Ice Fishing Top 10 List
I have logged thousands of hours on the ice over a period spanning many years. In the process, I have gone through all kinds of ice fishing gear. Some of it was good and a lot of it was close to being what you’d call crap. I have also found some really top notch stuff that I continue to use year after year.
While my list of must have ice fishing accessories covers a lot of the stuff that anyone should carry when going ice fishing, this list contains the best of the best in terms of ice fishing equipment. I am at the point now where I have discovered the best products for the money in a number of categories. I present my findings to you here.
1. ION X 29250 Ice Auger – Without a doubt, the ION X is the single best piece of ice fishing equipment I have ever purchased. It is powered by a lithium battery that you can charge at home with a regular outlet. Once the battery is powered up it keeps its charge for a long time and can drill plenty of holes quickly and easily. After using the ION X for a single day I resolved to never again deal with a hand, gas or propane auger.
There is no mess or physical exertion required. You just push the button and the auger goes to work. The best thing of all is how quiet the thing is. The auger makes almost no sound. All you hear are the blades cutting the ice. No more gas covered fingers or chainsaw-like noise!
I find myself drilling more holes when the going gets tough thanks to the ION X. Since I don’t have to worry about getting an auger engine started or breaking into a sweat I don’t put off drilling as much as I used to. When a hole is clearly dead I find it easy to move on to another.
With this battery powered auger, you don’t have to drain fuel or change spark plugs or parts in the off season either. You just put the auger away and wait for the next season to roll around. It really is that easy. I can’t say enough good things about the ION X 29250. I have also tried the less expensive ION 19150 and found it to be nearly as awesome. I would be happy with either one of these augers in my sled.
2. Clam Refuge 10946 – I can still remember when I used to go out onto the ice with nothing more than a single fishing rod and a five gallon bucket filled with bait and lures. To be honest, I still spend a lot of time out on the open ice. That’s because I like to check holes, work jigging poles and move around.
Regardless, I take my Clam Refuge pop up shelter on every ice fishing outing. You couldn’t ask for a better portable ice fishing base camp. The Clam Refuge is very easy to set up yet it is also very sturdy. It’s insulated too, so it keeps out a lot of the cold and wind. It has clear windows so you can watch your tip ups from inside and the door makes running in or out of the shelter quick and painless. I also like that the Clam is a subtle blue color. I am not a big fan of very bright colors when ice fishing. Although the fish probably don’t notice the possibility that they might makes me look for more naturally colored equipment.
When it gets really cold out on the open ice, it is always nice to head back into the shelter and bask in the warmth the portable heater provides. It also works very well when you find a nice school of fish under the ice. You can set up above them with a friend or two and work the fish without freezing your fingers off.
3. Marcum LX-7 – I first saw the Marcum LX-7 on an In Depth Outdoors video and I was blown away. I started out dropping a sinker down the hole to figure out the depth of the water I was fishing in. I wasn’t above getting on my eyes and looking down inside a hole for fish either. Later I got a Marcum LX-3 Flasher and it changed my fishing completely. It enabled me to check the depth of the water, find cover and locate fish with much more confidence and success.
I used my Marcum LX-3 for years, never seeing a need for anything else. Once I spotted the Marcum LX-7 though, I knew I had to have it. A year or so later, I sold my Marcum LX-3 and gathered up some more cash to take the plunge. Boy am I glad I did. If flashers are great then the Marcum LX-7 is simply amazing. It does everything you could want it to do and more If the thing was any more capable you’d almost feel guilty about using it.
It has a large, bright, digital screen. You can adjust everything including the colors displayed on the screen. There are multiple displays so you can watch the entire water column along while simultaneously looking closer at a specific depth. You can even decide if you want the transducer to cover 8 degrees or 20 degrees of the water under you. The latter is nice to find fish drawn in from the surrounding area when you’re jigging shiny spoons or rattling lures.
With a long battery life and great performance, I simply have nothing bad to say about the LX-7. I don’t really have anything bad to say about the LX-3 either. The LX-7 operates in the same way. It just a bigger, better screen, and a lot more options.
4. Marcum LX-9 – If the Marcum LX-7 is a great piece of equipment that can really assist your ice fishing, then the Marcum LX-9 is a high tech luxury item. You definitely don’t need a flasher to fish. You can catch fish without them. They are great to have though, and they can turn put you on structure and fish that you would otherwise never have found.
The LX-9 is a lot of fun. If you can afford to buy one you might find that you love the thing. It is as good as any Marcum flasher but it adds on a great underwater camera. The big and bright screen shows you video of what is going on underwater
I might not have added the Marcum LX-9 to this list if I didn’t run into someone who had one on the ice. I was as skeptical as anyone might be, especially when I hear the price. But I have to admit that I really enjoy watching the fish under the water. It adds a new element to ice fishing.
Kids really seem to like it to. In fact, the guy I met with the LX-9 told me he bought the thing to get his video game obsessed kids into ice fishing. I witnessed with first hand their interest being captivated by big bluegills on the screen. I don’t know how much better staring at a screen on the ice is from staring at a phone screen in a bedroom but I guess there is some difference.
Anyway, that’s not for me to decide. All I can say is that the LX-9 is a lot more than a gimmick. It’s a really cool piece of machinery. It’s not necessary, but then again neither is ice fishing for most of us. We look for enjoyment and entertainment more than a mess of fish. At this point it’s probably cheaper to buy fish in the store than to go out and catch them through the ice, especially if you count the Marcum LX-9 among your equipment!
