What Is The Top Rod And Reel Combo For Walleye Ice Fishing In 2023?


by Robert Ceran

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If you’re planning to ice fish for walleyes, your rod and reel need to be sensitive enough to detect their subtle bites, yet sufficiently strong to handle them once hooked.

My team and I tested the most popular rod and reel combos for walleye ice fishing, and evaluated them on their sensitivity, ability to hook and fight walleye, and overall performance.

Based on our testing, here are our picks for the best rod and reel combos for walleye ice fishing:

The best ice fishing rod and reel combo for walleye in 2023

BrandImagePriceVerdictRecommended size
Frabill Ice Hunter comboBest overall performance30" Light
13 Fishing Microtec Walleye comboBest runner up28" Medium
Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 comboBest budget option30" Medium Heavy
Berkley Lightning comboBest durable option28" Medium Light
13 Fishing Heatwave Ice comboBest value for money28" Medium
Plusinno ice fishing comboBest lightweight option28" Medium

The table above compares the key specs of the 6 best rod and reel combos for walleye that we tested.

Since walleye are bigger than panfish and perch, they require a heavier rod and reel size.

Let’s look at each of these in more detail, as well as the recommended size for fishing either on open ice, or inside an ice shelter.

1. Frabill Ice Hunter ice fishing combo

Photo of Frabill Ice Hunter

The Frabill Ice Hunter Predator rod and reel combo is currently the best walleye ice fishing combinations on the market, and comes with a strong fiberglass rod as well as the advanced quality of a Frabill spinning reel.

Based on our testing, the smooth action of the reel is greatly enhanced by Frabill’s sub zero gear lube, resulting in ultra smooth retrieval action, which isn’t always the case with ice reels.

In addition, when we put it to the test, we found that the multi-disc front drag system enables you to fight strong fish without breaking a sweat. 

All too often, ice fishing combinations come with a weak reel, which can spell trouble if you hook a big fish on ice.

That’s not the case with the Frabill Ice Hunter, making it a great choice for walleye ice fishing. Plus during our testing we found that you can also handle some bigger caliber fish on it, such as pike and lakers. 


  • 3 plus 1 ball bearings
  • Machined aluminum spool
  • Low temperature gear lube
  • Solid fiberglass rod
  • Fast action rod with sensitive tip

Recommended size:

  • 32” Medium Light

2. 13 Fishing Microtec ice fishing combo

Photo of 13 Fishing Microtec ice fishing combo

This is another high end hardwater combination. It brings together the power of a solid fiberglass rod with a high quality aluminum reel that runs on 3 plus 1 ball bearings.

Unlike other ice fishing combinations, which usually come with reels that only have 1 ball bearing, the 13 Fishing reel has 3 plus 1 ball bearings, and when we put it to the test, we found that it provides the kind of smooth retrieval action that you would normally find in high end spinning reels. The smooth retrieval action is further enhanced by its soft touch handle knob.

Together with its solid fiberglass rod blank, our testing revealed that this provides enough power to catch big fish on ice. In fact, it’s strong enough to handle northern pike and even lake trout as well (one of my buddies caught a 15 lb lake trout with the 13 Fishing Microtec combo).


  • Ultra smooth reel action
  • 3 plus 1 ball bearings
  • Soft touch handle knob
  • Solid fiberglass rod
  • Stainless steel line guides

Recommended size:

  • On open ice: 28” Medium
  • Inside shelter: 27” Medium Light

3. Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Ice Fishing Reel & Rod Combo

Photo of Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2

This classic ice fishing rod & reel combination continues to prove itself on the ice every single season. It brings together a high quality size 20 spinning reel with a sturdy rod that comes in three different sizes from light to heavy.

During our testing we found that the ‘Medium Heavy’ size version is a great choice for this purpose. This size comes with a rod that is 30 inches long, which is powerful enough to handle larger fish, while still being light enough to apply finesse techniques for finicky biters.

But if you’re going to be fishing inside a shack or ice fishing shelter, our testing showed that you may want to get a smaller size, since 30” is a little too long for ice angling in a confined space.

But we suggest not going below the 28” size, since you don’t want to sacrifice too much strength, in case you hook a trophy fish.


  • Size 20 spinning reel with aluminum spool
  • Thick EVA foam handles at the base of the rod
  • Twist and lock reel seat
  • Solid carbon rod

Recommended size:

  • On open ice: 30” Medium Heavy
  • Inside shelter: 28” Medium

4. Berkley Lightning ice fishing reel and rod combo

The Berkley Lightning rod and reel combination is even stronger than the Shakespeare Ugly Stik, if you choose the Medium Heavy size. This size is 32 inches long, which provides plenty of power to fight big walleye on open ice.

