If you plan on hitting the ice this winter chances are you're in the market for a new walleye ice fishing rod.
Ice fishing is one of my favorite times of the fishing year and the run up to it is just as important. Like me you are probably chomping at the bit to get out there:
Religiously watching the weather reports for that all important drop in temperature!
Comparing notes with your friends as and to when the ice is just right. So dust off your shelter and ice boots and get out there!
Rods for ice fishing are of course some what specialist pieces of equipment especially if you are inside in an ice shack/shanty.
The best ice fishing rods for walleye are sensitive enough to feel what whats going on down below yet have enough backbone to handle a stubborn walleye that doesn't want to surface.
There are a number of important factors to get right when choosing an ice rod. Although they may look like small, cheap kids rods for panfish they are usually purpose built especially he shorter rods for indoors.
Ice fishing rod length is generally determined by how and where you intend on fishing.
All other things being equal a longer rod will generally cast further and more accurately than a shorter rod. When casting crankbaits or spinners the length can be an important factor.
However, when ice fishing you don't need a rod that is built for casting. The majority of ice fishing is either done using a small bait under a bobber or more commonly jigging with any number of different walleye ice fishing lures.
Fishing through a hole in the ice does need any kind of casting setup so you can tailor the rod to whether or not you are indoors or outdoors.
Ice fishing in a shelter or shack is certainly one of the more comfortable ways to spend a day out on the ice, however it will limit your rod length greatly.
Space is usually limited in there unless you spend a lot of money on buying a really large ice shack.
Less space around the ice hole requires a shorter rod. The majority of indoor ice fishing rods will fall somewhere in the range of between 24 and 32 inches in length.
These shorter rods can need to have enough backbone in them yet still sensitive enough to feel whats going on when it comes to setting the hook.
With a longer rod it is easier to get this balance right, that's why manufacturers will build the blanks on these shorter rods with a specialized taper.
If you plan on braving the elements without the comfort of an ice shelter then you are going to be a lot less limited in the length of your ice fishing rod.
Anywhere up to about 38 inches in length is more than enough to get the most out of it. Any longer and you run the risk of not being able to control the fish through the ice hole once hooked.
A long rod at normal fishing times will give you more control and generally more power, but when your line is running through a small hole in the ice you need it to be short enough to make quick adjustments in direction as you fight the fish.
Depending on the depth and the weight of the lure that you will be fishing with for most ice fishing applications a medium to medium heavy power should work.
These rods are already light enough and if you stray into the light to ultra light power rating then chances are they will be just too light.
Most of the rods on the market will have a fast action i.e the will bend sooner closer to the tip as opposed to a slow action that will bend more towards the reel seat.
With one of the most innovate split grip designs on the market the Mojo Ice from St Croix is feels like a true feather weight yet is capable of handling walleye and large lake trout without feeling like it is going to buckle under the pressure.
Not only does it feel slightly lighter but due to it's exposed design you have the added advantage of being able to feel exactly what feedback is coming back through the rod blank.
The stainless steel guides help to reduce freezing even in the harshest of winters.
The reel seat is a custom designed "twist lock" which allows for a very positive locking mechanism. This results in the reel staying tightly pinned to the blank with no movement and very little chance of loosening.
One of the cheapest ice fishing rods available from Fenwick these Elite Tech rods are still built to a pretty high standard.
There full cork handle is nicely shaped and is still comfortable after several hours of jigging.
The high modulus graphite blanks have been furnished with snaked stainless steel guides, completed with zirconium oxide inserts.
With a big range of sizes and powers available it should be noted that the action on these rods is fast only.
Available in a 24", 28" and a 32" model these little combination ice rod and reel from Berleley offer exceptional value for money.
If you are bring the kids out for their first adventure on the ice then this is one hell of a deal.
There are three rods in the range from ultra light up to medium heavy.
Only thing of note is that the reel comes pre-spooled with some low quality mono that you may want to strip and replace.
A purpose built jigging rod the St Croix Avid Jigging Ice fishing rod has a solid carbon blank with Kigan stripper guides and a solid carbon handle.
