So you just started getting interested in ice fishing.
Now you need the most basic piece of equipment: The Ice
Bass Pro Shops...Walmart...all
of them are places to buy an ice fishing rod.
So where do you start?
Well, quite frankly you don't need one. Nope. You
could just buy some ice fishing line and drop your hook
and bait down the hole and wait for dinner to grab that
bait. This really does work! In fact, in a pinch this is
just fine. When you learn about tip-ups, you will note
there is no rod at all, you pull the line up by hand.
Of course, this usually means you have a MESS of line
all over the place as you pull up the line, and if you
are using your bare hands, then you run the risk of the
line burning/cutting your hand or fingers if the fish is
big and starts to run. If you ar ein 10 feet of water,
that might not be an issue, but when you get down to 15,
20, 30 feet...well...that line mess is an issue.
Furthermore, the line is wet. This means that it will
likely freeze on the ice, and then you have another
problem (not including the tangles.)
I suppose you are beyond that idea and will splurge
for at least $10 for an ice fishing rod? I would, and
have done so.
Cheap Ice Fishing Rods - The Truth
Well, here you are staring at 60 different brands of ice
fishing rod and reel combos. Everything from brands like
HT Enterprises, etc. to the
unbranded rod combos that the store buys to sell as their
own brand under the minimum advertised price of the
EXACT-SAME-WELL-KNOWN-BRAND-NAME rod combo! Ok, maybe not
exactly, that might be pushing it. The color may be
different. The rod guides may not be attached exactly the
same, and the reel may break after 3 seasons of use, but
we're talking ice fishing, aren't we?
How often are you going out on the ice? 4 times this
year? 10 times?
I don't understand the idea of spending $50.00 on a
premium brand name ice fishing rod even if you go out 10 times
a year. If you have the cash? Great...go for it! Those
people in another ice shack, 30 yards away, out of sight
and in their own ice shack will be
impressed. (But your wife won't.)
So there you are standing in front of that $50.00
brand name ice fishing rod and reel combo. Then you
remember, "Oh yeah! I can have TWO lines in the water
while ice fishing!" (Check your state's regulations,
each state is different. Some states may still only
allow one, North Dakota allows four. I think
Minnesota allows two lines in the water while ice
But back to my point. So there you are, salivating
over that $50.00 rod and reel combo, then you realize
you need two of those babies. Ouch. Now we're staring at
a Benjamin (A $100.00 bill).) And you haven't even spent a dime on ice
fishing line OR tackle! Suddenly, that store brand name
combo, at $20 starts looking quite reasonable.
And that is my point. While the brand name combos are
certainly well made, you ARE paying for the brand name.
Here is your decision tree (and I'll help):
"Hmmm...do I spend $100.00 on two ice fishing rod and
reel combos, from a brand name that NO-ONE will ever
note, OR do I spend $40.00 and use the extra $60.00 to
buy something nice for my wife or girlfriend?" (Hint,
the LATTER allows you to go ice fishing the NEXT
weekend, while the FORMER will make you wish you had a
sleeping bunk in your backyard. Your call.)
I'm not done yet! Put your checkbook or Visa away!
Around mid-season, those stores start discounting
their own store brands. They know they can't carry their
inventory over the summer, so down goes the price faster
than a 1 ounce lead weight in 15 feet of water.
Remember, the big brands usually have a "minimum
advertised price" for their stuff, so while they might
knock down the $50.00 combo ten bucks or so, that $20.00
store brand combo is half-price. Yes. Read that again:
Suddenly you can get a decent ice fishing combo (rod
and reel) for around $10.00. TEN BUCKS!
This brings me to another point. Every time I've been
out ice fishing, I find one presentation works, but
another doesn't. If you are fishing alone, I suppose
this isn't an issue, but let's say that the buddy next
to you starts catching fish after fish on his bait/lure.
Wouldn't it be nice to just grab the identical lure/bait
combo from your bag of 6 different rods? Yes SIX. They
were all set up ahead of time. Maybe 8...maybe 10 of
them? All rigged differently...for whatever the bite is.
The last thing you want to do is spend 5 minutes retying
your line with a different lure/bait, and miss out on
the fast action. Because, normally, the action doesn't
I realize earlier in this article I suggested
avoiding spending $100 on rod combo's, but you don't
need to do this the first year. Get used to what works,
then next year pick up a couple more combos...and so on.
Maybe you DO want to spend $100 on rod combos, then
fine...grab 10 of the discounted store brand rods and
reels and have fun!
Another reason to consider the store brand rods are
that they don't really tend to sell them online. Nope.
You need to go into the store and get it. Now you may
say, "Whoa! I want to shop form the convenience of my
chair at home over the Internet! I'm not going to go to
the store to buy some stuff."
Well, this is where you are wrong. These stores make
their money online by selling the brand name rods. Sure
shipping might be 'free', but you are STILL paying more
for that brand name rod than a store brand you can get
at less than half that price when you walk into their
store. The shipping costs alone would prohibit them from
selling (online) their store brand rods at that
mid-season discount price. No profit in that. I'm
telling you...get off your office chair and scope out
the store brand name rods at midseason in the store and
I can also tell you this: I always end up breaking
the rod tip of one of my rods each year. It just
happens. Perhaps you need to put the one rod away fast
to get packed up because of a storm, or a hot bite 50
yards away...it doesn't matter. Those rod tips are
fragile and if you break the $50.00 rod tip...you are
going to be stewing about it for the next several hours.
And just TRY to explain to your wife how that
got broken and you need another one? Good luck with
A $10.00 rod that gets broken isn't the end of the
Get a new one.
They're 10 bucks.
Your wife/girlfriend will adore your frugality.
Flowers also help.
What type of rod should I look for?
While you can catch fish on any rod and reel, the
most important thing is to decide if you are going to
fish with a bobber (sometimes called a 'dead stick'), or
are you going to jig for your fish?
If you are fishing with a bobber, then the rod really
doesn't matter. It should have large smooth guides that
won't get fouled up with ice form your fishing line. I
often use a rod with a broken tip when I bobber fish
because...well...what ELSE are you going to do with that
rod? Just clip the tip off to the next nearest guide on
the end with a fingernail clipper, and you are good to
If you are going to want to jig, well, then you might
want to have a very sensitive tip on your rod with
smaller guides. This way you can feel the 'tick' when
the fish tastes the bait.
All in all, you can spend a lot of money on rods, but
that rod is only one end (the caboose) of the train that
starts at the bottom of the lake or river, about 3" off
Next up? Ice fishing reels.