Selecting an Ice Rod

During open-water season, people have all sorts of rods for every type of fishing, and about every technique. It is nothing for my bass boats to have over a dozen different types of rod/reel combos between the deck and rod locker. However, many people ignore selecting the right rod for the right task when it comes to ice fishing.


My main fishing is for bass, bluegills, crappies and a few ring perch. So, this is the type of rod/reel combos we are going to discuss. With these species, I have three actions – medium, light and ultra light, with light and ultra light being used the most. Very seldom will I pull out the medium unless I know there are going to be some fairly large fish caught, or for using the heaviest of lures.


Ice fishing rod action selection


Actions can be more important in ice season than in open water because of the shorter length. When selecting the action, be sure to check out the rods completely, from brand to brand, and series to series. It is very common for one to have the action and backbone placement in an entirely different way than another. Because of this, I’m going to use the Frabill brand, and the newer Arctic Fire series to demonstrate what I want in a rod and why.


First off, my favorite length of ice rod is 24 inches unless I’m “hole hopping” with a longer Frabill Jiggler. The reason I like the 24-inch length is because it works well inside a shelter, as well as when fishing in the open with the front part of my Sentinel shelter folded down or in the wind break position. It also provides a little more power than a shorter rod for playing a larger fish.


Rods should be so that you can look at them and know which is the difference in actions. In other words, an ultra light should be thinner than a light, and so on. If you are looking at a brand that there is no difference in the thickness, then you may want to look at something else.


What is the best backbone for an ice fishing rod?


Backbone goes hand-in-hand with action. For example, with the Arctic Fire, if the rod tip is bent straight down, the top of the arch is just about to the gathering guide. When the rod tip on the light action is bent down, the top of the arch is about two to three inches in front of the gathering guide.


The next thing is which style of rod – spinning, casting or straight line. I use spinning for a lot of situations, especially if you have to reach a depth quickly, or you are fishing deeper water, or a variety of depths. Casting I don’t use, but would mainly use it with the heavier-action rod for larger fish and lures. Straight line is the best for shallower water and great direct contact with the bait for sensitivity.


For line size, that is an individual’s preference. I like a middle-of-the-road 4-pound test which covers both the light and ultra-light actions. You might want to step up to 6-pound test for the medium action.


Selecting the right ice fishing rod for the type of lures


Lures and bait are pretty simple to figure out on which actions should be used. The lighter jigs, like a small Custom Jigs & Spins’ Ratfinkee, Rocker, Ratso, Frizbee, Gill Pill, Demon and Diamond Jig, and lighter split shot/bait rig are used on the ultra light, where ultra sensitivity and strike detection are needed. With heavier lures, like the Custom Jigs & Spins’ Slender Spoon, Striper Special, RPM Minnow, and larger Demon and split shot/bait rig, light and medium actions come into play. You are targeting larger fish, thus needing more backbone and playing strength.


To somewhat enhance some rod actions, I would suggest, if the bite is light, and you are using a light, medium or heavy rod, add something like a Frabill Titanium Spring Bobber to the tip. This is adjustable for various sensitivities, and can be a great asset in detecting strikes on one of those ultra-finicky days. In a way, you are turning a heavier rod into a lighter action for catching bigger fish if you want to use smaller baits on the heavier action.


If a person thinks about it, the correct rod in size, strength and action can make a huge difference.   MWO




Dan Galusha has fished all of his life, worked more than 45 years in the outdoor/media industry, and was inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Communicator.  Direct questions through, and



The difference in bend and thickness on the actions can be seen here with the Frabill Arctic Fire ultra light on top and light on bottom.



Light and medium-action rods are ideal for using lures like the Custom Jigs & Spins Slender Spoon when fishing for bass and larger crappies.


Turning a heavier-action rod into the sensitivity of an ultra light, and still having the fighting power for larger fish, can be done by properly adjusting a Frabill Titanium Spring Bobber on the tip of the rig, as was done here.


You can’t beat an ultralight action for strike detection and fun when fishing for bluegills.