The jigging rods are a little stiffer than the other Avid ice fishing series rods.
They come in 27", 30" and a 36" length. The power ratings range from a medium/light up to a medium/heavy.
A serious ice fishing rod, for those who want the level best in performance the Widow Maker from 13 Fishing is built from high quality materials only.
They are extremely durable and can take a real beating. The rod blanks are from 30 ton graphite which results in a rod that is not only extremely light it is also perfectly balanced.
The line guides are some of the toughest you'll find on any ice rod, double diamond coated ALPS guides ensure that your line slips through them with minimal wear and tear.
Ice fishing in the winter requires a very different setup when compared to the other seasons especially for walleye.
A dedicated ice fishing rod and smaller diameter reel is usually required and a bunch of other gear that you will only use at this time of year.
The same can be said for fishing line for ice fishing.
Ice fishing puts a huge amount of wear and tear on a line especially if you are jigging. Super cheap mono from a department store is not the way to go here.
Ice fishing line needs to be as abrasion resistant as possible and a lot of modern purpose built lines are designed with this in mind.
The two most common methods are either jigging or dead sticking when walleye ice fishing.
Jigging uses either jigs or small spoons that have a specific flutter to them. When dead sticking you will normally have a small minnow suspended under a bobber.
A good ice fishing line when you are jigging is one that is low stretch and has a pretty thin diameter.
The low stretch allows you to have:
Whereas the low diameter:
Ultimately you want the line to have as little influence on the movement of the jig as possible. Heavy monofilament for certain will stop a small spoon from fluttering naturally as it descends down through the water column.
Some of the best walleye ice fishing lures require that they can move as freely as possible through the water without the line affecting there natural swimming motion.
However if you are fishing in really shallower waters then mono can be okay as too stiff a line can cause too much sensitivity when it is only out a small distance. Anywhere up to about 10 feet is okay. After that and you'll need something a little stiffer.
Some manufacturers have dedicated ice fishing lines and they all perform quite well however they can be a little on the expensive side.
Braid is also a decent option here as long as you use a small leader to the hook of either mono or flourocarbon.
Dead sticking traditionally involves using a minnow suspended at either a foot off the bottom or at the depth you are sure the walleye are patrolling, usually under a very simple bobber.
When dead sticking the choice of line can be a little bit more relaxed than when jigging.
For a clean bottom with very little snags you can use either a 8 pound mono.
If there are a lot of underwater snags or vegetation then you may need to beef the line up to about a 10 to 12 pound strength.
Stronger and thinner than mono Fireline Micro Ice from Berkley is built to be as abrasion resistant as possible.
Nothing beats a line up more that continually rubbing off the side of an ice hole for hours on end as you jig as small flutter spoon.
Regular mono can tear easily when rubbed on by solid ice and at colder temperatures if can become pretty brittle.
Berkley's Fireline Micro Ice addresses all of these points and is probably the best walleye ice fishing line that you can get.
An absolute favorite of bass fishermen SpiderWire's Stealth braid is extremelt versatile as a main reel line.
Low stretch and super thin it slice through the water with ease. You get a lot of feedback through this braid so it is suitable for fishing quite deep.
Just make sure you get your knots right between the braid and whatever leader you choose to use.
Probably the best mono available the Berkley's Trilene XL has great sensitivity for a mono and is also quite thin.
For a mono it also has very low memory so you small arbor ice fishing reel will leave less of a mark on it than traditional mono.
Choosing the best walleye rod depends entirely on just how exactly you are intending on fishing for walleye.
Different methods suit different locations and techniques, matching your setup to how you present your lure is super important.
The three main methods for catching walleye are:
Each method requires a different setup and tackle configuration. The main differences in the rods is generally the sensitivity.
Trolling rods will be the least sensitive, spinning rods somewhere in the middle and jigging rods will always have the most sensitive actions.
If you are planning on trolling for walleye then you will need a somewhat heavier setup than if you were spinning and most definitely if you are jigging.
