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Last updated: January 17, 2023
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If you do fishing for recreational purposes, then you want to be able to do it all year round. This is where an ice fishing rod comes in. Otherwise, you would have to stay at home bored for a few months in a row when it’s winter. The device is meant precisely for those types of situations where your favorite fishing spot is frozen over. Of course the best ice fishing rod has to be different from other rods as you have limited space to work with. Typically you will have a hole in the ice from which you can try to get your fish. As such, the ice fishing rod is shorter than other angling tools on the market.
In choosing one of these tools, some ice rod properties need to be at the forefront of your mind; otherwise, you may pick a device that ends up frustrating you. As a first the body material needs to be a critical consideration as you will have to use the tool in freezing temperatures. If the device is not tempered against such conditions it is likely to break when you need it the most. Also, the handle needs to be comfortable to hold in freezing weather. There are a couple of extra features we considered in our review of said products, and you will encounter them in the information provided on each product below. We came up with a list of top 5 picks and the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel & Rod Combo deservec our Editor’s Choice nomination.
Rod material: genuine Ugly Stik blank with clear tip design
Handle: lightweight EVA
Warranty: 7 years
The first option that you should definitely consider purchasing is the Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel & Rod Combo. As you will see after looking through all the models from the list, this item holds some advantages over its descendants on our list. For beginners in the field, the term Ugly Stik may cause them to scratch their heads. However, this only refers to the way the blank was made. As you will, no doubt, find out, later on, these types of blanks are made by the Shakespeare fishing equipment company. Originally these types of rods included a fiberglass core and polyester resin on the outside.
The resulting rod was not a very good looking one contrary to the image provided above. This is where the name Ugly Stik came about. As you can see from the picture times have changed and the construction of the rod with them. What you now get is one of the more flexible angling tools in the market. This is due to graphite being used in the middle while fiberglass wraps it up. It is not uncommon to find an Ugly Stik rod that you can bend till the tip touches the handle without the tool breaking. Consequently, beginners are more likely to enjoy themselves with this tool.
The sizing options are the 26-inch light mentioned above, the 28-inch medium and the 30-inch medium-heavy all within a three dollar pricing range of each other. A benefit of buying this tool is the fact that it comes with a reel attached. As such, you won’t have to make too many extra purchases before you can go on your fishing trip. The size 20 reel is what makes this tool especially suitable for ice fishing. Also, due to the durability that the manufacturer boasts of, you get a seven-year warranty.
If you’d rather not spend much on a fishing rod, then this is the one for you. You can get it at slightly over ten dollars. Currently you only have two size options to pick from if you want to purchase the Berkley Cherrywood HD Ice Fishing Spinning Rod. Of course, the rod is going to be durable due to its fiberglass construction. Also, this is a somewhat flexible option so expect to see a lot of bending when you are reeling in the fish. The only thing you are unlikely to see is a breakage.
You also get a full-cork handle. While this may not be the longest-lasting option available, some tweaks may help you in this regard. The easiest to do is get cork sealer and apply it with a soft bristle brush before letting the handle dry out. Also included are stainless steel guides and inserts.
The design of the rod does not allow you to lock your reel in. However, with straps, you can attach your reel, and it will be just as effective. Just make sure the straps are correctly fastened to ensure fishing efficiency. One year warranty coverage is not much to write home about. Nonetheless, with a price point of less than fifteen dollars, one can’t complain.
Our second option of the day should cost you a little below forty dollars to purchase. This is excellent value for money if you consider the features and the construction of the gadget. There are, of course, various size options to choose from depending on your build and your needs. They range from the 24” ultra-light one mentioned in the features to the 30” medium-heavy. There are also two other options in between namely the 26” light and the 30” medium. Also, there are recommendations on the manufacturer’s website on how to use each of these options. An illustrative example is where the 24” light option is for multi-purpose pan-fish jigging.
The component materials are of the flexible variation with carbon fiber making most of the blank. Another benefit of using such a blank would be the increased sensitivity. Where you would have to purchase a reel as an extra, this gadget comes with its own. Also, where the reel is concerned, you can attach it to the handle without needing straps. This is made possible by the reel seat in addition to the cork grip. As a result setting up this piece of equipment for your fishing trip should be a breeze.
