Best Ice Fishing Reels 2021 – Buyers Guide

Best Ice Fishing Reels – Ice fishing is an exciting sport. This sport places you in a completely new environment and allows you to access rivers and lakes you might not have been able to access in warmer seasons. It also challenges you and your gear.

Ice fishing isn’t about casting. You drop your line vertically instead. That’s why an Ice Fishing reel is so different from your regular one.

It is smaller than the ultralight version, has larger controls and handles, a longer shaft, and must be protected from the harsh elements of the environment.

This article will discuss the 6 best ice fishing rods on the market today and the reasons each one deserves a place on this list.

We have also prepared a guide to help you confidently research the best ice fishing reels.

You’ll need the right rod, and the best ice fishing reel to get you on the water. We are here to help and understand that it can be difficult to find authoritative answers, backed by facts and experience, about what works and what does not.

We have reviewed several excellent ice fishing reels and explained the criteria that we used to choose them.

Review and Buying Guide for the Best Spinning and Inline Ice Fishing Reels

Here are some of the top ice fishing reels available today.

Reels for Ice Fishing in Line

  • 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061
  • Eagle Claw Ice Reel

Spinning Ice Fishing Reels

  • Shimano Sienna SN1000FE
  • Daiwa Crossfire CF500-3Bi
  • KastKing Centron 500

The Best In-Line Ice Fishing Reel Reviews

13 Fishing Black Betty 6061

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

Drag System:Star

Maximum Drag:N/A

Gear ratio:2.7:1

The Black Betty straight-line reel from 13 Fishing is the talk in the ice fishing world. We reviewed the 6061 and were just as impressed.

The 6061 is made from aluminum and is extremely durable. The 6061 can hold up to 2 lbs of monofilament and more. Similar to the Eagle Claw it also offers a free spool to aid your jigs in their descents. The spool’s smoothness and bearings are impressive. It will drop 1/32 ounces of jigs without any trouble.

As with all its kind, the large spool design and in-line design eliminate twist and line memory.

Even with light line, the drag works well. However, it isn’t as smooth as similar spinning reels. This reel is great for jig anglers who are serious about catching fish. It’s a bit more expensive than similar products.


  • Good gear ratio for deep jigging
  • Drop jigs with a free spool button
  • Good drag


  • Not cheap

Eagle Claw Ice Reel

Line Weights and Capacity (mono) 2#/270 yards, 4#/190 yards, 6#/120 yards

Drag System: Star

Maximum Drag: N/A

Gear ratio: 2.6:1

Anglers love Eagle Claw’s hooks. The same goes for their ice fishing reels. These budget-friendly reels are made from high-strength nylon and have straight line spooling to prevent line twist. The Eagle Claw, unlike spinning reels with small spools that force the line to twist tightly and baitcasting, prevents line memory.

The spool is larger than most jigging machines, and has more line capacity. This is not an issue for ice fishing. Deep fishing is easy with a gear ratio that’s 2.6 to 1.

The reel has a spool release that makes dropping your jigs as easy as pressing a button. This is a wonderful feature that we appreciate greatly.

The drag system is not perfect. It’s also difficult to use with lighter weight lines (think 2-pound test). Worse, the drag is set towards the lighter end of this spectrum which makes the spool extremely loose. The Eagle Claw should work well if you fish with 4-pound lines or more.


  • It’s affordable
  • Good gear ratio for deep jigging
  • Drop jigs with a free spool button


  • #2 Test: Drag is difficult to adjust

Review of the Best Spinning Ice Fishing Reel

Shimano Sienna SN1000FE


Line Weights and Capacity(mono) 2#/270 yards, 4#/140 yards, 6#/110 yards

Drag System:Front

Maximum Drag:9 lbs.

Gear ratio:5.0:1

Fishing is a sport, and Shimano is a household name. This is a huge statement, and I don’t know how many reels I have owned or seen out on the water with Shimano. If you are looking for an all-arounder reel, want to use the same reel over and over, or prefer to stick through the ice, the Sienna model is the right choice.

The Sienna’s heart is a spool which can hold far more line than what you will need for ice fishing. This ultra-light reel will twist your line around its small spool creating corkscrews to send your jig soaring. You can either strip the line manually or switch to live bait.