Trolling puts a lot more pressure on your gear especially if you are using planer boards or heavy lead core line to help get down deep.
A trolling setup requires a longer rod with a medium/heavy power and a medium action. You can use a heavier spinning rod for trolling but you are much better of using a trolling rod that has been specifically designed for the job.
A spinning rod for walleye sits somewhere in the middle between the heavier trolling rod and the much lighter jigging rod.
A good walleye spinning rod will generally be medium to fast action and a light/medium power. With spinning you can sometimes find yourself casting a variety of different lures from really light Rapala's up to heavier crankbaits or even some heavy spinners depending on where you are fishing.
Having a good spinning rod that sits between an ultralight rod and a medium setup is usually best. Versatility is the key here so don't shoehorn yourself into anything that is too light.
Walleye jigging rods are a little different than either a trolling or spinning rod. With jigging it is all about sensitivity.
They are usually short at about 6'6 but a lot of walleye anglers will also stretch up to a 7' foot rod. A fast action is key here with a light/medium power.
Lighter tackle means better sensitivity and when you are using really small jig heads for vertical jigging then it makes sense to have a sensitive rod that gives lots of feedback through the tip.
Now that we have had a brief introduction as to what type of pole you need for each of the different types of fishing setups for walleye we can take a more in depth look at some rods in finer detail.
Spending a small fortune on your rods is not always the best approach the reel is generally the most important when you are trolling or spinning.
A good walleye pole is not a major investment but you may end up purchasing a few different ones depending on how you are fishing.
However, if you are jigging for walleye then the rod is probably more important than the reel. Just make sure that your reel is not too heavy as a heavy reel with a light weight rod can cause a bit of a balance issue with the rod and how you jig with it.
For most fishermen trolling for walleye tends to be done deep done on large lakes usually using large crankbaits of deep diving minnow baits.
When it comes to getting your trolling depth right you will generally use one of the following things:
All of the above to tend to put a lot of strain on a rod especially something like a downrigger where the rod is bent under a high load for sometimes hours on end.
If however you are trolling in the shallows then you don't need to use anything like weight or a downrigger. The lip on the crankbait should be sufficient for shallower waters and you can fine tune the diving depth by adjusting your boat speed.
Trolling along side drop offs of weed beds can be very productive and doesn't need quite as powerful a walleye setup as when you are trolling.
If you are trolling in the top 10 feet or so of the water then you can quite easily get away with a medium powered spinning setup and you might not need a dedicated trolling rod for walleye.
However you can still use your trolling tackle just minus whatever you normally use to get the lures down deep. Although you may want to use a slightly lighter leader as visibility of better in the shallows.
Don't let the name fool you these rods are perfectly suitable as a walleye trolling rod.
An 8'6" rod in medium or medium/heavy is more than capable of handling a trolling set up, the rod blanks have a lot of backbone.
They have one piece stainless steel guides which eliminate the need for guide inserts. One piece guides will generally divide opinions personally I think they are just fine in fact it means there is even less to go wrong with your rod.
Paired with a decent baitcaster you can also use these rods for casting heavy lures, like big spoons or large crankbaits especially the heavier sinking varieties and can still use them for trolling.
The Shimano Talora rods are specifically built with trolling in mind and have 3 types of models available: trolling, planer board, lead core, wireline and dipsy diver.
The TC4 rod blanks are made from a mix of fiber glass and graphite. The blanks have a double inner layer of T-Glass with a third inner layer and then the outer spiral layer made from high modulus graphite.
This combines a solid glass backbone to the blank with a little more sensitivity from the outer layers, giving you the best of both worlds.
With each model there are some subtle differences with the hardware used. For example the wireline rods have AFTCO titanium roller guides whereas the downrigger/planer/dipsy rods have Fuji aluminum oxide guides.
The handles and butts also vary slightly depending on the models.
The Accudepth trolling rods from Daiwa are telescopic in design and they collapse down to between 6 and 7 foot in length.
