What is the Best Reel for Ice Fishing?

You’re in the market for the best ice fishing reel, but you’re unsure which brand to get. Do you go Tica? Sportsman’s Guide? Celsius? Eagle Claw? Or

The list is numerous, and it’s continually growing. You don’t want to get one that will break your bank, but also don’t want to buy one that will break if you tried to reel in a 1lb catfish.

You’re in luck, because we’ve got a buyers guide and three reviews to help get you started and pointed in the right direction to start reeling in those big fish.


Buyers guide

Reels are small, geared contraptions that can affect many factors in your fishing experience. There are several types of reels available, so we’ll focus on just spincast, spinning, and baitcasting for ice fishing.

Spincast reels are very simple and easy to use, with a closed face design. They are a great beginner reel, but are not as accurate and lose distance compared to other reels.

They usually have lower gear ratios, so they’re tougher to use with fish that need to be retrieved quickly.

Spinning reels have an open faced design, and work best with light to medium line.

They are very popular reels, and perform a wide variety of uses. They work well to bring in bluegills, crappies, perch, and walleyes.

Baitcasting reels are another good, widely flexible reel design. They are designed to be workhorses and handle heavier lures while fishing bass, pike, and muskie.

Baitcast reels are revered as being for experienced anglers, but can be tamed with time and patience.

The gear ratio of a reel is an important attribute. The gear ratio of a reel will determine the speed at which the reel will return the line as you turn the handle.

The higher the gear ratio, the higher the speed. A 6:1 will be quicker than a 4:1, for example

The drag system of a reel is a vital characteristic to look at when you’re on the hunting.

It’s purpose is to control the amount of tension placed on the line, and determines how the line responds when a fish bites and starts fighting.

It needs to be subtle enough to respond to light fighting fish, but tight enough to withstand a heavy fighting fish’s wrath and not snap.

1. Ming Yang Black CL60

 Ming Yang Black CL60
Made by the Ming Yang company, the Black CL60 baitcasting reel is a 3 ball-bearing design.

It has anodized aluminum side plates, a plated brass frame, and a gear ratio of 4.2:1.

The model offers several line capacities, such as 180 yard max of 14lb line, 250 yard max of 16lb line, and 210 yard max of 20 lb line.

The manufacturer also notes line capacities of 250 meters of 0.40mm line and 320 meters of 0.35mm line.

The Black CL60 offers a one-way clutch anti-reverse bearing, and features an selective on/off bait clicker. One Amazon reviewer notes the clicker is nice and loud.

Another Amazon reviewer remarks how well it holds up to big catfish and heavy braided line. Other Amazon reviewers say how satisfied they are with this reel.

The manufacturer also notes that the unit is equipped with a dual centrifugal and mechanical brake system for casting.

What to like 

• Sturdy Metal Construction: It is made with a rigid chrome-plated brass frame and anodized aluminum side plates, which suggests durability and resistance to corrosion.
• Smooth Casting Mechanism: The product has a dual centrifugal and mechanical brake system and a smooth main gear applied star drag system, indicating a smooth casting experience.
• Sufficient Line Capacity: It can hold up to 250 yards of 16lb line or 320 meters of .35mm line, offering ample capacity for various fishing techniques and target species.
• Reasoning:
• The pro “Sturdy Metal Construction” is derived from the product characteristics, which mention “Ridig Chrome – Plated Brass Frame” and “Anodized Aluminum Side Plates.” These materials are known for their durability and are commonly used in the construction of quality fishing reels to ensure they can withstand the rigors of fishing, particularly with large fish like muskie and catfish or in the corrosive saltwater environment.:
• “Smooth Casting Mechanism” comes from the combination of features designed to enhance the casting experience. The “dual centrifugal and mechanical brake system” allows for adjustments to control the speed of the spool when casting, leading to fewer tangles and greater accuracy. Additionally, the “smooth main gear applied star drag system” suggests that the product can handle the resistance when a fish is taking the line, allowing for a controlled and smooth fight with the fish.

Issues to keep in mind:

• Poor Durability Concerns: Some users have reported that after only one use or a couple of months of heavy use, the product ceased functioning correctly, either refusing to reel in or making grinding noises, indicating potential issues with internal parts durability.
• Mechanical Integrity Questionable: One user discovered that upon opening the reel after hearing strange noises, several tiny parts fell out, likening them to the size of eyeglass screws, suggesting that the product’s construction may not be robust.
• Grinding Noise Issue: There were complaints about strange grinding sounds emerging from the reel after a short period of use, which could be symptomatic of internal mechanical problems or poor quality control during manufacturing.
• Plastic Gears Omission: Although the product’s description touts no plastic gears as a special feature, the manifestation of mechanical issues suggests that other components might not be up to par in quality or design.
• Quality Assurance Variable: Some users received the product in an unmarked box with damage or without any enclosed literature, warranty, or guidance, reflecting a lack of consistent quality assurance and customer aftercare.
• Political Sentimentality: A customer emphatically refused to support the product purely because it is manufactured in China, adding a non-performance based, yet market-relevant sentiment that may influence the purchasing decisions of like-minded individuals.


2. Celsius Blizzard Spinning Reel

Celsius Blizzard Spinning Reel
The Celsius Blizzard features 4 ball bearings, 1 more than the Ming Yang CL60. With infinite anti-reverse, this reel is designed for responsive tension and smooth casting.