You can expect your lures and baits to be back on the ice quickly with a gear ratio of 5.0:1.

The drag is what really sells spinning reels for ice-fishing. And the Shimano delivers. This reel is simply superior to the in-line in this area. It’s extremely smooth and can be adjusted through a wide range weights. This reel is also very affordable, which is always a plus.

This reel is well worth considering if you aren’t a dedicated jig angler or fish regularly with 2-pound line.


  • Amazing gear ratio for deep Jigging
  • Incredible drag system
  • It’s affordable


  • Jigging can be difficult if you have a tendency to twist your lines.

Daiwa Crossfire CF500-3Bi


Line Weights and Capacity(mono) 2#/190 yards, 4#/100 yards, 6#/60 yards

Drag System:Front

Maximum Drag:4.4 lbs.

Gear ratio:4.9:1

Daiwa, like Shimano is a major in the world of angling, is also a giant. The Crossfire 500 was chosen for its light design and line weights. If you like live bait over jigs or want to use it in both winter and summer, then this reel might be for you. Despite this, the Sienna was very competitive at this price.

Daiwa’s reel can hold more line than you need at lower weights. It is solid and reliable. As with the Shimano reel, the line will remember the twists that this spool forces. This is just the nature spin reels. But it’s important to remember.

The gear ratio of 4.9:1 will make it seem like lightning when you retrieve your baits. Additionally, the front-mounted drag is smooth and easily adjustable.

We feel that the Daiwa is ahead of its competition in refinement. Although the drag system is not as smooth as it should, it’s still superior to straight-line reels. If you fish regularly with 2-pound test, spinning reels may be the best choice.


  • Amazing gear ratio for deep Jigging
  • Great drag system
  • It’s affordable


  • Jigging can be difficult if you have a tendency to twist your lines.
  • Drag isn’t as smooth as Shimano Sierra

KastKing Centron 500

Line Weights and Capacity (mono) 4#/240 yards, 6#/155 yards

Drag System:Front

Maximum Drag:11 lbs.

Gear ratio:5.2:1

KastKing reels have made a big splash in recent years. They offer high quality at a very affordable price. The Centron 500 is a great reel. It feels almost as expensive as a reel costing two- to three times that.

Although this reel is lightweight, it is not as light as some of its counterparts. This won’t prevent you from filling the spool with 2-pound test. The KastKing’s larger Spool is a practical advantage. It’s slightly larger than the Shimano or Daiwa and will force less memory onto the line. However, this won’t make it a jigging hero.

You can either switch to spinning reels or use a strip by hand. But even so, you should expect some twists in your jigs.

However, this is not the place where spinners shine. The Centron 500 has a front-mounted drag, which is far more smooth than its cost. The Shimano is easily adjustable for light line. However, it edges out the Centron 500 with 2 pounds. But, at heavier weights, this is open to debate.

Deep fishing is possible because of its high gear ratio.


  • Amazing gear ratio for deep Jigging
  • Great drag system
  • It’s affordable


  • Jigging can be difficult if you have a tendency to twist your lines.
  • Drag isn’t as smooth as Shimano Sierra’s 2-pound test

Our Picks – The 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061, and the Shimano Sienna SN1000FE

Our top two contenders are able to deliver, no matter if you prefer the jigging power of a straight-line reel or the incredible drag options and versatility of a spinning one.

The Black Betty 6061 is a dedicated jig angler’s dream jig. It has no line twist, easy deployment and a strong gear ratio. It’s simple and robust, so it can withstand the cold. If you take care it will take care you. It is simply more well-constructed than other products and delivers better performance. It’s not cheap but it is worth the investment.

The Sienna 1000FE is the reel for you if you are looking for a spinning reel, a deadstick reel, or multi-season versatility. The Shimano 1000FE is an affordable and powerful reel. Its smooth drag is the highlight of the Shimano show. There are probably no better reels at this price, especially if your preference is to fish with very light line. KastKing’s Centron 500 reel is great if you drop bait often for big fish.

These are the Most Important Things to Consider When Buying an Ice Fishing Reel


To protect themselves from the cold, ice anglers often pursue their quarry from tents, huts, and other forms of cold-weather shelter. This protects them from the harsh winter but leaves them little room for setting hooks. They can also fish through an augered hole in ice. This means that there is no casting.

