If you plan to go ice fishing for walleyes, you need to have a sufficiently strong rod and reel for this task. Walleyes can reach double figures in their weight, and 3-5 pound fish are very common in many lakes. You don’t want to lose a big fish just because your gear is too light.
We have looked through the web, checked out what everyone wants from a walleye ice fishing trip, and we have compounded the best options for every situation from what is available on the market to you.
If you choose one of these set-ups for your walleye ice fishing trip, you are sure to be very happy with what you get.
The Best Ice Fishing Rod-Reel Combo for Walleye
Walleye tend to be bigger than most other fish, especially when compared to fish like panfish or perch, so they usually require a heavier reel and rod size; that is why most of our picks are medium to medium-heavy.
Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Combo
Abu Garcia Veritas Combo
Best for Performance
Microtec Walleye Ice Combo
Best for Durability
Berkley Cherrywood HD Ice Fishing
Best Practice/ Beginners Option
Let’s look at these in some more detail to find out what is best for you.
This setup is a classic. This rod and reel combo is continually proving its power on the ice every time it is used. Whatever time of year it is. It combines a super high-quality size 20 spinning reel with a sturdy rod that comes in three different sizes, from light to heavy.
We recommend the medium-heavy version of this rod. It is a fantastic option for walleye ice fishing.
When you purchase this rod in this size, it comes with a rod that is 30” in length, which is powerful enough to handle larger fish while still being just light enough to apply finesse technique to those more finicky biters you may encounter.
If you are fishing from a shack or an ice fishing shelter, you may want to get yourself a smaller size, 30” maybe a bit too long in these instances, it will make your ice angling awkward, and you may find yourself in uncomfortable positions trying to fish from inside a shelter with something of this size.
If you want to hook yourself a trophy fish, something to be super proud of and gloat about, you probably don’t want to go below 28”, as it would sacrifice the strength of hooking that outstanding catch.
- Size 20 Spinning reel with an aluminum spool.
- Twist and lock reel seat.
- Solid carbon rod.
- Thick EVA foam handles at rod base.
- Recommend 30” medium- heavy for open ice fishing, or 28” medium for sheltered ice fishing.
Best for performance
If you are seeking a set-up that is a gorgeous combination of high-quality meets power, then this is a great rod of choice for you. This combo merges the high-end quality of an Abu Garcia reel with the strength and power of an ice rod.
The reel runs of 3 plus 1 ball bearings and has a gear ratio of 5.2:1. This means it provides an ultra-smooth action, similar to what you would find on a high-end bass spinning reel. It also has an extended stem on the reel, which is perfect for ice fishing.
The rod itself is made of solid carbon, and it comes with a split handle design made from a thick EVA foam, which is generally preferred to other options such as cork.
The 29” side offers a hard water combination that provides you with a plentiful amount of power, enough to catch yourself a big fish. It will also serve you very well if you run into a pike or even a lake trout of two.
What’s even better about this option is that the rod tip is more than sensitive enough to fish with a small lure and lets you feel the subtler bites, which can be imperative to getting success from your ice fishing.
- It has super smooth action thanks to 3 + 1 bearings.
- It has an aluminum spool, providing durability.
- It has a split EVA handle.
- The rod is made from solid carbon.
- It has an everlast bail system.
- Recommended 29” medium option for open ice fishing, 27” medium-light for sheltered ice fishing.
Best for durability
If you seek something a little more hardcore and suited to un-sheltered ice fishing, this could be the set-up for you.
The Microtech Walleye Ice combo has plenty of features that make it strong, durable, and a little bit more. Not to mention its 36” rod. You won't be able to sit in a shelter and use this rod, but standing out on the ice, you’ll certainly get your catch.
This set-up is fitted with a 3 BB reel with instant anti-reverse, making it a fantastic ice fishing option. It has a two-tone anodized aluminum spool, providing the durability that you want when on the ice.
It also has solid fiberglass blank and stainless steel guides with polished inserts. As well as that, it has a soft touch handle knob.
