Ice Fishing Gear & Equipment – Are You Ready for the Hard Water?
You’re not the only one getting ready to ice fish. We’re there too. If you are anything like us, you are counting down the days until the ice becomes thick enough to fish. Preparation is important, and any experienced angler will tell you that the right gear is crucial to maximizing your time on the hard water.
Make sure to check your tip-ups and re-lubricate if necessary. Make sure you remove any old ice reel line and re-spool. Also, make sure to clean your snow boots and dry the liners. This is just the beginning. There’s so much more to do!
We are here to help. Check out our list below for some of our top picks. If you’re interested in the whole story, be sure to click on any link that interests you. Let us know your thoughts about our selections.
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Ice Fishing Gear
It is impossible to fish until you make a hole in the ice. The more holes you drill, the better quality an auger will be. An auger that is easy to use, especially if you intend to do tips while fishing in a shelter, will be a great investment.
We are looking for augers that have sharp, high-quality blades, whether we go out on the ice to catch crappie or pike. Efficient portability and ease of use are equally important. We have you covered, whether you want a manual or powered option.
We can argue for or against each fuel type.
- Manual augersThey are extremely portable and easy to use. However, they do require your physical fitness.
- Convertible augersThese is an excellent option if your drill is rated at 700 inches or more of torque. However, if you’re looking to purchase one, they can quickly become expensive.
- Electric augersThey are quiet and emission-free but do not have the power or speed of propane and gasoline. They can be used in shelters or shanties and are easy to start and drive.
- Gasoline augersThey are loud and powerful. They can be difficult to refuel without spilling and they can’t be used in shelters.
- Propane augersThey are also great performers but can be a little more finicky than other gasoline alternatives. They are easy to refuel and almost emissions-free, so they can be used indoors.
The Eskimo Mako 43cc Quantum is our favorite manual. The Eskimo HC40Q10 high compression 40cc propane auger rounds out our top choices. They are all great options that will not disappoint.
It can be contentious to decide which flasher is best. With so many great products available, it’s easy for everyone to have a favorite that they are willing to defend.
We are looking for features such as long battery life, easy-to-read dials, great target separation, and transducer cone angles that hit the sweet spot between not too wide and too narrow. Digital options such as the No products were found are available. While digital options like the MarCum LX-7 Ice Fishing Sonar System and MarCum LX-7 Ice Fishing Sonar System are impressive and have advanced, we’re still not satisfied. They are a great flasher and offer great value for money.
It shouldn’t surprise us that our top picks are the same as all three of them. The Humminbird ICE-45 has a dual transducer that can measure at either a 9- or 19-degree cone angle. This is a fantastic feature. We also like the digital depth monitor. Marcum’s M3 is a great choice. It has a 1-inch target separation and a 20-degree cone angle so you won’t miss any fish approaching your jig. Marcum’s arm system to hold the transducer cable is also a great feature.
The Vexilar FL-18 is the most visible of the three, with a stunning 1/2-inch target separation. It has a 12-degree transducer cone angle which makes it easy to avoid interference from buddies fishing in the same shelter.
Protecting the ice from the elements is crucial when the wind is blowing across the ice. It can mean the difference between pulling crappie after fish onto the ice and giving upon them. Modern portable ice shelters, which are lightweight, simple to set up, and extremely effective, are essential for serious anglers.
There are two main types of portable shelter: flip-overs and hubs.
- Flip-over the flip-over is a plastic shed with a telescoping framework. You can expand the shelter by lifting the frame and putting it over your head. Although they are easy to set up, their downside is their size and weight. They are difficult to transport and take up space when they are stored.
- HubsHubs work in a similar way to a modern tent. They are easy to erect because they have an internal folding frame. They are lighter and more portable than flip-overs. They can be difficult to set up in windy areas.
The Eskimo Quickfish 3 is our pick. This hub can be used by you and your friends. It takes less than 5 minutes to set up. It has 34 square feet of space so you can keep warm and still have ‘disability.
Propane heaters are an efficient and safe way to heat your cabin, shanty, or shelter in cold weather.
Not recommended: You should not use an outdoor heater indoors, even in a vented shelter.
Propane heaters that can be used indoors are rare and Mr. Heater is the only one who makes them. We are happy with their products because they have all the safety features that we require. These heaters will be killed by a low oxygen sensor when they produce unacceptable levels of carbon monoxide. A tip shut-off switch also helps to prevent accidents.
