Fishing & Hunting Tips

Best ice fishing rod for panfish in 2020

Who says fishing season ends before winter? The will of avid fishermen has made angling possible even in ice-covered waters. So it’s time to get off the couch and put some nature’s pure makeup.

No ice fishing trip is complete without hooking in some panfish. But to make that happen, you’re gonna a reliable fishing tackle setup, especially the best ice fishing rod for panfish.

A good ice rod should have these qualities-

  • Good construction material
  • Corrosion resistance
  • Non-slip-grip handle
  • Stainless steel guides
  • Manufacturer warranty

Best Pick: Best ice fishing rod for panfish

Last updated on December 7, 2019 5:20 pm

Top review team’s choice

Our goal is to provide a quality product that compliments an affordable price tag. Our top review expert team has field tested and gave their verdict on the best ice fishing rod 2019.

And the winner is- Frabill Fin-S pro ice fishing combo.

The reasons are-

  • Positive customer feedbacks
  • Lightweight, durable and sensitive
  • Packed with nifty features ( check the special features section below )

 

Hey Y’all, if you need some additional ice fishing gears then grab it before you go.

1. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice fishing combo

shakespeare ugly stik ice fishing rod

 

Features

  • Compatible size 20 Spinning Reel
  • Ported aluminum spool
  • Authentic Ugly Stik design with “Clear tip” design
  • Soft EVA grip
  • Twist-lock reel seat with single stainless steel guide
  • Graphite/fiberglass hybrid construction

Intro

When it comes to durability and affordability, one name that dominates the angling community, Ugly Stik. Whether you want the best ice fishing rod for panfish or the best ice fishing rod for pike or others, there is no denying on the immense cost of ice fishing. So it’s a blessing when a manufacturer like Ugly Stik produce amazing blank for a fraction of a price.

Rod size

You don’t have to wonder about the suitable size of the blank. These rods are made with the intent of ice fishing more subtle.

You can pick up from 26” up to 30” blank. My suggestion is, get the 30” medium heavy. This particular Shakespeare Ugly Stik ice fishing rod the best ice fishing rod for panfish and also has the ability to handle any other species which you may encounter.

Rod material

Price makes this blank one of the best Shakespeare ice fishing rod in the market. Can you believe that these guys forged this rod with combined elements of fiberglass and graphite? As a result, you get a rod that is sturdy and flexible at the same time.

Reel

The blank comes accompanied by a Shakespeare Ugly Stik spinning combo. So, you get a size 20 reel integrated with a single ball bearing. But when I spun it for the first time, the smooth transition of power surprised me!

I reeled in a small pike without any stuttering and miss spinning of the spool. Thanks to its ported aluminum spool that makes it easier to handle and also adds a little muscle to the Shakespeare ice fishing reels.

Handle

For a long fishing trip, Shakespeare Ugly Stik offers a very comfortable and soft EVA non-slip-grip. You’re blank won’t slip away even when you yank the catch to land.

Power & Action

There’s no official data on the action rating. It’s because of the shorter length of course.

As for power, you can choose between light, Medium and Medium heavy.

Special features

You know, I would name the combo the Shakespeare Ugly Stik elite series. Look that twist-lock reel seat. You can replace the reel in a blink of an eye.

The twist locking mechanism assures solid fit and holds firm when there’s tension on the line.

The famous Ugly Stik clear tip is present in this blank. It makes the rod sensitive even to the smallest it’s and helps the bait travel further.

You get also ugly tuff guides which makes the rod extra tough upon retrieving and a stainless steel hood.

Reputation

With a 90% positive customer rating, it’s no wonder the blank gained a loyal fan base. And why not? You’re getting a complete ice fishing tackle which is less than 30$!!!

Of course, there are some complaints about snapping tip or the rod breaking in half, literally. Folks, just make sure you continue using the recommend line rating. Hopefully, you won’t face any issues.

Overall

Come on dude, there is no aspect of this rod to be yapping about. If you want a blank that is good at ice fishing with a budget, close your eyes and press add to cart.

Pros
  • Lightweight & durable
  • Dual material construction
  • Affordable
Cons
  • None

2. Abu Garcia Venerate Ice Fishing Spinning Combos

abu garcia venerate spinning rod

 

Features

  • Sturdy carbon construction
  • Stainless steel guides with zirconium inserts
  • Soft and comfortable cork handle
  • Carbon locking hood design
  • A spinning reel with 5:2:1 gear ratio
  • Single piece blank construction

Intro

Abu Garcia is the name that ensures quality and trust among the angler community. The all-new Abu Garcia ice fishing rods are no exceptions. When it comes to ice fishing, the Venerate series is considered the best Abu Garcia rod.

