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Best Ice Fishing Rods: Short Rods that are Long on Performance

Written by: John B
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Not all ice fishing rods are equal, and it can be hard to know which is the best for you. In fact, as ice fishing has grown more popular, we’ve witnessed a surge in quality options, but there are plenty of duds out there, too.

Keep in mind that it’s important to match your rod to your prey. Most anglers step up in power too quickly, forgetting that ultralight and light rods with 6 to 8 pound test can land trophies.

As a general guideline, for panfish and small walleye, ultralight rods are ideal. If you target whitefish, perch, or monster wallies, step up to a light/medium or medium rod. And if you decide to forgo the tip-up and angle for pike, muskie, or lake trout with a rod, you’ll need a medium/heavy to heavy stick and some really stout line!

Also, be aware that you’ll need a fast to ultrafast action on your ice rod, whatever its power, if you want to detect light strikes.

Best Ultralight Ice Fishing Rods

Best Medium-light to Medium Ice Fishing Rods

Best Medium-heavy to Heavy Ice Fishing Rods

Related: Best Ice Fishing Rod And Reel Combo

Best Ultralight to Light Ice Fishing Rods Reviewed

St. Croix Mojo - Our Pick!

St. Croix Rods Mojo Ice Fishing Rod

Amazon 

Length: 24”

Material: carbon

Power/action: ultralight/fast

Handle: cork/EVA foam

Guide material: stainless steel

St. Croix produces first-rate rods for every angler, species, and environment, and their Mojo ice fishing series is no exception. Crafted from ultra-stiff, ultra-strong carbon fiber, you won’t find a more sensitive rod–or one better suited for sluggish bites. But be warned: while not expensive compared to casting rods, this is one of the least budget-friendly options we reviewed.

That said, you get a ton for your money. Stiff, sensitive, strong: these words take on new meaning with the Mojo, and you’ll feel even the most hesitant strikes with this rod. It delivers comfort in spades, too, with a combination cork/EVA handle that allows for a wide range of grip styles. That’s a premium feature we really liked, making this rod a stand-out.

Three primary stainless steel guides keep your line cool and abrasion-free.

Pros:

  • Ultra-sensitive
  • Strong
  • Amazing handle
  • Good guides

Cons:

  • Not the cheapest option

Berkley Cherrywood HD

Berkley Cherrywood HD Ultralite Spinning Ice Rod, 24' - 1323297
Amazon

Length: 24”

Material: fiberglass

Power/action: ultralight/fast

Handle: cork

Guide material: stainless steel

Berkley’s rods are a staple of summer, and their Cherrywood series is well-respected by anglers for its sensitivity and strength. Berkley’s ice fishing version offers the same quality at an incredibly wallet-friendly price, and though we generally prefer graphite, this fiberglass rod delivers.

It features the same stainless steel guides as its warm-weather sibling, albeit only two of them plus the tip. It’s more sensitive than its composition would suggest, allowing you to feel even the tiniest nudges under the ice. But that great feel doesn’t mean it lacks backbone. These rods are surprisingly strong, and we’re impressed by their ability to land fish that are outsized for this tiny tackle.

The Cherrywood features a full cork handle that’s comfortable and warm to the touch.

Our only gripe: the stainless guides aren’t as strong as they could be, though you’re unlikely to put them to the test on an ultralight ice rig.

Pros:

  • Among the least expensive rods we reviewed
  • Sensitive
  • Strong
  • Nice handle
  • Decent guides

Cons:

  • Guides aren’t quite as strong as some of the competitors

13 FISHING Tickle Stick

13 FISHING - Tickle Stick Ice Rod - 27' UL (Ultra Light) - 1/64oz.-1/16oz. PC2 Blank with White Reel Seat - TS2-27UL

Amazon 

Length: 27”

Material: ???

Power/action: ultralight

Handle: cork

Guide material: ALPS thin wire guides

13 Fishing understands the needs of ice anglers, a real testament to the time their good folks have spent on the har water themselves. The result is a peach of an ultralight, the Tickle Stick, that uses some thoughtful design details to up the ante on performance.

Because jigging is the dominant technique, the Tickle Stick has been designed with a flat tip.