Stainless steel guides are a good fit for ice fishing, and as such, this device incorporates them into the design. Also, if for any reason you are unsatisfied by the purchase of this product you can return it so you can have your money back. However, you can only do this within thirty days of initial purchase. As such, you should buy this ice panfish fishing rod a few days before going fishing, and that should give you ample time to test out the product.
In addition to the above, the component reel comes with a machined aluminum spool.
What are its best features?
Comes with a reel
Reel seat makes it easy to set up
What could be improved?
A bit pricy as compared to other options on our list
Warranty: 1 year for reels and three years for rods workmanship warranty
In third place, we feature our most expensive tool yet. If you don’t mind the extra cash you’d have to spend to ensure quality, this may be it. Where the blank is made from graphite enthusiasts are more likely to pick such a model out. They like them because they provide more fighting power and rigidity. This particular piece is 25 inches in length, but you can opt for longer options. The pricing is, of course, different for each depending on features.
Looking at the handle, you would have no idea that it is made from cork due to its black finish. Unlike the Berkley Cherrywood HD, Ice Fishing Spinning Rod that you would have to add some cork sealer to extend its life this tool requires no such action. You still get stainless steel guides with this gadget as well, which are colored black like the handle. Another benefit of having this tool as your first option is the reel seat. All you have to do is twist the handle to lock the reel in. Consequently set up is as easy as pie.
You will also not have to buy a reel as this tool has one included in the package. The warranty terms are different for different components of the item. The rod will be repaired by the manufacturer for free for up to three years after purchase. As for the reel you only get one year warranty then you are on your own.
As you will see from the product features listed above this particular angling tool is 16 inches. However, there are two other size options for you to choose from being 28 inches and 36 inches, respectively. Also, while the 16” option is light, the other two come in medium light and medium-heavy variations. The backbone of the rod is made mostly from graphite and as such has more power. This will make it hard for the blank to bend while you use it. Consequently, this is a tool for more experienced anglers as they know how to maneuver fishing scenarios without breaking the rod.
Also, as you are picking out your preferred size of the rod, it will be useful to note that with a hole in the ice, you don’t have much casting room. As such, the longer rod will be wasted in such a scenario. However, this tool is unlikely to be for winter-only use. You may pick out the longer options and use it year-round. The guides for the Fenwick Methods Ice Spinning Rod are made of stainless steel which should be reliable for most applications. In addition to that their insides are constructed from zirconium oxide. This may seem irrelevant, but the non-conductive properties of the zirconium may help keep the guides intact in the cold.
Another critical area you should take note of is the warranty. You get one year of warrantied use which may not be the best terms if you compare the price of the tool with that of other items. However, this is still a solid option and one that may very well serve your needs. Where the handle is concerned, you get one with TAC construction that should be easy to grip even in wet conditions.
Additionally, you get a down locking reel seat for the attachment you will be purchasing to use with the rod.
What are our favorite features?
Various size options to choose from
Rod doesn’t bend as much as other options
Easy to grip handle
What could be better?
Graphite construction is more brittle than fiberglass counterparts
Doesn’t come with a reel
Things to Consider
Before you can go ice fishing, you need to ensure you have the best gear available. This ensures you have a smooth experience, and you can enjoy your recreational activities without any hiccups. However, the nearly countless options available may make choosing the ideal item difficult. A wise shopper will have a list of criteria that they measure options against. Whenever an item falls short of the requirements, it is dropped from the list of potential purchases. Consequently, you will be able to narrow down your options to a minimal number like the five provided above. The ideal criteria for this exercise with regards to ice fishing rods are as follows
Features to consider while choosing an ice fishing rod
The predominant materials in the construction of fishing rods are either, graphite, fiberglass, or both. This is the same, even in the options we have provided above. Each of these materials has characteristics unique to them.
Graphite is more sensitive and as such is a favorite among enthusiast anglers. There is also a downside to choosing graphite as it is brittle and may break if not handled correctly.
This is not to mean that more experienced anglers don’t buy fiberglass ice fishing rods. Sometimes they purchase them so they could go for more aggressive fish types.