Rod size

Abu Garcia offers 4 different types of blanks with 2 inches apart from each other. You will get to choose from 23”, 25”, 27”, and 29” blank as your preference.

Personally, I would suggest 29 inches. You may argue that it exceeds a little in size but, makes it up for its action and line capacity.

Rod material

Forged from a solid carbon material, you will feel confident holding this baby in hand. You will also notice the ergonomic balance as you say it in the air while casting.

Reel

In the end, it’s basically a low powered spinning rod that we know as Abu Garcia fishing rod and reel.

Speaking about reels, you’re getting a spinning reel that has 5:2:1 gear ratio and 3+1 ball bearings. The medium profile reel is perfect for landing panfish, pikes, walleyes, yellow perch, crappies etc.

The number of ball bearings might not look impressive on paper but it will feel smooth as you drag your price from the ice pit.

Handle

I personally think they should’ve included the EVA handle. Instead, they went for the classic soft cork grip. It gets sloppy if you keep holding it with a wet hand. My overall feeling is a disappointment. But if you really like this combo setup, then go ahead, get one. Because the handle may not be great, but it gets the Job done.

Power & Action

Ultralight power for the 23”.

Light power for the 25”.

Medium-light power for the 27”.

Medium power for the 29”.

The ball is in your court bro. Pick your poison.

Special features

Look, you can call this “Abu Garcia Venerate spinning rod” if you want. Because basically, it’s a spinning tackle set up after all.

Remember what I told you before. If you really like this setup. Now wait for a second, why would you like the Abu Garcia Venerate series that much? The answer is simple, the reel is operable with low-temperature gear lube.

This means no matter how much cold out there, you’re gear won’t be greasy and stutter. This is the trump card of Abu Garcia. It makes perfect sense.

I love it when marketing agendas come together.

Imagine you’re on a sports car in the cold, and the gear keeps screwing up every now and then. Now imagine if you are in a shittty car, but, it cruises beyond the horizon without giving you any reason for tension.

Annoyed about losing you’re or bruising your guides?

Abu Garcia got you covered baby. With stainless steel guide and zirconium inserts, cast, drag, yank or do whatever you wanna do.

Extended reel stem allows greater leverage at times when some bad boys wanna fight dirty.

Reputation

Most consumers are happy with this series from Abu Garcia. It has a cool 82% positive feedbacks from various users.

You might be wondering, what happened to the other 18%? Trust me, it’s not the manufacturer’s fault. It’s those damn packaging companies. I mean I’ve been angling for over 2 decades here. I’ve seen so many beautiful fishing gears ruined, due to poor packaging. It’s just sad.

Overall

Well, if you can spend a few extra, then go for it. It has some nifty features and not a complete spinning tackle imposter.

Pros
  • Low-temperature lube compatible
  • Extended reel stem for leverage
  • Collapsible reel handle
Cons
  • Cork handle feels spongy when gets wet

3. Frabill Fin-S pro ice fishing combo

frabill ice fishing rod case

 

 Features

  • Unique stainless steel single foot ice guides
  • Reel: 3+1 ball bearings
  • Machined aluminum spool
  • Reel seat sports a cork grip
  • Solid carbon fiber blank for extra sensitivity
  • Through handle construction
  • Tapered drag knob that ensures minimal line catch

Intro

Frabill has been in the fishing game for a long time now. 81 years to be exact. The company has produced quality gadgets for fishing which have been a blessing for the angler community for a long time. Today, I’m gonna talk about one of the best fragile ice fishing rods in the market.

Rod size

Lengthening at 30 inches, Grabill has only one size option available for the Fine-S pro line up. And I agree with this design style. There are shorter rods in the market but frabill chose with the 30” mark.

Rod material

Here, fragile took another practical approach. They researched the customer needs and produced a rod that is made from solid Carbon fiber. And not only the rod can stand any abuse, but also extra sensitive to detect even the smallest bite.

Reel

The reel has 3+1 ball bearings to ensure smooth gear operation. Tired of catching line when dragging around your catch? With the tapered integrated drag control knob, you can stay confident with your every cast.

For optimal control of your hooked fish, you got multi-disc front load drag with infinite anti-reverse capability.

