Best Ice Fishing Rods – Panfish, Perch, and Others

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Selecting the best ice fishing rod for chasing our favorite fish shouldn’t be difficult. 

But there’s such a huge selection it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the many options on the market.

In this article, we will look for strength, sensitivity, durability, responsiveness, and feel, which is a little more subjective. 

The balance of these features is also subjective and relative to the application and target. Let’s have a look at 5 great options across a broad spectrum.

Suggesting these rods are the best is not appropriate, as ‘best’ is subjective and impossible to determine considering all variables.

However, what we can say with confidence, is that any one of the rods mentioned below delivers excellent performance and value. Let’s hit the ice.

Best Ice Fishing Rods

Abu Garcia Veritas 3.0 Ice Combo
Abu Garcia Veritas 3.0 Ice Combo
Reel: 3+1 bearing System; Machined aluminum spool; Everlast bail System; Extended reel stem
13 FISHING Widow Maker 26' Medium-Light Hardwater Evolve Engage Reel Seat Ice Fishing Rod
13 FISHING Widow Maker 26" Medium-Light Hardwater Evolve Engage Reel Seat Ice Fishing Rod
High Performance 36Ton Solid Body Toray Graphite Blank; High Performance 36Ton Solid Body Toray Graphite Blank
Fenwick HMG Ice Fishing Spinning Rod , Black, Cork , 27' - Medium - 1pc
Fenwick HMG Ice Fishing Spinning Rod , Black, Cork , 27" - Medium - 1pc
Solid carbon blanks for increased sensitivity and durability; Ergonomic reel seat design; Lightweight stainless steel guides with aluminum oxide inserts
Shimano Fishing Conv Ice 42H Ice Spinning [CVSE42H]
Shimano Fishing Conv Ice 42H Ice Spinning [CVSE42H]
Sensitive carbon tip; Bright colored tip section for tip detection on UL, L, and ML models

Last update on 2022-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Best Ice Fishing Rods For 2022 Reviewed

1. Abu Garcia Veritas 3.0

Best Ice Fishing Rod Combo For Panfish

This is an outstanding ultra-light ice fishing rod combo ideal for targeting a smaller class of fish. 

The combo performs just as well as it looks, however, I’m not sure of the benefits of a white rod when fishing the ice.

Abu Garcia Veritas 3.0 Ice Combo
  • Reel: 3+1 bearing System
  • Machined aluminum spool
  • Everlast bail System
  • Extended reel stem

Last update on 2022-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

It’s a small point, but I struggle to see on the clearest of days. 

Add a bit of snow and weather, a distant hole with a set rig, and I may lose it. But let’s not let practicalities get in the way of stunning good looks and a quality combo.

The 3 bearing spinning reel is rudimentary, but holds all the power required and enough rigidity should you hook something a little larger than you were targeting.

It’s particularly light, yet all moving parts such as the bail arm, handle and drag knob feels tight and solid. I like the extended reel arm allowing for gloved fishing without inconvenience.

Under load, you’ll feel confident with the solid crank, and although quite small, ergonomically it presents comfort, even with cold hands.

The all graphite rod is ultra-light, so you’ll understand you’re limited to catching a smaller class of fish.

It’s responsive, sensitive, and reasonably durable for anglers who take care of their kit. 

It’s not a rod you can throw on a sled and treat carelessly. It’s light, and full graphite, so won’t cope well with serious impact.

The 24-ton graphite blank has smoked SS guide frames with aluminum oxide inserts. 

The split-grip has a high-density EVA handle, which feels comfortable and delivers enough leverage for wrestling fish through tight holes.

Many will appreciate the 29” length for extra fighting power.

Features

  • Reel: 3+1 bearing System
  • Machined aluminum spool
  • Everlast bail system
  • Extended reel stem
  • 24-ton graphite blank
  • Split grip high-density EVA handle
  • Micro click reel Hood
  • Smoked SS guide frames
  • Aluminum oxide inserts

2. St. Croix Mojo Series Ice Rod

Best For a Mixed Species Hunt

The Mojo series has had a recent facelift and they look fantastic. Known for quality and performance, the St Croix is a brand where you really can’t go wrong.