The fish are in a state of near death in the cold water and won’t strike as hard as they did in summer. Anglers who wish to convert these nibbles into hooks will need the most sensitive rods available.

This is why ice fishermen use very short rods and ultra-light actions.

To match these rods, they run ultra-light reels and very light line. Anything else is inefficient.

Spinning vs. In-Line Reels

You’ll see many anglers swapping rods and keeping their ultra-light spinning gear for summer and winter if you go to the fishing huts at your local lake. This makes sense as many people prefer the trusted, reliable, and well-owned.

Another option is the in-line reels, which are basically fly fishing gear on steroids. This alternative is becoming more popular as technology has improved. Experts warn that there are pros and con to each option. You can choose which option you prefer, but it is important to know the differences!

Spinning Reels

Spinning reels are the best choice for deadstick and live bait fishing. A spinning reel is a better choice than jig fishing because of the line twist.

They have better drag systems than straight line reels, and they work well in a wide range of conditions and seasons. They are easy to use and almost every angler knows how they work. There’s nothing to love about this reel. However, spinning reels with high-end features can be very expensive and their benefits in casting and retrieval are not worth it for ice fishing.

We have selected a few spinning reels that are affordable and still deliver the performance you require.

Ice fishing explained with a spinning reel

In-Line Reels

In-Line and Straight-Line Reels are the best jigging machine. The line is designed to stay straight and prevent twists and corkscrewing. This is especially important when fishing with 2-pound test. These problems can lead to lures that spin at a faster rate than professional ice skaters and scare rather than attract fish when jigging.

Straight-line reels also have fewer mechanical problems, which makes them more suitable for use in extremely cold weather. People also like the ‘pistolgrip’ option, which reduces fatigue while jigging.

The down side? These drags aren’t as versatile or multi-seasonal as their counterparts. If you have never used one, they can be a little tricky to understand.

Baitcasting Reels

Because of their great retrieving speed and smooth spooling, baitcasting reels are often used in warm weather. They are loved by everyone, from anglers fishing for reds to bass fishermen.

They’re great for ice fishing. However, the benefits they offer–awesome casting, retrieving, and casting–do not really apply when dropping lures or baits through 10-inch holes. They don’t twist as much as a spinning reel and are worth a second try through the ice if you already have a light baitcasting reel.

We can’t recommend baitcasting reels above other options so we did not include them in our reviews.

Closed Face Reels

Closed-face models from Zebco have been a staple in angling for many years. I don’t know of any fisherman without one. They are great, but they aren’t designed to withstand cold temperatures, so they can freeze in difficult conditions.

These reels are great for warm weather fishing, but we don’t think they would be a good choice for ice fishing. We didn’t review any of these reels.

Sensitive Drag Systems

This is an essential component of a quality ice fishing reel, particularly for walleye and pike. While panfish can be caught with a simple drag, it is possible to catch large, heavy fish without any assistance.

You can adjust the drag to make it light enough to give just a little at the hookset to ensure that it doesn’t pull away during fight. It prevents the drag from being too light that it becomes useless. It will be sturdy enough to support your muscle without breaking or stressing your line.

Variable drag allows you to adjust the setting to suit your line weight and the fish that you are angling for. This is where spinning reels excel, as they have more advanced drag systems than straight-line options.

  • Front Drag –These systems are located on the front end of the spool and adjust by turning a dial to loosen or tighten the drag. This makes it easy to adjust fine settings. The maximum setting of the drag creates the most mechanical resistance the reel can handle. Casting is not affected by the drag setting.
  • Front-mounted drag systems on spinning reels are often better than rear-mounted options. Drag affects the spool when the fish takes the line. Therefore, placing the drag in front will result in a stronger, smoother system.
  • Star Drag –Star systems are popular for baitcasting and straight line reels. They have a five-finger wheel that adjusts friction on the spool. These systems are very accurate on high-end baitcasting reels that cost hundreds of dollars. However, ice fishing reels are not as precise, particularly at lower line weights. The drag must be light but still smooth.
  • You can crank the drag on all of these systems to increase the pressure on the spool. This affects how easy it spins when cranking or when spooling.

There is no maximum setting. The spool will stop spinning if you raise the drag.

How to Set Drag?


