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Rattle reels can seriously improve your ice fishing game. But with so many options, you can feel like you are drowning in choices!

Should you go with a traditional wooden reel or invest in a cutting edge plastic product? What kind of tension do you need? Does it really matter how the reel is mounted?

And what are the best rattle reels for ice fishing?

For answers to these questions and more, read on! In this article, we offer tips on how to use rattle reels when ice fishing and highlight several products that may work well for use on your next ice fishing adventure.

How to use rattle reels for ice fishing

To properly use you rattle reel, you should make three main considerations:

  1. Distance between the split shot and the hook
  2. Distance from the bait to the bottom of the pond
  3. Mobility of your bait

Let’s dive a little deeper into these three points.

The distance between your split shot (or sinker) and hook is determined by the type of bait or lure that you are using. 

For live bait, the sinker should be located close to the hook. Place the split shot anywhere between 3-8 inches from the hook, depending on how close to the bottom you want to fish.

When using artificial lures, increasing the distance to 18-24 inches is a better play.  

You must give space between the hook and the sinker so that your bait can move!

When choosing the distance from the bottom to your bait, take into consideration the climate of the specific lake that you are fishing. 

This is where your sonar comes in handy. 

Your bait is best placed a few inches above the fish you are targeting, so placement is dependent upon their location.

For the third point, you should always be conscious of the way that your bait or lure moves in the water. To make an attractive presentation, give your bait lots of room to move. Fish will not be able to resist life-like presentations!

If you are using live minnows as bait, hook them in front of the dorsal fin. This gives them plenty of mobility, and they can swim more naturally than if you hook them by the lips or tail fin.

Also, always choose the most active minnow of the bunch! An active minnow will quickly catch the attention of your targets.

For more on installing and using your rattle reel, check out the brief video below:

What to look for in a rattle reel for ice fishing

When you’re looking for a rattle reel to use when ice fishing, there are a number of factors you will want to consider to ensure you get a safe and effective product that is right for your needs.


There are two main camps regarding design materials: wooden and plastic.

Wooden rattle reels bring back memories of traditional ice fishing when no one used technology like flashers or sonar.

However, some ice fishermen find them outdated by newer models. Wooden rattle reels are typically less flashy than more modern units, but they will work for the basic purpose. 

Wooden rattle reels are very durable and can withstand cold temperatures on the ice.

Plastic rattle wheels often come with more bells and whistles (literally, in some cases).

They are the rattle wheels on the forefront of the ice fishing world.

While many ice fishermen plastic reels to their traditional wooden counterparts, sometimes they struggle when temperatures drop. Plastic is more susceptible to cracking in the cold than other sturdier constructions.

Illumination features

For as many different types of rattle reels that exist, there is an equal number of different lighting options.

Most updated rattle reels have a section that glows in the dark. 

The lighting features increase from there!

You can get a rattle reel that only glows in a few places, or, if you prefer your rattle reel to be a functional lighting source, you can purchase one that will light up your entire fishing house!

Many rattle reels feature an illuminated tip that is especially helpful for alerting you to strikes. Sometimes it can be extremely difficult to tell when a fish is interested in your line!

The level of lighting that you want in a rattle reel is entirely up to your personal preferences and fishing setup. 

Most ice fishermen agree that having a glow in the dark tip is beneficial for increasing your strike awareness.


Make sure that you are comfortable with the sounds of your rattle reel! Test your reel before making your final purchase, and make sure that there is a good return policy if you are buying online. 

The last thing you want is to be annoyed with sounds that really get on your nerves.


The tension you need is dependent upon the type and size of fish that you are targeting.

For larger, more powerful fish, you will need more tension than you will need with smaller species such as panfish.

Know the species that you are fishing before your trip, pack accordingly, and you should be in good shape!

Many fishermen prefer their rattle reel to have adjustable tension. This increases your options and makes your reel much more versatile.

It’s understandable (and recommended) to carry several different kinds of ice fishing lures, but you typically want a rattle reel that can cover all your bases.

Mounting and adjustability

Do not underestimate the importance of your mount! Choose a rattle reel that you can mount to complement your fishing hut and arrangement. 

Do you need a ceiling mount? How about a wall mount? Or would you really prefer to mount your reel on a stand?

The mount determines your line placement, which can be crucial to having a good fishing hole. 

Be sure that your line does not touch the sides of your hole and has a clear, unobstructed path into the water. 

Select a reel that has the adjustability that you need. Some reel packages are more rigid, while others are equipped with fully adjustable arms. 

Maybe you want a reel on an arm that can swivel back and forth. Or, maybe the ability to adjust the arm length is more important to you. 

Some products even offer arms that can bend throughout the entire length for maximum adjustability.

