How To Choose The Best Ice Fishing Rod

how to choose the best ice fishing rod

The fishing rod is the essential aspect of an ice fishing expedition, and truth be told,  selecting the right fishing pole and reel can be an intimidating task.

Of course, getting the perfect ice fishing rod will not make you an excellent ice fisher overnight, but the wrong choice will surely be a limiting factor on your chances.

The fishing rod is your tool which will do all the wizardry. Gradually, as you become habituated to using the rod, you will get a better hang of things. Sounds a bit confusing, isn’t it?

You have come to the right place; I vow to you after you finish reading this, you will get the adrenaline rush. You will undoubtedly call the shots this year during your ice fishing expedition.

Don’t forget to consider these important points before buying a rod:

When you first decided to go ice fishing, you evaluated the best gear according to the weather conditions, the safety aids, and many other aspects; likewise, it is equally important to take into account some crucial factors when you are about to select the right ice fishing rod.

As you read on, you will realize the importance of each of these points.

Q1. Determine what level fisherman you are

You may have accompanied your friends on ice fishing expeditions, but that does not necessarily make you an ice fishing pro.

The more serious ice fishing enthusiasts have the necessary skills and experience to hit the jackpot more frequently.

It is recommended if you are a novice or getting your hands on the astonishing winter sport for the very first time, just go for an inexpensive rod. There is no point in getting into the intricacies of an expensive ice fishing rod with advanced features.

As a novice, you can handle the spinning far more efficiently in comparison to the casting rods.

Q2. Determine where you will be fishing

If you are going ice fishing, at a distant place, you will necessarily carry a lot of stuff with you like ice shelters, baits, gears and much more.

Imagine the ordeal if you have to carry the ice fishing rod along with all these things, the best option would be selecting an ice fishing rod that breaks into several pieces.

You can opt for a single piece rod if your fishing location is nearby.

Q3. Decide what kind of bait you will be using

The selection of bait will again depend on the location and the breed of fish you decide to catch.

The two most common forms of bait are live also called casting and lures. For using live bait, using a more sensitive fishing rod is a prudent idea. These rods will help you in detecting even the subtle movements underwater.

However, if you are using a lure, a stiffer rod will do the job correctly for you. So, sort out your bait in advance and accordingly choose the rod.

How to choose the best ice fishing rod?

Before we delve deeper into the intricacies of the fishing rod and make the selection, think sensibly. Just because your best friend found a specific rod easy to handle does not necessarily mean you will also feel the same way.

Feel the rod by taking it on your hands. Also, make a thorough inspection to spot any manufacturing defects or cracks.

Or it may so happen your rod encounters an accident and develops a crack. Immediately, visit the store and make arrangements to fix it properly.

Just a reminder, always carry two or three spare rods, as the extreme cold conditions can be detrimental to the health of the fishing rods. They can break and crack all of a sudden.

Let us now move on to the other important points related to the rod selection.

Length of the rod

Now, this can get a bit tricky. You will often find opinions differ on this subject.

Many professional anglers believe, determining the length of the fishing rod should be according to the ability of the person who will be using it.

You can get ice fishing rods between 6 to 12 feet long. The type of fish you are going after, the environment and your experience can all have a significant influence in determining the length of the rod.

Nevertheless, I guess, you will find these tips handy.

  • If you are a novice in this arena, commence with a shorter ice fishing rod. As a beginner, you are still in the learning phase. The shorter rods will eventually help you to enhance your skills. Ideally, rods 8 to 9 feet long are ideal for the beginners.
  • Of course, spare a thought for the other members of the family, who might be equally interested in the fishing game. So, for the sake of children go for the shorter rods which will be easier for them to operate.
  • Again a shorter rod is the best choice in wooded areas and those locations which have some brush around.
  • If your desired place of ice fishing has snow all around with wide open spaces, the chances of getting fly fish are more, do not think twice, go for the longer rods.
  • Professional ice fishers think big. They will not relax until they catch a large and aggressive fish, so they will inevitably prefer the stronger but a shorter rod.
  • There are some disadvantages of using longer rods. Often, you might need to do the fishing sitting inside the shelter; you will find handling longer rods very inconvenient.
  • Furthermore, longer rods seldom have the precision of detecting the sensitivity of the fish, something which is indispensable when you intend to grasp the less aggressive fishes in such cold conditions.

The weight of the rod

The weight of an ice fishing rod defines the strength of it. If you can handle heavier rods, you can be sure of working with a robust piece.