With a medium to heavy rating they are suitable for line weights in the 10 - 20 lbs range. These are best suited to leadcore/copper wire trolling.
A major issue when running lead core lines is just how hard it is on you line guides.The guides on the Accudepth tods are made from a toughed aluminum oxide that Daiwa claim to be cut proof.
The 8'6" is a really good option as an outer rod for spreading your lines if you are running a lot of rods from a boat.
The 7'10 model has 10 guides and the 8'6 model has 11 guides.
The three best walleye spinning rods available on the market right now are:
Spinning for walleye can be one of the most rewarding methods and its probably used the least with most fishermen preferring trolling or jigging.
With a spinning setup you are generally looking for a light/medium power rod with a medium/fast tip action.
The main advantage of a spinning setup over a baitcasting one is that you can generally throw much lighter lures a greater distance. There is usally a limit as to how low in the weight of a lure you can go when using a baitcaster.
As an example say you are using an F5 or F7 Rapala(F means floating) minnowbait in shallow to medium depth water, then you really would want a light spinning setup for this approach.
If you are casting much heavier crankbaits and large spinners then you can of course use a baitcaster with a casting rod.
A heavy spinning setup however does have the advantage that it can be used for light trolling work. You would never want to use a jigging rod for trolling so if you intend on trying your hand at trolling/spinning and jigging then a single spinning rod and reel could be used.
Ideally you would have a spare spool for some lighter line when you switch to jigging. This type of versatility can really save you some money.
Fenwick produce some of the best quality rods you can buy and the Eagle range of spinning rods is no exception.
They were one of the first rod brand to start producing graphite blanks and have perfected the process over many decades.
The Eagle range are superbly balanced and are excellent casters with a really nice tip sensitivity. There is top notch guides and reel seat used on all sizes and the price is very good considering the quality.
The range runs from a tiny 5'6 model up to an 8 footer. For walleye you should be looking at a medium light 7' foot model especially if you are looking to use it as an all rounder.
The Okuma Dead Eye Spinning range of rods is designed specifically with the wallleye angler in mind.
Built on sensitive yet sturdy IM-8 graphite blanks the range sits in the light/medium to medium power ratings with moderate/fast to fast actions available.
The smallest in the line up is a 6' model with the longest being 7'6. The line weights that can be used are 4-10 lbs for the fast action rods and 6-12 lbs for the moderate/fast rods.
The lighter action rods can also double as a jigging rod as they do give you the type of tip sensitivity that is required.
The Eyecon range from St Croix have established themselves as a quality competitor to the Fenwick Eagle and the Okuma Dead Eye above.
St Croix have built the Eyecon from their SC graphite blanks coupled with high quality Kigan Master Hand 3D guides, aluminum oxide ring inserts and split grip cork handle.
These rods have a nice crisp action and can be used for spinning and jigging alike. Available in 6'6", 7' and a 7'6" version.
They also come in three different power/action ratings medium light/fast action, light/fast action and a medium light/extra fast action.
Jigging for walleye is certainly one of the most popular methods along with trolling. The best walleye jigging rods have to be super sensitive on the tip so that you can feel as much as possible of what is going on down at the hook.
Having as much feedback as possible through the rod is paramount to setting the hook. That's why you need a rod that falls near the medium power with a fast action.
With jigging you really need to know what is exactly happening to the jig, low stretch line and a fast action rod are crucial.
The Tech Walleye spinning rods from Fenwick give a perfect balance between power and action. These rods are built with an impressively sensitive tip yet just enough backbone in them to not feel weak.
They can be used for walleye jigging or light spinning. When a rod doubles up and performs well at two separate styles of fishing you really get true value for money.
The rod blanks are full graphite and come in a range of different powers and actions. Some of the models are specifically geared to rigging and others to jigging.
One of the stand out features is the "hidden reel seat". The real seat is inline with the contours of the handle so you don't feel the reel seat threads as you normally do on other rods.
If you are doing a lot of vertical jigging you'll be well used to feeling the reel seat on your rod hand. With the hidden seat you barely even know the reel is there.
