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Best Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Combo for 2022

Written by: John B
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It wasn’t long ago that hard-water anglers had to make do with whatever they could find. Now, ice fishermen are spoiled for choices, and innovation is the watchword of the industry.

Good ice rods are now plentiful, and for folks just getting into the sport - or looking to extend their fishing season - there are a wealth of good choices.

But more so than in any other corner of the sport, one name has come to dominate: 13 Fishing.

I’m not saying that they don’t have competitors or that brands like Shakespeare, St. Croix, and Frabill can’t compete, but when you’re looking for a cost-effective combo rod and reel, 13 Fishing has all but cornered the market.

Quick look at the best ice fishing rod and reel combos:

Related:

Best Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Combos Reviewed

13 FISHING Radioactive Pickle - Best In-line Ice Fishing Combo 

13 FISHING - Freefall Ghost Radioactive Pickle Ice Combo - 27' M (Medium) - FF Ghost + Tickle Stick - Left Hand Retrieve - RP2-27M-LH

Amazon 

Length: 25” (ultralight); 27” (ultralight, light, and medium)

Blank material: ???

Power/action: ultralight, light, and medium

Handle: split Japanese EVA foam

Guide material: ALPS Thin Wire Guides

For ice anglers looking for an in-line combo, the aptly named Radioactive Pickle from 13 Fishing is very hard to beat.

The rod uses proprietary construction techniques that result in a flat tip - that’s right, flat - that vastly enhances feel in the vertical plane. The real-world result is ultra-sensitivity, as well as more positive hooksets.

And while we're not sure what this blank is made from, its performance delivers a win-win, as any angler can tell you.

Available in two lengths, 25 inches and 27 inches, you have your choice of ultralight, light, and medium, making this a great rod for everything from crappie to perch, walleye to pike. 

There’s enough backbone here for a hard fight, but I’d probably skip the big boys if you can.

The high-quality EVA foam handle provides plenty of territory for a firm two-handed grip, and the ALPS guides really do shed troubling ice particularly well.

This is an excellent rod - and unexpectedly for combos, the real is darn capable, too.

Capable of free fall “casting,” deep jigging is made just that much faster, a feature you’ll quickly come to appreciate. And besides instant auto-reverse, you get a reasonable gear ratio on an in-line reel: 2.5:1.

For the money, that’s a winning combo, and for fans of in-line reels, this is the combo to beat.

Pros:

  • Strong, sensitive blanks
  • Flat tips that increase sensitivity and improve hookset
  • Plenty of backbone for hard fights
  • Excellent handles with space for two hands
  • Good in-line reel
  • Free fall capable
  • Instant auto-reverse
  • 2.5:1 gear ratio

Cons:

  • ???

13 FISHING Whiteout - Best Ice Fishing Combo For Panfish

13 FISHING - Whiteout Ice Combo - 16.5' ML (Medium Light) - WOC165ML

Amazon 

Length: 23.5” and 28.5” (ultralight); 20.5” (light); 16.5” and 27.5” (medium-light); 29.5” (medium)

Blank material: Toray graphite

Power/action: ultralight, light, medium-light, and medium with fast action

Handle: Evolve Blackjack Reel Seat

Guide material: Evolve Solo Guides

If you fish the hard water for crappie, perch, sunfish, bluegill, and other panfish, 13 Fishing’s Whiteout is a rod and reel combo that deserves a serious look.

Available in two ultralight lengths, one light length, two medium-light lengths, and one medium length, this rod’s sweet spot is clearly on the lighter end, and if you’re looking for a walleye or pike rod, this probably won’t be the best pick.

But for panfish, the solid graphite blank is the last word on sensitivity, and you’ll find plenty of backbone to fight fat slabs up onto the ice.

The Evolve Solo Guides cut down icing, too, making this a solid rod for ice fishing.

One complaint I have, which speaks to the medium rod specifically, is just how little handle you really get for a hard fight with a big fish. For crappie and perch, you’re more than good, but tie into a big walleye, and I’m not sure where you’re supposed to put that second hand other than the base of the blank.

13 Fishing supplies this rod with an acceptable reel with a solid anti-reverse mechanism and enough torque and power for the fish it’s designed for. Frankly, many better spinning reels are available - Pfleuger and Shimano come to mind immediately - but for a combo at this price point, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.

Pros:

  • Excellent overall panfish combo
  • Very sensitive blank
  • Good guides
  • Plenty of backbone for hard fights with smaller fish
  • Good reel
  • Instant auto-reverse

Cons:

  • In medium power, the handle isn’t large enough for hard fights.

Frabill Ice Hunter Predator - Best Ice Fishing Combo for Walleye and Pike

Frabill Ice Hunter Predator Spinning Combo 32'' Medium Light Action, Black

Amazon 

Length: 32” (medium); 34” (medium-heavy); 36” (heavy)

Blank material: graphite

Power/action: medium, medium-heavy, and heavy with a fast action

Handle: EVA rubberized cork

Guide material: stainless steel

When you’re looking to chase walleye, muskie, and pike through the ice, words like “tough,” “strong,” and “backbone” take on new meanings. And as good as 13 Fishing’s offerings are, the only competition the Frabill Ice Hunter Predator has is the 13 Fishing Microtec Walleye.

Frabill has chosen graphite as its blank material, a gutsy move given the durability of fiberglass. But the result is added sensitivity and faster action, allowing you to hit these sticks’ iron-like backbones quickly, turning heads and winning fights.

