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Believe it or not, fish are still active in the winter, and they’re ready to eat if you show them a great presentation.

By the end of this article, you’ll be well equipped to purchase the best ice fishing reel for walleye.

What to know when ice fishing for walleye

During the winter months when lakes are frozen, you need even more skill and information to successfully land a catch. 

You need to know details about specific fish behavior, their locations at different times of the year, and why their feeding schedule changes throughout the course of winter.

Great fishermen view learning as a lifestyle.

Ice fishing for walleye is typically broken down into three distinct time periods: early, mid, and late ice.

We will cover the in’s and out’s of all three so you’ll be prepared when winter comes.

Early ice

During the first stages of winter, you can find walleye in shallow waters with convenient access to deeper parts of the lake.

The fish are still in transition from fall to winter, and they aquatic plants are readily available for food.

Oxygen levels are relatively high compared to the levels in mid winter. Also, baitfish are still spawning, so walleye have not been forced to move from their fall locations.

Drill your holes near shoreline areas with steep drop-offs during early ice.

Mid ice

As winter really begins to set in, walleye migrate towards humps located near the middle of the lake to access deeper, warmer water.

Using contour maps is the best way to locate these low lying areas that may have active walleye in store.

Late ice

During the last stretch of winter, walleye begin preparing to spawn, and your focus shifts to finding the best locations for spawning.

Determining the locations where walleye are likely to spawn is essential to your ice fishing success late in the season.

Look for the areas of warmest water temperatures. If you can find an external water source that brings in fresh, warmer water, it’s a good bet that you will find walleye. Also focus on the shorelines with structures ready for spawning.

For more details about how to catch walleye in each segment of the ice fishing season, you can view this site.

How do you find walleye?

Obviously, the location of walleye is different for every single lake you fish.

You must consider a myriad of factors including water clarity, oxygen levels, plant life, depths, boat activity, and connecting waterways.

If you are unsure where to first drop your line, try drilling holes near rocks, humps, bars, or breaks in the standard lake structure.

Walleye are less picky about the time of day when compared to other fish, but you will still notice a spike in feeding during changing light conditions that come with the night/day transition.

Regardless of your fishing experience, a good GPS unit is essential for understanding the lake conditions and efficiently locating walleye beneath the ice.

After you locate a good spot, it’s time to drop your line. WideOpenSpaces has a terrific guide to choosing the best lure and designing your presentation. 

How to purchase the best reel for ice fishing walleye?

You have three main options for a reel for walleye ice fishing: spinning, inline, and revolving spool, aka baitcasting, reels.

No type is superior to the others; however, one may be a better choice for your situation, expertise, and fishing style.

Spinning reels

The ice fishing version of standard spinning reels simply means that the reels have a smaller case that is complementary to your ice fishing rod.

This design is also called a fixed spool reel, referring to the historical stationary nature of the spool (today’s spinning reels use an oscillating spool). 

Versatility is the major plus with spinning reels; you can use them for ice fishing, and they will be equally as effective in the open fishing season that follows. 

Be sure to use them with lighter fish such as trout or panfish. 

Inline reels

Specifically designed for ice fishing, inline reels are the most prevalent model among expert ice anglers. You can easily mount them under the rod, and they feature spinning spools.

Inline reels are frequently chosen due to their unique ability to eliminate line twists, which are a common nuisance with spinning reels.

The revolving spools on inline reels rotate as line is released, essentially solving this issue (except in rare cases of baits that spin excessively).  

Bait casting reels

These are the least commonly used reels for ice fishing, but they can work in a pinch. If you see this type of reel attached to an ice fishing pole, it is rare, and the reel is probably used primarily during the open season. 

However, they are a great option for a traditional open water fisher who wants to dabble in ice fishing without committing to the purchase of a specialized reel.

Which type of reel should you purchase?

The answer is up to your personal preferences, and it depends on how much you want to invest in your ice fishing experience.

What should you look for in an ice fishing reel for walleye?

You’ll want to consider a few reel specifications before you buy, and we will help you ask the correct questions.


How heavy do you want your rod and reel setup to be? 

The most successful ice fishers usually use a lightweight, shorter rod and reel combination. Most of the weight is carried in the reel, so choosing a lighter model is all the more essential.

For best results, match the weight of your rod with the weight of your reel to achieve optimal balance.

If your reel significantly outweighs your rod, you are more likely to become fatigued more quickly. You can also miss out on detecting bites!

The best ice fishing reels standardly weigh under 5 oz.

Line retrieval

Backlash is less of a concern with ice fishing since you are not actually casting. But, you should still be cautious if you are using a heavy lure.

And, you must take line management into consideration even with an ultralight lure.

