Best Reel for Ice Fishing: Top 5 Performance Picks for 2024

Ice fishing is a winter activity that reels in both thrill and chill. It’s an experience unlike any other, where patience is tested and the catch is as unpredictable as the weather.

The heart of ice fishing lies in its simplicity and minimalistic approach—just an angler, a hole in the ice, and, of course, the reel that becomes an extension of one’s will to outsmart the fish below.

Selecting the right reel is crucial in this cold and serene setting, where every turn of the handle feels like a conversation with the icy depths.

The reel is the unsung hero in ice fishing. It must be robust enough to handle the hard-hitting pulls of a fish yet delicate enough to sense the faintest nibble. It’s not just a tool; it’s a lifeline between the fisher and their frigid quarry.

The best ice fishing reels boast an ergonomic design, a smooth drag system, and the durability to withstand the cold without freezing or cracking.

When shopping for an ice fishing reel, attention must be given to the type of reel, gear ratio, and spool size, ensuring they align with the targeted fish species and fishing technique. A high-quality reel also has comfortable grips that can be easily manipulated wearing gloves, and it must offer precise control over the line to expertly hook and land fish.

We spent countless hours in the cold, line in the water, testing a multitude of reels to find those that stand up to the challenge of the frozen waters.

Top Ice Fishing Reels

When winter’s grip takes hold of our waters, transforming them into ice fishing havens, the right gear can make all the difference between a story of ‘the one that got away’ and the victorious snap of a photo with a day’s catch.

We know the importance of a reliable reel when you’re braving the chill, which is why we’ve compiled our favorite ice fishing reels, all tried and tested by anglers who demand the best.

Whether you’re after the whisper-quiet retrieve of an inline reel or the robust power of a spinning setup, our selection has you covered. Stay tuned for the reels that help ensure your next icy outing is a success.

KastKing Centron Ice Reel

We’ve had the pleasure of trying the KastKing Centron Size 500 and it’s safe to say it’s a game-changer for ice fishing, balancing affordability with performance impressively well.


  • Remarkably smooth retrieval with its 9+1 ball bearings
  • Strong drag system, handy for those surprise trophy catches
  • Compact and lightweight design makes it easy to handle in the cold


  • An occasional complaint about the drag adjustment not clicking
  • Some might find the bail spring a bit weak during aggressive casts
  • Though sturdy, the heavier feel may not be for everyone

We just got a fresh taste of winter fishing action using the KastKing Centron Ice Reel, and it was nothing short of exhilarating. The smoothness while reeling in feisty fish through the ice was commendable – those nine quality ball bearings really do their job well.

Its compact graphite frame didn’t burden our wrists even after hours of jigging, which is a huge plus when you’re bundled up and managing gear in the cold.

The drag system on this reel is robust. We didn’t expect to hook anything massive through the ice, but on the off chance we did, it felt reassuring to know the reel could handle up to 17.5 pounds. Testing the line with different weights, the drag proved both smooth and strong, a vital feature when finessing fish out of their chilly lairs.

Now, the look is something we can’t ignore. The KastKing Centron doesn’t just function well – it turns heads out on the ice. That brilliant anodized aluminum spool with its two-tone color adds some style to your setup, making it look as good as it fishes. However, it’s not all about appearances; that spool design with its power launch lip does indeed help with longer casts and more efficient line management.

Despite its numerous positives, we did notice a couple of areas that could be improved. For one, we’ve heard a few fellow anglers mention that their drag click sounded muted after substantial use. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s something to be mindful of if auditory feedback is important to you.

Moreover, some might find the bail spring a tad softer than preferred, potentially affecting the casting crispness if you’re used to a firmer feel.

As a wrap-up, the KastKing Centron Ice Reel offers an outstanding balance of performance, durability, and aesthetics, which makes it worthy of consideration for anyone looking to enhance their ice fishing experience. It manages to feel both solid in hand and gentle on your line, ensuring you can focus on the thrill of the catch without a second thought on your equipment.


If you’re looking to elevate your ice fishing game, this reel’s performance and design make it a solid choice.


