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The 5 Best Ice Fishing Rods
13 Fishing Tickle Stick
From 13 Fishing, this 23" light action rod is a very solid option for those looking for an ice fishing rod that errs on the shorter side and features maximum sensitivity. At less than 2' in length, this definitely isn't the rod you want to be using when you're going up against trophy fish. However, if you're just going after lesser to medium-sized panfish, this exceptionally lightweight and flexible rod may prove to be your ultimate weapon.
The Tickle Stick likely got its name due to its unmatched sensitivity. On top of it's incredibly lightweight construction in the body, this rod also features a very flexible and sensitive tip that will allow you to see when even the subtlest pressure is applied to your line. Of course, this is ideal for noticing the bites of many cold and lethargic panfish that might not have the energy to put up too much of a fight.
The length of the rod itself is constructed using parallel composite construction, utilizing linear fibers that come together at the end to create a somewhat unique flat tip. On top of the already lightweight and sensitive design of the rod, this flat tip greatly increases your ability to detect a bite. This is true regardless of whether the fish are pulling the line up or down when they go in for your bait.
As far as smaller and more portable ice fishing rods go, this rod from 13 Fishing is a great option that shouldn't be written off due to it's slightly higher price point in comparison to other shorter rods. You are getting an increase in both sensitivity and durability compared to many of it's competitors. Certainly, ice fishermen who like to keep things compact and won't be going after any trophy catches will feel right at home with this rod. It's not the strongest, but it's increased sensitivity will definitely be a huge selling point for many.
Overall, this is definitely a rod to consider if portability and sensitivity are the two main factors you are looking for in your ice fishing rod. Although you are paying a little bit extra for the extreme sensitivity and fairly durable design, this could easily prove a valuable investment if those are the attributes that matter most to you when you're out on the ice.
St. Croix Avid Ice Jigging Rod
From St. Croix, this is a great and simple rod that is optimized for jigging. At 36", it's not the shortest rod, so it's length might not fit well when you're shoved in the corners of an exceptionally small ice fishing shelter. However, if you have the room, this rod does make it easy to both maneuver your line and fight your catch. Since this rod is optimized for jigging, it's lightweight frame aims to provide fishermen with a wide range of motion. So long as you have room for it's length, the simple and lightweight profile does allow for some subtle maneuvering that could prove you well when trying to lure lazy fish.
This rod is made from solid carbon blanks replete with precision tappers, ensuring both a lightweight and solid holder for your line. This strength and durability will come into play both when reeling in fish and when jigging your lures. One caveat, though, is that this solid build leads to a tip that is a good deal less sensitive than a lot of the competition, including the 13 Fishing Tickle Stick. So while you will get more control when jigging your lures, you might miss a few bites if you aren't paying careful attention.
The lack of sensitivity due to the sturdiness of the body is slightly made up for in the lightweight carbon handle. Theoretically, while you might not see every bite on the tip, you should feel the echo of every bite in the handle. However, cues like this don't work as well as visual cues for many fishermen.
Finally, the rod includes one Kigan stripper guide near the tip, along with several low-profile running guides throughout the body to help keep your line from snagging. These guides can work well to keep lines tight and control the sometimes unwieldy amount of slack that can come about when practicing your jigging. This is just one more feature that comes together to create this overall simple and reliable ice fishing rod.
While it may be a bit too long for some, and it does come at a bit higher of a price point than some of it's competition, this is a great option for those who want a simple and durable rod optimized for jigging exuberant lures with maximum control. For those fishermen who prefer substance over style and want a piece of equipment that will last a bit longer than the competition, this is an ice fishing rod that shouldn't be ignored.
HT Ice Blue Rod
This ultra light action rod from HT Enterprise is a great and easily affordable ice fishing rod that is both small and exceptionally portable. As well, it's lightweight frame ensures a good deal of sensitivity when perusing for soft bites. While it's certainly a step down from some pricier options on the market, it's not the lowest quality rod, either. That helps make this rod a perfect budget option for ice fishermen who simply don't need the flair of a pricier model.
As the name suggests, the rod has a blue coloring. However, orange stripes on the tip help enable greater visibility when detecting subtle bites. On top of the already sensitive design of the tip, this color coding can help make sure that no fish bite goes unnoticed, leading to a more productive day on the ice.
The grip on this rod is made from Corkalon, which is a material made from EVA rubber that is intended to emulate both the feel and sensitivity of a cork handle. These handles provide the same lightweight sensitivity as cork while also being cheaper and more durable than the majority of cork handles. As well, there are rings on the handle to help easily mount your reel.
Where this rod really suffers is in strength. If you're going after larger fish, this thing is liable to snap on you as there is practically no backbone whatsoever. While this lack of a backbone is great for sensitivity, it does mean the rod won't put up a fight against anything other than a panfish. However, you likely wouldn't be going after anything but panfish with a rod as short as this, anyways.