The weight of the rod has a direct relation with the diameter of the rod. So, a heavy ice fishing rod will necessarily have a wider width which will increase the chances of a good catch.

Generally, anglers prefer the ultra-light, medium, medium-light, and the medium heavy rods. Among these, the medium weight rods are preferable to most ice fishing enthusiasts.

The medium rods are also advisable for the novices.

Base materials

In your previous ice fishing expeditions, you must have noticed how the professional ice fishing enthusiasts emphasize on the base materials of the rod.

You ought to get this right, as this factor is ultimately going to determine if you are going to bag the fish or end up losing it. If you make the mistake of taking the fish lightly, you will return empty-handed.

You have to be on your toes, as the fish will inevitably put up a fearsome fight when you hook one. At this stage, the fishing rod should be able to endure the strain.

While you try to pull it up from one end, the fish on the other end will wreak havoc. So, the rod has to withstand this tension.

Understandably, the rod should be made up of some sturdy material. Generally, the fiberglass rods, graphite rods, and the bamboo rods are your choices.

Here, I will explain their functionalities elaborately. 

Fiberglass Rods:

The fiberglass rods for ice fishing have been a favorite medium for ice fishing since the 1950’s.

The material has gone through several modifications since then. In typical situations, when you have to troll, vertical jig or need to pull the crankbaits, you do not need the fishing rod to be sensitive.

Instead, you will prefer a medium to slow action. The material is capable of bending entirely unlike the other fishing rod materials. These fiberglass rods are much cheaper and are an ideal choice for the neophytes of ice fishing.

However, fiberglass fishing rods have some limitations. They are much thicker and bulkier than the graphite rods. Again, the fiberglass rods will not spring back to shape with the necessary force in comparison to the graphite rods.

As already mentioned, they lack the sensitivity, so the usage of the fiberglass rods is limited in specific situations only.

Graphite Rods:

The introduction of the graphite rods was much later, in the 70’s. The graphite rods are known for their stiffness and tensile strength.

Graphite rods go through very high temperatures during the manufacturing process.  In some situations, the temperature can exceed up to 3000 degrees. Since the graphite rods are more tensile and stiff, these rods are a lot lighter and sensitive.

Anglers can use the combination of a graphite rod with a braided fishing line. Even when a minnow bites, you will be able to sense it. Additionally, graphite rods are known for their recoil force that provides extra whip when casting.

Sometimes, the increased sensitivity of these graphite rods does not work in your favor. You may pull the hook too soon which will understandably end up in losing the catch.

Thus, graphite rods are not the best bet for aggressive or heavy fishes. Graphite rods can be pricey. Therefore it may not be affordable for the ice fishing newbies.

Bamboo Rods:

The bamboo ice fishing rods are in existence for centuries. Despite the introduction of the other materials for fishing, many anglers still prefer using the bamboo rods.

Even today, in certain situations these bamboo fishing rods can prove to be a handful over its competitors. As we all know, bamboo is an organic fiber, and this is its most significant advantage. You are going to love its flexibility and the ease of use.

Of course, when you compare the bamboo rods with its counterparts, the bamboo rods are going to emerge as the heaviest of the lot.

These rods are ideal for catching dry flies, small nymphs and emergers. Bamboo rods are suitable for those who plan to fish for the entire day.

Bamboo fishing rods can be expensive, the most significant thing about them is the best quality bamboo fishing rods are incredibly robust. Thus they will never break.

Bamboo fishing rods are more suitable for the experts; beginners will not find it easy to handle them.

Understand the Rod Power

During ice fishing, the angler needs to apply a certain amount of pressure to bend the fishing rod. Therefore, the power indicates the pressure you need to use.

Simultaneously, the power also defines the lifting capacity and the strength of the rod.

You must have heard, ice fishing pros while discussing their fishing rods say, a particular rod has a lot of backbone. They are referring to the power of the rod.

The fishing rod manufacturers typically categorize the power of the fishing rod as heavy, medium heavy, medium, and light, which are further classified as heavy-medium, ultra-light and so on.

Always remember, there is a direct relation between the power and the line strength of the rod. So, the heavier rods can easily pull up heavy weights, and the lighter rods are more suitable for the light lines.

All the fishing rods will have printed information on the type of fishing line you should use. Not adhering to this guideline can cause problems, as a using a light line with a heavy rod will snap the lines and using a heavy line on a light rod will snap the rod.

Always keep a close eye on the power ratings. For example, a heavy bass rod and a heavy offshore rod will not be the same, despite both have the same heavy attribute.