That’s right, flat.

This is made possible through a revolutionary blank technology: parallel composite construction, which uses linear fibers to alter the blank’s shape and behavior.

In the real world, that makes it easier to detect soft strikes and the tiny vertical movement that let you know a torpid fish is taking a nibble. That added sensitivity leads to more hooksets, as does the flat orientation of the tip, something we can all appreciate.

Expect the usual cork handle on a 27-inch rod. 

Ultrathin wire guides help to pick up less ice, too, making this a fantastic rod for the hard water.

Pros:

  • Ultra-sensitive tip
  • More positive hooksets
  • Nice handle
  • Excellent ice-defying guides

Cons:

  • ???

13 Fishing White Noise Ultra Light

13 FISHING - Whiteout Ice Combo - 23.5' UL (Ultra Light) - WOC235UL

Amazon 

Length: 27”

Material: graphite

Power/action: ultralight/fast

Handle: cork

Guide material: proprietary “Evolve” series

If you’ve spent any time on the ice, you’re familiar with 13 Fishing’s famous range of in-line reels. They offer excellent rods, too, and the White Noise Ultra Light is every bit on par with their other tackle offerings.

A sensitive, strong, graphite blank forms the heart of this rod. That’s a good start in our book, but to get the most feel from this rod, be sure to use braided line.

It features a long, comfortable cork handle and three main guides in 13 Fishing’s proprietary “Evolve” pattern. We’re not sure what the material is, but we’re sure about its performance: smooth, cool, and frictionless.

The 27-inch White Noise is sensitive enough for the lightest strikes and sufficiently strong to stand up to a real fight. Indeed, we wouldn’t feel under-gunned for larger fish with the right line, and if you happen to hook a walleye or pike, you can be confident it’ll do it’s part if you play to this rod’s strengths.

Pros:

  • Very sensitive
  • Very strong
  • Excellent handle
  • Excellent guides

Cons:

  • Not as sensitive with braided line

Shakespeare Ugly Stik

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel & Rod Combo, 26” Light Action Rod, USGXICE26LCBO

Amazon 

Length: 26”

Material: fiberglass

Power/action: light/fast

Handle: EVA foam

Guide material: stainless steel

Shakespeare’s Ugly Stik has been around for a long while, earning a well-deserved reputation for toughness through its various iterations. Not everyone’s a fan, however, and these rods are not usually associated with finesse as much as iron-cast durability.

This 26-inch rod might change your mind if you’d usually shy away from the brand. Sensitive enough for you to detect the lightest of strikes, if you do hook a monster, your line will give in long before this rod will! In fact, if you’re not sure what you might get nibbling on your lure, spool some 6 pound test and put your tackle to the test. We appreciate that versatility, and while not the most refined of the rods we tested, we’re pretty sure it’s the strongest.

The Ugly Stik has four primary guides made from stainless steel–Shakespeare’s single unit Ugly Tuff configuration. It also offers a soft, durable EVA foam handle. While we can’t recommend the reel you’ll often find in a combo, this rod is more than a match for the baddest fish you want to catch.

Pros:

  • Very sensitive
  • Unbelievably durable
  • Good handle
  • Good guides

Cons:

  • Not the most refined feel or action

Shakespeare Wild Series

Shakespeare SWSICE23UL Wild Series Ice Spinning Rod, Ultra Light

Amazon 

Length: 23”

Material: fiberglass

Power/action: ultralight/moderate

Handle: cork

Guide material: stainless steel

Shakespeare knows fiberglass blanks–no question–and their Wild series is a step-up in refinement from the Ugly Stik that made them famous. In fact, we feel that the 23-inch Wild ice rod is as nice as many of its premium competitors.

This fiberglass rod is sensitive and stiff, offering a great combination of feel and rigidity. As refined as top-end alternatives, we like the backbone this rod offers near the handle. Four primary stainless steel guides lead the tip, reducing the force of the line on any of them by as much as 25 percent when compared to similar rods with one less guide. That’s a feature we like a lot, and this rod is definitely worth a second look.