There are also terms like power and action that you should be aware of as you go looking for a suitable rod. Power is the determinant that lets you know the force required to bend the rod. This is why there are various classifications, such as medium-heavy, ultra-light, and more. Ultra-light will, of course, bend quicker than ultra-heavy counterparts. On the other hand, action will predict the point on the rod where the bending will happen. If the device bends closer to the handle, then that is a slow action rod with a fast action option bending as you near the tip of your rod.
Handle and Grip
You might also note that the handle is very different in almost all models on sale. The construction material may be different, the design, and more. What you need to investigate and look into for is a handle that caters to your exact needs. Shorter handles are ideal for situations where you are not casting far off, and the type of fish you need to catch is relatively small. Bigger fish will necessitate a longer handle as you might need to hold onto the handle with both hands at some point. Cork and EVA foam are the predominant materials used in making this area.
The Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel & Rod Combo is an option that provides an EVA handle. Most of the others on our list are made from cork. For some of them, you may need to employ cork sealer to ensure they last as long as the rest of the rod. Another thing you may need to look out for is whether it features a lock for your reel. This is seen in the Abu Garcia Veritas 3.0 Ice Fishing Combo. Other options may require you to attach the reel by using straps.
Length and Weight
You probably won’t be casting far away, which is where longer rods excel. For ice fishing, you are probably better off with a shorter rod. Also if you encounter any fighting from the fish, a shorter gadget will help you get it under control quicker since they don’t bend much. The weight should also be a crucial factor. You will likely have to fish for hours on end, and it could be strenuous for your hands. By picking a lighter model, you lighten the load allowing you to fish for longer.
Each type of fish you encounter also requires a different kind of rod. Some species are aggressive, in addition to being big and bulky. These are more likely to fight to stay in the water as you are trying to reel them in. If the rod is flimsy at the end (which is often the case with more extended options), it is easier to break, and thus you will have lost both the rod and the catch. As such, before you go rod shopping, you should make it a point to be aware of all the fish in your preferred fishing position. Armed with such information, you are less likely to blunder on your purchase.
Price and Warranty
Most fish rods will fall under the 100 dollar price mark. However, you can get a few rods for as little as 15 dollars or as much as 80 dollars. If you pay more, you are likely to get a stronger rod and one with more features. However, even cheaper options will get the job of fishing done. It all depends on the features you place the most importance on and which ones you are willing to do without. With these things down, you will have a general idea of how much you will be required to pay. If you can afford it well and good. If you can’t, you may need to lower your expectations.
Warranty terms are also worth looking into. You should check how long the warranty lasts and what parts of the rod it covers. You should also inquire from the manufacturer if they replace the product or do refunds if a product is found to be defective.
If you are going to take on ice fishing, you are better off with shorter rods. More extended options are not as sensitive as their shorter counterparts which makes them not ideal for ice fishing. Also, if you are using a shelter to keep from getting cold, the mobility of a long rod will be significantly hindered by the limited space.
Fenwick and Shakespeare are two of the most popular fishing rod brands out there. A lot of anglers prefer to use either one, especially when they are learning the ropes of fishing. However, people are known to switch to other models once they get comfortable and acquire expertise in fishing. This is because they are more in tune with their fishing needs and can get a feel for the tool they think will give desired results.
For an ice fishing trip, the Frabill Fin-S Pro 30-Inch Medium Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Combo would be part of the gear an enthusiast would take. Its stainless steel guides are a good fit for ice fishing, and as such, this device incorporates them into the design. Also, if for any reason you are unsatisfied by the purchase of this product you can return it so you can have your money back.
A budget option like the Berkley Cherrywood HD Ice Fishing Spinning Rod is always a top pick because it is enticing for beginners. Also, if you are strapped for cash, this would be ideal but only if you have an extra reel lying around.
The Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel & Rod Combo takes its place as the best overall pick on our list. Due to its body and construction, it is both durable and sensitive. This makes it ideal for beginners and regular anglers alike. Overall any of the five options provided above would give you good results once you’ve positioned the rod over the fishing hole. Take a look at your wallet and your needs then picking one from the options should be easy as pie.