If you observe, one of them will have a power rating for 25lb lines while the other for 80lb line. You must have got the hang of things now.

So, go for a heavy rod when you intend to rummage the ice for catching a fish. The lighter power rod is suitable for fresh-water fishing, which is not our subject of interest right now.


The name says it all; we are now talking business.

Remember, I told you, when you finish reading this, you will surely not return empty-handed from your next ice fishing expedition.

The action is the most intriguing part. Action describes the ability of the rod to deflect when you put pressure on the tip. The degree of the bend depends on the type of action the rod is suitable for performing.

For example, a heavy action rod will bend in the top-third, a moderate action rod will bend in the top half, and the light action rod will bend from the lower third of the rod.

Let us pause for a bit; you must be thinking, the heavy, medium and light action I mentioned above is about the power. But, that is not the case. They define the action and not the power since some fishing rod manufacturers use the same categories defining the action and power, things can get confusing.

Let us make things simpler for you. The action balances the power of the rod when you are casting and fighting bass. Therefore, the action of a fishing rod will have an impact on the way it is cast, the sensitivity of the tip, and how quickly it can transfer the hook which has bait.

Use a lighter action rod for casting lighter baits and vice versa. With experience, you will understand how the actions work in ice fishing.

Generally, the actions of bass rods are either fast or very fast. It is necessary as these rods are much more sensitive.

The advantage of using a fast action rod is, you will not need to move the rod too much for grabbing the fish and pulling it up.

Lastly, the actions are relative to the applications you use such as treble hooks, like crankbaits and topwater lures and the spinnerbaits. Ultimately, the action of the rod will depend on the type of lure you are going to use.

Below, I elaborate on the various actions of the rod for you to understand.

Fast action:

If you examine a fast action rod closely, you will notice it has a flexible tip, but the other parts of the rod will be rigid. True to its name, you can achieve great flexibility which is at least one-fourth to one-third fast.

You will always experience a better sensitivity; similarly, the transmission of vibrations is far more comfortable on these fast action rods.

Slow action:

The slow action rods are capable of bending their entire length. Understandably, they offer the maximum flexibility to you.

If you aim to target the smaller species, then think no further and go for the slow action rods. Usually, the slow action rods includes a shock absorber; this prevents the hook from ripping through the mouth of the fish in the hook set.

If you intend using the treble hooks, the slow action rods would be ideal. Treble hooks will not bite deep into the mouth of the fish which makes it very convenient to lift the fish, unlike its bigger counterparts.

Extra fast action:

Yes, you also have the choice of using an extra fast action rod. These rods will specifically bend at the tip for added convenience.

You can also go for the moderate fast action rods that bend just over the lower of the shaft.

Light power fast action:

The light power fast action rod is for those ice fishing enthusiasts who are eyeing species like trout, crappie, and groupie.

For the sake of capsizing larger species like catfish and walleye, you will need the medium power or the moderate fast rods. 

Species of fish

It is not yet over. Now, you have to do some homework for knowing to use specific rods for catching a particular species of fish.

Never presume you will be able to catch all the varieties of fish with a single rod having absolute power and weight. You ought to alter the power levels to increase your chances of catching different variants of fish.

I have tried my best to furnish the information below. You only need to remember them.

The ultra-light power rods are ideal for catching panfish. The lighter powered rods will help you to catch perch and walleye.

Go for the light-medium powered rods for bagging whitefish and most of the variants of trout. Lastly, you can use the heavy powered rods to capture pike and lake trout.

Reel selection

Fishing reels serve the purpose of holding the fishing line when the casting is into the hole, and later on, it rewinds to the angler.

Reels are attached with the fishing rods and are available in various combinations such as graphite, aluminum, brass, rubber, stainless steel, and other composite materials.

Since ice fishing is different in comparison to the fresh-water fisheries, there is no need of holding many lines as the casting distance will be short. An ultra-light reel is your best option for ice fishing. Only if you aim for the more prominent species like trout or pike, you should use the heavier variant.

When you visit the store to buy a fishing reel, you will get three options, spinning, spin casting, and baitcasting.

I have already mentioned this earlier; the spinning reels are ideal for catching small fish and the novices of ice fishing. You can use them in combination with the light reels.

The spin casting variant resembles a closed design; they are sturdy and can weather the wrath of the bad weather, which is so prevalent in ice fishing expeditions.

The spin casting reels are the best option for capsizing small-medium fishes.

The bait casting, the third variant of fishing reel is the most expensive of the lot. Anglers will have the convenience of utilizing more lines and can gear faster. They are best for use in deep waters and the sake of the larger fishes.