Mr. Heater Buddy is our favorite. It has a 2-setting knob that can either produce a comfortable 4,000 BTUs per hour or a hot 9,000. Enough to heat 225 square feet. The Buddy can be powered by either a single disposable or a 20-pound refillable tank. It is safe and will ensure that you have a great time on the ice.
To maximize our chances of landing fish, we like to use a variety of tip-ups with different baits. This tip-up is great for fishing multiple species, such as bluegills by using a rod and reel, pike, or muskie.
Tip-ups must be strong, durable, lightweight, portable, windproof, and easy to store. There are three main designs available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
- Tip-Ups in Polar and Rail-Styles a rectangular base. The flag and cylinder can be folded flat for transport and storage. They are lightweight, reliable, durable, and easy to use. However, they can freeze in very cold temperatures. Many people use a ThermaSeat to protect the water below the tip-up. In deep snow, they can be difficult to see.
- Thermal tip-upsThey are designed to be placed over holes, protecting them from the elements. This design is popular because it’s lightweight and easy to use. They can also be difficult to see in deep snow. If you have a 10-inch auger most thermal tip-ups will fall into the hole and freeze to the sides.
- Cross-Style Tip UpsThe base is tall and plus-shaped. These are similar to a polar tip up but much larger and heavier. They are most useful when snow is very deep. However, they can be difficult to transport.
The HT Enterprises Polar is our favorite general-purpose tip-up. These tip-ups are ultra-light thanks to their strong plastic base. This allows you to take more to the ice. This popular model is a winter favorite that performs season after season. It’s easy to set up for light strikes and heavy winds and spools smoothly.
Warmth and waterproof protection are not options when you’re out on the ice. You’ll need some tough outerwear to keep you warm and dry this winter. We’ve reviewed all the top gear and explained our criteria. We want to keep you comfortable and dry so that you can have fun.
Gloves that keep your hands warm and dry are great for keeping them from freezing. It can be difficult to tie knots when your hands are frozen. Also, with hooks or knives, numb fingertips can lead to severe injuries. Insulation is good, but it should still be able to allow us to use our hands.
The Neo Sport Neoprene Wetsuit Gloves and the Glacier Glove Pro Angler are our favorites. They will prevent your fingers from freezing to your bones and losing the dexterity that you need to tie knots and adjust tip-ups and crank up your reel’s drag.
Even the best bibs can keep you dry and warm, it’s not enough. Ice angling requires a lot of gear. You’ll also be putting your knees on the line every time you get down on the ice. To help you rescue yourself from the ice, you’ll need flotation, super-tough shell material, and pockets.
Clam’s Ice Armor Ascent Bibas is our favorite this year. They offer tough, waterproof protection, plenty of pockets, and durable, tough materials. These bibs are very comfortable with reinforced knees and buoyant material.
Your boots should be warm and waterproof, just like the rest of your outerwear. The best boots are tall, well-insulated, and sure-footed.
Kamik’s Canucks are our choice. These boots reach almost knee height and have a snow collar, bungee lacing, and a cold-weather rubber lower. These boots are made from durable materials and will last season after season.
A knife is essential for fishing. You can use it to trim soft baits or cut minnows. A knife is a great general-purpose tool. You’ll find you use it more often than you think. Quality products can also save your time and help you keep your fingers healthy.
We’re looking to find a knife with the following features for hard water:
- Secure grip you must be able to control sharp knives, especially when your hands and fingers are slimy or wet. Knives that are easy to control and don’t leave a lot of sandpaper in our pockets and hands are what we prefer.
- One-handed opening have you ever had your hand full of fish or needed to use a knife to make a line? Yes, we have all! A one-handed opening is not a good option. It’s vital for a blade that’s in use.
- Safe lock Slip joints and fixed knives are my favorites, but let’s not forget that folding knives with a lock offer the best of both worlds. We love well-made liner and frame locks. They are secure and simple to use.
- Fantastic blade your knife’s heart is its blade, so you need to get a few things out of it. A great blade should be simple to sharpen, so you can maintain a razor’s edge. It also needs to be strong enough to resist breaking or chipping when it is pushed to its limits. This is as much due to proper heat treatment as the steel itself.
- Corrosion resistance is like knives that are resistant to corrosion when we use them around water. A dive knife is not necessary, but it should be able to rust without too much care.
- It is easy to clean– Most knives have a handle that can be contaminated with fish slime, scales, and guts. This can lead to a messy mess. Knives with easy-to-clean handles are preferred by us.
