Inline vs Spinning Reel for Ice Fishing: Which One is Better?

Inline vs Spinning Reel for Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is one of those techniques where you need to change your approach completely. It is not about casting distance and horizontal lure presentation.

In ice fishing, you are presenting your baits directly below you. To do that, you need a shorter rod, and a suitable reel of course.

Most of the anglers use inline and spinning reels, but which one is better? Inline reels are excellent for smaller fish and jigging technique. However, they are not the best option for live bait and deep water. Although effective, inline reels require some practice to learn how to use them.

Anglers should choose in accordance with the fish species they are planning to catch, and the technique they plan to practice.

Both reels have certain advantages and disadvantages, so there is no “perfect” choice that will work in all situations.

Inline vs spinning reel ice fishing is a common dilemma, so here I will tell you more about their differences, as well as how to choose the best one for your needs.



Get my FREE fishing e-book where you will find my PRO Tips!

Free Fishing Ebook

How Do You Choose the Correct Ice Fishing Reel?

The reason why so many reel types exist is the fact that they all have certain advantages that make them great for specific fishing situations, but there is no reel that will be perfect for everything.

When it comes to ice fishing, you do not need casting distance and extreme precision that reels like baitcasters offer. So naturally, most of the anglers use either spinning or inline reels. I will tell you more about inline reels in the following chapter.

When choosing a reel, especially spinning one, you need to consider a few factors, and here are a few:

Gear ratio – It determines how many times the spool will turn with a single turn of a handle. For ice fishing, around 5.0:1 is fine.

Size – Usually stated in 1000`s or 10`s, this number tells you how large the reel is and for what kind of fish is made. Small reels around 1000 size are good for panfish, while large sizes like 8000 are for large carp. For ice fishing for panfish, choose small and light ones. Increase the size for pike and large species.

Drag – Has to be smooth, dependable, and easy to set up.

Ball bearingsQuality is more important than quantity, and choose well-made ones with less ball bearings over cheap reels with 10 of them.

Inline reels may resemble fly reels at first sight, but they are not the similar. Consider the following features when choosing an inline reel:

Line weight and capacity – The larger the better, because you will be able to accommodate as much line as necessary.

Drag system – Same as with spinning reels it has to be dependable and work well with all suitable line weights. Inline reels mostly have star drag.

Gear ratio – These reels are usually slower than spinning, and some of the good ones have gear ration around 2.7:1. Of course, there are faster and slower models too.

Free spool button – This feature is present on some of the best models and it helps you drop your jigs when jigging.

Of course, no matter the type, good and light materials should be used, and try to avoid cheap and flimsy plastic.

What is an Inline Fishing Reel?

If you are a beginner in ice fishing, you may have some questions about inline reels. These reels are made for ice fishing and work a bit different than spinning reels. This gives them certain advantages.

They got their name due to the fact that the line goes onto the spool “in line” and the spool is parallel with the rod.

This almost completely eliminates line twist and lowers line memory. Although inline ice fishing reel models keep on becoming better and better, they are not suitable for large fish, mostly due to their weaker drag.

Jigging is the best technique for these reels and due to no line twisting, you can precisely work your jig. Inline reels are not meant to be used on open waters, so they are less versatile than spinning ones.

For a beginner, fishing with this type of reels can be tricky and it requires some time and patience.

Inline vs Spinning Reel for Ice Fishing: Which One is Better?

Inline reel vs spinning reel for ice fishing is a common dilemma, so here is a few tips on how to choose.

Inline reels have a limited use, but they are the best option for smaller fish species and for jigging. Spinning reel can be used for the same purpose, but it is not as good.

Spinning reels work excellent for live bait, which is often used for ice fishing. Besides, a good spinning reel is extremely versatile and can be used for other fishing techniques, not just ice fishing. This one, depending on a size, is also suitable for larger fish species, as I already mentioned.

Inline reels are quite expensive when compared to entry-level spinning reels.

And lastly, there is freezing. In extremely cold conditions, your equipment is prone to freezing, and inline reels are a bit more resilient.

If you can, have both option and change them whenever you need. If you are looking for the ultimate ice jigging reel, choose inline, but if you want versatility, go for spinning.

Inline vs Spinning Reel Ice Fishing - Hole

When Should You Use an Inline Reel and When Spinning?

Inline vs spinning reel ice fishing has already been explained, and so were their main uses. But, here are a few more details for both reel types.

