With ice fishing season upon us, no doubt you have found yourself thinking: Can’t I just slap a baitcasting reel on my ice rod and start fishing? Are there any advantages to choosing a baitcaster over a spinning reel? What are the pros and cons of fishing with such a setup?
Well…you asked it, so let’s talk about it.
Can You Use A Baitcasting Reel For Ice Fishing?
The answer is, yes you can. Many anglers have the idea that baitcasters are strictly limited to open water fishing. However, I have found that you can also use them on the ice. Some of the benefits of choosing a baitcasting reel over an inline reel or even an ultralight spinning reel are that you are going to have less line twist and it is going to handle bigger fish better.
The Drawbacks Of Using A Baitcaster On The Ice
Of course, no fishing reel is going to be perfect for every given situation. For that reason, let’s talk about a few drawbacks that you should be aware of before bringing your baitcasting reel on your next ice fishing excursion.
There are very few baitcasting ice rods available on the market. Think about the last time you mounted your spinning reel to an ice rod. How did you do it? You probably just taped it directly to the rod itself right? In fact, most ice rods don’t even have a mount, this is the expected approach and it works nicely.
While this method works for a spinning reel, it will not work for a baitcasting reel. A baitcasting reel requires a proper reel seat.
It is for that reason that one of the biggest drawbacks to using a baitcaster for ice fishing is that you are going to have a very hard time finding a decent ice rod.
Yes, there are such rods, believe me, they do exist. The problem is finding them and when you do, you don’t have nearly as many options as you would if you chose to fish with a spinning reel.
Having said that, your next question might be: But can’t I just put my casting reel on a spinning ice rod?
No, I wouldn’t recommend that you do that.
The reason being is that you have to take into consideration the backbone and the way the rod is designed. The backbone on a spinning rod is designed to bend differently than the backbone on a casting rod.
Learn More About Spinning Rods And Casting Rods In This Article: Can you put a spinning reel on a casting rod?
So, what is a good baitcasting ice rod?
If you are looking for a good ice rod, I would definitely recommend that you check out the Abu Garcia Volatile Ice Rod, it is a simple ice rod that is sensitive and best of all, one that you can mount your favorite baitcasting reel.
You have to be more conscious of lure weight. Think about the last time you made a cast with your baitcasting reel. Throughout the cast, the forward motion of the lure helps to take the line off the spool.
However, things are different when you are ice fishing. When fishing with super light lures, you aren’t going to have the needed weight to draw the line off the reel.
Instead, it requires that you manually take the fishing line off the spool and lower it down into the water. For some, this is a nuisance and they would much rather use an inline reel than a baitcasting reel.
However, for me personally, this is not much of a drawback, but it is worth mentioning if you are thinking about using one this winter.
In addition, in most cases when fishing with a baitcaster on the ice, you are most likely fishing for larger fish such as bass, lake trout or pike. This calls for using heavier lures that will be heavy enough to draw the line off the spool.
In such cases, there is no need to worry about manually drawing the line off the reel, as the lure will be big enough to do that for you.
What I Like Most About Using A Baitcasting Reel On The Ice
No Line Twist. If you are tired of dealing with line twist after line twist, changing over to a baitcasting reel might be the solution for you. Sure, you will have to manually take the line off the spool and lower it down into the water, but it sure beats line twists!
Big Handles. I don’t know about you, but I like to wear big gloves when I go ice fishing. The problem with big gloves is that they can complicate things when it comes to reeling in the fish.
So what do you do when there is a big fish on the other end? The first thing I do is take off my right glove and start cranking. However, it never seems to fail that when I remove off my glove it somehow ends up in the water or it gets snow jammed down in the fingers. And let me tell you, I hate fishing with cold hands.
What is the solution?
Ice fishing with a baitcasting reel!
I really like using casting reels because they have those nice, big power handles that are really easy to reel even when wearing those big winter gloves.
No longer need to open the bale. When ice fishing with a spinning reel and you want to put the spool in free spin mode what do you do? You open the bale with the opposite hand. When you are ready to start jigging, what do you do? You close the bail with the opposite hand.
Over the course of an ice fishing day, you probably will find yourself doing this motion a few hundred times if not a few thousand times. Not only can this motion be tiring, but it can also result in a bent bale.
Let’s face it, most bales on ultralight spinning reels aren’t very strong and they bend easily. It is only a matter of time before it breaks/bends.
However, things are different when working a jig with a baitcaster. Simply hit the button, let the lure work its way down to the bottom and with a simple turn of the handle you are ready to start jigging. For me personally, this is a much more fluid movement and it allows you to work the water column much faster than with a spinning reel.
Great for big fish. Don’t get me wrong, fighting a big lake trout on a tiny spinning reel can be lots of fun. But casting reels are designed for big fish and thus they are just that much easier to use when targeting larger fish through the ice.
So if you plan on going ice fishing for such species as walleye, largemouth, smallmouth, lake trout, or even pike, I would definitely recommend fishing with your choice of baitcasting reel.
Will I need a special baitcasting reel for ice fishing?
No, not at all. There is no need to go out and buy a new baitcasting reel just for ice fishing.
Of course, if you want to, well there is no harm in that either. A fisherman could never have too many reels right?
The important thing is to choose a light casting reel. Remember you are going to be mounting this to a 4 or 5-foot rod. That is much different than your 7 to 8-foot swimbait rod. So try to keep things light.
In addition, choose a reel that is simple by design. Since you won’t be doing a lot of casting there is no need to have a reel with all the bells and whistles on the ice.
Instead, choose a reel that is affordable, but at the same time it has all the features that you want in a reel.
One reel that I really like and definitely can be used on the ice is the Abu Garcia Black Max. It is simple, lightweight, it fits nice in the palm and it has those big cranking handles. These big cranking handles make it easy when ice fishing with thick gloves on.
So, are you thinking about using your baitcaster this winter?
I say go for it. You won’t have line twists, you have bigger handles to work with and lastly, they are easy when targeting those larger fish.
Now it is your turn. What are your thoughts about ice fishing with baitcasting reels? Please share with us your opinion in the comments below.