Best rattle reel for ice fishing

There are any number of rattle reel options that will work well for ice fishing. The following products may prove a good place to begin your search.

Always consult an industry professional before using any new product.

Northern Lights Rattle Reel

The Northern Lights Rattle Reel is created in Minnesota by the experts- true fishermen. 

They strive to improve your ice fishing experience, and the Northern Lights Rattle Reel is their answer to the standard models presented by competition.

It’s patented technology, and it’s taking your fishing game to the highest level.

Basically, we’re talking about a traditional rattle reel, plus a lot of extra features that push it over the top.

For starters, this reel uses UV LED lights to create a glow that surrounds your hooks.

And, it doesn’t stop there.

Patented fluorescent acrylic design works to eliminate your entire fish house together with the UV lights.

So, this product gives you a visual and audible alerts to strikes, via an internal bell.

This rattle reel removes the guesswork out of determining if you have a strike.

When it’s the middle of the night, you are tired and not fully alert, so this device will help you ice more fish.

And, this rattle reel is self- illuminating. 

No more fumbling around in the dark for a light! The need to turn on a bright light to tend your line is rendered unnecessary with this technology.

At this time, each unit emits a bright, neon orange glow, and more color options are on the way.

Additional accessories are also in the works.

This product runs off of a 12 V DC battery, and a portable battery pack is included with each purchase.

You also have the option to directly connect your unit to your 12 volt DC car or deep cycle battery.

View at Amazon to learn more about this rattle reel and its potential to work for you.


  • Illuminated by UV LED lights and a patented fluorescent acrylic coating
  • Patented technology
  • Audible and visual alerts
  • Manufactured by fishermen in the USA 
  • 12 volt DC battery required for use with the included portable battery pack
  • Compatible with 12 volt DC car and deep cycle batteries

Catch Cover MFRSR-01 Rattle Snake Permanent Multi-Flex Reel

The Catch Cover Rattlesnake Reel is a great fit if you need adjustability and space.

From the reel to the overall positioning of the setup, Catch Cover places the control in your hands.

The reel features a new direct drive spool with adjustable tension. 

This will allow you to set and determine the correct resistance for every type of fish you are pursuing, and you can easily change it as you switch between baits.

You can fish for targets from panfish to predators that control the lake!

Similarly to competitors, one turn of the reel brings in one foot of your line.

The multi Flex arm really sets this model apart from other rattle reels on the market.

Using this tool, you can adjust the reel to any position of your choosing. This is very helpful if you are working in cramped quarters or if you prefer a higher degree of adjustability. 

Whether you mount the reel in a corner or on a wall, you can position it so that your line will not freeze against the edge of the hole.

Each rattle reel includes a QuickDisc wall mount for your convenience. And, additional discs give you portability by allowing you to move between holes quickly and efficiently.

Other accessories include MultiFlex rod holders and a few other options.

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


  • Direct drive school with adjustable tension
  • For use with fish and bait of all sizes
  • MultiFlex arm for adjustability
  • QuickDisc wall mount

Ice Fishing Fish House Fishouse Glow in the Dark Rattle Reel Wheel Wall Ceiling Mount by Ice Buddy

The Ice Fishing Fish House Glow in the Dark Rattle Reel is another option to light up your fish hut and alert you to strikes.

This light activated glue in the dark rattle reel features very smooth rotation and action.

The line tension is adjustable as well;  you can set the tension at any point along the range between  no tension and heavy tension.

With a universal bracket, this rattle reel is compatible with many different types of fishing set ups including a fishing house, bucket, or wall. 

Per the calibrated diameter, at half spool, one rotation equals 1 foot of line.

With this rattle reel, you get exceptional features housed in a durable package.

The set is made of a very strong polymer with corrosion resistance. 

And, this product comes with a lifetime warranty on materials and construction, so you are covered in case you need repairs.

View at Amazon to learn more about this rattle reel.

Included with this product:

  • Light activated glow-in-the-dark rattle reel
  • Universal wall bracket
  • Adjustable tension rings
  • Mounting screws and components

Installation instructions:

  • Choose your location: fish house, stand, or bucket
  • Vertically mount your wall bracket 10-18 inches above the floor on the side of or above the fishing hole
  • Put the beads into the reel body through the rod hole; assemble according to the given instructions.
  • Put the rattle reel assembly into the bracket
  • Rig with your line and bait
  • Set the tension by snagging rings. Tension is directly related to the weight of your bait. The heavier the bait that you are using, the more tension you will need.
  • Start fishing! Keep in mind that one rotation of the reel raises one foot of line.


  • Strong, corrosion resistant material
  • Glows in the dark
  • Adjustable tension
  • Made for use with fishing house, stand, or bucket
  • Lifetime warranty on materials and construction

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