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How to Use Inline Ice Fishing Reels?

incline ice fishing reels

Learning how to use inline ice fishing reels is a challenge for even the most experienced anglers. These reels aren’t as common in the fishing world because they’re only used for ice fishing and the hard water fishing community is a small one.

In this guide we’re going to learn more about using inline reels, why people use them, and whether or not they’re the right choice over spinning and casting reels.

What is an Inline Ice Fishing Reel?

Fiblink Inline Ice Fishing Reel

If you’ve been ice fishing for any amount of time, you’ve likely seen an inline reel. They look a bit different from a spinning or casting reel and their ultimate goal is to manage line twists.

The term “inline” means that the line lays flat on the spool which allows you to lower your bait down into the hole without accumulating any amount of slack as you would with a spinning or casting reel.

Think of it this way. A spinning reel requires the spool to make a full 90 degree turn each time you want to let a little slack out. This adds a twist to the line and results in line memory when the water is cold.

Inline reels don’t have this issue. The line flows directly off the spool since the spool is turned the other way. The line simply falls off the spool, allowing your bait to fall deeper in the water column without slack.

How to Use Inline Ice Fishing Reels?

With the understanding that inline reels are not like spinning or casting reels, how exactly do you use them? We’ll address answers to some of the most popular questions in the following sections.

Can You Cast an Inline Ice Fishing Reel? 

13 FISHING - Freefall Carbon - Inline Ice Fishing Reel

While you could try and cast with an inline reel, it’s not recommended. These reels are intended for vertical jigging so if you tried to cast with them, you’d end up with a lot of backlashes because of the 1:1 gear ratio and lacking drag system.

When you cast a baitcaster  or conventional reel , many of them have a braking system that will slow down the spool as the lure gets further and further away from you. The purpose of this is to reduce the speed of the spool so when the lure hits the water, the line doesn’t come flying out of the reel causing a tangled mess.

Inline reels don’t have anything like this so you could end up with more tangled line than you bargained for. I recommend using things for their intended purposes. If you are looking for an open water reel, go with a spinning reel .

Do Inline Ice Reels Have Drag?

Piscifun ICX Precision Ice Fishing Reel

Yes, inline reels have drag, but the system is incredibly basic. As a result, most people use inline reels for small fish like panfish and perch. Inline reels are designed for finesse fishing and presenting small jigs without tangle or line memory.

Since they don’t have an advanced drag system you could end up snapping your line if you hook anything too large.

How Do You Spool an Inline Ice Reel?

You’ll spool an inline reel much like you would any other reel. If you feel like watching it is more helpful than reading it, below is a video to help you:

How to Spool an INLINE Ice Fishing Reel (13 Fishing Black Betty FreeFall Ghost)

You start by running the line through your tip or spring bobber and down the blank. Once you’ve done that, you’ll wrap it around the spool and tie a knot so it’s secure to the arbor.

After you’ve done that, you’ll want someone to hold the spool of line tightly and you’ll begin reeling the inline reel so the line can start to spool on the arbor. Make sure everything is nice and tight and that the line is laying evenly across the spool.

Inline Reel vs. Spinning Reel for Ice Fishing

Ice Fishing Reels: Inline vs Spinning Reels

Spinning reels are still the most popular reel to use for ice fishing, so understanding the differences between spinning and inline reels can help you choose which one is right for you.

The most popular method of ice fishing is jigging. Inline reels will offer a better presentation here because they’ll work the lure properly without any slack. When you have slack line, it will impact the way your lure jigs because you’ll need to tighten the line before your lure can bounce naturally with your movements.

Keep in mind that this is something that takes experience, and once you’ve ice fished enough you’ll learn how to manage this.

Where spinning reels shine is with larger fish. Drag adjustments on spinning reels are much more effective at managing larger fish and ensuring they don’t take your lure halfway across the lake.

Inline reels are also a bit more difficult for beginners to use. These aren’t reels you can expect to pick up off the shelf and use right away. It’ll take some practice compared to a spinning reel.

Spinning reels are much easier to learn and they offer more versatility because you can use them all year long.

Pros of Inline Reels

Here are some of the pros of using an inline reel for ice fishing:

Reduced line memory – Line memory is when the line maintains the curly appearance of the spool even when it’s not spooled. This is more common in ice fishing because of cold temperatures.

Since the line is flowing downward off the spool, line memory becomes less of an issue with an inline reel.

Lure drop – Since there’s no slack, it’s much easier to notice when your lure is being nibbled on. Creating the presentation is easier as well once you get past the learning curve of using an inline reel.

Cons of Inline Reels

Panfish Reels (Spinning vs. In-Line) — Ice Pros Q&A ⚡

For small fish – Inline reels are most commonly used for panfish because they can’t handle larger fish. The drag system is weak and ineffective. They’re simply not designed for larger fish like walleye or muskie.

Slow retrieval – To add insult to injury, inline reels have a 1:1 gear ratio. The gear ratio refers to how many cranks you need to make on the reel to get the spool to oscillate one time. 6:1 is a popular gear ratio which means that the spool spins six times per crank.

Inline reels spin one rotation for each crank, which means you’ll need to crank that reel extremely hard and fast to get a large fish out of the hole.

Choosing the Best Inline Ice Fishing Reel

Piscifun ICX Precision Ice Fishing Reel

13 Fishing is a brand well known for its inline reels. The 13 Fishing Descent  is one of the most popular offerings. It comes in both left and right hand retrieval with 5 stainless steel bearings and an instant anti-reverse. The reel features a dead stick spool clicker, which is great for using multiple rods across various holes.

Another popular option is the Piscifun ICX Ice Fishing Reel . It comes with a 7+1 bearing system and freespool trigger which makes the lure drop a lot easier. It’s a strong and durable ice fishing reel with smooth carbon fiber drag which makes battling larger fish a possibility.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve decided that an inline reel is the right choice for your ice fishing game, I’d suggest going with either of the two recommendations above. They’re affordable, easy to use, and surprisingly solid for larger fish like walleye. Good luck out there!