Handle

Here, things went a little downhill. Instead of opting for a premium grip, frabill stuck with cork grip. I’m not saying it’s a deal breaker, but, a lot of anglers will be disheartened after seeing the price tag.

Action & power

Ice fishing rod doesn’t rely on action. It needs the power to deliver performance. This fragile ice fishing rod has rated power at Medium heavy. Perfect for landing sizable game fish.

Special features

It has through handle construction that provides excellent leverage. Machined aluminum spool ensures even line alignment during casting and retrieving.

It also has Subzero temperature oil compatibility which ensures smooth gear transition even in the coolest temperature.

Reputation

Holy moly, this one got the full house. A 100% positive user feedbacks.

Overall

Let the number talk here. I know it’s a little expensive but, it’s an expensive combo that works and worth your every penny. A word of advice, buy frabill ice fishing rod case to protect your investment for long term benefits.

Pros
  • 100% customer satisfaction
  • Low-temperature oil compatible
  • Overall great product
Cons
  • None

4. St Croix legend black ice fishing rod

st croix ice fishing rod and reel combos

 

Features

  • Precision Tapers and sturdy carbon construction for optimal performance
  • Replaceable spring indicator program
  • Guides: Pac bay mania
  • Locking reel seat
  • Stainless steel striker indicator

Intro

When I purchased this one nearly 4 months ago, I was wondering like, why is it referred to as a legend? Then I got my answer this winter. Let me just say, sleek design, smooth reel performance, a perfect balance between quality and price. Truly, “St Croix ice fishing rod and reel combos” is worthy of the word “legend”.

Rod size

This is the only manufacturer in the market that offers perfect size combinations. If you want a short blank, then opt for the 24”. For medium finesse angler, the 30” model is excellent. And for intense heavy fishing, the mighty 48” reign supreme.

Rod material

No matter how appealing the appearance would be, a good blank needs to be built with precision and modern craftsmanship. This is a precision taper carbon construction blank which was used to craft this amazing blank.

Rod power

There are 4 types of rod power available- Ultralight, light, Medium light, medium and medium heavy. The ultralight rod is one of the best St Croix ice fishing rods for fishing inside a tent.

Handle

Secure and comfortable reel seat with EVA trim makes the rod easier to handle.

Special features

Did you know the stainless steel strike indicator on St Croix is patented? You can also replace the spring indicator system which is fully adjustable.

Pac Bay minima stainless steel guides makes the smooth conversion of your line as you drop or retrieve the line.

You will get impressed by the indicators sensitivity. It will detect even the slightest tug in the line.

Reputation

There aren’t enough St Croix legend rod review to account for. Besides, the blank is only a year old.

Overall

Very few ice fishing rod with a built-in bobber is as good as the St Croix legend black ice fishing rod. The future belongs to the St Croix ice rods.

Pros
  • Packed with modern and advanced features
  • Solid carbon construction for enhanced performance
Cons
  • Not enough user feedbacks

5. Fenwick elite tech Ice fishing rod

st croix avid ice fishing rods

 

Features

  • Fully high modulus graphite blank
  • The bottom locking reel seat
  • Smoked stainless steel guides
  • Zirconium locking reel inserts

Intro

The Fenwick elite tech ice fishing rods are new in the market. But they are gaining popularity. It shows that a good product needs little advertising to get recognition.

Rod size

There are different sizes to choose from. If you love to fish from the comfort of your warm tent, the 16” and the 28” size is best for you. But if you wanna lift the big game fish, go for those 30” or 48” blank.

Rod material

When you see the number 100%, a sensation of satisfaction runs through your mind. But this time I’m a bit skeptical. Because the damn rod feels too sturdy. I personally prefer a little flex but here it’s not the case. It’s because the blank is forged from high modulus graphite component. I don’t have the 48” model so let’s read the comments if the blank holds its own or not.

Handle

The ergonomically shaped handle comes equipped with a full cork design. I’m not a big fan of cork padding. Because it feels a bit sloppy when gets wet. But nonetheless, maintains a solid grip.

Rod power

Do you like little panfish? That 28” medium powered blank is perfect for it. Let’s say the snow is pouring down hard and you don’t wanna be in it. No worries mate. That’s where the 16” shines. Just drop down the line and wait for the signal. But if you wanna make a statement, the get bigger 48” model and hoist up trophy fish like walleye or the lake trout.

Special features

Tired of your line snapping? Or annoyed by the rods heftiness when dragging? No worries mate. This one comes with a smoked stainless guide for smoother line transition and zirconium inserts for added durability.