A long cork handle rounds off this package, and while not as innovative as the St. Croix, it should provide all-day comfort at roughly one-third of the price.

Pros:

  • Very sensitive
  • Very strong
  • Good handle
  • Awesome number of guides
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Reel seat is just OK compared to the competitors

Fenwick Aetos

Fenwick AICE30MHXFS Aetos 30-Inch MH X-Fast Spinning Ice Rod

Amazon 

Length: 25”

Material: graphite

Power/action: ultralight/extra-fast

Handle: cork

Guide material: stainless steel

Fenwick supplies premium quality rods for ice anglers, and has built a reputation for quality with a great range of specialty rods. In fact, if you’ve been out on the ice, there’s a good chance you’ll have heard their name and met people who swear by their products. As our reviews revealed, the Aetos is one reason they’re on the lips of so many anglers.

Built around a graphite blank, the 25-inch Aetos is incredibly sensitive. You shouldn’t have any trouble detecting nibbles and turning these into quick hook sets. This rod is ultra-fast, so expect a lot of curve when the fight is on. But don’t worry about strength: plenty of really big fish have been landed on these whip-thin rods.

The Aetos has a comfortable cork handle and two stainless steel guides prior to the tip. If we have any complaint, it’s that an extra guide or two would be nice.

Pros:

  • Very sensitive
  • Very strong
  • Good handle

Cons:

  • Could use an extra guide or two

Fenwick Elite Tech

Tackle Direct

Length: 25”

Material: graphite

Power/action: ultralight/fast

Handle: cork

Guide material: stainless with zirconium inserts

Fenwick’s Elite Tech is a higher-end rod than its Aetos, though whether that translates into better performance is an open question.

Its graphite blank is plenty sensitive and strong, among the best of the competition. With the 25-inch Elite Tech in hand, you’ll notice the lightest of bumps, even when fishing deep. That’s nice, and it gets nicer: for an ultralight rod with fast action, there’s plenty of strength in reserve for big fish and hard fights. We’ve no complaints there, to be sure.

Its cork handle is generous and comfortable, too, and has a quality feel. Our only issue is with the premium guides. Zirconium inserts are probably overkill for ice fishing, and they’re a feature we’d expect on the casting and spinning rods of summer. They seem a trifle small, too, and we can’t help but wonder about how quickly they’ll clog with ice. That said, this rod is no disappointment in the hand.

Pros:

  • Extremely sensitive
  • Very strong
  • Nice handle

Cons:

  • Guides might be a bit small, encouraging icing

Our Pick – the St. Croix Mojo!

This was a tough pick, as there were many excellent rods that made our final cut. In fact, we wouldn’t feel ill-prepared with any of the finalists–and depending on exactly what we were planning for our ultralight adventures, we might make another choice.

Our general favorite was the Mojo. St. Croix, because it displays excellent quality from one end to the other. Made from carbon fiber, it’s light, strong, stiff, and sensitive. It features nice guides and an impressive handle, making it pretty much the top of the heap in terms of what it offers. It is a bit pricier than most of the others, but we really feel that you get what you pay for with this rod.

That said, the Shakespeare Wild Series is a tough competitor at a much lower price point, and if that matters to you, give one of those a try. Tough, sensitive, and comfortable, it provides a premium feel for a bargain budget. We were also really impressed with 13 Fishing’s White Noise, and as long as you’re using mono, you probably can’t go wrong with that rod, either.

Whatever your choice, all of these short rods are long on performance.

Best Medium Ice Fishing Rods Reviewed

13 FISHING Wicked - Our Pick!

13 FISHING - Wicked Ice Rod - 28' M (Medium) - NW28M

Amazon 

Length: 28”

Material: graphite

Power/action: medium/fast

Handle: Evolve traction control grip

Guide material: ALPS thin wire guides

13 Fishing is a name you’ll see a lot on our shortlist for a reason: they know ice fishing.

And the Wicked is a simply awesome medium-power ice rod.

The solid graphite blank is as sensitive as they come, helping you feel every bump and nibble, and it's got more backbone than a Marine veteran defending the flag. Rest assured, when you tie into a big one, this rod has you covered.