Small touches like this really illustrate just how much thought Fenwick put into their rod designs and separates them from a lot of other rod brands that just make generic copies.
The NRX range from G.Loomis has been the go to walleye jigging rod for a lot of fishermen for quite a few years now. However, they have one major drawback and that's the price of close to $500!
The E6X range however gives you almost the same performance, sensitivity and quality of the more expensive NRX range at a fraction of the price.
The E6X uses a multi taper graphite blank that is slimmer in profile than most rods in it's class. The thinner blank adds even better feedback through the rod right into the all cork handle.
As mentioned above the St Croix Eyecon are dual purpose spinning/jigging rods depending on the power and action that you choose though.
The come with three different power/action ratings: medium light/fast action, light/fast action and a medium light/extra fast action so if you are looking to use very light jigs then the light/extra fast might be the better choice in a 6'6" rod length.
You can of course compromise and use the Eyecon for both spinning and jigging. For that purpose the 6'6" or 7' with a medium light/fast action.
Different types of fishing call for different types of tackle. The right reel for a walleye jigging setup will usually not be a good choice to go trolling with.
There are many ways to catch walleye but the most popular are:
A different setup and tackle configuration is usually required for each technique although there can be a slight crossover between a few of them. Matching your rod and reel is pretty important if you want to get the best performance out of both.
Abu Garcia 6500LC
Shimano Sedona FI
Trolling reels should be capable of holding lots of line and cranking hard against a fish that is down deep.
A trolling reel needs to withstand a lot of abuse that lighter built reels would generally not be capable of managing especially if you troll a lot.
They have to withstand a constant pressure on the drag not just from big walleye, how you fish from the boat also puts a lot of wear and tear on the reel especially the following trolling specific techniques:
Trolling reels can also be bought with a built in line counter. The line counter will usually be slightly more expensive than one without. A lot of manufacturers will actually sell the same model with the choice of a line counter or without.
A good spinning outfit is probably the most versatile that you can have. You can throw jigs, spinners, blade baits and use slip sinker rigs.
In fact if you have a size 2000 or 2500 it can double easily as your jigging reel. All you need is an extra spool, one spool for the line you like best for spinning and one for your jigging.
You can also cast small crankbaits for walleye quite successfully on spinning gear.
When jigging for walleye the tackle is all about sensitivity especially is vertical jigging with really small jigs.
The rod is certainly far more important than the reel when jigging. The reel needs to be:
You are generally going to be looking at either a size 1000 or a size 2500 spinning reel for jigging. Although you can use a finesse baitcasting reel they are usually very expensive sometimes $500 or more.
The Okuma Coldwater line is said to be the replacement for the much loved Clarion line of trolling reels. The Coldwater series is available with or without a line counter. You can view the lie counter version in the line counter section below.
There are three models available:
The model featured above is the CW-553LS level wind. It is capable of holding 440 yards of 40 lbs mono.
The Wireline version is specifically targeted at those trolling with wire lines and lead core lines.
The line counter models have a gear ratio of 6.2:1 they are a high speed reel. Whereas the high capacity level wind CW-553LS has a fairly standard 4.7:1 retrieve.
Given the larger capacity of the CW-553LS it is more suited to heavier work, specifically higher weighted leadcore and copper wire lines.
A 22 lbs drag rating
The Shimano Tekota much like the Okuma Coldwater wire line is available with or without a line counter.
The 300 series is a low profile trolling reel that can take a lot of abuse. You'll see these on salmon boats and on inshore trolling charter boats so they have proven themselves as quite the workhorse.
The 300 is better suited to shallower trolling using lighter mono or braid. They can hold 275 yards of 12lbs mono or 255 yards of 30 lbs power pro braid.
The maximum drag of 12 lbs is more than sufficient for walleye trolling without the addition of down riggers or lead core lines.
The Okuma Cold Water line counter reel is probably their most successful freshwater trolling reel to date. Look closely on any boat in the great lakes that's heading out trolling and you'll most probably see either a collection of Okuma Cold Waters, Shimano Tekota or Okuma Magda Pro line counters.