The Ontario RAT-1 is our favorite general-purpose knife. My knife has been used to cut live bait, remove urchins from rocks, open fish guts, and even slice my lunch. But not in that order. The knife has a good grip even in wet conditions, a bomb-proof lock, and a sharp, 3.5-inch AUS-8 steel blade. Although not super-alloy, the AUS-8 steel blade can hold a sharp edge and can withstand wet, dirty work. The plastic scales are supported by steel liners and the open design makes it easy to clean.
Clearing ice holes is not something you will enjoy, but the right skimmer can make it much easier. Aluminum and lightweight plastic are options, but we recommend solid steel construction for those who plan on smashing a few frozen holes.
Two things are generally required in an excellent skimmer.
- Steele steel spoon and handle are what we prefer. This tool will see heavy use every winter. The handle can break if you chip ice with aluminum models.
- Sturdy– Your skimmer should be able to withstand a thin layer of ice.
HT Enterprise’s 18-inch Skimmer is one of our favorite. It is simple, robust, and affordable, and it works season after season.
Safety on the ice is your primary concern. If you do break through and get in the water, you must be able to quickly self-rescue. It’s not practical to carry two ice axes on the hard water, but it is possible to self-rescue with only a few picks.
A new breed of lightweight, portable ice picks is available that can keep you and your family safe while providing winter angling security.
Our top choice is Frabill Deluxe Ice Picks. This product has a 72-inch cord, which can be worn underneath your outerwear. Simply put on your coat while holding the picks and leave a pick for each hand. This simple safety device is easy to use and keeps the sharp tips protected until you drive them into ice.
While you wait for the ice crystals to form, you have probably checked your fishing gear. There are many things you can take onto the ice, including shelters and tip-ups, heaters, and folding chairs.
We turn to durable sleds when we are unable to carry all the gear ourselves. They are not expensive or sophisticated, but they do the job! A quality sled can be used to ice fish by pulling it manually or using a snowmachine to pull it.
The excellent Shappell 54 is our top choice. It’s strong enough to carry firewood. Your ice fishing gear will not be put to the test. You won’t have to worry about any debris falling out because it’s also deep. This sled tracks well on snow thanks to its built-in runners. The bottom is durable enough to withstand rough ice and rocks.
Pro tip: Tow manually? Slip an old garden hose on top of the tow rope.
Winter isn’t just cold, it’s also dark. It’s important to have reliable lighting so we can fish early and stay up late. Headlamps are a great option if you have ever needed to hold a flashlight in your mouth or prop it up in the snow to see the line and tie a knot.
Four things are required in a good headlamp:
- Brightness– In lumens, we are looking for adjustable settings, bright high beams, and lots of light at the low setting.
- Battery life– Headlamps that are set to high and exposed to cold temperatures will also kill batteries. To get the job done we need lots of battery life. And no one wants to have to change batteries in the dark if they do not work. The ideal setting for low light should provide enough light to work, and more than eight hours of battery power.
- comfort you have a headache and a headlamp is not helping, leave it at home. We want something we can put on and forget so that we don’t have to worry about it.
- a waterproof quality headlamp is waterproof and can withstand snow, rain, and splashing.
BESTSUN’s Zoomable 5-Mode Headlamp is our favorite. With its LED bulbs on high and generating up to 2000 lumens, it will allow you to see through the darkness to find your tip-ups in any weather condition. You can rest assured that the rechargeable batteries will last you all night with their power-sipping low setting. You won’t be disappointed with this comfortable and water-resistant fishing rod.
Ice Fishing Tackle
It’s crucial to match your rod with the species you are fishing, as any angler will tell you. You’ll feel nothing if you have too much rod. Too little and you won’t be able to land the monster.
An ultralight is best for panfish such as bluegill or crappie. As you move up to small pike, perch, and muskie, you will want to switch to a medium-light tahe medium-weight rod. To land your trophy, you will need to have the strength of a powerful power rod.
While the criteria we use to evaluate a rod’s power increases, some points remain constant.
- Qualitative handles Comfortable, purpose-designed handles are important. As you progress to heavier power rods, these handles will need to grow in size so that you can use a two-handed grip.
- Excellent guides are generally more effective because they distribute line stress to more points and reduce friction. This is particularly important for heavier rods as the forces they must withstand can be tremendous. In some cases, icing can cause problems, so it is worth considering larger guide diameters.
- Length Winter rods tend to be shorter than warm-weather counterparts, but they get longer as power increases. This allows for greater spring-action strength.