Tired of needing to tape the reel so often while ice fishing? The Fenwick elite tech ice fishing rod features a down reel locking system and stainless steel hood. Fenwick rod is the John Wick of ice fishing.

Reputation

There are some concerns about manufacturing errors on eyelet placement. I haven’t faced any major drawbacks with my 6 inches. Although it’s only been a month.

Overall

In the end, this blank works ok. It detects the smallest bite and feels solid on the hand. And considering the price, it’s so hard to pass on.

Pros
  • Have a variety of sizes
  • Can withstand a harsh condition
Cons
  • Not enough user feedbacks

Tips to catch panfish

I’m not gonna torment your time by yapping about stuff that sounds like cheap literature. Instead, we’re gonna shoot right to the core and score more information in a timely manner.

My main tactics of a successful panfish hunts are stealth and patience for the ice. You need to analyze each step like a nice doctor to avoid the bath, or worst the death you don’t wanna have.

For early season hunting session, a Spud bar is perfect for the occasion. Again take your time when going through ices. And let your Spud bar be the hero.

And don’t forget to wear a life jacket. I know I know, you’re a pro and know every single way to safety. The water won’t care who are. It will try to drown the pros and noobs in a similar manner. So get one life jacket, and avoid those inflatable deployable life jacket. Trust me, you’re life is more convenient than the little inconvenience of the bulk of life jacket.

Don’t go ice fishing if the ice is less than 4” thick. I’ve seen guys go less than that. Why put your life at risk? You might be thinking, for decades nothing happened, but then again, an accident takes a moment instead of a decade.

Good news for those early season panfish hunters. They stay mostly at the shallows. So dig a hole and hook your goal.

Keep ice spikes or ice awls with you in case you get an unwanted bath. These gears will make a difference between life and death.

Never go ice fishing alone, ever. Get going with your angler buddies and keep your distance from each other once you are on the ice. For prevent any accidental break of ice and even one of you should fall down, others can help. Spreading out also prevent spooking the fish. One other thing, use ropes to put your stuff.

Drill as many holes as you want. Try to be as discreet as possible. Remember the sound of the motor doesn’t spool the fish. It’s the cutting sound they detect. So you gotta use hand or electric augers to prevent any fish alteration.

Try not to clear all the slush and make the hole look tip top. This ain’t no exhibition man. Instead, leave some of the slushes afloat and prevent any light and casting shadows penetrating the water.

Look for patches of snow and a little vegetation. A little green releases oxygen in the water which attracts all types of species. Cast your line there and let nature give you a surprise. Don’t worry, panfish like the cover so you will more likely to get a few of them too.

Waiting but not getting any bite? So there might not be any fish left, right? Wrong, remember that on the first ice, fish will be found at the same spot right where you left them in the fall. So relax. They are probably stacked up around those weeds or in a corner somewhere. Food is scarce in the winter so sooner or later, you will begin to get bites one after another.

 

Things you should consider before Ice fishing

Ice fishing is nothing short of an adventure. What do you do before going for any excavation or camping? You take the necessary equipment and preparation. Now let’s see what we need-

  • Fishing license: You need a license to fish especially in those animal reservations. You can even get one day pass if you are just on a vacation.
  • Ice fishing rod: You need to grab the best all around ice fishing rod. It’s simple, just drop down the line and wait for it.
  • Fishing hooks
  • Auger: You need that to grab that for digging the hole.
  • Bait: pick your bait according to your rod.
  • Need to grab a bucket for seating and storing your catch.
  • Gotta get them pliers to remove the hook from the fish.
  • A scoop ensures an ice-free hole and helps estimate Ice thickness.

FAQ

1. Should I get live bait or artificial?
A. You have to understand, in the winter food is scarce as well as visibility. Using a live bait means fish will detect the odor almost immediately and swim right into your dinner plate.
2. Should I use power auger or hand auger?
A. It doesn’t make a difference. Why? Because the sound of the motor doesn’t spook the fish, it’s the cutting that sends vibrations in the water which fish notice almost immediately. So what you wanna do is on and out. Drill as fast as you can and get this over with.

In the end

Our goal is to provide you with accurate and quality information and tips in a compact manner. This article focuses on helping you get the best ice fishing rod for panfish. Hope you found what you’re looking for and ready for your next icy adventure.

Nicholi Wyto

Hey I'm Nicholi Wyto is a professional sports fisherman and hunter, love to enjoy spending time in Michigan’s rugged northern forests. I love to explore my experience and help others who are interested in fishing and hunting.

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