Inline reels are excellent for panfish and smaller walleyes when you are jigging in shallow water. These reels work well with lighter lines. Many beginners start with these smaller fish so even if you have never used an inline reel, this would be a perfect opportunity to learn.

Besides, jigging is one of the most fun techniques which is done with lures and not live bait. Live bait can be a hassle to transport, store, and hook.

Spinning reels go well with live bait, and some angers prefer this kind of fishing. I agree that live baits are extremely effective and excellent for numerous predators. Besides, if you are targeting large species like pike, you need the strength and drag of a bit larger spinning reel. These reels are also good for fishing in deeper water.

What are the Best Inline and Spinning Ice Fishing Reels?

The best inline ice fishing reels can be a bit pricey, but if are willing to spend a bit more, they are worth it.

Favorite models among anglers are the following:

13 Fishing Black Betty XL Freefall

The 13 fishing ice reels are top of the line, but same as all high-end items, they come at a price. This model is no exception.

This reel has quite powerful drag system when compared to other inline reels so that you can easily catch various fish. Freefall trigger works excellent and enables very smooth jig drops. Gear ratio is 3:1 which is very good for this type of reel.

13 Fishing Black Betty 6061

13 fishing inline reel is always a good option, and so is this second model from the same manufacturer on this list.

Unlike the previous model, the trigger on this one is a bit harder to use singlehandedly, but it is still an amazing reel.

Drag works well, although it can not be compared with spinning reels. But, in the world of inline models, 13 fishing offers the best ones.

Clam Gravity Inline Reel

This reel comes at a much lower price than 13 fishing models. This makes it excellent for beginners who need an inline reel to learn on.

Drag is adjustable and smooth, and the free spool trigger works quite well. This reel has a great price-performance ratio, but unlike 13 fishing, it is made for only the smallest species.

If you are interested in jigging for panfish and you want to get a decent product at a fairly low price, this is a great option.

Eagle Claw Ice Reel

This is the most affordable option, and it works well. This is the one to get if you just want to try inline and learn on it before upgrading to better models.

Materials are cheaper of course, and although there is a free spool button, it is not as smooth and well made as in more expensive models.

Drag is ok, but be careful with very light lines, as it will not be as smooth and the lower drag settings make the spool a bit “wobbly”. Despite this, the price is excellent, and it is in the rage of low and entry level spinning reels.

And if you are looking for a good spinning reel, think about the following models which are all light, small, and suitable for beginners catching smaller fish:

Daiwa D Spin Ultralight

This reel is simple, affordable, light and excellent for any beginner. It is actually one of the lightest reels but that doesn’t mean that it is weak or flimsy. Design of this reel is excellent.

It may not be the best option for a professional, but Daiwa is a good manufacturer, and you can rest assured that the reel will perform very well.

Shimano Sienna SN1000FE

Shimano is one of the favorite reel brands among anglers around the world. It is compact and extremely well balanced.

It is strong and capable of withstanding rough use on ice. It works very smoothly and has great line capacity. This reel will be an excellent asset for your fishing trips, not just in winter.

Abu Garcia ICEMAX Ice Fishing Reel

This reel has light but durable design that can handle winter conditions. It is affordable and has an excellent feature which is a long stem so that you can easily operate the reel while wearing gloves.

Collapsible handle makes it easy to store and transport, which is important when you have to carry a lot of equipment in winter. If you are on a budget but you are looking for a decent reel, this is the one.

PENN Pursuit II & III Spinning Reel

And lastly, here is Penn. Light graphite body is corrosion resistant, and that increases its durability. It is comfortable and easy to use even for long period of time. Knobs are great and you can easily reel it with gloves on.

Drag system is also very good, and I am satisfied with the reel performance, especially when observing it in the entry-level reel category.

Inline vs Spinning Reel Ice Fishing - Holder


Inline reels can be a bit pricey and require practice, but they are extremely effective for panfish fishing in shallower waters.

Spinning reels are excellent for live bait and larger fish. If you choose in accordance with the fish and technique, you will not go wrong.

Many angles have both and use the one that suits the conditions they are fishing at. By doing so, you will get the best from both worlds.

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

Affiliate Disclaimer:

Slo-fishing is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. We also participates in eBay Partner Network, FishingBooker, ClickBank and Teespring affiliate programs. We are compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.