Rod Taper

Are you familiar with the name rod taper?

Well, you should then; else when you visit a tackle store looking for a preferable fishing rod, the staff will necessarily ask you about the rod taper which will perplex you.

The rod taper represents the thickness of both the rod and the rod blank.

Assuming, you are using a graphite rod, and the tensile modulus categorizes the rod taper. The tensile modulus is for measuring the elasticity of the carbon fibers.

Generally, the lighter blanks will have higher flexibility, thus a higher modulus.

Opt for big guides

As the name suggests, these guides can make all the difference on how you reel up and drop the baits.

Most anglers tend to be serious about the other essential factors of the fishing rods, like the type of rods, the weight, the taper rod, and the action, but forget to focus on the guides.

Keep this in the back of your mind, these guides which to some extent resemble the “eyes” can directly affect the performance of the fishing rod.

When you go for more guides, preferably five to six of them, the fishing rod will bend accurately.

Keep an eye on the tip, as these guides should bend when they reach this position. I advise you to cut down on your unnecessary expenses for procuring these bigger guides.

Why? You may ask, these bigger guides can be expensive but are well worth it.

The big guides will intimate you instantly when the fish has bitten. Lastly, the proper placement of these guides is equally essential. So, always examine the rod properly when you are purchasing a rod to avoid disappointment later.

Different components of the fishing rod

Finally, it is the time to become familiar with the elements that comprise the fishing rod.

A better understanding of the fishing rod will make you competent while handling it.

So, here we go:

Grip or Handle:

You will find a plethora of handle and holds on the fishing rods. Some of them have full-length grips, while some will sport a glued-on grip.

At the present day, various materials comprise the grips that include foam, cork, and wood. A good grip is indispensable for comfortably casting and reeling a fish.

I further break up the grips for your convenience.

Cork Grips:

Most anglers prefer the cork grips nowadays, they are very cozy and are water-resistant.

Foam Grips:

Foams, as we all know, are very relaxing, here also, foam grips will ensure a lightweight, and durable grip which will never break.

Pistol Grip:

The pistol grip is perhaps the shortest possible grips. It is curvy which suits the shape of your hands.

It derives this name because it comes with a hook which you can use with your index finger. It certainly helps in accurate casting.

Trigger Stick:

Sometimes, depending on the type of fish you are going to catch or the fishing location, you might prefer a more extended cast.

The trigger stick is the perfect grip for this. You can use both your hands without any problems.

Reel Seat:

The reel seat refers to the meeting point where the pole and reel attach. Molded Plastic or graphite are the necessary materials that comprise the reel seat.

It helps in securing the reel and negates the chances of any wobbling when you are casting or reeling the fish.

Generally, you will notice, the reel seats have a collar which is tightly attached by a screw around the reel area.


It is the section of the rod that is bound by a screw.

The ferrules are the only piece of a fishing rod which needs assembling. You can assemble it at the tackle store.

Saltwater guides:

You can select among the plastic, ceramic or metal saltwater guide. You will notice the presence of several circles in the shaft of the rod.

These are essential for getting control in the fishing line. Usually, these line guides appear on the top of casting rods. These guides enhance the casting and reeling process by tumbling the play in the line.

The spinning rods help to place the guides at the bottom of the rod. Towards the base of the rod, the saltwater guides get bigger.

The actual number of guides depends on the rod’s length and quality.


The friction of the fishing line is going to differ from one rod to the other.

Depending on the friction, the crafting of the inner rings can be of stainless steel, ceramic or chrome-plated.

The icing on the cake

Now, you have all the information about choosing the best ice fishing rod.

I offer you some more tips which you will find useful when you are out there on the snow anticipating a fish to bite the bait.

Remember to carry along these three things:

  • Skimmer: There will be slush, and you will waste precious time in clearing them from the ice hole. A skimmer can help you remove the slush quickly.
  • Tip-up: Most of the seasoned ices fishing enthusiasts use the tip-up. The tip-up suspends live bait beneath the ice for detecting the presence of fish. No sooner, a fish bites, a trip bar gets pulled and intimates the angler immediately with a flag. So, anglers can envelop more extensive areas instead of waiting at a single hole.
  • Jigs and Lures: The jigs and lures can save your time. You can use the live bait with them. They will glow or shine beneath the icy waters to catch the attention of the fish.


That’s it.

All the relevant information related to choosing the ice fishing rods are now at your fingertips.

If you follow these guidelines, you should be able to get a fulfilling ice fishing experience on your next endeavor.

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