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The Straight Scoop On Ice Fishing Reels

Things in the world of ice fishing are changing. As I stand back and take a look at the technology changes that have influenced ice fishing in recent years, I’m simply amazed at how sophisticated ice fishermen are becoming.

Just a few of the new products that are helping ice fishermen be more successful include battery powered ice augers, Wi-Fi compatible sonar, heated tip-ups and dead stick boxes just to name a few. One of the more subtle, but important ice fishing advancements are the latest generation of in-line ice fishing reels.

In-line reels like this are deadly efficient tools for fishing small jigs and tear drops for fish that frequently suspend like crappie and bluegills.

Unlike the traditional ultra light spinning reels used by pan fishermen, the new in-line reels do a much better job of keeping line managed and twist free. Because a spinning reels picks up line by wrapping it around an oscillating spool, a small amount of twist is imparted into the line with every turn of the reel handle.

In-line reels are different. More like a baitcasting style reel, in-lines pick up line by the simple virtue of a turning spool. The line is picked up quickly and without imparting any twist to the line.

The results of an in-line reel are obvious when you’re setting in an ice shelter and looking down into the water at your tear drop or tungsten jig. Lures fished on spinning gear tend to slowly rotate or spin in the water because of line twist. Meanwhile, lures fished on an in-line reel rest motionless in the water.

This minor difference might not seem like something worthy of mention, but it plays a major roll in how panfish like bluegill, sunfish, crappie and perch react to ice fishing lures. In addition to eliminating line twist and unnatural bait spin, in-line reels allow anglers to drop even featherlight baits smoothly and quickly. The spools on these reels have near zero friction, making them very efficient tools for working with ultra light tear drops and tungsten jigs.

In-line ice fishing reels like pictured here are the ideal set up for panfish like these bluegills. Not only are these reels super smooth and capable of deploying the lightest jigs and tear drops, they eliminate line twist that leads to unnatural bait spin in the water.

Balance is another advantage of in-line reels making them ideal for gripping the rod from the top in such a way that working the tip of the rod is efficient and effortless. Nothing works better for teasing panfish into chasing a bait that a sensitive rod set up with a nicely balanced in-line reel.


Some might argue that the in-line reel is no big deal, but to every serious bluegill and crappie angler I know who chases these fish through the ice, the in-line reel is the best thing to hit hard water fishing since color flashers!

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