5. Otter Sportsman’s Rod Case – This ice fishing rod case by Otter is the best I have found. It ain’t cheap, but it very good. The case is big without being bulky. It has a hard plastic outside but a soft padded interior.
I previously carried the Frabill Ice Rod Safe. Despite what the package says, that case cannot hold 8 ice fishing rods comfortably. It barely holds four, and even then only if the handles on the reels are unwound and artfully placed in the box.
On the other hand, you can easily store six or seven ice fishing rods with the reels attached in the Otter Sportsman’s Rod Case with no problem whatsoever. You don’t have to deal with buckets or worry about lines getting tangled or rod tips getting snapped off. The latter happened to me a few times in the past, which is why I started using rod cases to begin with!
6. Striker Ice Predator Jacket – This ice fishing jacket is great. It is waterproof, windproof and well insulated to keep you warm even on the coldest of days. On top of that, it is lined with a floating material to keep you on the surface of the water if you ever fall through the ice.
The Ice Predator keeps you comfortable without being bulky and it has all the right pockets in the right places to be useful. It’s an incredibly useful jacket that serves as a monument to modern design. There’s a reason the people on the USA Ice Fishing Team wear the Ice Predator.
7. Striker Ice Predator Bibs – What would an ice fishing jacket be without the ice fishing bibs to go with it? These are just like the jacket. They are waterproof, warm and they float. They also have padded knees so you don’t ache after a long day of kneeling over holes and reeling in big fish.
Truthfully, if I had to pick one or the other, I would probably go with the bibs. They cover more of your body and probably would help you float more than the jacket alone in case you fell through. Plus they have the padded knees I talked about earlier. You don’t get that with a coat.
8. Kamik Nationplus Boots – I have probably been through 40 pairs of boots in my life. Most of them weren’t that good at all. That’s why I kept trying different pairs. When it comes to ice fishing I eventually found a great boot that I continue to wear year after year. That boot is the Kamik Nationplus.
Granted, I wouldn’t necessarily want to go for a long hike through the mountains in these things. Although they are among the most comfortable footwear of any kind I have ever owned, they are not hiking boots.
What the Kamik Nationplus are is a great pair of pack boots at a very reasonable price. They are waterproof and very well insulated. You can stand around fishing on the ice all day long without getting cold feet if you pair them up with the right pair of socks. They 200B 3M Thinsulate insulation insulation and they’re to deal with temperatures of up to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. They also have great traction so you can walk on the ice without the need for corkers.
They even stay tied all day! None of that bending over every few minutes to see your frozen shoelaces laying on the ice. I have nothing bad to say about these boots at all. That’s why I keep wearing them.
9. Carhartt Artic Wool Boot Crew Sock – When it comes to ice fishing, the perfect sock for the perfect boot is the Artic Wool Boot Crew Sock from Carhartt. You might think these socks would be more for working outdoors. I’m sure they’d be fine for that. But I wear them with my pack boots and they work wonders. The boots are waterproof and these socks wick away any moisture inside so I stay warm and comfortable all day long.
Depending on where you buy them, the Artic Wool socks can cost almost half as much as the boots. Even in that case I still think they’re worth purchasing. It’s better to have good boots and poor socks than to have it the other way around, but if you’re going to spend fifty or sixty dollars for a pair of boots, why not plop down twenty more and pair them up with a great pair of socks?
When you’re on a hot bite that lasts all day long you’ll be glad you did. No matter how hot the fishing is, getting cold and wet is no joke. Especially when you’re a long way from the car and it can lead to frostbite.
10. Mr. Heater Big Buddy – Last but not least, I have to mention the Big Buddy by Mr. Heater. Where would I be without this handy piece of equipment? Well, I’d probably still be on the ice. I’d just be a lot less comfortable. And I’d probably not be out there as long either.
I originally bought the Big Buddy on the urging of a fishing friend who was eager to try ice fishing but not excited about the prospects of freezing half to death in the process. I thought it was a little ridiculous at first. After all, you are supposed to be cold when you’re ice fishing. Right?
Wrong. While it’s fine to confront the elements on the open ice, it’s great to have a heated shelter to fall back in whenever you need it. What if someone falls in and you’re far from the car? What if it starts raining or dropping cold wet snow? What if you just want to warm up or have a nice place to eat lunch and joke around? That’s where the Big Buddy comes in.
The Big Buddy runs on propane tanks that you can buy in any camping supply store or Wal Mart. You just screw on the can and hit the button and you get the heat you want. The Big Buddy can heat up to 300 square feet and it’s totally safe for indoor use. It has a safety setting too, so it turns off if it gets knocked over.
When I get on the ice nowadays the first thing I do is pop up the shelter and fire up the Big Buddy. I keep the live bait inside where it wont freeze then drill my holes and set my lines. It’s become a sort of tradition.
For what it’s worth, I have also tried the smaller Mr. Heater Little Buddy when ice fishing with another friend recently. It isn’t as powerful as the Big Buddy but it does the trick. A single can of propane goes a long way and it is more than powerful enough to heat a 2-3 man shelter sufficiently. If I was worried about space, I would probably just go with the Little Buddy.