Choosing the Perfect Ice Fishing Rod.

Choosing the Perfect Ice Fishing Rod


Do you know everything you should consider when shopping for a new ice fishing rod? With so many options available, choosing the best rod can be pretty  overwhelming. Paul Glass of Burly Fishing breaks down the key elements you should consider when looking for a rod that's right for you. From the type of species you target to getting a better handle on the baits and lures you plan to fish with, let Paul take the confusion out of rod selection and get you out on the ice catching more fish. 

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Video transcript:

Paul Glass:
What's up, everyone? Welcome back to the MONSTERBASS channel. This is Paul with Burly Fishing and I'm back with another ice fishing-related video. Now, this one is going to be less technique-specific, less about baits really, more about tackle, rods and reels.

Paul Glass:
If you're new to fishing, maybe 2020 came around and you're like, "Man, I'm going to get back into fishing," or, "I'm going to start fishing for the first time." This may be your first or maybe second entree into ice season. If you've been thinking about getting into ice fishing, but it seems intimidating, this is going to help you out a ton. Especially picking out that first rod, or maybe if you've got your first setup and you're like, "There's some things that are just not quite right about it. I don't love the way that it's working for me," this is going to really provide you with a little bit of baseline information to go pick up your next setup.

Paul Glass:
The other thing that I find too with ice fishermen is sometimes you end up utilizing some of your maybe ultralight, regular summer bass fishing gear and retrofitting it, reels especially, for ice season, and you may find it's a little clunky. It's maybe not working exactly how you want it. Again, this is going to really help you out, trying to say, "Okay, I've got a couple setups I maybe cobbled together, but maybe I'm ready to make my first upgrade. What should I be looking for?" This is going to help you out with that.

Paul Glass:
Before I get too far into the video, before we get too much into the detail, I want to first say thank you so much for checking out the MONSTERBASS channel. If you're really enjoying the content, please consider subscribing, hit the like button, smash the notification bell, so you can see when we post the next video. And while you're at it, come check out Burly Fishing. Jeff and I do gear reviews, unboxings, fun fishing videos. We do breakdowns like this as well, So if you're interested in that type of thing, come check us out too.

Paul Glass:
Now, I'm going to help you with the decision tree. We're going to start at the top with the simplest decisions and work our way down to the more broad-based ones. And by the time you work your way down this decision tree, it's going to lead you to one or two options instead of 65 options when you're trying to pick out that first rod. We'll start with the rod and then we'll go with the reels.

Paul Glass:
The first thing I want to think about is, what types of species am I going to target? Am I going to be targeting mostly panfish? Am I going to be targeting you know, crappie and perch, or maybe I'm targeting walleye, salmon, pike, maybe even bass? Heck, you never know. So whatever it is, whatever species you're targeting is going to dictate what kind of rod you want, just like with summer gear. If you're a bass fisherman, you're probably going to be in that medium, medium-heavy, maybe even extra-heavy type of rod. So, we're going to go through that decision tree.

Paul Glass:
First thing you think about, what kind of fish am I going to target? Your options are going to be very similar to your standard bass gear. You're going to have an ultralight, a light, medium, and heavy. That's going to be your standard range. There are obviously some custom rod manufacturers and some manufacturers that go outside of that range, but that's kind of your standard range.

Paul Glass:
Now, when I think about ultralight, I'm thinking about mostly panfish, smaller panfish, so bluegill, maybe smaller crappie, that sort of thing, and you're really targeting those ultralight bites and you need the premium in sensitivity. That's going to be your ultralight. Your light is going to be getting into that perch, crappie, and then also the smaller fish type of range. That's going to kind of occupy that spectrum.