The trade-off that you get from strength to sensitivity isn't always a necessity, as some packages offer both sensitivity and strength in the same package. However, for the price point, the slight lack of overall strength seen here likely won't be too big of an issue, especially if your prey are staying on the smaller side.
Overall, this is an ice fishing rod to look out for if you're going to be fishing in tight quarters, won't be fishing for trophy fish, and want to keep your fishing budget on the lower end of the spectrum. There are cheaper options out there, but few of them offer this amount of functionality for the price. While it's certainly not the absolute greatest ice fishing rod on the market, it does have some unique selling points, not the least of which is it's affordability.
Fenwick Elite Tech Ice Fishing Spinning Rod
From Fenwick, this is a fairly nice ice fishing rod that comes in a variety of different sizes at a variety of different price points. Here, we'll be looking at the 28" medium heavy rod going currently for $34.91 on Amazon. This rod is neither the greatest nor the least of all the rods on this list, instead representing a great middle-of-the-road option for fishermen who don't want to spend too much yet don't want to sacrifice too much quality in sparing the expense.
This rod is constructed from higher modulus graphite than many other rods at the price point, meaning this rod has a slightly stiffer feel. Like with the St. Croix Avid Ice Jigging Rod, that means that you're going to be getting a good deal of maneuverability on your jigs, but not much sensitivity when it comes to noticing those subtle bites. Once again, this is a trade-off that you are going to have to consider when choosing this rod over others at the same price point.
There are stainless-steel guides with zirconium inserts that are included to increase both strength and resistance to corrosion. While these guides may not be as strong or effective as those made with pure zirconium, you can still expect them to hold up to a good deal of wear while keeping your line nice and steady in the process. There are several guides along the pole, in increasing sizes as you get towards the handle. This helps keep excessive lines under control.
The body also features a nice cork handle with a downward-locking reel seat. The cork handle provides a great and steady grip with that great and lightweight feel that ice fishing requires. The reel seat makes it easy to hook your reel on and get to jigging with minimal hassle and set-up. With it's inoffensive size, this is a great go-to option when you need a solid and reliable ice fishing rod.
While this rod doesn't offer as much as some of it's higher-priced competitors, it offers a little bit more durability than some of the cheaper options while still managing to keep it's price on the lower side. As mentioned, the rod comes in all different sizes, from 16" to 36", but most of them are about 5 dollars more, priced currently for $39.99 on Amazon. There is a 30" option that is cheaper, at $22.13, but this option apparently doesn't have the capabilities to attach a spinning reel. Given the importance of spinning reels when it comes to ice fishing, it's no wonder that this 30" variant has seen such a drop in price.
Shakespeare Ugly Stik
This ice fishing rod from Shakespeare is a masterful budget rod that aims to provide the best of both worlds. However, in its attempts to cater to all demographics, it doesn't exceed any of it's competitors in any single area. Instead, it simply offers an affordable and well-rounded package that may be put to great use by both experienced and inexperienced ice fishermen alike.
At 26", this rod is neither going to take up too much room nor be too short to affect the overall sensitivity of the tip. The body is constructed from a combination of fiberglass and graphite that is at once appropriately durable, exceptionally lightweight, and exceedingly affordable. The handles are made from EVA foam rubber, providing good traction and durability while still being lightweight.
While the body is both lightweight and sensitive, it is also durable, providing a healthy amount of backbone when it comes to reeling in your catch. Whereas the HT Ice Blue Rod essentially becomes a wet noodle when you're fighting even just medium-sized fish, the Shakespeare Ugly Stik really has the strength necessary to catch average to above-average panfish, and maybe even bigger trout.
The pole features stainless-steel guides, culminating in a unique clear point that aims for increased visibility, similar to the blue tips of the HT Ice Blue Rod. While this translucent material may not have the same increased visibility as the blue material used on the tips of the HT Ice Blue Rod, it is much more flexible and sensitive. In this way, the translucent parts of the tip almost act as a spring bobber, helping fishermen see even the most sensitive bites a fish can produce.
Finally, this rod comes in a sleek and minimalist design that may be attractive to some fishermen who appreciate the barebones aesthetic. This look can be seen as symbolic of Shakespeare's all-around attempt with the Ugly Stik to provide a great and balanced budget fishing rod that offers no more or less than it has to in order to provide reliable functionality at a reasonable price point.
While this isn't the most affordable rod on this list, being beaten out slightly by the HT Ice Blue Rod, it may be seen as the best value by many. It is a perfect middle-of-the-road option for fishermen who want a 50/50 mix of sensitivity and strength in a light and portable package. If you're looking for a budget option that doesn't skew towards the bottom-of-the-barrel, this may be the choice for you.
About THE AUTHOR
From a young age I was introduced to fishing, hiking, camping, snowboarding and more through family, friends, and scouting. After 20 years of learning and participating in these outdoor activities, I share what i've learned (and continue learning) with you.Read more about Scott Kimball