In the world of fishing, there is probably no fishing tackle more strange than that for ice fishing. From ice augers to flashers to tiny ice fishing rods, the gear can be wild-looking.
However, when an ice fishing trip is successful, it is a great time that every angler should experience at least once.
We are going to look at the best ice fishing rods on the market. We have sought out the very best and reviewed them all below to help you choose the best one for you.
Our Top Picks
St. Croix Mojo Ice
St. Croix Legend Black Ice
HT Enterprise Ice Blue
1. Best Overall: St. Croix Mojo Ice
St. Croix has long been one of the best fishing rod manufacturers of its day. it came as no surprise that we decided on the St. Croix Mojo Ice as our overall pick for the best ice fishing rod.
I cannot think of a situation where having the St. Croix Mojo Ice by your side would not be beneficial. it’s great for fishing pike, walleye, panfish, and lake trout. You name it. The Mojo Ice series also offers rods of multiple sizes to accommodate your needs.
This series of ice fishing rods can be purchased in ultralight all the way to medium strength. They also offer it in sizes 24″, 28″, and 32″ if you have an ice fishing preference.
In 2020 the Mojo Ice series changed a bit, and St. Croix added a carbon dust blank. The proprietary reel seat was given a flat finish. This rod features a split grip made of EVA and cork, which is comfortable and does well in cold temperatures.
Our overall best pick is from St. Croix and is priced reasonably for a top-quality ice fishing rod. Its shares that precision taper, which is part of St. Croix technology, and also allows all ice fishing techniques with its custom reel seat.
- Great for Multiple Species
- Proprietary Reel Seat
- Carbon Dust Blank
- High Price Tag
2. Premium Option: St. Croix Legend Black Ice
The Legend Black Ice is a St. Croix, and because of that, it comes standard with those high-quality manufacturing markers of any rod made their way. I am talking about the solid carbon blank and precision taper.
However, the Legend Black Ice has some features that make it perfect for taking panfish like perch and crappie. One of the reasons we chose this as our best ice fishing rod for panfish is the built-in strike indicator.
The high-tension stainless steel strike indicator is perfect for the little bites of smaller fish. This strike indicator can be fine-tuned depending on the species you are after but it is a feature that truly shines when dealing with smaller panfish.
As the name suggests, the Legend Black Ice is a dark rod by design and comes in 24″ and 30″. You can purchase yours in ultralight to medium power, depending on your preference.
This rod also features Pac Bay minima guides which work great in the cold weather and feed line effectively. Legend Black Ice is the ultimate piece of ice fishing tackle for landing panfish.
- Strike Indicators
- Pac Bay minima Guides
- Variations in Size and Action Available
- Strike Indicator Requires Harder Hookset
3. Budget Option: HT Enterprise Ice Blue
Combos are merely rods that come with a reel as part of the package. A lot of times, these are not the best quality reels or rods and are designed more to be affordable than to be functional.
However, if you do some intel on the fishing combos that are on the market, you will find some quality combos that are worth talking about. The HT Enterprise Ice Blue offers one such ice fishing combo.
The Ice Blue is, at its core, a fiberglass rod that has long been the standard for fishing rods. Fiberglass is not one of the most modern materials used to make fishing rods today, but it is incredibly durable and reliable.
This rod has some standout features, like the orange rod tip. This orange rod tip is a more affordable strike indicator than the black coil spring that comes on the St. Croix model. What HT Enterprise has done with this ice fishing rod created a tip that catches the eye.
You focus on the rod tip easily and see every little tick that happens. This can really open your eyes to smaller bites and assure you aren’t losing bait to smaller fish or missing fish altogether.
The blue corkalon handle easily screws the included ice fishing reel into place and uses black rings to keep it there. Corkalon handles are easy to grip and nonabsorbent so that water and ice do not build up on your handle.
For the price, there is no better ice fishing rod and combo to get started with. This rod is also a great solution if you are buying for children or multiple fishermen at a party. It’s an ice fishing rod that gets the job done but won’t break the bank even if you buy a few of them.