Reversing your reel is helpful in a few freshwater applications. It’s useless for most other applications, as it makes the reel spin freely but doesn’t engage it.

Anti-reverse systems are essential for good ice fishing reels.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio is the relative motion between the handle and spool. A 1:1 ratio is one 360-degree turn of handle that spins the spinner once. A 5.0:1 ratio, on the other hand, means that each crank turns the handle five times.

When you spend a lot of time fishing or casting with lures that require quick retrieval, the gear ratio is something to consider. They are also important for ice fishing, especially if you fish in deeper water than 20 feet. A 1:1 ratio can lead to frustration and slow fishing in these situations.

This is crucial for ice fishing at depth. It will take you forever to retrieve a line that is 50 feet long, with a 1:1 gear ratio. You don’t necessarily need the 7.0 to 1 gear ratios of the fastest baitcastingrods, but a little mechanical advantage is always appreciated.

We offer greater versatility than 1:1 designs with the reels we made.

Friction Management

Ice fishing is more than just fishing for fish. You also have to contend with the environment. The wind, freezing water and vertical fishing are all factors that can affect your ability to see the bottom. All this puts strain on your reel.

Any reel can be ruined by friction and strain. It must be designed to properly manage the heat energy and properly dispose of it.

The friction and heat generated by it are controlled by two mechanisms: the ball bearings as well as the gear lube.

Ball Bearings

The wheels that are inside a reel’s ball bearings ensure smooth operation. Naturally, this component is more important than others.

Quality will always prevail over quantity. It’s better to choose a smaller number of high-quality, high-quality ball bearings over a large number of low-quality, low-quality bearings.

What makes high-quality ball bearings so special? Ceramic or stainless steel ball bearings are available. To extend their life expectancy and protect them, they should be sealed.

Ceramic is more expensive, but stainless steel is the most popular.

Some people believe that ceramic ball bearings make a huge difference. Others say that they are just as effective and do the same job just as well with stainless steel. It’s up to you to decide for yourself, as it will all depend on your personal preferences.

Gear Lube

Although gear lube may not be an essential component of all reels, it is an important one that relieves anglers from a lot of work. Because it includes multiple shafts and ball bearings, the gearing system can be quite complex.

Gear lube is a product that works on all aspects of the reel’s internal functioning, and prevents them from clogging or glitching under pressure.

Gear Ratio

The number of gear ratios represents the number of turns your spool makes for each full turn of the handle. In other words, it’s the speed at which your line can be retrieved.

While some may be tempted by the high gear ratio, it is not always a good idea. You should take heavier fish out slowly and firmly, so your line doesn’t snap or get snagged.

To be prepared, you might consider a maximum of 7.0 gear ratio.

Drag System

A reel’s drag is an essential component. A poor or poorly designed drag system can be a major deal-breaker. It determines the force that the reel can take before it begins giving line.

It is the line between the strength and the reel. Your rod and line could snap if it isn’t adjusted correctly. You should search for an adjustable drag system, regardless of which drag system you choose. This will allow you to catch any fish species that you desire.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

Which type of ice fishing reel should I use?

There are several options for reel types: inline reels, spinning reels and occasionally baitcasting reels.

Which is the best Inline Ice Fishing Reel for you?

The Eagle Claw Inline reel makes a great choice because it features a superior Teflon drag system and an excellent spooling mechanism.

What kind of line should I use for ice fishing?

Each line is unique and has its merits and weaknesses, but we’ll be sticking with braided lines for ice fishing.

They are extremely sensitive and offer incredible stretch, memory, low memory, great tensile strength, zero stretch, and an extremely thin diameter.

These are all important factors to consider when dropping your lure in the icy waters.

Last Thoughts

Ice fishing, as we’ve said, is an incredible sport. The thick clothing you wear can make ice fishing more fun. It allows you to find shelter, fish vertically and minimize your visibility.

Still, the right gear can make everything run smoothly. The Okuma Ceymar is our top choice among the best ice fishing reels on this list.

You will need a baitcaster if you want to catch bigger, more pride-inspiring catches. Our top pick for an ice fishing lurecasting reel is the Piscifun Torrent.

The KastKing summer is an excellent option for those who don’t want to spend a lot on ice fishing reels. It also has great capabilities.


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