I’ve chosen the medium-light version because it gives you all the sensitivity you need for a smaller class of fish, yet has enough backbone should you grab an angry pike or lake trout of size.

ST.CROIX Rod Mojo Split-Grip Eva Handle Lake Trout/Panfish/Pike Ice Fishing Rod - 28" Medium-Light
  • VARIETY OF FISHING STYLES - Suited for a variety of fishing styles and techniques for panfish, trout, walleye, pike and lake trout, these fishing rods will surely enhance your fishing experience
  • PRECISION-TAPER SOLID CARBON BLANK - Precision-taper solid carbon provides an ideal combination of maximum action, sensitivity and strength with minimal weight and is ideal for extra-fast action rods
  • SEA GUIDE STAINLESS-STEEL GUIDES - The fishing rod boasts Sea Guide lightweight durable stainless-steel guides that resist corrosion and provide additional strength
  • SPLIT-GRIP EVA HANDLE - A custom reel-seat and split grip handle give this rod enhanced sensitivity and balance while keeping it comfortable in your hands even in cold weather

Last update on 2022-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

With the right ice reel option, you’ll have enough power to arrest blistering runs. 

But the range is quite extensive covering everything from ultra-light to heavy for those anglers targeting trophy fish.

The custom reel seat and split-grip handle provide reel flexibility and great ergonomics for cold hands and gloves.

The stainless guides add a significant level of durability without adding weight to the outfit. It feels balanced and light enough for extended sessions.

At 28 inches it will appeal to those looking for leverage and convenient length. The carbon blank provides excellent feedback, and is responsive and powerful for such a light rod.

I like the black finish. It’s not only a stylish, sleek-looking rod but I agree entirely with those who suggest black rods are best for high visibility in the show, for obvious reasons. 

There’s no better contrast.

The St Croix’s Mojo is a great ice fishing rod with exceptional quality from tip to butt.  

With a few hundred dollars in your pocket, you could stock up on several sizes, and cover a huge number of applications with excellent quality and performance.

Features

  • Precision-taper solid carbon blank
  • Premium split-grip cork
  • EVA handle
  • Custom reel seat
  • Lightweight, stainless-steel guides

3. 13 FISHING Widow Maker 24”

Best Ultralight Ice Fishing Rod

The 24-inch ultralight Widow Maker will suit those sports anglers looking for genuine quality and the greatest of sensitivity.

Featuring a high-performance 36Ton solid body Toray graphite blank and a premium Japanese EVA split grip handle. It also comes equipped with ALPS thin wire double diamond coated guides.

13 FISHING - Widow Maker Ice Rod - 26" ML (Medium Light) - Tennessee Handle - WMTH26ML

These rods are beautifully balanced and provide anglers with more power than you would have imagined in such a lightweight package.

This is a great rod for perch, smallmouth, rainbow trout, and regular size walleye. 

The great thing about the Widow Maker is should a trophy rainbow or walleye hit your lure, you’re still in with a shot with the little ultralight weapon.

For my money, this would be a go-to perch outfit, offering an outstanding feel however you rig or wherever you fish it.

Fish as light as you dare. 

And when hunting perch, this rod will suit 4 to 6-pound mono or fluoro, allowing you to pack on plenty of line for when your flasher suggests they’re hanging deep.

The Widow Maker is a little more expensive than its competitors, or for what you’ll need to effectively catch fish on the hard water.

However, it’s only a few bucks more and probably well worth the extra coin for appearances alone – they’re great-looking rods.

It’s not really the answer for targeting trophy fish, but we’re not always out hunting monsters. 

Nonetheless, should you hook something you’d like to see mounted above the fireplace, then you’re in with a chance, depending on your fish playing skills.