These top picks cover the entire power range and offer options for almost any type of fishing you might be pursuing with your hooks. The St. Croix Mojo is recommended for ultralight fishermen. This rod is backed by a carbon fiber blank and can be used to help you feel your most timid bites. The Haat Medium Spinning Rod is a great choice for medium power. It is almost a custom rod, with all the features a serious angler needs. For the heavyweights, we chose ice fishing. It has five primary guides, a strong backbone, and a comfortable handle that is long enough to hold on to the big fish.
Each winter anglers bring several reels onto the ice. You’re likely to encounter everything from the tried and true Zebcos to the more modern bait casters. Closed-face reels can freeze, so baitcasters are only good if you require the best casting performance.
Instead, the world of cold-water jigging is dominated by spinning reels and in-line or straight-line reels.
- Spinning Reels They are great for deadstick and live bait fishing. They have high-quality drag systems and are easy to use. However, there is a line twist when jigging. We love spinning reels with drag adjustment knobs on the spools. This allows for more direct application of mechanical brakes.
- Straight-Line and In-Line Reels Jigging machines are also known as jigging. To provide twist-free performance, they use an in-line, large spool. They are also mechanically simple which makes them less trouble when it is cold. Their drag systems can be difficult to set up for ultra-light tackle and are often lacking in comparison to other options.
The 13 Fishing Black Betty 6061 is our favorite in-line reel. The Black Betty 6061 holds more lines than you will ever need. It is made from aluminum and is both tough and refined. This reel is smooth enough to drop 1/32 ounces of jigs. The equally impressive Shimano Sienna SN1000FE is our choice for a spinning rod. This reel is a great choice for ultralight anglers, as it has a smooth drag that is a hallmark of Shimano quality.
Proper line is essential gear when connecting your rod and reel with your lure. Each angler has its favorite type of lure, but there are many to choose from.
- monofilament is easy to cast and has low visibility. It can float, which is a great trait for some types of lure presentation and presentation. Additionally, it is very knot-friendly, which I always consider a plus. It does have a tendency to stretch, which is either good or bad depending upon what you need. Its elasticity makes it less sensitive to deep jigging.
- FluorocarbonSinks is a great trait for jigs. It is also very tough and abrasion-resistant. It is also almost invisible and completely waterproof, which are great features. It can also remember the shape it was forced into, which can cause problems when jigging with spinning wheels in light tests. It’s not easy to tie and you will likely need to modify your knots to obtain fluorocarbon hold.
- BraidedLine is the strongest and most durable of all three. It can be used to muscle massive beasts. Braided line is generally very limp and will not remember the shape or size of your spool. This makes it an excellent choice for jigging. It is the least sensitive option, as it won’t stretch. However, this can cause broken lines if you are suddenly shocked. It can also absorb water and freeze, making it not very knot-friendly.
Sufix Ice Braid has been our favorite line for general ice fishing. You can find the right weight for you in a wide range of tests. It’s so limp that your jig will only present the dance you intended. We really like the fact that it is coated with icing to reduce its appearance.
2018 saw a continued trend towards smaller jigs. We love the natural presentation that a small lure can give.
- Choose your colors can make the difference between getting no bites or landing fish after fish. Choose natural colors that are similar to common prey items in clearer waters. Bright colors are a good way to attract fish in murky or stained waters. Glowing lures are great for nighttime or when the light is weakest.
- Keep it small– Use small movements and small lures to your advantage
- Swap hooks Here’s a tip: Switch the standard hooks on your lures to get better quality options like Gamakatsu.
- Make your jigs more delicious love to add flavor, smell, and color to our lures, andrarelyr use a bare jighead. Berkley’s PowerBait Power Honey Worm and Strike King’s Rage Twin Tail Menacegrub are worth a look. It’s possible to be amazed at the results of adding soft bait to your lure, jig head, or another fishing device.
We love lures that can be used for ice fishing. Some of the best options include those your grandfather may have used and some high-tech options. Acme’s Kastmaster from Acme and Bay de Noc’s Swedish Pimple has been reliable over the years. When it comes to jig heads, we also love Celsius’ Panfish Assorted EC5C-5A Jigs and Eagle Claw’s Glow Ice Kit. Our favorites for swimming lures are Dynamic Lures HD and the ever-popular Rapala Jigging Rap.
Are you ready to fish?
Our top gear picks are thoroughly researched, real-world-tested products with the performance you need for the ice. Our recommendations will help you start your search for new gear or to upgrade your existing equipment.