If you’re planning to fish inside the small space of a hut or shelter, you can choose the 28” Medium Heavy version instead. When we put it to the test, we found that the rod is stiff enough to fish small lures and jigs with very subtle movements, and it’s also sensitive enough to feel every bit.

This is essential, since you don’t want to miss finicky bites when fish “nibble” at a lure instead of striking it hard, usually when they’re not in feeding mode.


  • Size 20 spinning reel with aluminum ported spool
  • Ergonomic full cork handles
  • Solid carbon rod
  • Pre-spooled reel with Berkley Trilene Micro Ice line

Recommended size:

  • On open ice: 32” Medium Heavy
  • Inside shelter: 28” Medium

5. 13 Fishing Heatwave Ice combo

Photo of 13 Fishing Heatwave Ice Combo

This is another great combo that brings together the high end quality of a 13 Fishing reel with a powerful ice rod. The reel runs on 2 plus 1 ball bearings and has a gear ratio of 5.2:1, which results in ultra smooth action similar to a high end open water spinning reel.

The rod is made of solid fiberglass, and comes with an ergonomic cork handle. If you choose the 28” Medium size, our testing showed that this hardwater combination provides plenty of power to catch big fish, and will also serve you well if you happen to run into a pike or even a lake trout or two.

In addition, when we put it to the test, we found that the rod tip is sensitive enough to fish small lures, and to feel subtle bites, which can be very important for ice fishing success.


  • Super smooth action due to 2 + 1 bearings
  • Aluminum spool
  • Solid fiberglass rod
  • Cork handle

Recommended size:

  • 28” Medium

6. Plusinno ice fishing rod & reel combo

The Plusinno ice fishing combo is great if you want to catch small to medium sized fish.

While we tested it, we found that it’s heavy enough to handle medium sized fish, but also lightweight enough to work well for panfish and perch.

Overall, this is a great light jigging rod, and is a great ice rod for catching perch and panfish in addition to walleye, including crappie, bluegill and sunfish.

The fast action rod has a sensitive tip, which is ideal for finesse techniques using small lures.


  • 4 ball bearings
  • 28” fiberglass rod
  • Split EVA handle
  • Fast action rod with high sensitivity

Recommended size:

  • On open ice: 28” Medium
  • Inside shelter: 27” Medium Light

What size rod and reel should you choose for walleye ice fishing?

Since walleye can get bigger than 10 pounds, you need to use sufficiently strong gear for catching them.

Based on our testing, you should aim to use a solid carbon rod that’s 28-34 inches long for this, since that’s strong enough to handle a big fish under the ice.

Walleye can reach double figures, and 3-5 pound fish are common on many lakes. And you don’t want to lose a big fish just because your gear is too light.

If you’re fishing inside a shelter, you may want to choose a slightly smaller size, but keep in mind that this will give you less control if you hook a big fish.

In terms of reel size, a size 20 spinning reel is ideal for this purpose (for more details on reel sizes check out our spinning reel size chart). 

One of the challenges of ice fishing is that you can’t always be sure what kind of fish you’re going to catch. Very often, the same baits and methods will catch two or three different species on the same ice hole. 

So if you’re expecting to catch lots of perch or panfish in addition to walleye, it’s probably best to choose lighter gear. In that case, the Plusinno combo is a perfect solution for you.

On the other hand, if you’re expecting to run into some northern pike or lake trout instead, then you really need heavier gear, since these species can get a lot bigger, and also tend to put up much more of a fight.

In that case, I would recommend the Frabill Fin-S Pro, or the Abu Garcia Venerate combo (and make sure you choose their largest sizes).

What fishing line should you choose?

In general 4-6 lb fluorocarbon line is ideal for walleye ice fishing, though you may want to choose slightly lighter or heavier line strength, depending on the size of your lure and the average size of fish you are expecting to catch.

For more detailed information on this check out our article on what pound test line should you use for walleye ice fishing.

Final remarks

If you’re serious about catching more fish on hardwater, you might also want to check out our review of the best flasher for ice fishing.

Methods and gear used for testing

For consistent testing results we tested all of the ice fishing rod and reel combos reviewed in this article on the same day on Leech Lake in mid January. Ice thickness was 11 to 14 inches, and we tested the rod and reel combos by targeting walleye with jigging spoons and tungsten jigs tipped with minnow heads in 8 to 23 feet of water.