Ice Fishing - Fire in the Hole
What Kind of Reel is Best for Ice Fishing?
To a dedicated angler, there is never an “off-season.” Those who can’t manage a winter trip to Florida to fish for marlin or to find freshwater joy in mountain water run-off are likely to put their fishing habit on ice. Literally.
Ice fishing is growing in popularity in the US, and it’s easy to see why. Rather than boating all over the lake or stream, ice allows you to walk to your secret spot and go right to where the fish are. And you can bet that in deep winter, under a few feet of ice, those fish are EAGER for your lure.
So what is your best bet for catching those fish?
With a short (16”-24”) rod, you know your reel’s gonna function a little differently on the ice. Basically, your choice comes down to an inline reel or a spinning reel.
What’s the difference? Let’s take a look.
Spinning reels are the most widely used, likely because they are more familiar with fishing off of the ice. Spinning reels are the most versatile, and are usually less expensive than inline reels. They work best for live bait, and are easiest for inexperienced ice fishers to use. They have two drawbacks, which underline why more experienced ice anglers opt for inline reels.
First, they are more likely to freeze up in cold temperatures. Spinners have more moving parts, and this makes them less forgiving in extreme cold. Second, they twist the line. In warm-weather fishing, giving motion to your lure helps convince fish that it’s real. But in the thick of winter, under a foot or more of ice, nothing moves very fast. Not even live bait.
Inline reels are a lot like fly reels. They keep the line straight, so it doesn’t twist or spin. And their simplicity makes them more capable of withstanding the cold. They do require a bit of a learning curve in order to master their technique, which can be frustrating to new ice anglers. They are also better suited to shallow waters and smaller fish than spinners, which have easy drag adjustments that work better with larger fish.
So which type of reel is right for you?
If you’re just getting started on the ice, you should definitely stick with a spinning reel until you get comfortable with it. Then, try upping your game with an inline reel. Or don’t. After all, it’s your ice, and it’s your choice.