Paul Glass:
Once you get into medium, now you're talking walleye, maybe bass, smaller pike, and also you can still target crappie and bluegill and things of that nature as well. But maybe a little bit on the bigger side, you're probably going to be missing some of those more subtle bites. Once you get into heavy, now you're talking about bigger fish. You're talking about your pike, and anything else that's a large predator fish swimming down below. You're going to miss a lot of strikes of crappie and perch and things of that nature, but you can still target walleye and all those sorts of things as well. I think that's kind of like, I want to say, common sense, but something that if you're not really sure where on the spectrum you're looking for, again, species is going to dictate whether you go for that ultralight or you go for the heavy or somewhere in between.

Paul Glass:
Now, are you looking for a fast action rod or maybe a medium action rod? Those are kind of your two rods. There are extra fast and there's some other things in between, but just as a general rule, if you're going to be on the fast or extra-fast side, I would think more about jigging rods, right? More sensitivity, faster reactions, and being able to handle larger fish. A faster action rod's going to allow you to handle actually more of a stronger fish than what a medium is going to let you do.

Paul Glass:
Most people, especially if you're artificial fishing, basically ... If you're fishing artificials, I recommend you go fast or extra fast, and I would stick to fast as a general role, but fast or extra fast. If you're looking for mediums, I would say anytime you're going to be dead sticking baits a lot, or if you're going be using minnows or any kind of live bait, I think you want something that's more on the medium side. It's going to be a little more forgiving. You can really watch. It's going to be more about feel, letting the fish take the bait, chew on it for a second before you set the hook. You're going to have the best hook-setting power with a fast or extra fast, but you're going to have more forgiveness in the take, and that fish is going to detect the hook a lot slower with the medium round.

Paul Glass:
So just again, general, this is not a hard and fast rule, but that's a general rule. Fast to extra fast, I would say plastics, jigging, spoons, anything of that nature, you want to be the fast, extra fast. Live big, minnows, anything like that, or dead sticking techniques, I'm going to go for the medium.

Paul Glass:
Now, let's talk about rod length. This is a lot about feel. But I think as a general rule, if you don't have a feel and you don't have a strong preference, again, if you're new to fishing, you're making a first decision on a rod, or you're maybe wanting to feel comfortable about maybe upgrading, you want to feel comfortable with your choice, the general consensus on length is that a longer rod is going to be more forgiving. And those longer rods, the faster action, all the sensitivity's going to be moving up towards the tip of the rod. And I will say, with a 36-inch rod, which I would say is probably a great place to start, or maybe a 32-inch rod is a good place to start, somewhere in there, especially if you're new to ice fishing, you're going to be able to fight a lot more fish, right? You're going to get a lot more flexibility in what you can fight.

Paul Glass:
Now, you can get a 32-inch or a 30-inch ultralight or light, right, and you can still use that for panfish. I actually recommend that people start there for panfish. The other thing that's really nice about a longer rod is the rod's going to do a lot more of the work and not just on the fish fighting. You're still going to get the sensitivity, but you can actually watch your rod tip most of the time. You're going to have snow on the ... or really light-colored background for the most part if you're outdoors and not in a shelter, and you don't have lights on, but you're going to have a white field and you're going to see every little bit of that rod tip moving.

Paul Glass:
Sensitivity, I don't think, is going to be as much of an issue on a longer rod, especially if you're new, but hooks, that is huge. The longer rod, the less upward motion you have to do with your arms. The shorter the rod, your whole body has to stand up and you got to lift your elbows up to set that rod, and that can be a difficult adjustment for a new angler hitting the ice for the first time. So, I do recommend maybe a little bit longer rod if you're newer or if you're targeting bigger fish, or you want to get a really strong hook set. Again, walleye, I'm probably going 30 inches plus, just as a general rule. That's what I would like to see.

