What Size Reel for Ice Fishing ?

Ice Fishing is a unique sport. Anglers wait for the specific time of the year when they can go to the nearest frozen lake and cut the ice for fishing. You however need the correct gear for ice fishing. One of them is the reel that is attached to the ice fishing rod. You may wonder what is the right size of the reel for ice fishing ? After all, it is an important component of your ice fishing adventure.

As a general rule, you can use an ice fishing reel of size 25 (2500) with your ice fishing rods. Due to space restrictions and smaller size of ice fishing holes, small-sized ice fishing rods are used. Thus small-sized reels are preferred to balance the size of the ice fishing rods. The reels may support a mono-line or a braided line. Either way, they will have to be adjusted for the drag as per the targeted fish.

Reel size is a crucial parameter that decides the ease and success rate of ice fishing. You need to know all about it in depth for making your ice fishing trip a successful one. If you are a newbie in and want to know more about reel size for ice fishing, read this article till the end. We bring to you a detailed discussion on the topic. The article is good for both newcomers and pros.

Fishing reels

Fishing reels are hand-cranked devices used to stow or wind fishing lines. It is usually mounted on a fishing rod and provides resistance or drag to the fish that is caught in the hooks attached to the fishing line. The fishing reel supports both mono line and braided lines. The type of line is selected as per the required strength needed to fish a particular variety. Braided lines are usually stronger than mono lines.

Fishing reels have been recorded in China as old as 1195 AD. It was used by the Royals of the Song Dynasty. It is recorded to be used in England around 1650 AD. The modern fishing reel is of several types. The major ones are:

Fly Reel

It is the most basic form of fishing reel and is operated by casting the rod with one hand while stripping the line of the reel with the other hand. The main purpose of the reel is to store the line and provide drag to the fish which has taken the bait.

Centre pin Reel

The reel is fixed on the center pin and rotates on it. The thumb is used to provide the drag. It is predominantly used for coarse fishing – angling for fish that is unsuitable for consumption or sports purpose.

Bait-casting reel

These reels have a crank arrangement that has a multiplying action on the reel. One crank rotation leads to multiple reel rotations. It is useful for quickly pulling the fish out of the water.

Conventional reel

They are similar to the bait-casting reel with the exception that the reel is attached perpendicular to the rod. It is the most commonly used reel for deep fishing in the western hemisphere.


Spinning reel

They are also known as egg beaters or fixed spool reels. They are the most used reels and are easily available in the market.

Reels and ice fishing

Reels come in various sizes. The sizes are categorized as per the numbers allotted to them. The number go as 10, 20, 30 etc or 1000, 2000, 3000 etc. Do note that 10 and 1000 usually depict the same size. It is only a manufacturer’s preference to use a particular number series to depict the size. Sizes ranging from 10 to 35 are categorized as small reels. Sizes between 40 to 55 are medium-sized reels. And sizes between 60 and 300 are large-sized reels.

For ice fishing, small fishing reels are preferred. So you can use any reel between the sizes of 10 to 35. The most suitable size for ice fishing is 25. Depending on your need, you can even select a bigger-sized reel. There are several factors to look into when you select the right reel for ice fishing. They are:

Size of your target fish

If you need to catch big-sized fish, you will need a bigger reel size.

Line strength needed

The more aggressive the fish is, the more the required line strength.

Length of the line

If you want o fish deep, you need more line and a bigger reel.

Also, each reel specifies line strength for mono lines and braided lines. Depending on the force that the line has to bear, you will need to select the appropriate reel. Unless mentioned, the line strength is for a mono line. Accordingly, you will also need to select the ice fishing rod to match the reel’s line strength.

Adjusting the drag for ice fishing


When you hook a fish, you will need to provide resistance to it while it tries to escape. This resistance or drag is provided by the reel. Every reel has its way of increasing or decreasing the drag. Refer to the reel’s user manual for the details.

For eg: if the reel is specified to hold 1 lb of drag, you can adjust it by attaching a one-pound weight to the line. When you try to lift it, observe if the reel starts running or holds the weight without turning.

If the reel is too tight, loosen it or vice versa. In fact, for inexpensive reels, there are several hacks available to loosen or tighten them. If you are on a low budget, consider using one of them.



You will need to use small-sized reels for ice fishing. The small-sized reels are lightweight and complement the small rods used for the purpose. You may also need to adjust the drag of the reel depending on the fish you are targeting. We hope our discussion on reel size has given you the necessary know-how to choose the best one for your ice fishing adventure. All the best.

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