Features

  • High-Performance 36Ton Solid Body Toray Graphite Blank
  • Premium Japanese EVA Split Grip Handle
  • ALPS Thin Wire Double Diamond Coated Guides
  • Come with “Reel Anchor” Rod Wraps

4. Fenwick HMG Ice Fishing Spinning Rod

Best Allrounder Ice Fishing Rod

The medium power HMG is the sort of ice rod you’d purchase if you’re chasing everything that swims from a 1-rod arsenal.

Any allrounder is a compromise of sorts, as you’re not maximized for the extreme ends of fish classes, like small panfish, or monster trophy fish.

Fenwick HMG Ice Fishing Spinning Rod

However, we generally seek/expect/end up catching a class of fish that’s perfectly suited to the strength of the HMG.

I feel there’s more than enough sensitivity to feel the timid bites of a winter perch or smallmouth. 

You’ll find plenty of feel is transferred from the hook end, through the cork handle to your hand.

The 20-pound fish that monsters your live minnow is on the other end of the spectrum. Yep, you’re in for the fight of your life, but you would be even with the heaviest of rods.

An angler well versed in the stages of a fish fight will likely find the HMG provides enough support to wrestle a trophy brown or rogue northern pike to the edge of your ice hole.

Having said that, this isn’t the rod you select for targeting trophies. When you’re chasing the biggest, you really do need to fish heavy.

However, the critical point is that you’re in with a shot should a monster hit a lure you were targeting for a smaller fish.

The stainless guides aren’t the lightest but are well balanced with the blank and offer solid line management due to aluminum oxide inserts.

They’re durable enough, but tossing them into the truck may disturb the inserts. Be kind to your fishing gear. Most breakages happen during storage and transportation.

This is the sort of ice fishing rod I’d recommend for the average ice angler. 

It sits pretty nicely in the goldilocks zone of all features, inclusions, and applications and is built with enough quality componentry to last those who care for the gear.

Strap a 2500 spin reel to it for easy, carefree fishing regardless of your ice fishing experience.

Features

  • Solid carbon blanks
  • Ergonomic reel seat
  • Lightweight stainless guides
  • Aluminum oxide guide inserts
  • Premium cork handle with TAC trim

5. Shimano Convergence Heavy

Best Value Ice Rod for Trophy Fish

Anglers who target monster fish have a host of techniques they deploy to attract interest from the biggest fish.

Be it bait size, lure type, and size, they all have techniques to avoid the small and encourage the biggest.

Shimano Convergence Ice 1 Ice|Spinning Fishing Rods, 1pc - Power: Medium HVY - Action: Fast [CVSE28MH], Length: 28"

One thing they will all share in common is a strong enough rod to handle the likes of 30-pound northern pike and 40-pound browns.

Make no mistake, these fish are serious fighters and will do everything to ruin your day with blistering runs and violent head shakes.

Even the most experienced big fish ice angler will tell you that hooking up big, even with the best of equipment is no guarantee of landing it.

Apart from using your big fish experience, the best thing you can do is deploy a strong fishing rod that’s up to a violent encounter.

The Convergence is a great ice fishing rod and the price point is accessible. Zirconia guides dress a heavy carbon blank and the cork and carbon reel seat is ideal for big fish fighting.

The 42” heavy offers plenty of leverage and is more in keeping with the longer style rods experienced anglers are choosing these days.

The Convergence is in every way a high-end product. While the price might seem a little lower than you’d expect from Shimano, take the bonus, and run with it. 

This is a rare moment from Shimano where you won’t feel as though you’re paying a label/brand name premium.

Mid-rod power feels exceptional under load, giving the angler plenty of confidence to lay into a battle. 

While designed for big fish, Shimano has not forgotten sensitivity, with the carbon tips offering plenty of desirable feedback.

Having said that, this isn’t a rod for panfish. If you deploy it against 1 pound perch, expect to be well and truly overpowered. 

Where it might lack versatility, it makes up for it in droves as a monster hunter.

With a Convergence in your hands, the only concern you’ll have is whether you’ve drilled your hole large enough.

Features

  • Sensitive carbon tip
  • Optimized guide placement
  • Lightweight Zirconia guides
  • Seamless cork butt
  • Carbon reel seat
  • 42” graphite blank

How to Choose the Best Ice Fishing Rods

When choosing the best ice fishing rod, the most important decision is to know what you will be hunting.