The manufacturer notes it has an extended reel yoke for extra room if you were to wear gloves, which is excellent for ice anglers and a very important design feature.

Celsius also notes the aluminum spool as having an anti-freeze lubrication to keep the line flowing and returning smoothly in the cold.

One Amazon reviewer notes both the extended reel yoke and anti-freeze features both worked very well.

Celsius does not list line capacities for this model, but being a spinning reel it will work best with lighter pound lines.

This model is very light, weighing in at only 4.8 ounces.

What to like 

• Smooth Performance: It features 4 ball bearings, ensuring a smooth retrieve for efficient use.
• Designed for Cold: The aluminum spool with anti-freeze lubrication and extended yoke design caters to use with gloves in cold weather.
• Positive Feedback: Customer reviews highlight its durability and recommend it for serious ice fishing, indicating satisfaction with its quality and effectiveness.
• Reasoning: 1. The number of ball bearings in a fishing reel is directly related to the smoothness of its operation. In this case, the mention of “4 ball bearings” suggests that the product is designed to ensure a smoother retrieve and performance, which is a typical pro for a fishing reel as smoother reels typically provide better control and less wear on the fishing line.
• Key points about the product mention that it has “anti-freeze lubrication” and an “extended reel yoke to allow room for gloves,” which are specific adaptations for ice fishing – a scenario in which gear can often become stiff or difficult to operate in the cold. This design consideration shows that the product is made with ease of use in mind in a cold environment, making it suitable for its intended purpose.:
• While detailed customer reviews were not to be cited, the collective nature of the feedback and its summary indicate that the product is well-regarded by several users. Comments about purchasing multiple units and recommendations for serious ice fishing are strong indicators that the product has been effective for its intended use and has a perceived good quality among those who have purchased and used

Issues to keep in mind:

• Poor weather performance: It appears to have operational difficulties in 20-degree weather, making it less reliable for ice fishing excursions in cold climates.
• Inadequate durability: The bearing may fail after just two fishing trips, questioning the product’s longevity and adding concerns about its reliability.
• Binding reel mechanism: Some users experienced binding during reeling, indicating potential inconsistencies in manufacturing quality.
• Limited returns window: The return policy window could be missed due to seasonal conditions, like late ice in Michigan, forcing users to keep potentially defective units.
• Questionable value proposition: While the product is lower priced, the advice of spending an additional $20 for improved quality suggests it might not be the best investment.
• Mixed quality control: Reports of needing to return the product for an exchange due to binding imply inconsistent quality control, which can be frustrating for buyers.


3. Eagle Claw In-Line Ice Reel

Eagle Claw In-Line Ice Reel
The Eagle Claw in-line ice reel offers a smooth teflon drag system to provide a tight response to fish fighting.

The manufacturer notes a spool tension adjustment on this unit.

This model has a lower gear ratio than the Ming Yang and Celsius Blizzard, coming in at 2:6:1.

It’s important to note that this model is out-of-the-box be a left hand retrieve, but can be switched to a right hand retrieve, according to Eagle Claws website

One Amazon reviewer had several issues with the drag system while using 2 lb test, noting the drag is not very smooth.

Another Amazon reviewer felt it was a decent ice fishing reel, but removed half the handle to decrease the reel’s heaviness and more agile.

Although the manufacturer does not list the maximum line weight in the product description, one Amazon reviewer notes it as up to 4 pounds.

Whether you decide on the Celsius spincasting reel, the Eagle Claw In Line reel, or the Ming Yang baitcasting reel, each one offers unique characteristics for your preferred ice fishing needs.

What to like

• High-Quality Materials: The product utilizes an aluminum handle and bearing material, ensuring durability and longevity.
• Smooth Performance: It features a smooth Teflon drag and a 4 + 1 ball bearing system that contributes to a reliable and effortless fishing experience.
• Ease of Use: The product includes a spool tension adjustment and a free spool release button, simplifying line management and making it user-friendly even for novices.
• High-Quality Materials: In the product characteristics section, it is stated that the handle material is made of aluminum, and the bearing material is also listed as aluminum. Aluminum is known for its durability, strength, and resistance to corrosion, making it a suitable material for fishing equipment that might be exposed to harsh conditions.
• Smooth Performance: The Teflon drag is mentioned multiple times in the key points and characteristics as being smooth, which indicates a more controlled and refined fishing experience. The inclusion of 4 + 1 ball bearings is specific numerical data that typically denotes a smoother reel action, enhancing the ease of use and effectiveness when reeling in a catch.

Issues to keep in mind:

• Quality Control Issues: Some units arrive broken out of the packaging, with problems like the spool staying open.
• Drag System Flaw: The Teflon drag does not offer substantial resistance, with maximum tension still allowing fish like carp to take line easily.
• Line Management Difficulty: Users experience line slipping past the guard and getting tangled in the gears, necessitating a complete disassembly for cleaning.
• Reel Design Oversight: The absence of a guard on the back of the reel can cause the spool to rub against the hand, affecting the smoothness of retrieval.
• Free Spool Complications: Adjusting the free spool tension to prevent backlash can be tricky, with over-travel and potential line tangles if not set correctly.
• Spool Balance Inconsistency: Line does not distribute evenly across the spool, potentially leading to lopsided line lay and retrieval issues.