Ice Fishing Equipment and Gear

Ice fishing equipment and gear have come a long way in the past twenty years. Today there are several excellent companies dedicated to developing products to help you catch more fish and make your time on the ice more enjoyable.

This ice fishing equipment and gear section is broken up into several categories. We'll start with the basic equipment you'll need like rods, reels and tackle. We'll also talk about heaters, sleds, clothing. And, of course, we'll get into modern electronics including flashers and underwater cameras.

With all the equipment and gear available for ice fishing it will definitely come in handy to have a packing list so you don't forget something important! Click here for an ice fishing gear checklist.

Ice Fishing Rods

We can't talk about ice fishing equipment without giving considerable attention to ice fishing rods. It's important to choose a good, quality rod that's right for the type of fishing you'll be doing.

Because fish bite lighter in the winter it's important to have a sensitive rod. But since the rod you use for ice fishing is shorter than your summer rod strength and durability are essential.

Because choosing the right ice fishing rod is so important it warrants it's own page. Click here for information to help you find the right ice fishing rod and ice fishing rod recommendations.

Ice Fishing Reels

The most common type of reel used is an open faced spinning reel.  Baitcasting reels are sometimes used for large fish pulled from the deep like Lake Trout. Closed face spincasting reels are sometimes used for panfish.

Spinning Reel Baitcasting Reel Spincasting Reel

Match the size of the reel to your rod and go as light as possible while retaining functionality.

The most important part of the reel is the drag which allows you to set the amount of pressure needed to automatically release line. A front drag reel is usually better then a rear drag system.

Some of the best manufacturers of ice fishing reels are Shimano, Daiwa and Abu Garcia.

Ice Fishing Line

The line you spool on your reels for winter fishing is different then you would in the summer. Ice fishing line is specifically designed to stay supple and keep from freezing in cold weather.

Monofilament lines are still the most popular. Berkley Trilene Micro Ice and Stren Ice Gold line are both good bets.

Newer Superlines like Berkley FireLine can be twice as strong as Monofilament and have a thinner diameter. They have virtually no stretch and are mostly used for jigging in deep water.

For Tip-ups I put on a black Teflon coated line that doesn't tangle and can be easily seen on the snow.

Ice Fishing Tackle

The tackle used primarily while ice fishing consists of various jigs, spoons, weights, floats and bobbers. Which jigs and spoons to use for specific species is covered extensively in the Tips & Techniques section.

Tip Ups

HT Enterprises Deluxe Polar II Tip-UpTip-ups are often used as a second line for many ice fishermen. They have several advantages including:

  • Tip-ups are simple to set up.
  • They can be left alone since a bright flag will let you know when there's a fish on.
  • They're effective for catching fish.
  • There is a model to fit any need.
Frabill Tip-Up HT Enterprises Windlass Tip-Up
This Frabill Thermal Tip-up is designed to keep your hole from freezing up. HT Enterprises Windlass Tip-up jigs your bait with even the slightest breeze.

Use a Teflon coated line for your Tip-up to keep the line from tangling when you pull up a fish.

Use an active minnow for bait. I usually put on a Sucker minnow when fishing Walleye and Northerns. Use either a plain hook with weights placed 12-15 inches above the hook or a weighted jig to hold the minnow.


Augers make the work of drilling holes in the ice easy. There are two types of augers.

Hand AugerHand augers are a great choice for fishermen who either don't fish very often or don't have to drill through very thick ice. Hand augers are commonly used by pan fishermen who only need to make a six inch diameter hole.

StrikeMaster Gas AugerGas augers have almost become a staple for avid ice fishermen. Their ability to cut through thick ice like a hot knife through butter will allow you to drill several holes quickly and get busy fishing.

6-10 inch diameter blades are made but 8 and 10 inch are most common. StrikeMaster and Jiffy both make excellent gas augers.


Whether you have the luxury of fishing inside an ice fishing house or are sitting right out on the ice, a good heater can mean the difference between an enjoyable time or a frigid experience .

Mr. HeaterMr. Heater is one of the most popular portable heaters used on the ice.

They have a couple different sizes available and can put out between 4,000 and 18,000 BTUs/Hr.

Mine came in really handy when our furnace gave out in sub-zero weather!

Use caution to only use them in ventilated areas and crack a window to be on the safe side. They also get get very hot and can burn holes in clothes and can burn skin on contact.


Sleds are used to transport your gear on the ice. It's amazing how much gear it takes to catch fish sometimes!

Using either a plastic or wood sled can make the job of keeping your stuff organized and moving it around a simple task.


Staying warm and dry out on the ice is essential. With a large amount of quality gear available in this area there's no reason to be cold and uncomfortable out on the ice.

A good jacket, hat, gloves or mittens, socks and boots are all important. It's also important to have layer your clothes when it gets sub zero.


Nothing has done more to help ice fisherman catch more fish than in the area of electronics. Dave Genz and the In-Fisherman crew were early pioneers in getting electronics into mainstream ice fishing.

The most effective piece of electronics is the Flasher. The most popular are the Vexilar, Marcum and Zercom. A Flasher is your eyes beneath the ice. You can see your bait, fish and structure. Once an ice fisherman has used a Flasher it's hard to imagine ice fishing without one.

Underwater Cameras are a lot of fun to have along and are a great learning tool. This fancy piece of equipment allows you to actually see everything going on below on a TV screen. By watching fish's reaction to your bait you can see what works best and catch more fish.

GPS units are another piece of electronics that have become quite valuable to any outdoorsman. The ability to mark the exact place where your catching fish or caught them in the past makes locating them far easier the next time you're out.

The detailed maps and the ability to view lake contours and depth using software from LakeMaster and Fishing HotSpots makes finding fish holding structure easy for anyone.


If you don't own a GPS unit with lake mapping software a good map from LakeMaster or Fishing HotSpots is essential. Since fish relate to structure using a good map will help you locate structure and find fish.


  • Clips
  • Cleats
  • Bucket
  • Skimmer
  • Ice Pick
  • Seats
  • Flashlights

With all the equipment and gear available for ice fishing it will definitely come in handy to have a packing list so you don't forget something important! Click here for an ice fishing gear checklist.


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