The handle is a soft-feel synthetic that’s shaped well for the specialized jigging we do over the hard water, and the ALPS guides really do cut down on the ice your line will try to deposit.

The reel seat is even big enough to squeeze some conventional spinning reels into, turning this into a monster slayer.

All-in-all this rod is a great choice and one of my favorite medium-power rods out there.

Pros:

  • Awesome sensitivity
  • Excellent backbone
  • Awesome handle
  • Awesome guides

Cons:

  • ???

13 FISHING Widow Maker

13 FISHING - Widow Maker Ice Rod - Trout cosmetic with larger guides - 42' M (Medium) - WM42M

Amazon 

Length: 42”

Material: graphite

Power/action: medium/fast

Handle: cork

Guide material: ALPS thin wire double diamond coated guides

13 Fishing’s Widom Maker is a monster-tamer of a rod, offering 42 inches of super strong graphite to bend fish to your will. The backbone of this rod shows up fast, and it’s just a great choice for larger walleye and bigger ice species.

That solid graphite blank is also very, very sensitive, helping you feel every nudge and nibble, and with stiffness to spare, hooksets are positive even when you’re fishing deep.

Expect a cork handle and synthetic reel seat, both providing just enough space for a fight. I’d like to see a bit more cork, giving me some real estate for two big hands.

That’s hardly a deal-breaker, and the ALPS guides are no marketing ploy: they really do reduce ice build-up.

Overall, this is a very capable medium power rod, and for hard water anglers who need a bit more length to help them muscle a brute, a very strong place to start your search for the perfect rod.

Pros:

  • Very sensitive tip
  • Excellent backbone
  • Excellent guides

Cons:

  • A bit more handle would be nice for larger fish

13 Fishing Omen Ice

13 FISHING - Omen Ice Rod - 36' M (Medium)- Solid Carbon Blank - Split Grip Handle - OBI-36M-SG

Amazon 

Length: 36”

Material: graphite

Power/action: medium/fast

Handle: splitcork

Guide material: Evolve thin wire guides

Here we are with yet another 13 Fishing product - and no, we’re not paid to push their merchandise! Instead, this is a fact of the ice fishing market, and 13 fishing is growing to dominate its competition.

The Omen Ice explains why.

36 inches of solid, high-end graphite connect you to your lure with incredible sensitivity, and when the time comes for a hookset and fight, the stiffness and backbone you need are there, whether you’re wrestling pike or walleye, panfish or trout.

The split cork handle, as you would expect from 13 Fishing, is high-grade Portuguese cork - the real deal - and it provides plenty of room for fighting big fish. That, and the relatively long blank give you plenty fo leverage to turn a big fish and win the fight of your life.

The Evolve thin wire guides help, too, cutting down on icing.

Pros:

  • Excellent sensitivity
  • Great backbone
  • Excellent handle for fighting big fish
  • Awesome guides

Cons:

  • ???

Fenwick Elite Tech

Tackle Direct

Length: 27”

Material: graphite

Power/action: medium-light/fast

Handle: cork

Guide material: stainless steel with zirconium inserts

Fenwick’s Elite Tech is available in a range of power options, and the ultralight made our list in that section as well. As you step up in power, Fenwick, steps up its game, too.

Much like its lighter version, this rod features a graphite blank that’s both sensitive and strong; and serious panfish anglers who are hunting for trophies might want to take a look at this rod. With the 27-inch Elite Tech in hand, you won’t miss strikes even when jigging at depth. And its backbone, especially for such a light rod, is impressive.

The Elite Tech sports a nicely-shaped cork handle that’s big enough for the fish it’s intended for. If you hook a big walleye, grip space may be a bit tight, but the rod will take it, no question! With four primary guides built from quality components, line stress won’t be an issue. This is where we appreciate zirconium inserts–really overkill on ultralight ice rods–as they’ll help keep your line intact when you tie into a big one.

Our only gripe is with the small guides, as they’re prone to ice build-up.

Pros:

  • Great sensitivity
  • Excellent backbone
  • Nice handle shape

Cons:

  • Guides are a bit small, encouraging icing
  • Handle could be bigger for large fish

Our Pick - 13 FISHING’s Wicked!