Paul Glass:
The other thing about short rods, right, short rods, yes, you're going to get amazing sensitivity because there's just less distance for that shock wave to travel before it reaches your hand, so you absolutely are. Is it negligible? Maybe, but with ice fishing, these subtle, subtle bites, every little bit counts when it comes to sensitivity. So shorter rod, a little more sensitive, but you get a lot less fish-fighting power. There's a lot less bend for that rod, a lot less work for that rod to do for you. So again, you're going to have to do more of the work as the angler. You're going to have to be adjusting your drag on the fly or have it set perfectly right from the get-go. You may have to stick your rod tip into the water in order to make sure that you don't fray your line, right? And then as you're working that fish, you're really going to have to know what's going on. You can't rely on the rod nearly as much when you have a shorter rod, but maybe you're getting more sensitivity.

Paul Glass:
I personally like a shorter rod, but I kind of migrated that direction. I started with a 24-inch rod, moved up to a 30. I still use those rods. I got a couple right here we're going to okay in a second. But then I kind of went downsize for my panfishing setups. Let me show you what some of those rods kind of look like.

Paul Glass:
The other thing I really like about a short rod is if you're in an ice shanty or you're fishing close quarters, a short rod means you get right up next to the ice hole. That's a gigantic help. I mean, honestly, I can't stress that enough. If you are a fisherman who maybe packs five or six rods with you, having a couple short rods may be a way that it's a little bit easier for you to either pack it into a sled or into a bucket. Personally, I don't think it matters that much, but it can be a help.

Paul Glass:
This rod right here is a 15-inch ultralight. This is a custom rod from a local manufacturer. It's called Frozen Puppy. Guy does an outstanding job. This is my favorite panfishing rod. But one thing I want to call out is you can see that this has four guides. To have such a short rod and still get four guides, not including the tip, that's outstanding. That means there's a lot of ... This is going to have a really accurate bend, even though it's a very short rod. I love that. It also has a hook holder, another kind of premium feature, which I'm not using right now, but a premium feature for an ice rod. Now, again, this is an ultralight. You can see how tiny this is. I mean, even if you don't get an idea, relative to my body, how small this is, this is the handle. I mean, this thing is minuscule. You can tell this is a really short rod. So 15-inch ultralight rod.

Paul Glass:
And this is what I would call the next size up. So here's your 15-inch rod ultralight. Here's a 15-inch light. This is an outstanding panfishing rod. I love this rod for crappie. I love this rod for perch. This is one of my more flexible setups that are out there. It just gets the job done. Still really trim. You'll only get three guides plus the tip. I know it doesn't seem like a huge deal, but I'm telling you, your rod is actually slightly less capable when you remove a guide. The more guides that I can get on an ice rod ... I mean, again, if I had 25, that's not helpful, but I want to have at least four. That's my kind of rule of thumb. If I can get four plus the tip, that's great.

Paul Glass:
But this is made by HT. This is the Ice Blues. I love this rod. It's very inexpensive, but it's a really, really good rod for the money. But again, this is that 18-inch light, very flexible rod. This is kind of like your ... This is what I would consider a very good panfishing setup. Yes, you can go longer than 18 inches. I recommend if you're first starting out that you do go longer, but this is kind of as you grow, this might be the setup. For me, this is one of the ones I use the most and I've used for the longest.

Paul Glass:
Now this is what I would consider a fantastic starter setup if you're targeting panfish. This is the 13 Fishing Thermo Ice, great rod. This is a 24-inch light. This is a great panfish setup. This is one that is very sensitive, but has a lot of fish-fighting power. If you luck into a walleye or bass, you're not going to have any problems, even if it's your first time ice fishing, no problem whatsoever. Relatively inexpensive rod, but a really great setup. So again, that's that 24-inch light. Great setup for someone who's just getting into ice fishing. And it's also going to be flexible enough and be sensitive enough as you get better for you to grow into, so not super long, not super short, kind of right in that middle ground.