  • Effortless freespool lever enhances reaction time when targeting fish
  • Non-twisting line structure cuts down on annoying tangles
  • Durable build with quality materials stands up to tough conditions


  • Some may find the magnetic drop system takes getting used to
  • Handle feel might be gritty to the touch for some users
  • May not suit those on the tightest of budgets

After recently putting the ANATONO ICI Ice Reel to the test, we have some thoughts to share. Trust us, when it comes to ice fishing, having the right gear makes all the difference.

The soft-touch composite structure really does give you that ‘perfect touch’—it sits in the hand like it belongs there, and the lightweight design means you won’t tire as easily jigging for hours.

This reel’s freespool lever is a game-changer. It lets you drop your line with the kind of precision you’d expect from more expensive models. We found ourselves responding to bites faster than ever, and the aluminum alloy handle and EVA knob didn’t leave our fingers feeling numb in the cold—a big plus!

The durability is another feather in the cap for ANATONO. Ice fishing gear takes a beating, but with a CNC machined aluminum alloy spool and robust gearing, this reel holds its own against feistier fish. Coupling that with a magnetic drop system to customize how your bait descends, and, well, it seems ANATONO has thought of everything to help you enjoy the serene challenge of ice fishing.

It’s fair to note that, while the magnetic drop system offers silky smooth line release, it can take a bit of trial and error before you dial it in just right.

And while the majority of this reel feels robust, the occasional user reports a less-than-silky handle rotation. Despite these minor gripes, we believe the ICI Ice Reel is a worthy companion for any angler braving the ice.


If you’re angling for a solid ice fishing experience, this reel should be on your line-up for its sturdy build and smooth mechanics.


  • Highly durable aluminum body withstands the cold
  • Smooth 3.2:1 gear ratio for a great line retrieval experience
  • Ergonomic EVA handle knob allows for a comfortable and firm grip


  • Limited total customer reviews may not reflect a wide range of experiences
  • May be heavier than other ice fishing reels
  • The sensitivity of the drop speed adjustment might take some getting used to

We’ve had our hands on the FREE FISHER Ice Fish Reel recently, and it’s quite the catch for winter anglers.

The heft and balance of the aluminum body convey an immediate sense of quality. It’s a reel that feels like it’s built to last, even in the harshest of cold conditions.

Retrieving line with this reel is as smooth as you’d hope, with a 3.2:1 gear ratio that reels in your catch without hiccup. During our ice fishing ventures, we appreciated how it made the task feel effortless. The mechanism performed admirably, adding to our confidence on the ice.

Comfort is key when you’re in sub-zero conditions, and this reel doesn’t disappoint. The frosted EVA handle knob provided us with a non-slip grip, even with gloves on. Experiences of fumbling with gear in the cold are long gone, as this handle makes sure your focus stays on the fish.

While the FREE FISHER reel has quite a few things going for it, we did notice the relatively small number of reviews. However, every piece of fishing gear has to start somewhere, and the feedback available sings high praise.

As for its weight, some may find it takes a little more muscle to operate than lighter reels. Lastly, the precise drop speed adjustment is a feature that could be a pro or con, depending on your preference. For us, once dialed in, it felt like a custom fit.

13 FISHING FreeFall Carbon Reel

If precision and control are your game on the ice, the FreeFall Carbon is a reel that lives up to its hype.


  • FreeFall Trigger allows for exact jig presentation
  • A carbon drag system ensures a smooth experience with trophy catches
  • Ultra-light carbon frame design reduces hand fatigue during long fishing sessions


  • Heavier than some plastic models, which may lead to arm soreness
  • Free spooling can occur with too light of a jig or in windy conditions
  • Possible durability concerns with gear alignment reported by a few users

Out on the ice, gearing up with the FreeFall Carbon, I couldn’t help but admire its build-quality. From its carbon fiber body to its silky smooth drag system, it’s built to elevate your ice fishing game.

It’s as if the spool itself is in tune with the heartbeat of the lake, dropping jigs with finesse and precision that only seasoned anglers could previously muster.

