Start Ice Fishing: Gearing Up

Welcome future ice angler! If you're reading this blog, you're interested in ice fishing, and rightly so, it's a ton of fun! Before we get into the nitty-gritty of catching fish through the ice we need to gear up. Gearing up to start ice fishing can be an intimidating proposition, but rest assured you don’t need every bell and whistle to start ice fishing. You do however need a baseline of gear that’ll make the start to your ice fishing adventures a lot more enjoyable.


Ice Fishing Sled



Safety Equipment: Ice Cleats, Ice Picks, Signaling Device, and a throwable floatation device are vital pieces of ice safety equipment every angler should carry. For a collection of must-have ice safety essentials check out our Ice Safety Kit. 


Ice Fishing Safety


Spud Bar: A spud bar is an essential piece of ice fishing equipment every ice angler should own. It's a long ice chisel that allows you to determine ice thickness/safety as you venture out onto the ice. Early and late ice situations, a spud bar can be worth its weight in gold.


Ice Fishing Spud Bar


Ice Suit/Boots: There’s a reason you see so many ice fishermen wearing the same ice suits and boots. Modern ice suits and a pair of great boots make weather that would normally be intolerable, comfortable. I know many of you reading this don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on an ice suit to see if you like ice fishing. I totally understand and felt the same way when I started, but it only took me one trip to realize this ice fishing deal isn’t doable without great boots. Cold feet are a day ender regardless of how tough you are or how great the fishing is.

Ice Fishing Cleats


Auger: This all starts with a hole in the ice. Many options are available, ranging from inexpensive hand augers to lithium-powered electric augers. To keep the initial investment manageable most anglers, start with a hand auger. It's more work, but it's a piece of equipment you'll always have use for in early and late ice situations, even after you power auger.


Remember that the larger the auger, the more energy it'll take to drill holes. Keep this in mind when you're buying your first auger. For most new ice anglers, a 6-inch auger is a perfect size.




Ice Scoop: After you drill your holes, you'll need to clean ice shavings out, and in frigid temps, you'll need to keep the hole from freezing. An ice scoop is easy to skip past when thinking of essential ice fishing equipment, but it'll be sorely missed if you forget yours.

Inline Ice Fishing Combo


Ice Rod and Reel: Buying your first ice rod will vary based on where you are in the country. If you’re located anywhere near the ice belt, you’ll have choices that vary from a few dollars for a simple combo all the way up to customs running over the hundred-dollar mark. I’d advise starting with a medium-action rod paired with a spinning reel to start.


There are many benefits to inline reels, but to start a spinning reel is the way to go. Here are two fantastic options.


EC 2.5 Ice Combo (spinning)

Ice Eagle Combo


EC2.5 Lifestyle


Ice Line: There are tons of ice line options on the market today. I’m going to make this as easy as I can 6lb mono ice line is a great option that might not be perfect for a particular species you target initially, but it’ll work just fine for everything from bluegill, crappie, bass, trout, and walleye.

Ice Fishing Rod and Reel Combo


Jigs: When you first start ice fishing the most bang for your tackle buck is in buying jig kits. Depending on the kit you begin with you can get a variety of sizes and colors that’ll immediately ad versatility to your new ice fishing arsenal.


Glow Kit

Ice Jig Kit


Ice Fishing Jig Kits


Bait Puck/Bait: Soon enough what you used to consider cold is extremely mild, and your new definition of cold can and will freeze anything quickly. As soon as you open drinks they’ll slush up, and even bait kept in its original packaging will freeze quickly when the mercury drops low enough. Bait pucks remedy that problem and look cool to boot!


When it comes to what bait to use it varies, but most ice fishermen try to stay stocked up on wax worms (waxies), mealworms, and minnows.


Jet Sled

Sled: I want to mention you don't have to start ice fishing with a sled, but I promise you it'll make your experience to and from the ice a lot more enjoyable. The JS1 is a sled every ice angler should have at least one of. I could go on and on here, but instead, I’ll just lean on the fact Zona has one. You should too!


Jet Sled


Bucket: The Swiss Army Knife of ice fishing. Part chair, tackle organizer, rod holder, live-well, and even bathroom in a pinch (don’t judge). I typically have at least two buckets in my JS1 one for various odds and ends and another for the two rods I use most. There’s no telling what you’ll use your buckets for, but you’ll for sure use them!


brown trout


I know this seems like a big list of items to start, but getting most of these items will help you focus more on enjoying ice fishing than wishing you had x, y, or z. Trust me if you love ice fishing this initial investment will be a drop in the bucket to what you’ll eventually end up purchasing to chase fish while walking on water!


Next up, how to find and catch your first fish through the ice! 



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