This is a reel and rod set-up that won’t only catch the biggest and best fish, but you will also look and feel like a pro while you do it. Not to mention the comfort this offers.
Unlike previous options, the handle is also made with cork, so if you aren’t an EVA fan, this option will do well for you.
- Cork handle.
- 3 BB reel with instant anti-reverse.
- Two-stone anodized aluminum spool.
- Stainless steel guides with polished inserts.
- Medium-heavy set-up with 36” rod- best for outside ice fishing, not the most suitable option for sheltered ice fishing.
Best practice/ beginners option
You might be here because you want to give Walleye ice fishing, or just ice fishing, in general, a try, but you aren’t sure how you feel about it yet.
Sometimes you just want to test the water and see how it feels. That is why we want to introduce you to the Barkley Cherrywood model. This medium-light model offers you the strength for ice fishing without the commitment of price or extensive size of a hardcore rod.
This set-up is best suited for those who want to try their luck out on the ice or just start up and want something small and easy.
It is also a set-up that works well if you hate the cold and want to spend your ice fishing time cozying up in a shelter, as it will not force you into any awkward positions.
You may not be able to snag the biggest walleye with this setup, but it’s good to give it a go. It has 100% fiberglass blanks, a durable finish, and stainless steel guides and inserts. It is also fitted with a full cork handle and a graphite sliding ring reel seat.
We like this because it is also suitable if you are an avid ice fisher and you want to take your kid out with you for them to try.
While this doesn’t necessarily fall under a ‘rod and reel combo for walleyes,’ it is worth mentioning for those who aren’t sure or who want to introduce a youngster to the world of ice fishing.
- It is a great rod for youngsters, beginners, or those who aren’t 100% sure if ice fishing is for them yet.
- Stainless steel guides and inserts.
- A durable finish.
- 100% fiberglass blanks.
- Super affordable, great for testing the waters without breaking the bank.
- Available in medium-light 26”, or Ultra-light 24”, suitable for outside ice fishing or shielded ice fishing.
What size should you choose for Walleye ice fishing?
Walleye are big, able to get bigger than 10lbs. So it is safe to say that generally, you will need sufficient gear that can handle this. You should aim for solid carbon rods at about 30” long or more.
A rod of this length will be able to handle a big rowdy fish under the ice. However, if you are fishing from inside a shelter, you will want a smaller size, but you should keep in mind that if you are tackling a bigger fish with a smaller rod, you will have less control when you hook a big boy.
When checking out reels, a size 20 spinning reel is ideal for this, so regardless, we recommend a size 20 or, at the very least, a reel close to this size.
One of the biggest challenges of ice fishing is that you cannot always be sure what kind of fish you will hook. The same baits and methods often catch two, three, or even four different fish species in the same ice hole.
So, if you think that you may catch loads of perch or panfish as well as walleye, you may want to get a lighter setup, leaning towards a medium or medium-light setup.
If you are fishing in an area where you may expect to run into a northern pike or a lake trout, you may want heavier gear since these species can be massive and are also big fighters. For this, we would recommend the Microtec Walleye Ice Combo or the Abu Garcia.
What line should you choose?
Once you have got your set-up, you also need a line. Generally, 4-6lb’s of fluorocarbon line is the best option for ice fishing, although, for walleye and bigger fish, you may want a heavier line strength; for smaller fish, you may want lighter line strength.
It is all very dependent on what kind of fish you are expecting to catch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I buy a rod and reel combo?
It is up to you. An angler on a budget will usually be better served by purchasing a combo rod and reel package.
They are priced slightly below the cost of components you would otherwise get separately. So, by doing so, you can save a little money.
Can you ice fish with a normal rod?
Yes, you can. You can use a regular fishing rod for ice fishing, but it is not ideal. Ice fishing poles are generally shorter than regular rods.
Hard Water fishing is also very different from warm-season fishing in many ways and therefore requires different gear, so while you can, it is not necessarily recommended.