Paul Glass:
This is a 30-inch medium heavy. This is actually an Ugly Stik GX2. All right, this is the Ugly Stik GX2. This is a 30-inch medium heavy, medium heavy. Now, it has a pretty soft tip in it. This has enough sensitivity for me, but this is ... mostly I'm using for larger baits. Does it do great in an ice shelter? It's not perfect, but I can get by. But really what I'm using this for is larger baits. Sensitivity of the bite detection, not as big of a deal, because I'm using baits that are going to be moving around quite a bit, so as I'm actively jigging those baits, I'm really expecting that I'm going to be able to feel this and I'm not really required to feel that really tiny, subtle bite.

Paul Glass:
Now, if this were a 30-inch medium light, I think this would be a fantastic setup for a starter. You're getting a lot of fish-fighting power. You're getting a rod that's going to have very good sensitivity. And if you can get into fast, or you're having an outstanding rod for bite detection, I'll show you again. We'll talk about some of the features that will help with that, that you can look for in a rod, but again, this one has one, two, three, four guides, plus the tip. This is a great rod for those larger fish. So it's a great walleye stick for me, but that's not my go-to. I mostly am targeting panfish. I just find that to be so much fun to run and gun, so most of my subs are going to be on the shorter side, they're going to be on the lighter side, but when I feel like I want to get into some pike or I want to get into some walleye, this is a great setup for me.

Paul Glass:
We talk about pick your species. That's going to maybe dictate your length and then maybe what level of rod you're looking for, whether it's ultralight all the way up to a heavy or a medium heavy. So we talked about that, so you kind of work your way down there. Then you're like, "Okay, I'm going to be panfish. I want a light." Okay, you figured out you want a light. Now, how long do you want it to be? Maybe you're a little bit newer. You're like, "A 30-inch sounds good. It's always going to work for me, and if I get into a bigger fish, totally going to be okay." All right, cool. You've made your way to that next level. What's beyond that?

Paul Glass:
For me, we talked about the number of guides. I typically want to see three or four guides at a minimum. Four, for me, is where I really want to be, and then even no matter what length, even on a shorter rod, I want to see four guides. After that, I'm looking at handle, at configuration and what it's made of, so I'll show you what I mean. The important thing about the handle setup really is going to be how much sensitivity is going to be transmitted from the rod right into the handle itself.

Paul Glass:
Cork does a great job of transmitting all those little vibrations right into your hand and is a really sensitive material. It's not that expensive a material. It's sort of a step up from the baseline, but it's not the most expensive, so you're not really paying like, I would say, an ultra premium, maybe just a slight premium for cork rod. For most beginners cork, is what I think you should look for. You really want get that sensitivity no matter what. I think more often than not, cork is going to do it for you. There are some ways you can get around it even just by gripping the rod in some different ways, but I will say, cork is what I'm gravitating towards if I'm not looking for an ultra-premium rod. I'm looking for cork.

Paul Glass:
Now, what's a less expensive material? That's going to be foam, right? This is just a blue foam. It can get kind of scuzzy after a couple of years. It does not transmit quite as much of that ... It doesn't have the same level of sensitivity from the rod into your hand than like, let's say, again, cork or maybe even graphite, right? Graphite being the most sensitive, the most expensive by far. Graphite, probably the most sensitive, definitely the most premium, the most expensive, but it's transmitting the most amount of sensitivity directly into your hand using just the materials.

Paul Glass:
Why is foam less sensitive? It's just softer, right? The softer the foam, you're deadening out all those little vibrations, but foam is also the cheapest and the most readily available. So if you are not too concerned about it, and you think there's some ways you can get around it, one of which I'll show you right now, then go for the foam. Not a problem. I have this rod. I use it all the time. I just said it's one of my favorites that gets the most use, it's foam.

Paul Glass:
Now, how can you get around that? Let's say you drop your lure down there. You finally get it down there. You don't have to hold the rod like this. One of my favorite grips is sort of like the pistol grip, right, where I'm going to go ahead and put my finger right onto the rod, and then my other finger's actually going to be holding the line. That to me is the easiest way to get around this problem. If you have to wear gloves, if it's getting that cold, that's going to totally derail your plan to some degree, but it's not going to totally ruin it. If you're doing these two things, you're keeping contact with the line and you're keeping contact with the rod tip, you're going to get all of that bite detection. So, this is one where you can kind of cheat the system and get around maybe having a less expensive handle material.