Different rods excel at specific things, and before you purchase, you need to decide on your ice fishing targets.

Will You Be Ice Fishing for Trout?

For stocked trout and rainbow trout, a good option is light to medium for the average angler. More experienced anglers can go ultralight.

For everyday brown trout, a medium rod is best, and for trophy browns, you can use a heavy rod.

From the list above, I like the HMG for everyday targets and the Convergence for trophies.

Also Read: The Best Ice Fishing Rod Cases

Will You Be Ice Fishing for Walleye?

A walleye will grow in excess of 10 pounds, but these are pretty rare for the average angler. 

These are fun and classic targets that will work nicely from ultralight to medium light.

Of the list above the Veritas 3.0 combo is great for sport, with the St Croix medium lite probably the pick of the bunch

Ultralight Fiberglass Rod Setups

While graphite is currently the best technology, there’s still plenty of demand for fiberglass. 

I Look at it like this, with fiberglass, what you lose in sensitivity you make up for in strength and durability.

Ultralight carbon rods are susceptible to impact damage and damage from misuse. 

For the average angler or beginner, fiberglass is far more forgiving with such thin rod diameters, so it’s often a better choice.

Ultralight Ice Fishing Graphite Rod Setups

There’s nothing like the responsiveness, feedback, and sensitivity of graphite. Especially in ultralight ice fishing rod models.

In many ways, they’re not so forgiving, however, and best used by those with a little more experience.

Common issues occur with pulling hooks on strike and snapping rods via overly aggressive use. 

Ultralight graphite rods are more susceptible to damage, but there’s nothing like them for ultimate fish playing, sensitivity, and lure performance.

Larger Fish Ice Rod Setup

For larger fish, or the largest of fish, medium-heavy to heavy ice rods are a must. Of course, you may hook up big on light gear while hunting other targets, and that’s great.

However, if you’re thinking about ticking off your bucket list and mounting monsters, you’ll want to be prepared.

Graphite and glass are fine, it’s completely up to personal preference. But I would always suggest at least 42 inches, strung with line as heavy as your reel will allow.

Big pikes and big browns take no prisoners. Fish heavy to avoid disappointment, particularly if you’re not so experienced at wrestling with large fish through ice holes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a special rod for ice fishing?

No, you don’t need a special rod for ice fishing. You can use rods that you already have in your arsenal.

However, when you’re holding a rod by an ice hole, you want to sit close to it. A standard 5 or 6-foot rod is going to make that very difficult indeed. 

Not impossible at all, just inconvenient.

As ice rods are very affordable, it’s generally recommended that you purchase an ice rod or two so you can fish as the environment and application demand.

What length ice fishing rod should I get?

By and large, this is a personal preference question and very difficult to answer accurately. I don’t like tiny lengths at all. 

They feel horrible to me. But there are plenty of highly experienced anglers that swear by them.
Anything around 28 inches is a great all-around ice fishing rod option. My rule of thumb is that the bigger the fish I target the longer rod I prefer. 

If you want to tackle the big guns, start a 42” for all the leverage you need.

The only way to know for sure is to test a variety of rod lengths and see what works for you.

What Are the most sensitive ice fishing rods?

For sensitivity, you can’t beat graphite rods. From medium down to ultralight, carbon rods will help you feel the smallest, most timid of inquiries.

Even the heavy graphite rods have excellent sensitivity, depending on how you’re rigged. 

If you want sensitivity, which is excellent for a host of fish targets, graphite presents the best option.

See Also:

Choosing The Best Ice Fishing Shelter

Best Ice Auger For Fishing

Ice Fishing For Northern Pike

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Sean Ward

Sean Ward

Hey there, my name is Sean – OnTrack Fishing is my site. I’m based in the UK yet I’ve been fortunate enough to catch bass in the States, barramundi in Australia, trout here at home and carp on the Danube delta. If I’m not fishing, or talking about fishing, then….I’m probably asleep.

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