- Hi Vis Orange Strike Indicator Rod Tip
- Corkalon Handle
- Highly Affordable
- Small Guides
- Fiberglass Design
4. 13 FISHING Widow Maker
With a name like the Tickle Stick, which follows its Widow Maker moniker, any ice angler is going to fall in love with 13 Fishing and its ice fishing rod.
If we were judging ice fishing rods merely on the uniqueness of design, then I would take this ice fishing rod hands-down. Frankly, it is an innovative and beautiful design but also insanely simplistic. It’s undoubtedly a standout rod at first glance.
One of the most interesting features of the 13 FISHING Widow Maker is the Evolve reel wraps which hold your ice fishing reel in place. These reel wraps replace the traditional screw and secure systems that most ice fishing rods depend on.
The rod itself is of the highest quality and is built from a 36-ton solid-body Toray graphite blank. It brings all the power you could want and need. The rod comes in 27″ and 29″ with super ultralight strength to medium light. This gives you some options when it comes to the type of fish you are after.
The ALPS thin wire diamond-coated guides are incredible. They are perfect for ice fishing and are just another high-quality feature of the 13 Fishing ice fishing rod.
The Tennesse-style handle is very unique and works well with the small ice fishing reel and one-of-a-kind reel wraps. This is the next generation of ice fishing rods.
- 36- Ton Toray Graphite Blank
- Diamond Coated Guides
- Evolve Reel Wraps
5. Fenwick Eagle Ice Fishing Rod
Fenwick is one of those fishing rod brands that doesn’t get the kind of attention it deserves. My father kept an incredible Fenwick rod in the rafters of our basement in a brown hard plastic rod holder.
We would take it out from time to time, and I was always very impressed with the quality of the rod, even in the 90s! Fenwick has been around a long time, and it shows in the Fenwick Eagle Ice Fishing Rod.
This Fenwick is built on a solid carbon blank which offers that quality sensitivity you expect when you are running jigs in cold water. The Eagle ice fishing rod comes standard with stainless steel guides that stand up great against the cold weather. They are lightweight and wide to help deal with ice build-up.
The guides are reinforced with aluminum oxide inserts that will basically survive any kind of punishment an ice fishing trip can dream up.
It’s all set in a burled cork handle that is very comfortable to grip, along with its ergonomic reel seat.
The Fenwick Eagle is our runner-up for best ice fishing rod because it is not only packed with features but also comes in at a great value for the buyer.
- Solid Carbon Blank,
- Great Guides for Ice Fishing
- Cork Handle and Ergonomic Reel Seat
- Very Slow Action Rod
6. Shakespeare Ugly Stick GX2 Ice Fishing Rod & Reel
Since I was eight years old, I have been fishing seriously. After nearly 30 years of enjoying the life of an angler, you would think that my tastes would be refined, and I would shop only the most expensive and fine-crafted rods and reels.
I have always been a guy who fishes Shakespeare rods and reels. I have caught trophy-sized freshwater fish on affordable Shakespeare combos, and I can tell you that this is my go-to brand when it comes to spin fishing tackle.
For that reason, I bring you the Shakespeare Ugly Stick GX2 Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Combo. This is a lighter and more balanced version of the Ugly Stick. the GX2 model features a genuine Ugly Stick blank in graphite which makes it so sensitive but also very light.
You are going to get that clear rod tip that has become synonymous with these kinds of rods. The tip is designed to identify those subtle bites. The Ugly Tough guides are one-piece and perfect for the ice angler.
All of these features are sunk into an EVA split handle with great ergonomics and a twist lock reel seat that houses the Shakespeare reel. Of course, the included reel can be swapped out with your ice fishing reel of choice.
- Great Value
- Quality Ugly Stick Rod Blank
- Balanced Handle and Reel Seat
- Sensitive Tip with Fast Action Rod is Challenging for Beginners
Features of a High-Quality Ice Fishing Rod
The power of your fishing rod is always an important feature as it brings all the force to fight a fish from the bottom of the lake up into your hands. The best ice fishing rod will be strong enough to lift a fish’s chin upward as you reel it in.