Paul Glass:
One thing you'll also notice is the reel seat. There's no reel seat on this at all. This is just two pieces of plastic that you slide back and forth. That's how this reel is attached. A lot of guys who are kind of super hardcore and want to make sure they're getting the most sensitivity possible, they'll just electrical tape their reels right onto the handle there. That takes out a whole other piece of material out of the equation. And then again, it's that sensitivity right to your hand, right from the rod length, as close as possible. So you'll see a lot of guys do that, in which case you're not paying for the reel seat.

Paul Glass:
So, like with this 13 fishing model, I don't have to worry about these, all of this extra stuff. None of that matters. I just want a straight handle. Straight cork is great. Get rid of all this, take it all off, and then just electrical tape your handle right on ... or, electrical tape your reel right to the handle, boom, increased sensitivity. So that's maybe another cheat code, another way for you to get around paying for extras that you don't really need. But that's what I'm looking for in terms of rod length, whether I'm going to go ultralight, medium heavy, heavy, light, whatever it happens to be, that's kind of how you can make some of your decision. And then when you're kind of sussing out how much you want to pay for a rod, what maybe specific things you should or should not be looking for, and what matters and maybe what doesn't matter as much.

Paul Glass:
Let's talk reels. I think you may have noticed there were two different types of reels, one of which you may have not seen before on some of my setups. Now, this type of reel is what we call an inline reel. Now, the reason it's called an inline reel is because the line stays in line. It's not coiling perpendicular to the direction that the line is actually going, right? Everything is in one line. These are a little bit more on the expensive side. Not always, but as a general rule, the technology and the way they're manufactured and the demand is lower, so they are on average a little bit more expensive.

Paul Glass:
Now, why would you even want or think about looking for or paying for an inline reel versus maybe a standard spinning reel? If you have light jigs or ultralight jigs, or you're just jigging most of the time, what I will say is inline reels offer the best in presentation, the most accurate in presentation. There's not nearly the line twist, and as you're jigging, everything is not having to compensate for being turned 90 degrees. So you actually are getting, in my opinion, the best opportunity at presenting the jig in the most natural way possible without any spinning or anything like that, or at least minimizing it. The other thing too is it allows you to do that pistol grip very comfortably and very easily. You can see how easy this is. I can get a couple of fingers on the line, and one on the rod. To me, this is my favorite setup for panfishing. Both of my panfishing rods that are sort of dedicated to panfishing have these types of reels.

Paul Glass:
Now your other option is sort of a standard spinning rod. This is actually an old Gander Mountain spinning rod that I had from years and years ago that I used for ultralight fishing. It fits really well on this rig. It handles the ice pretty well. It's an oldie but a goodie, and it's not that expensive. You don't need a terribly strong spinning reel if you're targeting medium-sized walleye all the way down to panfish. You just need something that can hold the line well and work a fish decently well. So, I say that a spinning ... And retrieval speed doesn't matter nearly as much, right? How fast you can bring in a line, not a huge deal.

Paul Glass:
So this for me is where I would recommend, if you're starting. You probably already have one of these. You can get them for very inexpensive. Most of them are going to do a pretty darn good job. Again, the smaller ultralight type reels, I'm thinking like a size ... less than 2,000, for sure. Anything below 2,000. 1,000 is going to be a good average for a size. I kind of want the smallest one possible I can find, right? You don't need to have 200 yards of line or anything like that, typically, unless you're jigging way down for gigantic fish. In that case, you need a totally different reel, but as long as a hundred yards is going to do it for you, which in most cases it is, I recommend just using a micro or ultralight spinning outfit as a good place to start.