The Cold Water comes in seven different models, three of which are left handed variations(they have a "DLX" in the model number).
For around $100 it's hard to find such a well built high performing line counter. If it is your first line counter that you are purchasing then the Okuma is the one to get. It requires less maintenance and is very simple to operate.
Abu Garica's famous Ambassadeur line of reels has been around for decades. Continually refined through various model upgrades they have built a solid reputation of both high quality and exceptional performance.
The LC(Line Counter) is available in a size 5500 or 6500. Equipped with a carbon matrix drag system they are more than capable of handling the heavier loads that trolling can throw at reels.
The Sedona for the money of on of the best value spinning reels available. It shares some of it's features and materials that are found in some of the more expensive models from Shimano.
You get the same Hagane internal gears found in the more expensive models, meaning less internal friction and movement especially as the reel ages.
A specially shaped spool lip for increased casting performance and less wear and tear on your line over the long run and G-Free body design that moves the center of balance of the reel closer to the rod for a more balanced setup.
These also make a great value jigging reel in the smaller sizes.
The Supreme XT is the top of the range spinning reel from Pflueger. The other more popular Pflueger President is one of the most popular low priced ultralight reels available.
Both reel are absolute work horses. The Supreme XT being the top of the line model gets all the bells and whistles that Pflueger have to offer.
Available in four sizes:
A massive 10 stainless steel ball bearings give silky smooth performance. The drag system if fully sealed and as such it is also officially rated by Pflueger for salt water usage.
Everything about these reels is built with the aim of reducing weight. Even the handle gets secial treatment as it is made from carbon fiber as opposed to the aluminum that you will normally find in reels of this class.
The Stradic CI4+ is considered the creme de la creme of freshwater spinning reels. It has one of the smoothest drags available and built to an exceptionally high standard.
Shimano have used their carbon infused(CI) technology to produce a reel casing that is twenty percent lighter and one and a half times stronger than a tradition graphite blend.
The Stradic is one of the best sealed pinning reels available, a super water tight drag housing and internal gears means that it functions as normal even after being submerged for over a minute. It's also capable of standing up to the corrosive effects of saltwater(like any other reel just be sure to rinse it in fresh water afterwards)
In a 2500 size it is one of the best all round spinning reels. Drop down to a 1000 size and pair it with an ultralight spinning rod and you have the most perfectly balanced ultralight combo.
If finesse jugging is your aim then the 1000 is probably the strongest lightweight spinning reel available, weighing in at a mere 5.6 ounces.
All that quality doesn't come cheap however as it usually retails for just over 200 dollars.
The SX is the newest in the line of Helios spinning reels from Okuma. Released in 2016. It is built from a blend of C-40X carbon fiber and graphite that is said to be some 50% stronger than traditional graphite.
Although they are not the lightest reels in this line up they are still pretty light and paired with the right rod you should be able to place small jigs with lots of accuracy right where you want them.
There are four models available:
A jigging reel for walleye does not need to be big and heavy so the HSX-20 is probably the best option to go for. It can take 140 yards of 4 lb mono line or 110 of 6 lb.
The gear ratio on the HSX-20 is 5.0:1 and like all the other models it has 8 main stainless steel ball bearings, one roller bearing and a quick-set anti-reverse bearing.
The Revo SX spinning reel is Abu Garcia's answer to the Shimano Stradic CI4+ in the battle for best ultralight spinning reel.
It matches the Stradic on almost every feature except for how well it can handle saltwater, in that category the Stradis is hands down the winner.
However, the Revo SX depending on where you buy it from can close to $100 dollars cheaper than the Shimano which is a considerable saving.
Where the Revo really shines is in it's ability to cast super light weight lures with accuracy. Abu really focused on the line management side of things with the SX. The spool has a specially shaped lip to help reduce drag allowing line to flow effortlessly off the spool.
The spool also has a larger than average arbor so your line will tend to twist less. Less line twist on a spinning reel for jigging is super important especially for finicky walleye.