To help with this, inline reels are the most equipped model. Their revolving spools eliminate the issue of monofilament or fluorocarbon lines flying off a spinning wheel. 

Therefore, you have fewer tangles, which are a major pain on the ice.

Weather resistant designs

Weather resistance is a key component of ice fishing reels due to the harsh elements of the environment.

Be sure that your outer casing is made of durable material- this usually means metal. You also want the inner gears to be designed to take on the cold weather.

You can purchase a gear lubricant to assist when gears lock up due to the freezing temperatures, but there is no substitute for an excellently designed reel.

Best ice fishing reel for Walleye

There are a number of Walleye ice fishing reels that may work well for your fishing needs. The following products may work well for you and can help you get started with your search.

13 Fishing 2015 Black Betty Fishing Reels

The 13 Fishing 2015 Black Betty ice reel is available for left or right handed anglers. 

13 is very proud of building this top-tier inline ice fishing reel- they’ve spared no expense or detail.

It has all the bells and whistles you could ever want if you are a serious ice angler.

For tough fishing in rugged conditions, the CNC machined 6061 aluminum frame can take on the challenge.

And, the super smooth carbon drag system with anti-reverse technology and a bait alarm will bring you to the top of your ice fishing game.

The free-spool can drop your lightest jigs down to the deepest reaches of the lake, and the 2.7:1 gear ratio can crank in line at an impressive rate of 19” per rotation.

This model has recently been updated with an internal gear cover and brand new aluminum handle with EVA knobs.

With this incredible frame design, you can use either the pencil or pistol grip without worry about the rim of the spool. 

View at Amazon to learn more about the use of this reel for ice fishing Walleye.

Product Specifications:

  • Fabricated using bar stock 6061 CNC machined aluminum
  • 2.7:1 gear ratio
  • Carbon drag with anti-reverse instantaneous stop
  • 19” line retrieve per crank
  • 5 stainless steel bearings
  • New integrated fender
  • Pencil or pistol grip compatibility
  • Internal gear cover
  • Aluminum handle with EVA knobs
  • Free spool with bait alarm

Eagle Claw In Line Ice Reel

The Eagle Claw inline ice reel is another excellent choice for pulling in prize willing walleye during the coldest months of the year.

Anglers love the free spool release button in the winter. It takes the drag out of the line and lets the reel move into a free spool setting. You can use these features to enhance your ice jigging, especially when you’re using tight lures. 

This reel essentially eliminates tangles and twists in the line.

The Eagle Claw inline reel is originally suited for left handed retrieval, but you can adjust it to a right hand retrieve fairly easily.

With each rotation, you will reel in 15.75 inches of your line.

And, you won’t have to worry about backlash from heavy lures with the built in spool tension adjustment.

For even more convenience, the line clicker can help you easily track the amount of line you’re dropping.

Professional and hobby anglers praise the Eagle Claw inline reel for its top-notch quality and comfortability.

View at Amazon to learn more about the use of this reel for Walleye.

Pros and features:

  • Nylon casing and spool will easily withstand harsh winter weather
  • Smooth Teflon drag
  • Easily adjustable spool tension
  • Free spool release feature
  • line clicker and star drag
  • Minimized line twists
  • Proudly made in the United States

Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel Right/Left Handed Fishing Raft Wheel Ice Reels (Left Handed)

The Fiblink inline ice fishing reel is a great choice for catching walleye whether you are right or left handed.

With a 2.7:1 gear ratio and 4 + 1 stainless steel ball bearing system, this ultra lightweight design has very smooth performance, and the line sails off of the spool.

It has instantaneous anti-reverse technology, and a CNC machined aluminum spool with a large capacity.

The easy to use free spool release button and comfortable non-slip cork grip coated in epoxy resin give you the flexibility needed to reel in walleye all day.

You can easily adjust the drag system, and the free spool is perfect for ice fishing.

You line can drop as far as you need it to fall, and you can easily keep track of how much line you’ve released using the line clicker.

Want to use your reel in all weather conditions? Great! This Fiblink model has sturdy components that will withstand the test of dynamic weather and won’t fall short of the challenge.

And, Fiblink offers a 30 day return policy with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

View at Amazon for more information on the use of this reel.

Features and Specs:

  • Lightweight design (5.8 oz) with superior performance
  • Lasting, comfortable non-slip cork grip with an epoxy finish
  • Sturdy components tough enough for dynamic weather conditions
  • Smooth, enduring drag system, complete with a star drag knob
  • 4 + 1 stainless steel bearing package with one-way clutch
  • CNC machined aluminum spool with a large capacity
  • Soft carrying case to protect your gear in the off-season
  • 30 day return with a 1 year warranty and 100% satisfaction service

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