Paul Glass:
Now again, you can still get a finger on here if you need to if you kind of going to finagle it, and it's not going to present things perfectly. But you'll notice, this is not a jig that really matters so much. I'm going to be ripping this up and down quite a bit, a lot of commotion. I don't need to dead stick any of it, so this is the way to go.

Paul Glass:
Now, another reason that you might pick a rig like this instead of an inline rig, inline rigs tend to hold less line. They tend to be better in shallow water situations, anything 30 feet or less. Anything 30 feet or more, I almost always am going to want you to grab a reel like this. Some of the superior qualities that a spinning rig is going to have over an inline reel, I think the inline rig has sensitivity and presentation advantages. This has fish-fighting power. You can instantly adjust your drag and you have a higher variety typically of drag options, so if you accidentally get into a giant fish and you didn't even know that was down there, you can just crank up the drag real quick on the spot, no issues whatsoever.

Paul Glass:
I also think that the customizability of the drag lends itself so much better to the live bait. Again, we talked about medium rigs being really good for dead sticking. These, I think if you're a live bait fisherman, and by live, I don't mean wax forms. I'm talking typically about minnows, suckers, shiners, anything like that, boom, talking about this. So big fish, big fish-fighting power, maybe you're getting into a whole bunch of wide variety of species, boom. You need flexibility, spinning rig, and then live bait.

Paul Glass:
But in a jigging shallow water situation, panfishing situation, this is going to be my go-to. And you'll notice I have two of these and I have two spinning rigs out on the table because I do think that they both have their place and they both have advantages and disadvantages. I highly recommend carrying one of each.

Paul Glass:
And that kind of wraps up the general decision-making tree. Now I will say this, if you are targeting larger fish, right, so bigger walleye, and I'm not talking about trout, lake trout or anything like that. I'm just talking bigger standard game species, like really big crappie all the way up to giant walleye, what I would say is, you probably want a 30-inch plus rod, so 30 inches and up. I would probably recommend a medium light or a medium heavy, and I would recommend a spinning rig. So, not an inline, a spinning rig. It's going to be biggest amount of flexibility. You're still going to have all the tools you need, but it's going to give you access to a wide variety of baits, and you're going to be pretty efficient with every single one. And if you decide to go live bait, you're not going to have a problem.

Paul Glass:
So if you're into bigger fish, that's where I'm going to go. And if you're in a walleye specifically, that's what I would recommend as a starting out point. If you're just starting out and you want to target panfish, so crappie on down, what I would recommend is maybe a 24 or 26-inch light. That is where I would start. And I would recommend an inline spinner or an inline rig if you can get away with it. You can definitely get away with a micro spinning outfit, but I would recommend an inline reel. And that is actually, if you were going to get two rigs, I think with those two rigs, you could pretty much cover any water at any given time, almost any technique. And you can do a really good job being really effective on the water with just those two rigs.

Paul Glass:
If you want to get really specific like me, my favorite rig hands down is that ultra short. It's 18 to 15-inch ultralight rod with an inline setup. That is a heck and ton of fun. Go run and gun, get those little tiny jigs and those little artificials out there, and then just have yourself a blast. You're going to be able to handle a lot of different fish and have a ton of fun doing it.

Paul Glass:
I hope this was helpful for you. This is something that I'm super passionate about. If you have questions, please leave them down below. I'll be keeping an eye out and I will answer them as they pop up. Again, I know this is, if you're down south, you're still targeting bass, but us up here in the north, we're looking for frozen water and it's getting to be about that time. If you're getting into ice season, I hope this was helpful for you. Thank you so much for stopping by the channel.

Paul Glass:
Please hit that thumbs up button, hit the subscribe button, smash the notification bell so that you can see when we post the next video. And again, thank you so much for stopping by the channel, and do not forget to stop by Burly Fishing as well. And with that, have a great day and we will catch you out on the water.

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