Choosing an ice fishing rod can be a daunting task. Here are 4 things to keep in mind when shopping for a new hard-water sword:
|Large guides and a crisp, sensitive blank will help you put more slabs on ice this season.|
1. Balance with your Bait
A balanced rod is a sensitive one, and sensitivity is allows you to feel light bites. Match the power of the blank to the weight of the baits you intend to fish with it. When in doubt, go with a slightly lighter action graphite blank over a heavier one for baits under half an ounce. With a properly set drag and plenty of patience, you can play trophy fish topside, even if the rod is a touch underpowered. I’ve landed plenty of big pike hooked while jigging for walleye with a medium-light rod.
2. Buy One, Get One
Balance doesn’t just apply to how a blank performs under the weight of a lure. It also pertains to the way the rod balances with the reel. Whether you buy a rod and reel combo or assemble these items yourself, get them at the same time. They should balance together well. If shopping online, the big brands will have done the work for you and properly outfitted rods with suitable reels. Remember to buy some quality ice fishing line to complete the package.
3. Go Big on Guides
If you fish outside of an ice house, you’ll want a rod with large diameter line guides. These freeze up slower than a rod with small guides. Having to constantly de-ice small guides is a pain and keeps you from focusing on catching fish. Large guides may cost a bit more, but they are certainly worth the money.
4. Don’t Skimp on Quality
They may look similar, but all ice rods are not created equal. The difference of $20 at the cash register is marginal compared to the benefits a quality rod will deliver on the ice. Quality rods typically have crisper actions, which help to jig baits more efficiently. They will also be more sensitive and may have more ice-fishing friendly features. These may include better handle materials, a reliable locking reel seat, and more.
Don’t go overboard, however, as you’ll quickly learn that one rod won’t do it all if you plan to fish for multiple species. If you fish for panfish, you should also consider adding a spring bobber rod to your arsenal for finesse tactics. Finally, to protect your investment, consider a rod sleeve and rod case for transporting gear.