What Is The Top Rod And Reel Combo For Walleye Ice Fishing In 2021?

UPDATED 25 AUGUST 2021

by Bill Laney

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If you’re planning to ice fish for walleyes, your rod and reel need to be sufficiently strong for this task. These fish can reach double figures, and 3-5 pound fish are common on many lakes. You don’t want to lose a big fish just because your gear is too light.

We’ve tested the top ice fishing combos that are currently available on the market, and selected the ones that are heavy enough for this species. If you choose one of these combinations at the size we recommend, you’ll be perfectly set up for walleye ice fishing.

The best ice fishing rod and reel combo for walleye in 2021

Since walleye are bigger than panfish and perch, they require a heavier rod and reel size. Here are the 6 best rod and reel combos for walleye:

BrandImagePriceRecommended sizeVerdict
Abu Garcia Venerate combo29" MediumBest overall performance
Frabill Fin-S Pro combo30" Medium HeavyBest runner up
Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 combo30" Medium HeavyBest value for money
Abu Garcia Veritas combo29" MediumBest reel performance
Tailored Tackle ice fishing combo28" MediumBest lightweight option
Berkley Lightning combo33" Medium HeavyBest low budget option

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

1. Abu Garcia Venerate ice combo

Photo of Abu Garcia Venerate

The Abu Garcia Venerate rod and reel combo is one of the best walleye ice fishing combinations on the market because it comes with a strong carbon rod as well as the advanced quality of an Abu Garcia spinning reel. 

Unlike other ice fishing combinations, which come with reels that only have 1 ball bearing, the Abu Garcia Venerate reel has 3 plus 1 ball bearings, which provides the kind of smooth retrieval action that you would normally find in high end spinning reels. The smooth action is further enhanced by their low temperature gear lube, which guarantees it doesn’t get stuck at subzero temperatures.

Together with its strong carbon rod, this provides enough power to catch big fish on ice. In fact, it’s strong enough to handle northern pike and lake trout as well (one of my buddies caught a 15 lb lake trout with the Venerate ice).

Features:

  • Ultra smooth reel action
  • 3 plus 1 ball bearings
  • Low temperature gear lube
  • Solid carbon rod
  • Line guides with zirconium inserts

Recommended size:

  • On open ice: 29” Medium
  • Inside shelter: 27” Medium Light

2. Frabill Fin-S Pro ice fishing combo

Photo of Frabill Fin-S Pro

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

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, 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 Fin-S Pro, making it a great choice for walleye ice fishing. Plus you can also handle some bigger caliber fish on it, such as pike and lakers. 

Features:

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

Recommended size:

  • 30” Medium (model #6972), or 30” Medium Heavy (model #6973)

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.

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, 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.

Features:

  • 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. Abu Garcia Veritas ice combo

Photo of Abu Garcia Veritas

This is another great combo that brings together the high end quality of an Abu Garcia reel with a powerful ice rod. The reel runs on 3 plus 1 ball bearings and has a gear ratio of 5.2:1, which results in ultra smooth action similar to a high end bass spinning reel. The extended stem of the reel is perfect for ice fishing.

The rod is made of solid carbon, and comes with a split handle design made of thick EVA foam (which I personally prefer to cork). If you choose the 29” Medium size, this hardwater combination provides you with 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, the rod tip is sensitive enough to fish small lures, and to feel subtle bites, which can be very important for ice fishing success.

Features:

  • Super smooth action due to 3 + 1 bearings
  • Aluminum spool
  • Everlast bail system
  • Solid carbon rod
  • Split EVA handle

Recommended size:

  • On open ice: 29” Medium
  • Inside shelter: 27” Medium Light

5. Tailored Tackle ice fishing rod & reel combo

The Tailored Tackle ice fishing combo is great if you want to catch small to medium sized fish. 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 perfect choice if you’re expecting to catch a lot of 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.

Features:

  • 5 ball bearings
  • 28” carbon fiber rod
  • Split cork handle
  • Fast action rod with high sensitivity

Recommended size:

  • Only one size available: 28″ Medium

6. 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 isntead. 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 fish sometimes “nibble” at a lure instead of striking it, when they’re not in feeding mode, and you don’t want to miss those bites.

Features:

  • 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: 33” Medium Heavy
  • Inside shelter: 28” Medium

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. In general, you should aim to use a solid carbon rod that’s 30-34 inches long for this, since that’s strong enough to handle a big fish under the ice. 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 Tailored Tackle 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).

See also: Tip up ice fishing tips

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 beginners guide to ice fishing.

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