This can minimize the kind of thrashing that allows a fish to shake loose. from your hook.
If you are jigging, then a strong ice fishing rod is also great for setting the hook or jerking the hook into the fish’s mouth. When the hook is set, and the barb of the hook gets all the way through it becomes much harder for a fish to get away.
This is much easier to achieve with a stronger fishing rod.
The power of an ice fishing rod is usually spread out from super ultra light being the least powerful rod to medium, which is about as powerful as ice fishing rods go. There is ultralight, light, and medium light between those first two options.
Usually, the smaller the fish, the less power you will need in your ice fishing rod.
The action of a rod is how much give is in the rod. Rod action runs the gamut and can range from:
- Extra Fast Action
- Fast Action
- Moderate Action
- Slow Action
The faster the action, the higher up the bend begins in the rod. The spine of the rod is much stronger and harder to bend. In a slow-action ice fishing rod, you will find that the bend happens close to the handle, and you lose some control. A rod with extra fast action will only bend just below the tip.
There is a certain type of tap, tap, tap that occurs when a fish is biting your bait. Any fisherman knows this telltale sign. For live bait fishermen, it can mean that you might have just had your bait stolen.
When you are holding a quality ice fishing rod in your hands, you will easily be able to feel those small strikes and you will know there is a fish on. This will prevent you from losing fish and bait over the course of a day.
Some fish are cautious and hit your bait lightly. If your ice fishing rod does not have a good backbone, then you may not feel it, or it may feel insignificant.
Cold water running over your guides combined with cold temperatures will increase the possibility of ice forming on those guides. When ice forms on your guides, it makes your line harder to reel in.
The sharp ice crystals can also damage your line throughout the day of fishing. This could result in line breakage when you are reeling in a fish. You do not want to lose that big fish over icy guides.
Look for an ice fishing rod with nice large guides. Remember, these are the highways for your ice fishing line. You want big open lanes so your line can go out and come back smoothly.
Size Matters for Ice Fishing
Ice fishing rods are much smaller than the usual freshwater fishing rod. This is because you are pulling fish straight up from an ice fishing hole instead of fighting the fish over a large body of water.
The smaller size can also help when it comes to ice fishing in a confined shelter or ice fishing tent. You simply cannot fit a 7′ fishing rod into some of these spaces.
Size matters when it comes to ice fishing.
Short Ice Fishing Rods
A 24″ fishing rod is perfect for panfish anglers. It’s a great size rod for those after smaller fish. The short ice fishing rods are usually the ones you can get the super ultralight power and slow action.
Longer Ice fishing Rods
The 30+” ice fishing rods are designed for larger fish. If you like taking large walleye and lake trout then these are the size rods that you want. These are more common to get in the medium power and faster action for reeling in larger and more powerful fish.
Best Size for All Ice Fishing
If you are after an ice fishing rod that is sized to do it all, then go for the 28″ models. This sized rod is right in the middle and perfect for all kinds of fish species and ice fishing adventures.
Wrapping up the Best Ice Fishing Rods for 2023
Knowing your quarry is essential when you are picking out the best ice fishing rod. Whether you are trout fishing or after panfish, the rod makes a big difference. Our top 3 picks are all very special rods. If you pick the right action and power for the fish you are after, you will have success.
However, any of the selections above would guarantee that you can land quality fish time and time again.
Take the information we have provided you, and don’t forget to add your own personal preference. Sometimes it can be something as simple as how a rod looks that gets you to make the purchase. That matters, too.
For more ice fishing information, check out our Ice Fishing Gear posts.
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Born in Madelia, MN, to a now 5-generation Minnesota family, Ryan’s MN roots go deep.
A painter by day, Ryan founded Life in Minnesota in 2013 with his wife Kelly to chronicle their musings on everything Minnesota. Ryan and Kelly are raising their 7 kiddos in Maple Grove, MN.
When he’s not shuttling his kids around to hockey practice, you might find him in the shop working on his leatherwork. Undoubtedly, there will be a family trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every summer, and of course weekends at Grandpa’s cabin up north in the summer.