constructed from aluminum, giving it a fairly similar feel to the 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061, if only slightly less solid. It features two crankshafts, once again allowing for at least a little bit of versatility in grip-styles.

There is only a right-handed variant available currently, and it doesn't feature the ability to be flipped around easily for left-handed fishermen. You could flip it around, but then the crank would have to turn the opposite way of every other reel that you own. However, besides this one caveat, this reel can do pretty much everything that the 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061 can do, just with a slightly more vulnerable feel all-around.

The one real issue that presents itself with this reel is the slightly finicky drag. Oftentimes, the drag setting will stick and not stay. When it stays, the drag is often too rough and will cause the line to break unnecessarily in the midst of a heated battle with a potential catch. Needless to say, this small issue can seem like a pretty major one when it arises, and that may be enough to make you want to spring for a higher-end model.

Regardless of any small issues this ice fishing reel might have, it still provides a good degree of both functionality and durability, especially when considering it's very reasonable price point. If you are new to ice fishing or just simply need a spare reel on hand that won't break the bank, trying this reel on for size might be the way to go. It's not exceptional by any means, and it might not hold it's own against even lighter trophy fish, but, for the price, you're getting a solid package that only has a few minor issues.

 

Frabill Straight Line 371

Sitting at a price point slightly closer to the 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061 than the Eagle Claw Inline Ice Fishing Reel, this straight line ice fishing reel from Eagle Claw represents a safe middle-of-the-road option for ice fishermen who need a little bit more than the bare minimum but still don't want to break the bank. For it's slightly higher-than-average price tag, you get a plethora of features, some of which might even pose an advantage over the 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061 for certain fishermen.

The frame is constructed from a lightweight composite material, coming in only slightly heavier than the 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061 at 9 ounces. One benefit this composite material poses over comparative aluminum-based frames are that they do not hold the cold quite as well. That means that your reel won't get so hard to handle in freezing temperatures.

The spool of the reel is guarded, allowing for a freer grip of the crank. However, there is only one single grip, meaning the versatility of grip-styles allowed by the previous two reels mentioned won't carry over here. As well, similar to the Eagle Claw Inline Ice Fishing Reel, this is a right-handed reel only, with no left-handed variant or any degree of ambidexterity available.

One area where this reel might excel over the competition, including the 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061, is in it's greater gear ratio. This reel features a gear ratio of 3.7:1, which is nearly 50% greater than that touted by the 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061. While this more rapid line-pull may seem excessive to some depending on the environment, others may find it to be a very worthwhile benefit.

Finally, the handle of this reel features adjustable stem lengths that can be made to accommodate most fishermen, regardless of different hand sizes and comfort levels. The stem can be lengthened to accommodate larger or gloved hands or lowered to accommodate those who prefer a more compact grip. This versatility might come in handy for those people who often have trouble getting the right hold on their reel.

There are some minor caveats to this reel, including some issues with the drag similar to the Eagle Claw Inline Ice Fishing Reel. For many, the only slight increase in price when compared to the 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061 may make that reel the ideal option of the two. However, if you don't want to go all-out and simply need something a little more higher-end than the Eagle Claw Inline Ice Fishing Reel, this may be the reel for you.

 

Piscifun ICX 5

From Piscifun, here is a spinning fishing reel that provides another great middle-of-the-road option for ice fishermen of all calibers, this time with the additional selling point of being a spinning reel.

Available in both black/red and black/silver, this is a stylish reel that is also fairly durable and highly functional. It features high-quality graphite construction on both the body and the rotor, ensuring maximum resistance against frigid temperatures and harsh elements. As well, the high-grade aluminum construction of the spool helps protect the rotor from exposure to water, alleviating the dangers of rust and corrosion.

The spool itself lays the line smooth and even, allowing for both effortless line-dropping and effortless reeling in. The crank is durable, strong, and easy-to-grip. It folds out to allow for a wide grip and folds back in to allow for easy storage once you're done fishing.

The smooth retrieve of the spool is allowed primarily by the high-quality components used in the construction of this reel. Despite the relatively low price point, this reel uses some exceptionally high-quality sealed stainless steel bearings. This addition allows for a smoother retrieve of your line, as well as instant anti-release functionality. On top of that, an exceedingly strong drive gear made from zinc alloy allows for maximum strength in cranking, ensuring that this reel holds its own against even the toughest fish in the ice.

This reel features a gear ratio of 5.2:1, which may make it the ultimate reel for those looking to jig in the deepest depths that the world has to offer. With that kind of cranking power, you can pull your entire line in within no time at all. As well, this reel uses high-quality washers that help alleviate the increasingly more prevalent issue of sticky drag that ice fishing reels are known to have. That means that this reasonably priced spinning reel greatly exceeds the much pricier Frabill Straight Line 371, at least in terms of drag power.

As you can see, there isn't much negative to say about this reel. Unless the gear ratio is excessive for your needs or you simply just prefer an inline or straight line reel to a spinning reel, this reel offers just about the most bang for your buck so far. At an incredibly reasonable price point, you're getting an insanely functional and durable ice fishing reel that blows the competition out of the ice.

 

13 Fishing Wicked Long Stem Spinning Reel

Here is another spinning reel, this time from 13 Fishing. This reel is fairly comparable to the Piscifun ICX 5. However, for the extra $10, you are getting a slightly more durable package, as well as some other unique features that may give this one a slight edge despite the price.

This reel features a similar long stem to the Piscifun ICX 5, but it doesn't retract for portability. While this can be seen as a negative, this lack of foldability does give the handle a slightly more sturdy feel that will hold up better against larger fish. The long stem and easy grip ensure tight and comfortable handling with easy traction and few slips.

The body is composed of similar graphite with a lightweight aluminum body for the spool, similar to the construction of the Piscifun ICX 5 but with a slightly more solid build. As well, the handle is aluminum, meaning you can crank hard and fast and not risk any wear. However, the large gear ratio, sitting at 4.8:1 as compared to the 5.2:1 of the Piscifun ICX 5, will likely mean you won't have to crank too hard for most catches.

The bearings are of a similar quality to the Piscifun ICX 5 once again, allowing for smooth drop and retrieval, as well as effortless anti-lock functionality. Mechanically, this thing is incredibly similar to the Piscifun ICX 5 on paper, and it shows when put to use on the field. This reel does excel in a few areas, however, including increased durability and a few nifty extra features.

One such extra feature this reel touts is that it is lubricated with a special defrost layer. This layer helps prevent increasingly low temperatures from affecting your fishing skills. While this unique feature may furrow the brow of true-blue sportsmen, it can actually be quite helpful when temperatures start getting low enough to seriously affect the veracity of your grip.

Overall, it's a tough call between this ice fishing reel and the Piscifun ICX 5. Unless you favor a specific brand regardless, or truly crave the slight increase in durability and extra features the $10 price increase of the 13 Fishing Wicked Long Stem Spinning Reel gives you, you could likely skew towards the Piscifun ICX 5, save the $10, and not notice much of an issue. However, if you don't mind spending the extra $10, you are definitely getting a slightly better overall package with the 13 Fishing Wicked Long Stem Spinning Reel.

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5 Best Ice Fishing Reels

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