This was a tough pick, because the Omen is also a very, very good rod. 

For me, it comes down to a preference for continuous handles, and of course, the Wicked’s rock-solid graphite blank, incredible sensitivity, powerful backbone, and ice-shedding guides don’t hurt a bit!

This is a very capable hard water rod for walleye, pike, and panfish of all kinds, and you can feel the quality from the tip to the handle.

Best Heavy Ice Fishing Rods Reviewed

13 Fishing Widow Maker - Our Pick!

Length: 34”

Material: graphite

Power/action: medium-heavy/fast

Handle: split EVA foam

Guide material: ALPS thin wire Double Diamond coated guides

13 Fishing’s Widow Maker in medium-heavy power isn’t the same rod as its lighter brother, though it shares some of the same quality components.

The 36-ton solid body Toray graphite blank is the same light, strong, sensitive material, but it’s beefed up for bigger fish, providing more backbone and more fight-winning power.

Make no mistake: this is a brute-tamer of a rod!

That 34-inch blank has head-turning strength, and it’ll make short work of bog pike and strong muskie. The ALPS thin wire-coated guides cut down on icing and protect your line, doing double-duty to help you win every contest.

You’ll find that this rod wears a generous EVA foam split-grip, and if that’s something you prefer, this is a damn fine rod for big fish on hard water.

Pros:

  • Awesome blank--incredibly strong and amazingly sensitive
  • Awesome guides
  • Excellent handle

Cons:

  • ???

JawJacker Ice Rod

Jaw Jacker Ice Fishing Rod

Bass Pro | Cabelas | FishUSA

Length: 31”

Material: graphite

Power/action: medium-heavy/fast

Handle: cork

Guide material: ceramic

JawJacker’s Ice rod is budget-friendly, but don’t let that fool you. It’s top quality.

At 31 inches, this graphite-blanked rod has the power you need to fight even the largest fish while retaining sensitivity at the tip. That’s impressive, but not the end of its virtues. The JawJacker’s cork handle is long and built for muscle, an important point when you tie into a bad-boy pike.

But perhaps our favorite features are the five–that’s right-five–primary guides made from high-grade ceramic. You don’t get smoother or stronger than that at any price. And with that many points to distribute line stress, we’d be confident when fighting pretty much anything, assuming the line was heavy enough.

Pros:

  • Excellent blank–both strong and sensitive
  • Excellent guide material
  • Five primary guides
  • Great handle

Cons:

  • A truly ideal handle would be just a touch longer

Fenwick Eagle

Fenwick Eagle Ice Fishing Spinning Rod , Black, Cork , 32' - Medium Heavy - 1pc

Amazon 

Length: 32”

Material: carbon

Power/action: medium-heavy/moderate

Handle: cork

Guide material: stainless steel guides with aluminum oxide inserts

Fenwick’s no stranger to the ice, and if you’re hunting real brutes, their Eagle in medium-heavy power is a great option.

Armed with a solid carbon fiber blank, you’re getting unparalleled sensitivity and stiffness that’s just amazing. At 32 inches, that makes fighting real monsters a winning proposition, as this blank will really start to strut its stuff as it bends into something akin to a parabolic arc. 

Expect to find that backbone about half of the way back to the handle, and when you do, you’ll know the fight is in your hands.

This rod is supplied with a premium, continuous cork handle and stainless guides with aluminum oxide inserts to help pamper your line in a nasty fight.

Built tough, this is a great rod for mean pike, lake trout, and other unforgiving species.

Pros:

  • Extremely strong blank
  • Tons of backbone
  • Great handle
  • Excellent guides for hard fights

Cons:

  • ???

Our Pick - 13 Fishing’s Widow Maker!

13 Fishing is quickly becoming the dominant name in ice fishing tackle, and rods like the Widow Maker explain why.

With a blank that doesn’t know the word “quit” to guides that shed ice and pamper your line in a fight, this is a rod built for bruising battles with big pick and nasty musky.

And the split EVA foam handle provides plenty of space for two hands and serious leverage when it’s called for.

Put simply: this is an excellent rod that far outperforms its price point.

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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