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Tremendous advancements in ice rod development have occurred in recent years. Compared to the past, the number of newly introduced styles, lengths, powers and actions being made available are coming in epidemic proportions.

Most modern ice anglers match these rods with high quality spinning reels-the type designed for ultralight fishing during the open-water season. Correctly balanced, ice rod and reel combos not only make your fishing easier and more enjoyable, but also more successful.

Rod and Reel Types

Ice-fishing rod and reel combos can be divided into the following seven categories:

JIG AND BOBBING STICKS can be as simple as a large, hand-held block of wood fashioned into a lineholder, or elaborate as wood- or plastic-handled fiberglass or graphite rod outfitted with a metal, wood or plastic linewinding device. Since these models don't feature a reel with drag, they're best used in shallow water with stronger than average lines for panfish. They're also the most reasonably priced rod option.

JIG POLES are wood-, plastic- or cork-handled fiberglass or graphite rods featuring a standard 1:1 gear ratio ice reel. Since these reels offer a simple drag, jig poles provide an economical option for anglers fishing shallow or mid-depth water for panfish.

STILLFISH SYSTEMS consist of a relatively stiff wood or cork handle and hollow graphite ice rods featuring a built-in stillfish reel. Instead of line being threaded through guides, line runs through the hollow blank. Unfortunately, stillfish reels feature low gear ratios and relatively poor drag systems.

ICE FLY SYSTEMS usually consist of sturdy, cork-handled graphite ice rods of varying lengths featuring a rear-positioned fly or spinning reel. The advantage is the rear-positioned reel allows the angler to keep their hand or finger on the line for exceptional lure control and fish-sensing feel.

SPINCASTING COMBOS are plastic, EVA foam or cork-handled fiberglass or graphite ice rods featuring a underspin-style spincast reel. Spincast combos cost more than standard jig poles, but the spincast reels they accommodate feature improved gear ratios and better drag systems, allowing ice anglers to fish deeper water and use lighter lines when pursuing panfish or medium-size gamefish.

SPINNING COMBOS are EVA foam or cork-handled fiberglass or graphite ice rods featuring a spinning reel. Quality spinning reels feature high gear ratios, sensitive, fine-tuned drag systems, and with the open spool line is less subject to freezing, making use of light lines possible. Depending on their size, spinning combos can be used for icing virtually any winter species from sunfish to salmon.

BAITCASTING COMBOS usually consist of stiff fiberglass or graphite ice rods of varying lengths and plastic, EVA foam or cork handles designed to accommodate a rounded, winch-like baitcast reel. Top-of-the-line baitcast reels feature high gear ratios, fine-tuned drag systems, large line capacity spools, and are usually used when fishing deep water or large fish such as pike, lake trout or salmon.

Choosing Ice Rods

As ice anglers take on the challenge of fishing multiple winter species, their collection of ice rods usually expands into dozens of models designed for more specialized ice-fishing purposes, based on the following qualities:

LENGTH. Long rods provide the most hook-setting power and fish-fighting control, but are limited to use outside a shanty. Short rods work better when fishing inside.
POWER. Measured by the amount of force necessary to bend a rod, power is usually rated as light, medium and heavy or a combination thereof, such as medium heavy.

ACTION: Measured by where the rod bends, action is largely determined by the rod's taper. Action is rated as slow, medium, fast or a degree thereof, such as extra fast. A fast-action ice rod bends mainly at the tip, a medium-action bends at the midsection, and a slow-action bends over the rod's entire length.

SENSITIVITY: An ice rod's capability to detect light strikes is often called sensitivity. Typically, a fast-action graphite rod is the best way to achieve sensitivity.
The characteristics of length, power, action and sensitivity should be considered before purchasing an ice rod. For example, if you plan to fish for panfish, you'll want sensitive rods featuring light-power blanks, which allow use of ultralight lines and tiny lures while at the same time giving small fish the chance to put up a challenging fight. A good walleye rod, however, needs to have a fast action for precise jigging. And an effective northern pike or lake trout rod must be powerful enough to set the hook on a big, bony-mouthed fish and long enough to give you control during the fight.

Caring for Ice Rods and Reels

Transport rod and reel combos in a Ready Rig(r) Ice Professional carrying case. With an internal semi-rigid protective tube and cushioned lining, this case holds up to three ice-fishing combos completely assembled.

Remove a reel's thick grease and apply HT Blu-Lube to the gears for good cold weather performance.