Fishing is as much about feel as it is about technique. With the FreeFall Carbon, the drag settings are as responsive as a conductor’s baton, orchestrating the tension to match the spirited dance of a walleye or panfish.

This level of control almost feels like cheating – almost.

But let’s be real, a full day of ice angling isn’t without its toll on the body. While the FreeFall Carbon is lean, it is slightly heavier than some of its plastic counterparts. We noticed a tad bit of arm fatigue after hauling in a day’s catch – a small price to pay for the quality at hand.

At times, we witnessed the spool release line with just a huff of wind, a testament to its sensitivity, but also a call for a mindfulness in rigging. And, while rare, there were murmurs around the ice hole about gear alignment issues, which gives us pause – but these seem more exception than rule.

A day spent with the FreeFall Carbon is a day spent with confidence in your tackle. We find it true – this reel isn’t just a tool, it’s a statement. Crafted for the angler who seeks both comfort and performance under the frosty sky, it’s a companion worth considering for those looking to make their mark on the ice.

Buying Guide

Selecting the Right Type

When gearing up for ice fishing, selecting the right reel is akin to picking the right tool for a job. So, what should we consider?

  • Inline Reels: Ideal for light baits, minimizing line twist.
  • Spinning Reels: Versatile and easier for beginners to handle.
  • Baitcasting Reels: Best for heavier lures and providing great control.

Key Features to Consider

Gear Ratio

To tip the scales in our favor, a reel with a suitable gear ratio for ice fishing is crucial. We typically want something that allows us to reel in slowly to entice fish in the icy waters.

Drag System

Just like the importance of good traction on ice, a reliable drag system helps us maintain control over the fish without snapping the line.

  1. Smoothness: A reel that runs as smooth as a hot knife through butter will give us better control.
  2. Adjustability: The ability to easily tweak the tension could mean the difference between a successful catch and a fish tale.


Material Pros Cons
Graphite Lightweight, less fatigue on our arms Less durable than other materials
Aluminum Strong and durable Heavier, can be a workout
  • Bearings: We should look for a reel with a good number of bearings, which could mean the difference between a slippery catch or a solid one.


  • Size and Weight: It’s like picking the right size of boots; the reel should be comfortable for us to hold and use for extended periods.
  • Handle: Designed to be used with gloves, because let’s face it, no one likes frostbite while fishing.

Frequently Asked Questions

In ice fishing, choosing the right reel can make a significant difference. We’ll tackle some common queries to help you select the best reel for your angling adventures.

What features should I look for in a high-quality ice fishing reel?

A top-notch ice fishing reel should offer:

  • Smooth drag for consistent line release.
  • Adequate line capacity to handle the depth and fish size.
  • Durability to withstand extreme cold without malfunctioning.

How does reel type affect ice fishing effectiveness for species like perch and walleye?

When targeting perch and walleye, the reel type has specific impacts:

  • Gear ratio suited to the species’ behavior ensures efficient retrieval.
  • Stronger drag systems handle the fight these fish often put up.

What are the advantages of using an inline reel over a spinning reel for ice fishing?

Inline reels boast several advantages:

  • Reduced line twist, which is crucial for presenting lures naturally.
  • Better lure control to subtly entice fish through the ice.

Can standard spinning reels be adapted for use in ice fishing, and if so, how?

Surely, standard spinning reels can be adapted with a few modifications:

  • Using a lighter line to cope with frigid temperatures.
  • Keeping the reel clean of ice and snow buildup for optimal performance.

What size of ice fishing reel is most versatile for various fishing conditions?

For versatility across different ice fishing scenarios, consider:

  • A reel size 20 or 25, balancing sensitivity with the strength needed for bigger catch.

How do I choose between different brands of ice fishing reels like Shimano, Pflueger, and 13 Fishing?

Selecting amongst brands like Shimano, Pflueger, and 13 Fishing comes down to:

  • Comparing features such as gear ratios, bearings, and construction materials.
  • Also, consider your personal preference based on comfort and past experiences with the brand.

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