Were I fishing nasty pike through the hard water, the Frabill Ice Hunter Predator in heavy power would be my pick.

It gives you plenty of power and sensitivity, to be sure, but also enough handle for a hard fight. And I can’t emphasize enough how important that can be with a big fish on the line.

The guides are fine and work well but probably fall a bit behind the Microtec’s.

The reel offers a solid multi-disc drag, a nice touch given the kind of fishing this combo is destined for. And overall, I’d rate it better than OK for ice fishing. The drag is smooth, easy to set, and plenty powerful for pike and walleye, and you’ll know that you’ve got the combo you need to tilt the odds in your favor.

Pros:

  • Great price!
  • Excellent overall walleye and pike combo
  • Very sensitive blank
  • Good guides
  • Plenty of backbone for hard fights with big fish
  • Good reel
  • Instant auto-reverse
  • Good drag
  • Plenty of handle territory for hard fights

Cons:

  • ???

13 Fishing Microtec Walleye

13 FISHING - Microtec Walleye Ice Combo - 26' ML (Medium Light) - Full Grip - MWC3-26ML

Amazon 

Length: 26” or 28” (full grip); 36” (split grip); 28” (deadstick)

Blank material: fiberglass

Power/action: medium-light/medium (full grip); medium/medium-heavy (split grip); medium (deadstick)

Handle: continuous or split cork

Guide material: stainless steel

13 Fishing’s Microtech Walleye series is an impressive line-up, covering everything from panfish to walleye and pike, depending on the rod you choose.

The full grip version is offered in either a 26-inch or 28-inch length, sporting a solid fiberglass blank that supplies medium-light power in the shorter stick or medium power in the longer. The 26 inch is ideal for everything from panfish to walleye, and it’s plenty sensitive to detect a nudge or nibble below the hard water. 

The longer, full grip, 28 is a good choice for walleye and fish of that size, especially if fishing space is at a premium in your shelter.

The split-grip series increases in power, offering medium and medium heavy options for its 36-inch fiberglass blank. Again, sensitivity is good, and the backbone on these rods is confidence-inspiring. You’ll find plenty of fight about a third of the way from the tip and plenty of grip to lean into the fight.

Finally, the 28-inch deadstick is offered in medium power with the same excellent blank and a full cork handle.

All of these rods wear stainless guides that work well for the price point.

Now, 13 Fishing isn’t saying much of anything about the reel they pair with this rod, which is to be expected. It’s almost always the case that price dictates quality, and something’s got to give when you’re buying an excellent reel.

Surprisingly, the reel isn’t too bad, and since casting isn’t something you need to worry about, and torpid fish tend not to fight like they do when the water’s warm, even the drag isn’t that critical. In this case, I’d call the reel “fine” or “good enough,” and for this price, you can splurge on a better spinning reel if you’d like.

Pros:

  • Strong, sensitive fiberglass blanks
  • Plenty of backbone for hard fights
  • Excellent handles with space for two hands
  • This series offers rods that cover many species

Cons:

  • Guide quality is just OK
  • Reel quality is just OK

13 Fishing Thermo Ice

13 FISHING - Thermo Ice Combo - 30' M (Medium) - TIC3-30M

Amazon 

Length: 19” and 24” (ultralight); 24” (light); 26” (medium-light); 30” (medium)

Blank material: Toray graphite

Power/action: ultralight, light, medium-light, and medium with a fast actions

Handle: cork

Guide material: stainless steel with polished inserts

The good folks at 13 Fishing know that not everyone can afford to drop a Benjamin on a rod and reel combo, and plenty can’t manage half that. Times are tough everywhere, but fun can still be had on the ice.

The Thermo Ice combo definitely won’t break the bank, and you get a lot for what you spend. 

Available in two lengths of ultralight, and one each of light, medium-light, and medium, this rod reminds me a lot of the Whiteout in that it’s best at the lighter end where panfish are the dominant species you’re chasing.

The graphite blank the Thermo Ice wears is plenty sensitive, and you’ll feel every bump and bite of those sluggish crappie and perch. It’s got plenty of backbone, too, and when you tie into a slab with the ultralight, you’ll know you’ve got the oomph to muscle her in.

Expect quality stainless steel guides with polished inserts - not the best, but far from the worst.

Like the Whiteout, you’ll find the handle a bit short for the medium action, where a two-handed grip is pretty much essential for walleye.

At this price point, the reel is pretty basic - certainly nothing to write home about - but it’s going to get the job done until you can afford to slip a better one into the reel seat.

All in all, for the budget-minded ice angler, this is a good combo.

Pros:

  • Great price!
  • Excellent overall panfish combo
  • Very sensitive blank
  • Good guides
  • Plenty of backbone for hard fights with smaller fish
  • OK reel
  • Instant auto-reverse

Cons:

  • In medium power, the handle isn’t large enough for hard fights.

Final Thoughts

There’s no one ice fishing rod and reel combo to rule them all, and you need to make your selection based on the fish you plan to chase. But given that, you won’t be disappointed by any of the rods on our list, and they’ll all keep a smile on your face as you work the ice.

As usual, we’d love to hear from you, especially if you disagree with one of our picks or have a favorite we haven’t mentioned.

Please leave a comment below!

About The Author
John B
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
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